Being pregnant often raises questions and concerns about unknowns, particularly if it is a woman’s first pregnancy. We’ve provided care for pregnant women for over 30 years, and we fully understand these concerns. Below you’ll find some helpful pregnancy tips and guidelines that we’ve compiled based on common concerns and frequently asked questions.
With that said, it’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different. We encourage patients to schedule an appointment or call the office with questions and concerns.
For details regarding a typical appointment timeline and the care you can expect to receive throughout the different stages of pregnancy, please visit the Pregnancy Care page.
Pregnancy tips on lifestyle
A normal and healthy weight gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds. We advise that women pursue a healthy, balanced diet while avoiding processed “junk” foods. It’s also best to minimize use of sweeteners, such as NutraSweet and Splenda. A few other pregnancy tips related to diet follow.
- Caffeine: Limit use to 1-2 cups of caffeinated beverages per day.
- Alcohol: We advise that women do not drink alcohol during pregnancy. No research is available indicating how much alcohol may or may not jeopardize the fetus. Many women have inadvertently had alcohol early in pregnancy without subsequent problems for the baby. But the best policy is to not drink while attempting pregnancy and certainly to stop drinking once pregnancy is known.
- Fish: Up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) per week of fish that is low in mercury, such as salmon and shrimp, is okay. Canned light tuna has less mercury than albacore. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
- Cheese and meats: Avoid foods that are at a higher risk for listeria infection including hot dogs, deli meats (okay if reheated to steaming), soft cheeses, pates or meat spreads, unpasteurized milk or milk products, and raw or undercooked meats.
- Water: Stay hydrated, drinking 2-3 quarts of water daily (8-12 glasses or 64-96 ounces).
Regular exercise (at least 3 times a week) helps prevent gestational diabetes and decreases the risk of postpartum depression. Recommended activities include swimming, elliptical or stair machines and yoga. It is best to avoid high impact and abdominal exercises, as well as any activities that can cause falling or heavy contact. Scuba diving should not be attempted, but snorkeling is okay. Walking, jogging and cycling are fine, although they may become increasingly uncomfortable later in pregnancy.
After 12 weeks, women should avoid any form of exercise that requires them to lie on their back. Exercising to the point of exhaustion is not recommended. And staying hydrated and nourished is very important.
Traveling by plane is okay until around 34-36 weeks into pregnancy. Some airlines require that pregnant women provide a doctor’s note, which we are happy to provide for patients who are not in the final stages of pregnancy.
Pregnant women may travel to the mountains, but are advised to stay below 10,000 feet due to decreased oxygen at higher elevations. It is always advised to stay hydrated and use plenty of sunscreen during hikes and other outdoor activities.
Pregnant women should not smoke. The harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy are well documented. It may lead to a small baby, premature birth, bleeding and other complications.
Other pregnancy tips on lifestyle
- Hot tubs & heat: Avoid saunas, steam baths, hot tubs and electric heating blankets.
- Cats: Avoid changing cat litter.
- Painting: Latex painting in a well-ventilated room is generally safe during pregnancy. Avoid using a sprayer and any oil- or lead-based paints.
- Hair dye: There is no evidence to suggest that hair dye causes fetal effects.
Common pregnancy side effects
Constipation is common throughout pregnancy. It can be a result of hormonal effects and/or the pressure that the fetus exerts on the digestive system. Increasing fiber intake (fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads, high fiber cereals) and drinking plenty of water often prove helpful. Pregnant women can use stool softeners (see safe OTC medications during pregnancy) but should avoid laxatives.
Additionally, it’s important to note that calcium carbonate supplements (Tums) for acid reflux can make constipation worse. Blood in the stool may be a sign of straining or hemorrhoids. If serious symptoms arise, women are advised to notify us at the next visit or give us a call.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are common and usually subside with time. To reduce nausea, pregnant patients should get plenty of rest and avoid bothersome smells. Eating several small meals instead of three large meals may also be beneficial. It may also help to avoid fatty or spicy foods.
Ginger may naturally reduce nausea, and patients sometimes find it helpful to incorporate ginger-containing foods or ginger capsules (200mg three times a day). Vitamin B6 supplements may also help (25mg 3 times a day). Women who are unable to keep any food or liquids down should call the office.
Women can expect fetal movement around 20-24 weeks. After 28 weeks, it’s best to make a mental note of daily fetal movement. At least 12 movements should be felt every day. Patients often find that it is easy to monitor for movement at bedtime (lying on the left side) or just after a meal. If fewer than 12 movements are felt during the day, we advise our patients to call the office.
It is normal for a woman to have thicker vaginal discharge during pregnancy. But women should not douche while pregnant. Patients are encouraged to call the office if they leak clear, watery fluid.
Many women experience side pain during pregnancy, especially when exercising, stretching or lifting. This is usually ligament pain caused by a growing uterus pulling on the ligaments. For relief, women are advised to use heat, rest, Tylenol or massage.
Indigestion and heartburn are very common in pregnancy, and can be treated using approved over-the-counter medications such as Tums. To learn more about which medications are safe to take during pregnancy, click the button below.
To learn more about contractions, including how to distinguish normal pregnancy contractions from labor contractions, visit our Labor & Giving Birth page.