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8 tips for a healthy pregnancy

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Are you expecting? You may have a lot of questions about how to give your baby a healthy start in life. Here’s some important advice for moms-to-be.

So, the test came back positive: You’re pregnant and you may be feeling a range of emotions. First of all, congratulations. Pregnancy can be an exciting time. It’s also normal to feel anxious or worry about you and your baby’s health.

Focusing on your own health can help give your baby the best start in life. You may have lots of questions about what you can do over the next 10 months to make that happen.

If you feel a bit nervous or emotional, that’s normal. Just know that your health care provider or midwife will be your partner on your journey. You’ll be going to lots of prenatal appointments in the months ahead. And your provider will guide you in having the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Here are eight important health tips for moms-to-be.

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Tip #1: Stay on top of your prenatal visits

Prenatal appointments are doctor’s appointments you’ll attend during your pregnancy. They’re one of the best ways to help you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. You’ll see your health care provider on an ongoing basis. Here’s what that might look like for women under 35 with no preexisting medical issues:1

  • About once each month for weeks 4 through 28
  • Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
  • Weekly for weeks 36 to birth

If you have had a complication or are considered high risk because of another health problem, you may need to see your doctor more often.

On your first prenatal visit, your provider will run a series of health checks.1,2 They will likely:

  • Ask about any previous pregnancies
  • Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test3
  • Check your vital signs, such as blood pressure, height and weight
  • Estimate your due date
  • Talk about your health history and any health issues you may have
  • Take blood and urine samples for lab work (in your blood, your provider will check your blood type, the presence of a protein called the Rh factor and for certain types of infections that could be dangerous for the baby; in urine samples, they’re looking for bacteria, which could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or UTI)

Your care provider will also ask about medicines you may have been taking before you got pregnant, says Ana Madariya, MD. She’s an ob-gyn at Reliant Medical Group, part of Optum, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Many medicines are safe to keep taking during pregnancy. You and your doctor can decide together what works best for you.

At almost every appointment after that, your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure. They may give you a urine test. They’ll also measure your belly when you begin to show (to watch the baby’s growth) and check your baby’s heart rate.1 You may also get certain prenatal tests, such as ultrasounds, as your pregnancy progresses. An ultrasound is a type of imaging test that uses sound waves to show your doctor (and you) a live image of your baby.4

Sticking to your prenatal appointment schedule can help your doctor catch any problems early. For example, some women are at higher risk of complications because they have a long-term medical problem such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Seeing your doctor regularly will give you peace of mind. And the visits are a great chance to bring up any questions or worries you might have.

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Tip #2: Stay up to date on your immunizations

Most vaccines are safe during pregnancy. And if you have any questions, you can ask your doctor during one of your prenatal visits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises all pregnant women to get the following vaccines:5

  • COVID-19
  • Flu shot
  • Tdap which protects against whooping cough

Other vaccines may be recommended depending on your health history and risk factors for disease.

Tip #3: Eat healthy meals

Eating nutritious foods fuels your baby’s growing body and brain. A healthy diet will help make you feel better too. Most pregnant women will need about 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester.6 That’s roughly equivalent to “a glass of skim milk and half a sandwich,” says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  

The amount of calories you’ll need may vary based on your trimester or if you’re pregnant with multiples.6 If you have further dietary questions, it’s best to talk with your provider.

Fill your plate with healthy choices such as:

  • Pasteurized dairy, such as low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Proteins, such as beans, eggs, lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Whole grains, such as oats, barley, brown rice, bulgur and quinoa

For healthy snacks, go for choices such as nuts, fruit, smoothies and yogurt.

Try to stay away from foods that may contain bacteria that could make you sick. Some examples include the following:7

  • Deli meats and raw hot dogs
  • Raw or undercooked meat, fish and eggs
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unpasteurized milk and cheeses and unpasteurized juice

And stay away from seafood with high levels of mercury. Here are a few examples:7

  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish

But it is recommended that you eat two or three servings of fish or shellfish per week while you’re pregnant (a serving is 4 ounces). Besides the fish listed above, you’ll also want to limit how much white (albacore) tuna you eat to 6 ounces a week.6

And maybe you’ve heard that drinking coffee is bad when you’re pregnant. Actually, research suggests drinking caffeinated beverages in moderation doesn’t cause issues like miscarriage or preterm birth. That’s equal to one 12-ounce cup of coffee. (Caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks.)8

Tip #4: Take a prenatal vitamin

You need more of certain vitamins and minerals when you’re pregnant, says Dr. Madariya. And it’s hard to get it all from food. That’s why you also need to take a daily prenatal vitamin.

That will help you make sure that you get at least 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects in the brain and spine. And if you have a family history of these defects, you may need to take as much as 4,000 mcg of folic acid. Your doctor can help you figure that out.9

Prenatal vitamins also have other important vitamins and minerals that help your baby grow, like vitamin D, iron and calcium.7,9,10 Your doctor can suggest one that’s right for you.

