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Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby

Baby's on the way! And while a little one's growing inside, a lot is happening outside. Families are discussing names, organizing a nursery, and stockpiling diapers and tiny onesies. All those activities are important — not to mention fun.

Meanwhile, mom is making choices that can profoundly affect what's happening inside the womb.

"Many of the things that are healthy during pregnancy are things women can control," Allison Chen-McCracken, MD, an OB-GYN with Rush University Medical Center, says. "And as they prepare to bring a new life into the outside world, that's very empowering."

Chen-McCracken offers insight into just how much certain choices matter. Here are just a few:

REDUCING STRESS High levels of stress can increase the chances of having an underweight baby who is at risk for respiratory, heart, intestinal and eye problems. Although researchers are still investigating why, stress during pregnancy may also be linked to behavioral concerns during the child's adolescence.
EXERCISING Exercise helps reduce stress — and gives moms stamina for the challenge of labor and delivery. Women who maintain fitness during pregnancy typically do better during the pushing process.
A FLU SHOT Nature suppresses a pregnant woman's immune system to make sure it doesn’t attack the baby. But that makes her more susceptible to infections. Expectant moms who get the flu can end up being hospitalized. Since flu season can last until May, a flu shot anytime during winter is a good idea.
SMOKING Among many other negatives, smoking can cause the placenta — the source of the baby's food and oxygen during pregnancy — to separate from the womb too early, causing bleeding, which is dangerous to the mother and baby. Babies born to women who smoke are also at higher risk of having a cleft lip or cleft palate.
DELI MEATS If deli meats aren't kept cold enough at a store or restaurant, they can become contaminated with a bacteria called listeria. Pregnant women are at particularly high risk for getting sick from listeria, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
CERTAIN FISH Raw fish can carry foodborne pathogens, so take sushi off the menu. And because fetuses exposed to mercury are at risk for birth defects, avoid fish that are high in mercury. That includes king mackerel and swordfish. Meanwhile, it’s healthy to eat cooked salmon or tuna once or twice a week.


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