Take prenatal vitamins
Most prenatal supplements contain more folic acid and iron than you'll find in a standard multivitamin.
It's important to get enough folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy. Folic acid greatly reduces your baby's risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Ideally, you should start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant. Once your pregnancy is confirmed, up your daily dose to 600 mcg.
You also need to make sure you're getting enough iron. Your iron requirement increases significantly during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters.
But more is not necessarily better — taking too much of certain things can actually be harmful. Avoid megadoses of any vitamin, and don't take any additional supplements or herbal preparations without your caregiver's okay.
A good exercise program can give you the strength and endurance you'll need to carry the weight you gain during pregnancy, help prevent or ease aches and pains, improve sluggish circulation in your legs, and help you handle the physical stress of labor. It will also make getting back into shape after your baby's born much easier.
What's more, exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and some research suggests that staying active can boost your level of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood.
Just remember not to push yourself too hard or let yourself get overheated or dehydrated. (You'll also need to avoid hot tubs and saunas while you're pregnant.)
Get some rest
The fatigue you feel in the first and third trimesters is your body's way of telling you to slow down. So listen up and take it easy as much as you can. If you can't swing a nap in the middle of the day, give yourself a break and let your other responsibilities slide a little. If you can't sleep, at least put your feet up and read a book or leaf through a magazine.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, stretching, deep breathing, and massage are all great ways to combat stress and get a better night's sleep.
Just say no to alcohol
Don't drink while you're pregnant: Any alcohol you drink reaches your baby rapidly through your bloodstream, crossing the placenta, and your baby can end up with higher levels of blood alcohol than you have.
As little as one drink a day can increase your odds of having a low-birthweight baby and increase your child's risk for problems with learning, speech, attention span, language, and hyperactivity. And some research has shown that expectant moms who have as little as one drink a week are more likely than nondrinkers to have children who later exhibit aggressive and delinquent behavior.
Women who have more than two drinks a day are at greater risk for giving birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children born with this condition suffer from mental and growth retardation, behavioral problems, and facial and heart defects.
Drinking also increases your risk for miscarriage and stillbirth. So play it safe — avoid alcohol completely and have a nonalcoholic drink instead. Let your caregiver know if you're having trouble giving up alcohol, so you can get help.
Swear off all illicit drugs
Any drug you use gets into your baby's bloodstream as well. Some studies suggest that marijuana may restrict your baby's growth and cause withdrawal symptoms (like tremors) in your newborn.
Using cocaine is extremely dangerous. It restricts the flow of blood to the uterus and may lead to miscarriage, growth problems, placental abruption, or premature delivery. Your baby could be stillborn or have birth defects or developmental and behavioral problems.