Pregnancy Information Center

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8 Pregnancy Dos and Don’ts


From eating and exercise to sleeping and sex, tips to have a healthy, stress-free pregnancy

By Lora Shinn


It can feel like you’re given a whole new rulebook to follow when you’re pregnant. But there are some simple things you can do to boost your chances of a healthier, less-stressful pregnancy. Here we’ve boiled it down to eight easy dos and don’ts to guide you from the moment you conceive to the day you deliver.


1. Do Find a Provider Who You Feel Comfortable With

You should feel comfortable talking about anything with your provider, even if it’s something you think they might not recommend. “Most providers are open and nonjudgmental,” says certified nurse-midwife Eileen Ehudin Beard, a senior advisor at the American College of Nurse-Midwives. “They’ll give evidenced-based information to let you know if something isn’t safe.” She adds: “If you don’t feel comfortable being open, you’re not seeing the right person.” Ask for referrals from friends or your health insurance company to find a new ob/gyn or midwife.


2. Do Eat Smaller Meals, More Often

Gobbling a burger and fries and slurping a large shake may seem like a great way to “eat for two,” but jumbo-size spreads are more likely to offer payback in heartburn and acid reflux. Don’t let yourself get so hungry that you’re eating fast and furious — instead, eat small, nutrient-packed meals, and snack throughout the day on nuts, fruits, and vegetables. “Give your brain time to register that feeling of fullness,” Beard says. “Eat slowly and chew food well to get a sense of being full.”


3. Do Keep Exercising

Only about 40% of pregnant women exercise, according to the National Institutes of Health. Yet exercise relieves stress, lowers blood sugar and helps to keep you healthy and fit for labor. “I think that it’s important to exercise every day, so that you just in general feel better,” says Mary Rosser, MD, an ob/gyn at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the nonprofit association of women's health doctors, recommends that most moms-to-be exercise on most days.

Except if you have certain high-risk pregnancy conditions (check with your ob/gyn), you can keep up or adapt your pre-pregnancy exercise routine or integrate new, lower-impact activities like walking, swimming or prenatal yoga. Skip those technical and potentially high-impact sports — think mountain bike riding, soccer, and skiing — especially ones brand new to you. During pregnancy, your center of balance changes, and it’s important to avoid big falls.


4. Do Try to Sleep on Your Side 

Back-sleepers take note! When you’re lying your back, the uterus’s weight presses on the inferior vena cava, a major vein that returns blood from the lower body, which can reduce blood flow to the baby. If back sleeping is the only way you can get comfortable, “Just be propped up on pillows, so you’re in kind of a sitting position,” says Rosser. Otherwise, sleeping on either side is fine, she notes: “I know everybody says left side, but I tell women, just be on a side.” And try not to stress too much about what happens when you’re asleep; if you were significantly compressing blood flow, you’d probably feel dizzy and move automatically.


5. Don't Keep Up Your Smoking and Drinking Habits

“The amount acceptable is zero,” says Beard of alcohol, including beer, wine and other spirits, which can cause physical and behavioral problems in children if consumed during pregnancy. In fact, if you’re even thinking of getting pregnant, it’s best to pass on the cosmos and Cabernet. The same goes for cigarettes and smoking marijuana. All of these are associated with everything from preterm birth and low birth weight to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and behavior problems in children, and even obesity and diabetes once they reach adulthood. Even secondhand smoke carries a risk. If you or someone you love needs help quitting, read this.


6. Don't Try to Go It Alone

“Support is really important, as long as it’s the right kind of support,” Beard says. You need encouragement and optimism during these important months; feel free to ignore out-of-touch advice or horror stories from “helpful” friends or family. Some loved ones mean well but just aren’t on the same page as you regarding pregnancy and birth. Instead, seek out the support you feel comfortable with — whether that’s your care provider, a doula, a mom-to-be group in your area, or an online support group like our MedHelp pregnancy communities.

7. Don't Skip Bedroom Playtime

“There are a lot of myths regarding sex and pregnancy,” says Beard. But as long as your practitioner hasn’t told you otherwise, there’s no reason to avoid sex, she notes. Women’s sex drive may even increase during pregnancy, after any first-trimester nausea passes. Try new positions or different ways of satisfying each other, but most importantly, keep talking with your partner about how it feels to be intimate and what your preferences are. Also, rest assured that having sex won’t harm the growing baby inside you.


8. Don't Overthink Things

You should definitely feel informed and educated, involved and empowered about pregnancy and birth, Beard says. That said, when it comes to serious issues, it’s important to gather information from evidence-based, reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the NIH. There’s no need to feed the worry monster by looking up every pregnancy complication or birth disaster your friends’ cousin’s aunt endured. When you read something that concerns you, talk about it with your provider, and don’t forget to just enjoy your pregnancy, too (as much as you can!).


Published on November 4, 2015.


Lora Shinn is a freelance writer in Los Angeles, CA. Her work has appeared on and, as well as in Kiwi and Pregnancy magazines.

© Guille Faingold / Stocksy United
Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on July 30, 2015.
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