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Tip #5: Aim for a healthy weight

Talk to your doctor about how much is a healthy amount of weight to gain during your pregnancy. At your first prenatal visit, your doctor will check your height and weight to figure out your body mass index, or BMI. That will help them determine how much weight you should gain. And that will tell them how many calories you need per day.

For example, the weight gain range for women with a normal prepregnancy BMI is about 25 to 35 pounds, Dr. Madariya says. If you are underweight, it may be recommended that you gain more than someone who has a normal weight. And if you are overweight or obese, you may be advised to gain less, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).6

Extra weight during pregnancy can cause complications such as high blood pressure and pregnancy-related diabetes. Your doctor can support you in gaining a healthy amount.

Tip #6: Work some movement into your day

Physical activity is a great way to feel healthy during pregnancy. It helps boost your mood. And it’s good for your heart and lungs.11 Being in good shape can also make labor and delivery easier, says Dr. Madariya.

But before you go to your favorite morning fitness class, you’ll want to check with your doctor. They’ll let you know what types of exercises are safe for you to do now.

You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. (During this type of exercise, you should be able to talk, but not sing.11) You can divide that into 30-minute workouts five days a week, according to ACOG.12 You can even break it into smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day. Some good choices for pregnant women:

  • Brisk walking
  • Modified Pilates and yoga
  • Stationary bicycling
  • Swimming and water workouts

If you’re new to exercise, start small and work your way up. (Even just a few minutes a day counts.) Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, continuing your current routine or increasing your level of physical activity. Discuss what type and what level of exercise is safe for you. Keep in mind recommendations may change, as you get further along in your pregnancy.

Tip #7: Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs

If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking cigarettes while you’re pregnant can cause serious harm to your baby’s health.13 The same goes for using illegal drugs, smoking marijuana or vaping and other nicotine containing products. Need help quitting? Your doctor can help you find a program to help you stop smoking.

You also should not drink alcohol during pregnancy. Any amount is risky, according to ACOG. Drinking alcohol can cause learning and behavioral problems for your child.14 Again, talk to your doctor if you don’t think you can stop on your own.

Tip #8: Take care of your mental health

There’s a lot to think about when you’re pregnant. And it can feel overwhelming. It’s important to know that depression is common during pregnancy. In fact, depression affects about 1 in 10 pregnant women.15

It may be hard to tell the difference between the normal ups and downs of pregnancy and depression. If you’re feeling sad or depressed for more than two weeks, let your doctor know. Signs of depression include:15

  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Feeling sad most of the day
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Thinking about death or suicide (Note: If you are in crisis, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Or, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255. You may also text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support.)

Talk therapy and medication can both help you feel like yourself again. It’s also worth noting that mental health can be a bigger worry for women of color. For example, Black women are more likely to have long-lasting mental health struggles after childbirth than non-Black women are.16

Bottom line: When you’re pregnant, you have two people to care for. So, it’s that much more important to focus on your health and wellness for your entire pregnancy.


  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (OASH). Prenatal care. Last updated February 22, 2021. Article accessed May 1, 2023.
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Routine tests during pregnancy. Last updated July 2021. Article accessed May 1, 2023.
  3. Office on Women’s Health. Prenatal care. Last updated February 22, 2021. Accessed May 30, 2023.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosis of Birth Defects. Last reviewed June 16, 2022. Article accessed May 17, 2023.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines during and after pregnancy. Last reviewed November 9, 2021. Accessed April 20, 2023. 
  6. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition during pregnancy. Last updated March 2022. Article accessed May 1, 2023. 
  7. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The Top 6 Pregnancy Questions I Hear From First-Time Moms. Last reviewed April 2022. Article accessed May 17, 2023.
  8. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How much coffee can I drink while I’m pregnant? Last reviewed October 2020. Accessed May 30, 2023.
  9. March of Dimes. Vitamins and other nutrients during pregnancy. Last reviewed September 2020. Article accessed May 1, 2023.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vitamin and mineral nutrition for healthy growth and development. April 2020. Article accessed May 3, 2023.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring Physical Activity Intensity. Last reviewed June 3, 2022. Article accessed May 17, 2023.
  12. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise during pregnancy. Last updated March 2022. Accessed April 20, 2023.
  13. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Tobacco and nicotine cessation during pregnancy. Published April 23, 2020. Article accessed May 1, 2023.
  14. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Alcohol and women. Last updated December 2021. Accessed April 20, 2023. 
  15. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Depression during pregnancy. Last updated September 2022. Accessed April 20, 2023.
  16. American Psychological Association. Focusing on maternity and postpartum care for Black mothers leads to better outcomes. Published October 1, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.

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Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine.

If you or someone you know is in crisis— seek safety and get help right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

To reach a trained crisis counselor, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You may also text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support.

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