If you’re a first-time mother-to-be, you’ve got a lot of information
to take in as you prepare for your baby’s arrival. While you’re
probably spending much of your time learning how to take care of the baby
and the changes in store for your newly expanded family, what you’re
doing now, during pregnancy, can affect the baby’s development.
Susana Gonzalez, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist with
St. Joseph Health Medical Group in Napa, highlights a few things expectant mothers should know:
Prenatal vitamins: Ideally, you were taking folic acid supplements before you became pregnant.
You should still be taking folic acid, which prevents spine and brain
defects, as part of a prenatal vitamin. “It should also include
vitamin D and calcium, which helps the baby’s bones grow strong,
as well as iron for the baby’s development,” Dr. Gonzalez
says. “Prenatal vitamins should be taken throughout pregnancy. Make
sure you drink lots of water and take the pill with food if it makes you
Anti-depressants: Just as you need to stay physically healthy during pregnancy, you also
need to stay emotionally healthy. Depression shouldn’t go untreated,
but if you are on anti-depressant medication you should discuss options
with your doctors. “Medication can potentially affect fetal growth
and development, increase the risk of defects or malformations, and lead
to a lower birth weight and preterm birth,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “Also,
a baby can possibly experience symptoms of withdrawal—he’s
fussy or inattentive, for instance—from anti-depressant medication
when he is born.”
Obesity: Women who have a body mass index of 30 or above are considered obese.
“For the fetus, there are increased risks for health problems, including
neural tube and heart defects and early delivery before 37 weeks gestation,”
Dr. Gonzalez says. “Premature babies can have lingering, and possibly
long-term, issues with learning, behavior, development, vision, hearing
and more.” If you’re obese, it’s best to work with your
doctor to lose weight before getting pregnant.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.