Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Knowing that you are doing all you can to stay healthy during pregnancy and give your baby a healthy start in life will help you to have peace of mind.
Premature Birth: Important growth and development occur throughout pregnancy – all the way through the final months and weeks. Babies born three or more weeks earlier than their due date have greater risk of serious disability or even death. Learn the warning signs and how to prevent a premature birth.
Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent major birth defects. Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, before and during pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy: This is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. Learn more about the dangers of smoking and find help to quit.
Alcohol: When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.
Marijuana Use: Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through your system to your baby and can harm your baby’s development.
Vaccinations: Vaccines help protect you and your baby against serious diseases. CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your developing baby. Talk to your ob-gyn or midwife about including vaccines as part of a healthy pregnancy.
Infections: You won’t always know if you have an infection—sometimes you won’t even feel sick. Learn how to help prevent infections that could harm your developing baby.
HIV: If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, get a test for HIV as soon as possible and encourage your partner to get tested as well. If you have HIV and you are pregnant, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy and not give HIV to your baby.
West Nile Virus: Take steps to reduce your risk for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections.
Diabetes: Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chance for birth defects and other problems for your baby. It can cause serious complications for you, too.
High Blood Pressure: Existing high blood pressure can increase your risk of problems during pregnancy.
Medications: Taking certain medications during pregnancy might cause serious birth defects for your baby. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking. These include prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements.
Depression: Depression is common and treatable. If you think you have depression, seek treatment from your health care provider as soon as possible.
Environmental Exposures: Did you know that when you’re pregnant you might need additional supplies or need to protect yourself during an emergency?
- The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units are a direct link to medical and health professionals. Because environmental factors can impact health of children and reproductive age adults, the PEHSU network has experts in pediatrics, allergy/immunology, neurodevelopment, toxicology, occupational and environmental medicine, nursing, reproductive health and other specialized areas. There are regional specialists across the country to answer your questions.
- The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has many fact sheets about toxic substances (e.g, lead, benzene) if you have concerns about toxic exposures.
Environmental and Workplace Exposures: Some workplace hazards can affect the health of your developing baby. Learn how to prevent certain workplace hazards.
Developing Babies Exposed to Radiation: If you think you might have been exposed to radiation, talk with your doctor.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Learn about pregnancy weight gain recommendations and steps you can take to meet your pregnancy weight gain goal.
Genetics and Family History
Genetics: Understanding genetic factors and genetic disorders is important for learning more about preventing birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other unique conditions in children.
Family History: Family members share their genes and their environment, lifestyles, and habits. A family history can help identify possible disease risks for you and your baby.
Genetic Counselor: Your doctor might suggest that you see a genetic counselor if you have a family history of a genetic condition or have had several miscarriages or infant deaths.
Bleeding and Clotting Disorders: Bleeding and clotting disorders can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage. If you have a bleeding or clotting disorder, talk with your doctor.
Disaster Safety for Expecting and New Parents: Learn general tips to get prepared before a disaster and what to do in case of a disaster to help keep you and your family safe and healthy.
Travel: If you are planning a trip within the country or internationally, talk to your doctor first. Travel might cause problems during pregnancy. Also, find out about the quality of medical care at your destination and during transit.
Violence and Pregnancy: Violence can lead to injury and death among women in any stage of life, including during pregnancy. Learn more about violence against women, and find out where to get help.
Things to Think About Before Baby Arrives
Breastfeeding: You and your baby gain many benefits from breastfeeding. Breast milk is easy to digest and has antibodies that can protect your baby from bacterial and viral infections.
Jaundice and Kernicterus: Jaundice can sometimes lead to brain damage in newborns. Before leaving the hospital, ask your doctor or nurse about a jaundice bilirubin test. If you think your baby has jaundice, call and visit your baby’s doctor right away.
Newborn Screening: Within 48 hours of your baby’s birth, a sample of blood is taken from a “heel stick,” and the blood is tested for treatable diseases. More than 98% of all children born in the United States are tested for these disorders.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Learn what parents and caregivers can do to help babies sleep safely and reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS.
Child Safety Seats: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented. Placing your baby in age- and size-appropriate restraint system lowers the risk of serious and fatal injuries by more than half.