Apr 1, 2005 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Pregnancy: Keeping Yourself and Your Baby Healthy

Am Fam Physician. 2005 Apr 1;71(7):1321-1322.

Should I do anything differently while I’m pregnant?

You can help make sure that you and your baby will be as healthy as possible by making some lifestyle changes while you are pregnant. It is important to check in with your doctor regularly. Tell him or her about any prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines that you take. If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs, you should quit. There is no “safe” amount of alcohol while you are pregnant.

Most women can keep working while they are pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about having to work long hours, or if you think working might put your baby’s health at risk. It is usually okay to travel by air until four weeks before your due date.

Do not use hot tubs or saunas during the first three months of your pregnancy.

If you have a cat, you could be at risk for an infection called toxoplasmosis (say: tox-oh-plas-moh-siss). Wear gloves when you change the litter box or have someone else do it for you. You also should wear gloves when you are gardening.

How much weight should I gain while I’m pregnant?

Most women gain between 25 and 35 pounds while they are pregnant. But there is no proof that gaining or losing weight will cause problems.

What should I eat?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby is eat a balanced diet. There are a few foods that you should be more careful about eating while you are pregnant. Meat, eggs, and fish that are not fully cooked could put you at risk for an infection. Do not eat more than two or three servings of fish per week (including canned fish). Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, or tuna. These fish sometimes have high levels of mercury, which could hurt your baby.

Wash all fruit and vegetables, and keep cutting boards and dishes clean. Eat three to four servings of dairy foods each day. This will give you enough calcium for you and your baby. Do not drink unpasteurized milk or eat unpasteurized milk products. Soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert, and Mexican queso fresco may have bacteria that can cause infections.

If you drink coffee or other drinks with caffeine, do not have more than one or two cups each day. It is okay to use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (brand name: Equal) and sucralose (brand name: Splenda) while you are pregnant.

Should I take vitamins?

You should take 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid every day for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. Folic acid can help prevent problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord. It is best to start taking folic acid before you get pregnant. Your doctor also might want you to take an iron pill or calcium pill while you are pregnant. You should not need to take any other vitamins if you eat a healthy diet, but check with your doctor.

Can I exercise while I’m pregnant?

Yes, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You should try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Talk to your doctor about any special conditions you might have.

There are some things to watch out for when you exercise while you are pregnant. Don’t overdo exercise. If you can’t talk easily while exercising, you are working too hard. Don’t get overheated, and be sure to drink plenty of water while you are exercising so that you do not get dehydrated.

Is it safe to have sex while I’m pregnant?

Sex is safe for most women while they are pregnant. But if your pregnancy is complicated, ask your doctor if you should avoid sex.

You should expect your sex life to change as you do. Your comfort level and desire will change during your pregnancy. Also remember that protection against sexually transmitted diseases is especially important while you are pregnant.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Article Tools

  • Print page
  • Share this page
  • AFP CME Quiz

Information From Industry

Navigate this Article