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Center for Family Health column: The secret to having a healthy baby is multi-faceted

By Dr. Monica Hill

JACKSON, MI – First, having a healthy baby starts with overall health prior to getting pregnant. If pregnancy is planned, healthy lifestyle choices should be made prior to getting pregnant.

Once you are pregnant, start your prenatal care with an obstetrician as soon possible – at least by 10 weeks along. At first you will have monthly appointments, increasing to biweekly and then weekly appointments as your pregnancy progresses.

Prenatal care is meant to help you have a happy healthy baby.

Why start prenatal care early? You need to begin taking prenatal vitamins. In fact, you can start taking them when you are trying to get pregnant. They are that important.

In addition, some medications you may be taking for a health condition may not be safe during pregnancy. An early ultrasound also can establish a more accurate due date. Your doctor can look at your risk factors (diabetes in a prior pregnancy or cervix issues, for example) and plan accordingly.

You also will go through an early set of labs for infectious screenings for STDs and HIV. Those can potentially have an adverse effect on the fetus and your labor. Your doctor will manage your pregnancy and delivery armed with this information to insure the health of mother and child.

Second, take care of yourself. Eat lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables every day. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Have eight ounces of low-mercury fish twice a week and six ounces of white Albacore tuna once a week. Avoid high-mercury fish, including walleye, king mackerel and swordfish.

Have three meals and three snacks a day. Overall, you can consume 300 to 500 more calories a day than before you were pregnant. But, “you are not eating for two; do not double your portions.”

Heat up deli meats. Avoid hot dogs, unpasteurized dairy products, blue cheese, feta cheese and rare meats of any kind.

Third, watch your weight. Your doctor can give you a target weight gain, based on your body mass inde

Fourth, avoid activities that can harm your baby. No smoking or vaping. No alcohol. No energy drinks. No. marijuana. No illegal drugs. Limit yourself to one 8-ounce cup of coffee a day.

Fifth, exercise 45 minutes three to four times a week. Aerobic walking, swimming and riding a stationary bike are recommended. It will promote a healthy weight; make labor easier; and decrease constipation, the risk of gestational diabetes and help control hypertension. Slow down your exercise routine once your balance starts to become precarious. Safety is always first.

Sixth, actively participate in your care. During your prenatal care you will be offered genetic screening tests for fetal abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome. The Free-Cell DNA test also reveals the sex of the baby. These are optional.

At 36 weeks, you should have an important test for group beta strep and STIs. If present in the mom, it can make babies seriously ill without intervention.

As your pregnancy progresses, you also will have another ultrasound and another set of labs – all designed to closely monitor your health and the development of the fetus.

Lastly, listen to your doctor. Ask questions.

Prepare for your baby’s arrival. Learn about breastfeeding (It decreases your newborn’s risk of allergies and diabetes – and helps moms lose their baby weight.) Arrange for a crib or bassinette for your baby to sleep safely face up. Install an infant car seat in your vehicle. Think about post-partum contraception and childcare. Plan how to introduce the baby to siblings and pets.

Most importantly, enjoy your healthy baby.

Dr. Monica Hill is an obstetrician/gynecologist and lead physician in women’s health at the Center for Family Health, 505 N. Jackson St.

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