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 Medical Self-Care: Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy 
 
Healthy moms have healthy babies. If you plan to, or become pregnant, take the following steps to be sure your pregnancy is a healthy one and that your baby gets off to a good start.
  • Consider genetic tests or counseling if you or your husband have a family history of genetic disorders, if you are 35 or older or if your husband is 60 or older.
  • Have a complete medical exam, including a gynecological exam. A number of medical conditions can jeopardize the health of mother and child:
    • Obesity.
    • High blood pressure.
    • Diabetes.
    • German measles (Rubella).
    • RH negative blood factor (after the first pregnancy).
    • Sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and AIDS or having the AIDS virus (HIV).
  • Take measures to control and/or treat all medical conditions and take care of your health before you get pregnant and when you are pregnant. If you have a chronic medical condition, ask your doctor how it may affect your pregnancy.
  • Consult your doctor before taking any medication.
  • Start prenatal vitamins while trying to get pregnant. This may prevent certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects like spina bifida. Continue to take vitamin-mineral supplements as prescribed by your doctor throughout your pregnancy.
  • Ask your doctor or a dietitian to outline a meal plan that meets the special nutritional needs created by pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, as they can harm you and your unborn baby.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine each day to no more than that contained in 2-3 cups of coffee, or about 400 milligrams.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice about weight gain. The amount of weight you gain should depend on your pre-pregnancy weight and health status, as well as your ethnic background. If you’re markedly overweight, plan to lose excess pounds before becoming pregnant.
  • Exercise in moderation, three times a week with your doctor’s okay. Some activities considered safe during pregnancy are walking, golf, swimming, bicycling and low impact aerobics.
  • Practice relaxation and other stress control techniques. Doctors think emotional stress may constrict the blood supply to the uterus and placenta, the baby’s sole source of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Enroll in childbirth preparation classes.
  • If you own a cat, arrange for someone else to empty the litter box. Cat excrement can transmit a disease called toxoplasmosis. If you’re infected while pregnant, your baby may be stillborn, born prematurely or suffer serious damage to the brain, eyes or other parts of the body. It is safe, however, to handle or pet the cat.
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