During Pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Knowing that you are doing all you can to stay healthy during pregnancy and give your baby a healthy start in life will help you to have peace of mind.

What Are Steps You Can Take Toward a Healthy Pregnancy?

Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent major birth defects. Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, before and during pregnancy.

Smoking: The best time to quit smoking is before you get pregnant, but quitting at any time during pregnancy can help your baby get a better start on life. Learn more about the dangers of smoking and find help to quit.

Alcohol: A baby can be exposed to the same level of alcohol as the mother during pregnancy. There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.

Pregnant African American women on exercise mat

Marijuana Use: Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through your system to your baby and can harm your baby’s development.

Vaccinations: Did you know a baby gets disease immunity (protection) from mom during pregnancy? This immunity can protect baby from some diseases during the first few months of life, but immunity decreases over time.

Infections: You won’t always know if you have an infection—sometimes you won’t even feel sick. Learn how to help prevent infections that could harm your developing baby.

"Hear Her: Learn the warning signs. It could help save a life

HIV: If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, get a test for HIV as soon as possible and encourage your partner to get tested as well. If you have HIV and you are pregnant, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy and not give HIV to your baby.

West Nile Virus: Take steps to reduce your risk for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections.

Diabetes: Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chance for birth defects and other problems for your baby. It can cause serious complications for you, too.

High Blood Pressure: Existing high blood pressure can increase your risk of problems during pregnancy.

Medications: Taking certain medications during pregnancy might cause serious birth defects for your baby. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking. These include prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements.

Depression: Depression is common and treatable. If you think you have depression, seek treatment from your health care provider as soon as possible.

Emergencies: Did you know that when you’re pregnant you might need additional supplies or need to protect yourself during an emergency? Public health emergencies can affect access to medical and social services, increase stress, intensify physical work, and expand caregiving duties.

Environmental and Workplace Exposures: There are some common environmental and workplace hazards that could be harmful to pregnant or breastfeeding people, or to household members when carried home on clothes, skin, and shoes. Talk to your doctor or your employer about what you are exposed to at work.

  • The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) are a direct link to medical and health professionals. Because environmental factors can impact health of children and reproductive age adults, the PEHSU network has experts in pediatrics, allergy/immunology, neurodevelopment, toxicology, occupational and environmental medicine, nursing, reproductive health and other specialized areas. There are regional specialists across the country to answer your questions.
  • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has many fact sheets about toxic substances (e.g, lead, benzene) if you have concerns about toxic exposures.

Radiation: If you think you might have been exposed to radiation, talk with your doctor.

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How Do Genetics and Family History Affect Pregnancy?

Genetics: Understanding genetic factors and genetic disorders is important for learning more about preventing birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other unique conditions in children.

  • Family History: Family members share their genes and their environment, lifestyles, and habits. A family history can help identify possible disease risks for you and your baby.
  • Genetic Counselor: Your doctor might suggest that you see a genetic counselor if you have a family history of a genetic condition or have had several miscarriages or infant deaths. Top of Page

What Are Other Concerns During Pregnancy?

Bleeding and Clotting Disorders: Bleeding and clotting disorders can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage. If you have a bleeding or clotting disorder, talk with your doctor.

Disaster Safety for Expecting and New Parents: Learn general tips to get prepared before a disaster and what to do in case of a disaster to help keep you and your family safe and healthy.

Premature Birth: Important growth and development occur throughout pregnancy – all the way through the final months and weeks. Babies born three or more weeks earlier than their due date have greater risk of serious disability or even death. Learn the warning signs and how to prevent a premature birth.

Travel: If you are planning a trip within the country or internationally, talk to your doctor first. Travel might cause problems during pregnancy. Also, find out about the quality of medical care at your destination and during transit.

Violence and Pregnancy: Violence can lead to injury and death among women in any stage of life, including during pregnancy. Learn more about violence against women, and find out where to get help.   Top of Page

What Are Other Things to Think About Before the Baby Arrives?

Breastfeeding: You and your baby gain many benefits from breastfeeding. Breast milk is easy to digest and has antibodies that can protect your baby from bacterial and viral infections.

Jaundice and Kernicterus: Any baby can get jaundice. Severe jaundice that is not treated can cause brain damage. Your baby should be checked for jaundice in the hospital and again within 48 hours after leaving the hospital. If you think your baby has jaundice, call and visit your baby’s doctor right away.

Newborn Screening: Within 48 hours of your baby’s birth, a sample of blood is taken from a “heel stick,” and the blood is tested for treatable diseases. More than 98% of all children born in the United States are tested for these disorders.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Learn what parents and caregivers can do to help babies sleep safely and reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS.

Child Safety Seats: Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented. Always buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts reduces serious and fatal injuries by up to 80%. Top of Page

Page last reviewed: September 20, 2022