Pregnancy is a natural time to focus on your health. Taking care of yourself takes care of your baby. Getting some low-impact exercise and eating well are two good ways to start.

Benefits of Exercise

Many women can exercise 30 minutes each day, within their abilities, until the 20th to 25th week of their pregnancy. Afterward, they should curtail their exercise.

Moderation is important. “It’s not the time to try to do more than you did before,” says Dr. Christopher Neill, an OB-GYN and a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan medical director.

But women who are fit and active often have easier or less complicated pregnancies. They do well, and the baby does well, he adds.

The key is moderate, low-impact exercise. This isn’t the time to be bouncing around. Instead, think walking, swimming, or modified yoga or Pilates.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there are many benefits to exercising while pregnant. Among other benefits, exercise:

  • Supports healthy weight gain
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Strengthens blood vessels
  • Can ease constipation
  • Helps back pain
  • May decrease chances of gestational diabetes

In addition, exercise can help you feel better, sleep better and prepare your body for birth.

Of course, you should take precautions. Be sure to warm up, stretch and cool down. Don’t overdo it. Avoid dehydration. And avoid hot tubs and saunas.

Talk to your doctor about your workout plan before you start. Your doctor can help you figure out what type of physical activity is right for you.

Women who have certain health problems may be told to avoid some activities. “It’s important to be sure that there aren’t pre-existing reasons to avoid exercise,” says Dr. Carol Saffold, an OB-GYN and a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan medical director. Some of these health problems include lung disease, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Exercise is also a good idea for a woman who plans to become pregnant.

“It’s part of preparation for pregnancy,” Dr. Saffold says. “We talk about exercise during a preconception visit.” She says it’s easier to exercise during pregnancy if you’re doing what your body is already conditioned to do.

Eating Right for You and Your Baby

On the food front, it’s important to not buy into the old wives’ tale that you are “eating for two.”

A small increase is enough. Depending on your normal weight, you could eat 1,800 to 2,000 calories each day in the first trimester. Add 200 to 300 calories in the second trimester and again in the third. And stay away from foods high in sugar, fat and salt.

Try focusing on protein, calcium, fruits and vegetables. And always drink plenty of water — eight to 10 glasses a day is ideal.

Eating small meals throughout the day is better than three big meals. Fixing foods ahead makes it simpler. Try prepping 10 plastic bags of snacks — five or six bags of foods with protein or calcium and the rest with fruits and vegetables.

“If you plan ahead, you’ll have good nutrition wherever you go,” Dr. Saffold says.

icon_pregnantStressing out?

Too much stress can be harmful to you — and to your baby. Some stress is normal during a time of change, but too much can bring headaches and sleeplessness and even make you eat too much or too little. If you’re feeling a lot of stress, bring it up during your prenatal visit.