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Answers to Common Prenatal Health and Nutrition Questions

Atrium Medical Center answers frequently asked questions about prenatal health and nutrition.

What foods should I avoid while I’m pregnant?

There are a variety of foods that are good to avoid while you’re pregnant to help keep unwanted bacteria from getting to your growing baby.

Foods to stay away from during pregnancy include:

  • Hot dogs and deli meats unless steaming hot
  • Unpasteurized milk or juice
  • Chicken, egg and tuna salads not made at home
  • Unpasteurized soft cheese, such as feta, brie, queso blanco, queso fresco and blue cheese
  • Fish with high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover radish and mung bean
  • Refrigerated meat spreads

Ask your doctor for more information about foods to avoid eating while you are pregnant.

Food not to eat while pregnant Off Site Icon.

What vitamins should I take while I’m pregnant?

Click play below or read the video transcript.

Pregnant women should not take regular vitamins. Instead, they should take specified prenatal vitamins that contain at least 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid, among other things.

It is best to start taking prenatal vitamins before you become pregnant and even more important to continue taking them throughout your entire pregnancy and beyond, if breastfeeding.

Like with any medications, you should talk to your physician about how to choose the best prenatal vitamins for you.

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How much should I exercise while I’m pregnant?

It is good to exercise during pregnancy, even if you didn’t exercise before you got pregnant.

Unless your physician says otherwise, it is good for pregnant women to exercise 30 minutes or more on most days of the week.

Some exercises that are recommended include:

  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Walking
  • Aerobics

Especially during pregnancy, it is important to stay safe while exercising. Here are some tips for a healthy workout:

  • Stop exercising if you feel overheated.
  • Slow down if you’re out of breath.
  • Stay off your back to keep blood flowing well to your baby.
  • Drink water to stay hydrated.
  • Eat a snack before and after you exercise to stay energized.
  • Later in pregnancy, try to avoid exercise that requires balancing.

It is important to talk to your physician before exercising to make sure your exercise plan meets your pregnancy needs.

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What activities/behaviors should I avoid while I’m pregnant?

Click play below or read the video transcript.

Though there are many things you want to make sure to do while you are pregnant – including get plenty of sleep, drink extra fluids and get prenatal medical care – there are also many things you want to avoid.

Some activities/behaviors you should avoid while pregnant include:

  • Smoking
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Exposure to paint fumes
  • X-rays
  • Hot tubs and saunas
  • Cleaning or changing a cat’s litter box
  • Eating swordfish, kin mackerel, shark or tilefish
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as cleaning solvents, lead, mercury and some insecticides

There are a variety of other foods and habits to avoid, so talk to your physician for more details about these and other things to avoid during pregnancy.

Learn more:

What foods should I make sure to include in my diet while I’m pregnant?

Most pregnant women need about 300 more calories a day than they would have eaten before you became pregnant.

Pregnant women should try to eat the right number of servings from each food group every day.

  • Fruits – 1.5 to 2 servings – can include melon, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, avocado, apples, dried fruit
  • Vegetables – 2.5 servings – can include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, red pepper, leafy greens
  • Grains and Cereals – 6 servings – can include bread, cooked rice, cooked or cold cereal, pasta (whole grain options preferable)
  • Dairy – 3 servings – can include milk, yogurt, cheese (choose low-fat options; avoid soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk)
  • Protein – 5 to 5.5 servings – can include eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, peanut butter, lean beef (avoid raw or undercooked meats and fish and shellfish high in mercury)
  • Fluids – 8 or more 8-ounce glasses – can include water, clear soups, diluted juices (avoid alcohol; have less than 200 mg of caffeine per day – about 12 ounces of coffee)

While pregnant, you should try to cut down on sweets and high-fat foods.

Talk with your physician for more information about healthy nutrition habits to practice while you are pregnant.

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How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

Click play below or read the video transcript.

Though the food you’re eating while you are pregnant is nourishing both you and your growing baby, eating for two does not mean eating twice as much.

It is important to eat healthy foods during your pregnancy, and most pregnant women only need an additional about 300 calories a day.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Women who are underweight before pregnancy should gain 28 to 40 pounds
  • Women who are normal weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 30 pounds
  • Women who are overweight before pregnancy should gain 15 to 25 pounds
  • Women who are obese before pregnancy should gain 11 to 20 pounds

Extra weight during pregnancy should be gained gradually, with about 2 to 4 pounds during the entire first trimester and 3 to 4 pounds per month during the rest of your pregnancy.

Every person and pregnancy is different, so talk to your doctor about how much weight is healthy for you to gain during your pregnancy.

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What medications are safe for me to take while I’m pregnant?

Click play below or read the video transcript.

There is not a simple answer as to what medications are safe during pregnancy.  It is always best to talk to your physician for his or her recommendation of what medications are safe for you and your baby while you are pregnant.

The Food and Drug Administration has categorized medications based on safeness of use during pregnancy – with A being the safest; B, C and D each being respectively less safe; and X being unsafe.

The FDA recommends that pregnant women not take:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil)
  • Herbs, minerals and amino acids

Talk to your physician for information about the safety of specific medications you think you might need to take while you’re pregnant.

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Can I travel while I’m pregnant?

Pregnant women can travel, but it is recommended that you travel during the second trimester. Women tend to feel best during their second trimester, and there is the least risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

You are not prohibited from traveling while pregnant, but it is important to remember that many of the general discomforts of pregnancy – including nausea, heartburn, leg cramps, constipation, fatigue and indigestion – can be increased by travel.

Pregnant women should try not to sit still for too long while traveling and should always wear a seat belt – during both car and air travel.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that healthy women who are carrying only one baby can fly safely up to 36 weeks pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Airlines each have policies about allowing pregnant flyers. Most domestic flights allow women up to 36 weeks pregnant, while international flights allow women 32 to 35 weeks pregnant to fly.

If you do plan to travel while pregnant, make sure to take documentation listing:

  • Your expected due date
  • Contact information for your obstetrician
  • Your blood type

Talk to your physician for more information about travel plans while you’re pregnant.

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Is it safe to get a flu shot while I’m pregnant?

Pregnant women should definitely get a flu shot. A flu shot is the best protection for you and your baby – both before and after birth – from serious illness from the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pregnant women are more likely to be severely affected by the flu than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women who get the flu also have a greater chance of causing serious problems for their baby, including miscarriage and premature birth, according to the CDC.

The shot has been shown to protect babies up to 6 months old, if their mother received it while pregnant.

The flu vaccine can be given in both shot and nasal spray form, but the CDC recommends that pregnant women only receive the shot form.

Talk to your physician for more information about getting the flu vaccine and the safety of other medications while pregnant.

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Thanks to Atrium Medical Center for answering these common questions about prenatal health and nutrition.

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.


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