Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

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What you need to know

Prenatal visit

Prenatal visits are frequent health exams and tests that keep you and your baby healthy throughout the pregnancy. A prenatal visit is made up of an exam, teaching, answering   your questions, and testing as needed. These visits often happen: 

  • Monthly from weeks 4 through 28 
  • Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36 
  • Weekly for weeks 36 to birth 
  • Once, four to six weeks after the baby is born for the post-partum visit.

It is very important to start your prenatal visits within the first three months of your pregnancy.  If you know you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, visit your doctor.

During this first visit, and throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will ask you lots of questions about your health habits. Your doctor will screen you for depression, alcohol, and substance use. For your health and the health of the baby, it is important to be honest with your doctor. Keep all of your visits — each one is important! To learn more about prenatal visits, go to:

  • Prenatal Care  from the Office of Women's Health
  • Prenatal Care Info, available in English and translated into several languages by Health Information Translation

Post-Partum visit

It is equally important to follow up with your doctor for your post-partum visit four to six weeks after the baby is born. Go to your post-partum visit, even if you are feeling good.  To learn more about your post-partum visit, go to: 

Stages of pregnancy

A full term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, starting from the first day of your last normal period.  Those 40 weeks are grouped into three trimesters. 

  • First trimester is week 1 through week 12.    
  • Second trimester is week 13 through week 28.
  • Third trimester is week 29 through week 40.

To learn more about what is happening with you and your baby, go to:      

Monitor your baby's movement

After 28 weeks, keep track of how often your baby moves. This will help you notice if your baby is moving less than normal, which could be a sign that your needs a doctor's care. An easy way to do this is the "count-to-10" method. Count your baby's movements in the evening — the time of day when the baby tends to be most active. Lie down if you have trouble feeling your baby move. Most women count 10 movements within about 20 minutes. It is rare for a woman to count less than 10 movements within two hours at times when the baby is active. Count your baby's movements every day so you know what is normal for you. Call your doctor if you count less than 10 movements within two hours or if you notice your baby is moving less than normal. If your baby is not moving at all, call your doctor right away.                                             

Health Information Translations has information on Fetal Movement Count, available in English and translated into several languages. 

Staying healthy during pregnancy

Eat this. Don't eat that. Do this. Don't do that.

Pregnant women are bombarded with do's and don'ts. “Staying healthy and safe" from the Office on Women's Health will help keep it all straight. The Office of women's Health visits 24 topics from healthy eating, vitamins, and medications, alcohol, caffeine, substance use, keeping fit and exercise, oral health, environmental risks, abusive relationships, and when to call the doctor. 

Health Information Translations has topics on healthy pregnancy, pregnancy tests, and information on labor and many more topics, available in English and translated into several languages. See Baby Care .

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has resources to help you make good choices about medicines, foods, and other products for you and your baby.

STD's and infections before and during pregnancy can be harmful to both mom and her baby.  Learn more about STD's and Infections at: Before You Are Pregnant.

Immunizations and the flu shot during pregnancy

Vaccines help protect you and your baby against serious diseases. The CDC has a wonderful guide for pregnant women, and a resource for healthcare professionals. 

Maternal mental well-being

Some stress during pregnancy is normal, just like it is during other times in your life. Constant stress during pregnancy may have lasting results on both you and your baby. 

Not all stress is bad. Work deadlines and traffic jams are normal stresses that may not add to pregnancy problems.  Stress may cause headaches, trouble sleeping, not wanting to eat or eating too much. Constant stress may lead to high blood pressure or early birth and low birth weight in baby. 

Types of severe stress

  • Negative life events like divorce, sickness or death in the family, or losing a job or home. 
  • Tragic events like earthquakes, tornadoes, or terrorist attacks.
  • Long lasting stress like money problems, racism, health problems or depression. 
  • Pregnancy linked stress, like worrying too much about how to care for the baby or how to cope with labor and birth.

March of Dimes: ways to reduce stress during pregnancy

  • Talk with your partner, friend, or doctor about what is making you stressed. 
  • Pregnancy discomforts are only for a short time, talk with your doctor about ways to care for these discomforts. 
  • Eat healthy and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
  • Decrease activities and duties if possible.
  • Build a good support group.
  • Ask for and take help from friends and family.
  • Try relaxation methods like yoga, stretching, massage, deep breathing or a   warm bath or shower.
  • Plan ahead at work or at home for when you have the baby.
  • Ask your doctor for help if you are feeling unhappy.  

Maternal mental health issues happen to both mom and dad

Maternal mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, affect 15% to 20% of pregnant women and women up to one year after the birth of the baby. Don't forget the Dads. Dads are exposed to some of the same stressors like sleep changes which can cause depression or anxiety. Visit with your doctor about your, and your partner's, feelings and concerns. For further information on maternal mental well-being, depression and a​nxiety during pregnancy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Postpartum Depression go to: