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Top expert tips: Before, during and after pregnancy

Check out some important to-dos for a healthy pregnancy

Women who are expecting — or want to be — can get plenty of advice, from books and blogs, from friends and family, even from perfect strangers.

But what steps matter most?

We’ve gathered some of the best wisdom from medical experts.* These timely tips — for before, during and after — can help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

You’ll want to talk with your doctor about what’s best for you. These pointers can help you get those conversations started.

Before pregnancy

Take steps now to be at your healthiest:

Check in with your doctor. During a pre-pregnancy checkup, your doctor can:

  • Make sure you’re up to date on vaccines. Some may be specifically recommended for before, during or after pregnancy. Learn more.(Opens a new window)
  • Advise you on what a healthy pre-pregnancy weight is for you.
  • Help you quit smoking — and get any chronic conditions controlled.
  • Answer any questions you have about fertility or pregnancy.

Also: Tell your doctor about any medicines(Opens a new window), herbal products or supplements you take — to see how they may affect pregnancy.

See the dentist. Good oral health can help you have a healthy pregnancy. Let your dentist know your plans for a baby — and if you’re already expecting.

Start living healthier now. Good habits can help prepare you for pregnancy. For example, fill your plate with healthy foods. Work on managing stress — and get enough sleep and regular exercise. For safety’s sake, talk with your doctor before you significantly increase your activity level.

Take your vitamins. Along with healthy food, experts recommend a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This B vitamin helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

During pregnancy

Keep up your healthy habits — and be sure to:

See a doctor as soon as you think you’re pregnant. Prenatal care is the best thing you can do to help keep yourself and your baby healthy. The sooner you begin, the better. And go to all your doctor visits — even if you’re feeling fine.

Don’t try to lose weight. Your growing baby needs nourishment. Talk with your doctor about expectations — if you have questions about weight gain, nutrition or exercise during pregnancy.

Limit risks — and ask questions. Alcohol, drugs, smoking and even secondhand smoke can harm an unborn baby. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about what’s safe during pregnancy.

Know the signs of preterm labor. Call your doctor right away if you have any unusual symptoms, including any of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding, discharge or leaking
  • Cramps or contractions
  • Pelvic pressure or a backache

After baby arrives

Your newborn needs loving care. But you need to take care of yourself too. For example:

Rest when you can. And don’t hesitate to request extra help from a partner, family and friends when you need it.

Ask if you’re not sure. Talk with your doctor about when it’s safe to resume activities such as exercise, work and sex.

Be alert to depression. For new moms, feeling a bit sad, also known as the baby blues, is common. A more serious problem, postpartum depression, can show up any time in the year after giving birth. If you have severe feelings of sadness or hopelessness, call your doctor. See “3 things to know about postpartum depression,” below.

Go to your postpartum checkup. You’ll likely see your doctor between three to eight weeks after delivery. This is a good time to bring up any concerns — physical or emotional — that you have.

What to do next

Get more tips on having a healthy pregnancy.

The March of Dimes also offers detailed information on specific risks, from travel to pets to cleaning products: “Is it safe?”(Opens a new window)

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* Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; March of Dimes; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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