Your Healthy Pregnancy | Methodist Hospital | UnityPoint Health
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Your Healthy Pregnancy

There's so much to do while you're pregnant — appointments, baby showers and buying tiny clothes. Our UnityPoint Health – Methodist labor and delivery team has put together some key healthy pregnancy tips to help you and baby during this joyful and hectic time.

Prenatal Care

Make your appointments ahead of time, especially your first one. Your obstetrician or midwife will confirm and date your pregnancy. You'll also learn about potential risk factors and have a full physical exam.

Bring your health history and the date of your last menstrual cycle. You should time your appointment either:

  • Within the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy
  • When your menstrual period is 2-4 weeks late

If your pregnancy involves risks, your provider will set a personalized schedule for your appointments. Your provider may recommend you see a perinatologist, a specialist in high-risk pregnancy. Low-risk moms usually see their provider:

  • Every 4 weeks until week 28
  • Every 2 weeks until week 36
  • After 36 weeks, once a week until you deliver

Minor Health Issues and Illnesses

If you have a mild health issue, cold or allergy, you can take care of yourself at home. Your provider might recommend home treatment for these conditions:

  • Leg cramps: Walk daily, stretch and take a bath before bed to prevent cramps. If your leg is warm or very painful, call your provider.
  • Colds: Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. If you have nasal congestion, use saline nose drops.
  • Allergies: Avoid medications. You can humidify your room or use a facial steamer to clear congestion.
  • Medications: Avoid any medicines that contain ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

Call your provider right away if you:

  • Have a temperature of 101 F or higher
  • Are having trouble breathing
  • Come down with the flu
  • Experience contractions or leak fluid or blood from the vagina

Safe Food and Drink During Pregnancy

The first step in a healthy pregnancy diet is making sure to follow specific food safety rules. Food safety is always important, but during pregnancy it's essential.

Be sure you always wash your hands before and after handling food. Keep raw meats separate from other foods, cook meals thoroughly and refrigerate food properly.

The FDA has specific recommendations for a healthy pregnancy diet:

  • Fish to avoid: Don't eat fish that might have high levels of mercury, such as:
    • King mackerel
    • Marlin
    • Orange roughy
    • Shark
    • Swordfish
    • Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)
    • Bigeye tuna
  • Fish you can eat: The FDA recommends 8-12 ounces of fish per week. A few of your options are canned light tuna, salmon and trout.
  • Foods to avoid: Stay away from foods that can cause food-related illness, such as listeriosis. This bacterial infection can be very serious for pregnant women and their babies. Avoid:
    • Hot dogs and luncheon meats, unless they are steaming hot
    • Soft cheese, like feta, brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco, queso fresco and panela, unless labeled as made with pasteurized milk
    • Pates, meat spreads or smoked seafood
    • Raw or unpasteurized milk by itself or in other foods
    • Juice by the glass
    • Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover and radish
    • Raw fish (including sushi) or shellfish
  • Caffeine: Keep your coffee, tea and caffeinated soda at 2 or fewer cups per day. Caffeine may contribute to low birth weight.
  • Alcohol: Avoid alcohol completely.

Medications and a Healthy Pregnancy

Many women worry about taking prescription drugs while trying to conceive or during the first months of pregnancy. Always talk to your provider before you stop taking prescription medications. But do avoid medicines that contain ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

Some pregnant women struggle with opioid issues. If opioids are a concern for you, talk to your provider and your care team. We have programs to help you during pregnancy and keep you and your baby together.

Exercise During Pregnancy

Get your provider's approval of any exercise routine. Most moms-to-be can exercise if they don't have pregnancy risks.

If you already exercise, stick to the routine you followed before you became pregnant. If you haven't exercised recently, start slowly, and choose an activity that won't be too strenuous.

Flu Shot

The flu may be much more dangerous during pregnancy and can turn into pneumonia. The flu shot is safe for you and your baby during any stage of your pregnancy. If you are pregnant between October and March, be sure to get a flu shot.

Monitoring Baby's Kick Count

Keep track of your baby's unique movements. They let you know what is normal for you. A decrease may mean stress. Your provider will want to check on the baby if you notice reduced activity. Here's how to measure kick counts:

  • Pick a time: Choose the same time of day, when your baby is most active.
  • Lie down: Lie on your left side and pay close attention to movement.
  • Track: When you feel the first movement, write down the time. Count 9 more kicks and write down the time in minutes. After a few days, you'll have your baseline measure of how many minutes it takes for your baby to make 10 kicks.
  • When to contact your doctor: If there is no movement in 1-2 hours, or less than half your baseline, call your provider. Your provider may listen to the baby's heart. You may also have an ultrasound (imaging that uses sound waves to show the baby in your uterus) or ask you to take a nonstress test (monitoring the baby's responses without putting any stress on him or her).

Prepare for Breastfeeding

Each body (and nipple) is unique. Most women, including those with flat or inverted nipples, don't need to do any special preparation for breastfeeding. Babies can usually latch on if you work on positioning and other techniques. If you have concerns, talk to your provider about how you can prepare. Get more information about breastfeeding support.

You can start your preparations by buying a well-fitting nursing bra. Get your bra fitting around week 34 of pregnancy. Try the bra on before you buy it and make sure you can open the flaps with one hand. Look for bras with:

  • Cotton flaps
  • Non-elastic straps
  • No underwires
  • At least 2 rows of hooks and eyes

Contact the Birthing Center

You can call 309-672-4852 to schedule a tour of the Birthing Center. Tours are held:

  • Mondays  at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Wednesdays  at 5 p.m.
  • Fridays at 10 a.m.

For information about childbirth preparation classes, see our Classes and Events page or call 309-671-2522. Preregister now to reserve your space.