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Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

April 13, 2021

It is very important for you and your baby that you take care of yourself while pregnant. In addition to eating right and exercising, there are environmental factors you should know about such as cats and paint.

Eat smart

To support a baby’s growth, most pregnant women need 100 to 300 extra calories per day. Expectant mothers should consume foods from each of the five food groups every day; they provide important nutrients that both you and your baby need. Also, be aware of your serving sizes; you do not need to eat for two!

Meals: To help relieve heartburn and discomfort, eat four to six smaller meals a day instead of three big ones.

Snacks: Eat healthy snacks such as cheese, yogurt, fruit and vegetables. If not allergic, peanut butter and nuts are also a good choice.

Liquids: Drink at least 8 to10 glasses of water, juice (limit to 6 oz a day) or milk (non-fat or 1% is best) every day.

Caffeine: Limit your caffeine to 200 milligrams per day (about one 12-ounce cup of coffee). Caffeine amounts in coffee depend on the brand you drink and how it's made, so be sure to check the package label or ask at your coffee shop for caffeine amounts. You may want to consider drinking decaffeinated coffee which has smaller amounts of caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in tea, chocolate, soda and even some over-the-counter medicines.

Eating safely during pregnancy

Fresh fish
Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish
Do not eat
Farmed salmon
Eat no more than 1 meal a month
Albacore tuna ("white" tuna)
Eat no more than 1 meal a week
Shrimp, canned light tuna, canned or wild salmon, pollock and catfish
Eat no more than 2 meals a week
Deli meats and smoked fish
Deli meat spread
Do not eat
Hot dogs, lunch meat, deli meat, deli smoked fish
Do not eat unless reheated until steaming hot
Canned smoked fish or meat spread
Eat no more than 2 meals a week
Meat – beef, chicken, pork
Any meat that is rotten or raw
Do not eat
Milk and cheese
Unpasteurized milk and the following cheeses: feta, brie, Camembert, blue-veined and Mexica-style queso blanco fresco
Do not eat or drink
Hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses like Mozzarella, processed cheese slices, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt made with pasteurized milk
Eat all you want
Skim or 1% pasteurized milk
Drink all you want

Prevent anemia

  • Eat foods rich in iron such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dried beans and fortified grains. The form of iron in meat products, called heme, is more easily absorbed than the iron in vegetables. If you are anemic and you ordinarily eat meat, increasing the amount of meat you consume is the easiest way to increase the iron your body receives.
  • Eat foods high in folic acid, such as dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat germ and orange juice.
  • Eat foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and fresh raw vegetables.
Take your prenatal multivitamins.

Weight gain

Most women need to gain 25 to 30 pounds during pregnancy. How much weight you should gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. If you are very slim, you need to gain more. If you are heavy, you need to gain less. The chart on this page can help guide you.

Your baby will gain most of their weight during the last two months of your pregnancy. Therefore, you will gain weight accordingly, less in the first half of your pregnancy and more in the last months.

Institute of Medicine: Weight gain recommendations for pregnancy

Pre-pregnancy weight
Body mass index
Recommended range of total weight
Recommended rates of weight gain in the second and third trimester (mean range lb./wk.)
Less than 18.5
28-40 lbs.
1 (1-1.3)
Normal weight
25-35 lbs.
1 (.08-1)
15-25 lbs.
0.6 (0.5-0.7)
Obese (includes all classes)
30 and greater
11-20 lbs.
0.5 (0.4-0.6)


Pregnancy is a time when women must be acutely aware of the medications ingested and the impact they may have on their pregnancy. Listed below are common over-the-counter medications that have, over many years, been proven as safe to take while pregnant.

If you have questions regarding medication(s) not listed below, contact our office BEFORE taking.

