The Dos and Don’ts of Pregnancy

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Chances are good that you’ve heard a lot of recommendations about what to do and what not to do while you’re pregnant, but how can you tell fact from fiction? Board-certified OB/GYN Xavier Román-Hernandez, MD, sets the record straight to ensure the whole health of both you and your baby.

Prenatal Vitamins – Are they necessary?

“Prenatal vitamins are designed to meet the daily mineral and micronutrient requirements of most pregnant women, but for women with well-balanced, nutritious diets that meet the recommended dietary allowances, supplementation may not be required — except for folic acid,” explains Dr. Román. “There isn’t a known best formulation, so a simple non-prescription multivitamin will normally suffice.”

All prenatal vitamins should contain at least 400 micrograms (mg) of folic acid. This dose has been shown to prevent fetal neural tube defects. Women with a history of fetal neural tube defects and women taking anti-seizure medications should take 4000 mg, or four grams, daily.

Most prenatal vitamins contain 30 mg of iron, but in the absence of anemia, a higher dose of iron is unnecessary and can cause side effects such as upset stomach and constipation.

Vitamin D and calcium are also important in pregnancy. The National Academy of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D every day in all women younger than 70, including pregnant women. The daily recommended intake of calcium is at least 1000 mg per day, but most prenatal vitamins only contain 200–300 mg, so it’s important to remember to consume calcium-rich foods like dairy products, seeds, beans, lentils and certain leafy greens.

Can pregnant women eat as much as they want?

The National Academy of Medicine recommends weight gain in pregnancy based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI):

Body Mass Index Ideal Weight Gain
Underweight (Less Than 18.5) 28 to 40 lbs.
Normal Weight (18.5 to 24.9) 25 to 35 lbs.
Overweight (25 to 29.9) 15 to 25 lbs.
Obese (More Than 30) 11 to 20 lbs.

“Weight gain below your recommended level is associated with a higher risk of preterm birth and small-for-gestational-age newborns,” says Dr. Román. “And weight gain above the recommendations is associated with a higher risk of large-for-gestational-age babies and cesarean delivery.”

Dr. Román recommends eating an additional 350 to 450 calories per day in your second and third trimesters. However, recommendations should be individualized because they depend on your activity level, height, weight and metabolism. Speak with your physician for the proper guidelines for your body.

Can pregnant women exercise?

“Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should engage in regular aerobic and strength conditioning exercise, four to five times per week for 20 to 30 minutes,” recommends Dr. Román.“You should avoid exercises with a high risk of injury like contact sports, skiing and horseback riding. Additionally, there’s no need to ensure your heart rate remains below a specific threshold so feel free to push it.”

Prenatal yoga and Dancing for BirthTM have both been shown to have positive effects for women during labor, reducing labor times and reducing the need for intervention, such as cesarean section. Prenatal yoga also has the added benefit of teaching you how to breathe properly during labor.

Drinking Caffeine While Pregnant – Is it safe?

“Low-to-moderate caffeine intake isn’t associated with any adverse outcomes during pregnancy and birth,” says Dr. Román. “Some studies in animals have suggested very high caffeine intake, more than 10 cups per day, is associated with an increased risk of spontaneous miscarriage but there haven’t been any similar studies performed with humans. That said, you should limit your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day. For example, an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee has about 130 mg of caffeine.”

Remember, anything you put in your body while pregnant is shared with your baby. So, if you wouldn’t give your baby caffeine, you should probably abstain yourself.

Can pregnant women dye their hair?

“While there haven’t been many studies on this yet and data is limited, there seems to be minimal absorption of the chemicals in hair dye into your system and therefore the baby’s system,” explains Dr. Román.

Even so, it’s best to take some precautions. If a pregnant woman needs to dye her hair, Dr. Román recommends limiting it to one time and waiting until the 20-week mark.

“Do it in a well-ventilated place, use gloves and a mask and avoid prolonged settling of the dye,” he said.

Ask a Pregnancy Expert

If you have any questions about dos and don’ts for your pregnancy, speak with your physician. If you’d like to speak with one of our Birth Experience Team members, visit our site or call Call407-303-4HER.

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