Having a Healthy Pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy is best for both mom and baby in the short and long term. Many of the healthy habits recommended before you became pregnant remain the same – like eating healthy, getting exercise, managing stress and controlling blood pressure - but be sure to talk to your health care provider about your specific needs, health history and any concerns you may have.
How do I stay heart-healthy during pregnancy?
All pregnant women need specialized care. If you have a heart condition, you may need a team of experts to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Regular medical monitoring will help decrease complications for you and your developing baby (fetus).
There are many things you can do to have a safe pregnancy. Even small changes can improve your wellness. Making heart-healthy choices during pregnancy could also help prevent future medical problems.
Understand prenatal visits.
Women should see a health care professional many times during pregnancy. Assessments at these appointments measure the health of both the mother and the fetus.
Exact tests done at each visit will vary depending on several factors. Typically, you'll have your weight and blood pressure monitored. Frequent blood and urine tests are also routine. If you have heart problems, you may need extra testing during pregnancy. Your health care team also will use caution in prescribing some medicines commonly given during pregnancy.
What do I discuss with my health care team?
- Any concerns. You should feel comfortable discussing your current health, changes in your body and conditions to watch out for. Ask about the baby’s development. Learn what to expect during labor and delivery, and make sure you understand what's happening at these appointments. This knowledge can help you feel more at ease.
- Testing. The type of testing depends on any conditions or symptoms you have. Typical testing at an appointment includes checking blood and urine for signs of diabetes or infections. Women with heart problems may need more specialized tests. For example, your doctor may order an echocardiogram (a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of your heart) or an electrocardiogram (a test that measures your heart's electrical activity -– shows your heart’s rhythm).
- Factors linked to heart disease. Be sure to mention any heart or other major health problems diagnosed in you or family members.
- Nutrition and exercise. Eating well and staying active are important during pregnancy. Your health care team can guide you.
- Any prescribed medications or over-the-counter supplements. Some of these, including some heart medicines, may be risky for you or your fetus during pregnancy. Your health care team will tell you what’s safe and may recommend other drugs or supplements to improve or maintain your health.
- Previous pregnancy problems. Your health during past pregnancies can help signal potential problems to come. It also helps doctors intervene early if anything goes wrong.
- Fertility treatments. Women who've had fertility treatments face higher risk for some short-term problems. These include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
How does my doctor help keep my unborn baby healthy?
Your health care team will track fetal development throughout your pregnancy. Routine ultrasound exams measure the baby's growth. Specialized ultrasounds detect heart abnormalities. Some babies might need monitoring or treatment after delivery.
What are some ways to prevent complications?
Making your heart health and overall wellness a priority is essential during pregnancy. This includes:
- Visiting a health care provider regularly. Monthly visits are typical until 28 weeks. Then the frequency will increase to every two weeks or weekly as you get closer to your due date. Follow your health care team’s recommendations.
- Taking medication as prescribed. Talk to your doctor about what to do if you miss a dose. Never stop medications without approval.
- Reducing stress and managing anxiety. Some ways to calm down include meditating, spending time in nature and enjoying other hobbies.
- Monitoring weight gain. Doctors will advise you how much weight is safe to gain based on your body mass index before pregnancy. Normal weight women with BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 who are pregnant with one baby are typically expected to gain 25 to 35 pounds. (The range is higher in a multiple pregnancy, such as if you're carrying twins.)
- Avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs.
- Following extra precautions if you're older than 35. These include being aware of the increased risks, staying active and getting early and frequent medical care.
What are some signs of a problem with my pregnancy?
Some pregnant women are at risk for serious or even life-threatening conditions. These include diabetes, stroke and preeclampsia, a severe form of high blood pressure.
Contact your health care team about any worrisome symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations, increased heart rate or irregular pulse
- Chest pain
- Severe nausea or abdominal pain
- Persistent and intense headache
- A bloody cough or coughing at nights
- Vision problems
- Changes in mental health