  • Acne: Any mild skin cleanser that does NOT contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
  • Cold / Allergy / Congestion: Sudafed, Actifed, Claritin/Loratadine, Benadryl, Vick’s, Vapor Rub, plain Mucinex, Flonase nasal spray. A cool mist humidifier may help.
  • Constipation: Colace, Docusate Sodium, Metamucil, or Milk of Magnesia, Senna. Before taking medication, try: powdered bran, bran cereals, prunes, prune juice. Increase roughage (fruits and all leafy vegetables). Increase physical activity (e.g. walking). If no change, then try medicines, however, it may take up to one week before you have results.
  • Cough: Plain Robitussin, cough lozenges.
  • Diarrhea: Clear liquids until diarrhea stops, such as Sprite, Ginger Ale, Propel, Gatorade, Kool-Aid, tea, broth, Jell-O, popsicles, or other liquid that you can see through. You may take Imodium for symptom relief. If no improvement after 24 hours, call our office.
  • Fever: Tylenol or acetaminophen, regular or extra strength. If you have a fever above 100.4 degrees, please call our office.
  • Gas: Plain GasX, Simethicone, Mylicon.
  • Headache: Tylenol or acetaminophen, regular or extra strength. Take as directed on bottle, not to exceed 8 tablets in 24 hours. **DO NOT USE: Ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil, Motrin or Goody’s powders.**
  • Heartburn: Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, Zantac or Pepcid AC.
  • Hemorrhoids: Apply an ice pack to hemorrhoids for relief of discomfort. Warm sitz bath (warm water up to hips). Tucks pads (can be used instead of toilet paper), and Anusol suppositories.
  • Nausea: B6 products such as B‐Natal and Preggie Pops or Unisom.
  • Pain: Tylenol or acetaminophen, regular or extra strength. Take as directed on bottle, not to exceed 8 tablets in 24 hours. **DO NOT USE: Ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil, Motrin or Goody’s powders.**
  • Rashes / Bug Bites: Cortaid, Lanacort or any ½% hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl cream or tablets, Calamine Lotion.
  • Sleep: Benadryl, Unisom.
  • Sore throat: Sucrets, Cepacol (spray or lozenges), Chloraseptic spray or lozenges, warm salt water gargle.
  • Stool softeners: Colace, Docusate Sodium.
  • Yeast infection: Monistat, Gyne‐Lotrimin, Miconazole.


During pregnancy, exercise can help you stay in shape and prepare you for labor and delivery.

Most women can, and should, engage in mild to moderate exercise during pregnancy. Exercise can help you stay in shape as well as prepare your body for labor and delivery.

Why exercise during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, exercise can:

  • Ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts.
  • Boost your mood and energy levels.
  • Help you sleep better.
  • Prevent excess weight gain.
  • Increase stamina and muscle strength.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy pregnant women get at least 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise every week. This means that most pregnant women should try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most, if not all, days.

Walking, swimming and cycling are all excellent forms of exercise during pregnancy. Strengthening exercises are appropriate using light weights. You may want to consider taking a prenatal exercise class. Instructors can illustrate safe and effective floor exercises.

Although exercise during pregnancy has many benefits, you should speak with your physician before you begin an exercise program, to receive your health care provider's consent.

Environmental factors

Cats and toxoplasmosis

Pregnant women should be cautious when handling cats as they can be carriers of toxoplasmosis.

  • Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite and can be carried by cats that are exposed to the outdoors. Wear gloves if working in a garden.
  • Cats pass this parasite in their feces (stool).
  • Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by cleaning a litter box or touching dirt where an infected cat may have been (includes garden soil).
  • Toxoplasmosis can also be contracted from eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat.


Questions regarding the safety of paint exposure, when painting the baby’s nursery or decorating the house in preparation for the baby’s arrival is all too common. Unfortunately, there are no studies that document the effects of household paint on pregnancy and the developing baby. Currently, the assumption is that household paint involves very low levels of exposure.

The recommendation is to avoid exposure to oil-based, lead, mercury paints and to minimize exposure to latex paints that contain ethylene glycol ethers and biocides. Ensure the area that is being painted is well ventilated. If you feel lightheaded or nauseated, leave the area immediately and seek fresh air.

In addition, to avoid the exposure to lead-based paint, pregnant women should not remove old paint, as lead-based paint was commonly used prior to the 1970s.

Seat belts

Experts agree that everyone, including pregnant women, should wear a seat belt when riding in a car. When used properly, seat belts save lives and lower the chances of severe injury.

Depending on the severity of an accident, pregnant women could be at risk for miscarriage, preterm labor and other serious complications.

Guidelines for wearing a seat belt

  • Always wear both the lap and shoulder belt.
  • Buckle the lap strap under your belly and over your hips.
  • Never place the lap belt across your belly.
  • Rest the shoulder belt between your breasts and off to the side of your belly.
  • Never place the shoulder belt under your arm.
  • If possible, adjust the shoulder belt height.

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