Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
Discovering that you’re pregnant is an exciting and joyous time, filled with planning and anticipation for your baby’s future. It can also be a time filled with questions and concerns — pregnancy leads to many changes in your body as your fetus grows. With all of these changes, it’s important to stay healthy and work with your physician to find what works best for your individual pregnancy.
In this section, our experts provide general guidelines for staying healthy during pregnancy and what you can expect throughout your three trimesters.
The First Trimester
A healthy first trimester is crucial to your baby’s development. You may not be showing much on the outside yet, but on the inside, your baby’s major body organs and systems are forming.
The Second Trimester
The second trimester marks a turning point for you and your baby. You will likely start to feel better as physical symptoms more common during the first trimester, like nausea and morning sickness, begin to subside, and you will start showing the pregnancy more. Your baby has developed all of its organs and systems, and will begin growing in length and weight.
The Third Trimester
The third trimester marks the home stretch, as you prepare for the delivery of your baby. Your baby will continue to grow in length and weight.
Common Tests During Pregnancy
Your health care provider may recommend a variety of tests, screenings and imaging throughout the three trimesters of your pregnancy.
Nutrition During Pregnancy
It’s important to learn the best foods for a healthy pregnancy, what foods should be avoided, and the best vitamin and mineral supplements.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Regular exercise, with the approval of your health care provider, can help reduce physical discomforts from pregnancy and help with postpartum recovery.
Travel During Pregnancy
In most cases, pregnant women can travel safely until close to their due dates. But travel may not be recommended for women who have pregnancy complications. If you are planning a trip, talk with your obstetrician. And no matter how you choose to travel, think ahead about your comfort and safety. The best time to travel is mid-pregnancy (14–28 weeks). During these weeks, your energy has returned, morning sickness is improved or gone, and you are still able to get around easily. After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around or sit for a long time. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends these tips for travel during pregnancy.
Medical Conditions and Pregnancy
There are certain medical conditions, whether preexisting or those that develop during pregnancy, which may cause complications. Your health care provider will be able to help you manage these complications.
If you get a cold or flu, it is OK to treat the symptoms with medications that are safe to use during pregnancy. You do not have to treat a stuffy nose or cough, but it is important to treat a fever if you have one. A fever can be very dangerous in the first trimester. For this reason, your provider will typically also recommend against raising your core temperature with activities such as hot yoga, Jacuzzi or sauna.
If you are going to be pregnant during flu season (November through February), your provider will likely strongly encourage that you get the flu vaccine. The flu and pregnancy page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women is decreased by about one-half when they have received the vaccination (cdc.gov/flu).
- The vaccine does not contain live virus and cannot give you the flu, and is recommended for all pregnant women.
- The nasal spray is a live/weakened form of the flu virus and should not be given in pregnancy.
- The injectable vaccine can be given at any point in pregnancy.
Pregnant and postpartum women have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women. ACOG strongly recommends vaccination if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant. COVID-19 vaccines are safe during pregnancy, cannot give you COVID-19 and do not affect your genes or DNA. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or have an impact on pregnancy.
It’s important to follow current mask guidelines from the CDC. Mask guidelines may change based on how COVID-19 is affecting your community. You can look up your county on the CDC website to see the current guidelines for your area. Sometimes the CDC may recommend that everyone wears a face mask, or that people who are at high risk for severe illness consider wearing a face mask. Remember, when you are pregnant or postpartum, you are at higher risk for severe illness.
It is still recommended that you wear a mask on public transit and in travel hubs such as airports or train stations. In health care settings, follow the guidelines of the health care facility. It may be a good idea to wear a mask even if it is not required, especially when COVID-19 is spreading at the same time as the flu.
Vaccines and Medications
Allowed: It’s okay to take medicine in many instances when you feel sick while pregnant. Check with your provider for details about appropriate medications for you. It is also safe to get shots for the flu, whooping cough, COVID-19, hepatitis, pneumonia and certain types of meningitis during pregnancy. Three of these vaccines are recommended for all pregnant women:
- Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine
- Flu vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccine
Not allowed: Certain vaccines should not be given during pregnancy because they contain live, attenuated viruses. Attenuated means that the virus has been weakened so that it cannot cause disease in a healthy person. The vaccines that women should not get during pregnancy include:
- Live, attenuated flu vaccine given as a nasal spray (but the flu shot is safe)
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Chickenpox vaccine
Care and Management of Multiple Pregnancy
Pregnancy with twins, triplets or higher-order multiples may necessitate different nutritional requirements and types of delivery.
Labor is a series of continuous, progressive contractions of the uterus that lead to the delivery of your baby.
Your baby may be delivered vaginally or by a cesarean section, depending on your baby’s position and other medical factors determined by your health care provider.