I spend a lot of time talking with my patients about regret. Many are haunted by decisions that they regret (Why didn’t I study harder? Why didn’t I marry Joe? Why did I spend so much money on clothes, instead of saving for a house?). There is not much you can do about your past decisions, but there is plenty you can do now to keep you feeling happy and in control of your pregnancy.
The most important thing you can do as a future mom is to shape up health-habit-wise. Making the following positive changes now can impact your child’s life later.
1 Nix the nicotine.
Smoking is a crucial habit to break. Nicotine has been found in the fluid that surrounds the developing egg, so stopping smoking prior to conceiving is best. Once you’re pregnant, the sooner you stop, the better.
2 Don’t drink alcohol.
No one knows if there’s a safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant, so the best advice is not to drink at all, since there are no health benefits from alcohol. When you’re not pregnant, drink in moderation. There is some evidence that alcohol may reduce fertility, so consider stopping if you’re trying to conceive. Once you’re pregnant, try not to have any alcohol until after your baby is born. Then it will be time to bring on the bubbly and celebrate!
3 Cut the caffeine.
Since high caffeine intake is associated with miscarriage, it’s important to reduce your caffeine consumption. Caffeine is hidden in many drinks and foods, so check labels. The caffeine content in some café coffees and energy drinks is higher than you might expect.
4 Take control of your weight.
Being underweight or obese is equally likely to affect your pregnancy. The best plan is to be at a normal weight (BMI, 18.5 to 29.9. You can calculate your BMI online: http:// www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/ obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm). If you’re outside that range, ask your provider to create a plan for the healthiest eating and best target weight gain.
5 Stop avoiding exercise.
Women who exercise moderately get pregnant the most easily and have the healthiest pregnancies. This means walking, swimming, biking or participating in a fun exercise class, for about half an hour, five times per week. If you are a couch potato, make sure your doctor approves any exercise you might try. A daily walk usually works wonders for both you and your baby.
6 Stop herbing.
There is no data to support the use of herbs during pregnancy. We don’t know if they are safe for you or for your baby. They might also have a negative interaction with any medications you are taking. Unless your provider specifically tells you it’s ok, it’s better to stop.
7 Check on antidepressants.
Some may not be safe to take during pregnancy. Some have been linked to birth defects and premature birth. Speak to the provider who prescribed them for you, and think about the pros and cons of trying other treatments for depression, including cognitive-behavior therapy, exercise or acupuncture.
8 Protect yourself.
It’s crucial to feel safe at home during pregnancy. If you don’t feel safe with your partner, consider moving in with a friend or family member. Ask your provider for help.
9 Monitor meds.
Medications, including over-the-counter, prescription and recreational, may harm you or your baby during pregnancy. Make sure your healthcare provider knows all medications you’re taking, even if you feel embarrassed to talk about it. There might be an equally safe substitute.
10 Don’t feel guilty about taking really good care of yourself.
Put your feet up and watch your favorite movie. Now is the best time to learn how to balance your needs with those of your baby.
Alice D. Domar, PhD, is executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/ Body Health and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. She is also the author/co-author of six books, including Live a Little.