Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Pregnancy Prenatal Prevention Tips

In order to prevent harm to the fetus, consider:

Rubella Screening
This is a blood test that measures your immunity to German measles. Young women in the US have rubella antibodies in their bloodstream, if they received the MMR vaccine as a child. If you have had German measles in the past, then you are probably immune to another rubella infection. The rubella blood test determines if you are immune to this infection. German measles during pregnancy is associated with birth defects.

Weight control
A normal weight reduces health risks for you and your baby.

Stop smoking
Women who smoke during pregnancy tend to have babies that are underweight. If you smoke, quit before you become pregnant.

Avoid alcohol
Alcohol use during pregnancy can increase risk for birth defects and other complications.

Don't abuse drugs
Drug abuse can cause birth defects and increases your risk for miscarriage.

Family life
Make sure you have a strong relationship with your spouse. Having a baby rarely saves a troubled marriage and can increase your responsibilities at a time when you may not be ready. Get help for depression before you become pregnant.

Educate yourself
Read books and articles about pregnancy, labor, infant care, and child rearing. Take childbirth classes with your partner or spouse. Get prepared before problems develop.

Get tested for HIV
Although still not part of routine screening, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend HIV testing before pregnancy. The advantage of knowing your HIV status allows your doctor to reduce the risk of HIV infection in your baby. An antiviral drug therapy during pregnancy and labor may reduce your risk of passing HIV to your baby.

Get regular prenatal care
You should make an appointment for your first prenatal doctor's visit before you are 10 weeks pregnant.

Folic acid
Take prenatal vitamins with iron. It is important you get an adequate amount of folic acid. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women take a vitamin that contains folic acid, in order to decrease the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida. If you are pregnant, you should take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Your prenatal vitamin may contain iron. If it does not, you should eat foods that are rich in iron. Dietary sources of iron may be found in lean red meats, liver, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals. Iron helps prevent anemia.

During pregnancy you should take 1,200 - 1,500 mg of calcium per day. Eat foods rich in calcium, such as low-fat dairy products, broccoli, kale, spinach greens, almonds, and soy milk. Calcium supplements (Tums) are available without a prescription.

Reduce caffeine intake
Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine can cause increased breast tenderness, may increase risk for miscarriage, and may cause your baby to be underweight.

Avoid toxic exposures
Avoid chemical vapors, paint fumes, and poisons, all of which can be toxic to you and your baby.

Avoid cat droppings
Ask someone else to empty the litter box. Cat feces may contain bacteria, called toxoplasmosis. An infection caused by this bacteria may lead to birth defects, and increases your risk for miscarriage. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling a cat.

Avoid certain foods
Eating raw meat or poorly cooked meat (or poultry) also increases the risk for toxoplasmosis infection. Other foods to avoid include raw seafood (oysters or sushi), meat pate, unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert. These foods can contain bacteria that can harm the fetus.

Personal safety
Be conscious of your own personal safety. Wear your seatbelt (place it below your belly) and avoid activities that involve physical contact. Avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. These can raise your body temperature too high. Keep bath water below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make a birth plan
Discuss all decisions with your doctor early, so you have a plan for how you want to deliver your baby.

Discuss an exercise strategy with your doctor: exercise should not be strenuous. Walking is a wonderful way to get exercise while you are pregnant. Try to perform exercise at least 3 times per week. Remember to perform stretching exercises after activity. Drink plenty of fluids during exercise, in order to avoid dehydration.

Go over your medications with your doctor, so that you are sure that they are safe during pregnancy.

Healthy Diet
During pregnancy, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are transferred to the fetus through the mother's blood. These nutrients are essential for normal development of the baby's bones, tissues, and organs. Maintaining a well balanced diet during pregnancy and breast-feeding will ensure that nutrients are readily available for normal growth and development of the baby.

Continue to Pregnancy Prenatal Vitamins

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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