Whether you are planning on getting pregnant or you’ve just found out you’re expecting, getting early and regular prenatal care is the best thing you can do to keep you and your developing baby healthy.

Your family tree
Dr. Sohee Williams, an obstetrician at Pacific Women’s Center in Eugene says in addition to seeing your doctor and making sure you’re in the best health, it’s important to take time to brush up on your family history.

“Often times, people don’t know a lot about their family history unless there is a reason to,” says Dr. Williams. “Some conditions that run in families are worth having a genetic counseling session about before you get pregnant, so you know the possibilities of them impacting your future child.”

What should I eat?
While we often hear the term “eating for two,” an expectant mom needs only 300 extra calories a day to nourish her developing baby, and that’s only in the last two trimesters. Your vitamin and mineral needs, however, need a boost immediately, so it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, the B vitamin that helps prevent brain and spinal cord defects, like spina bifida.

Also, pay attention to the nutritional quality and safety of the foods you eat. In addition to cutting out alcohol, cutting back on caffeine and not smoking, avoid undercooked or raw meats, like rare steak or sushi, and limit seafood, because it can contain high levels of mercury. Avoiding unpasteurized milk products, including soft cheeses like blue cheese, feta and Brie, is also recommended. Get more information on what to eat during pregnancy here.

Can I exercise?
Exercising during pregnancy is beneficial, but it’s important to talk with your doctor, especially if you were not active before you became pregnant.

“Physiologically, in those first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you’ll notice changes in your blood pressure that may make you prone to becoming dizzy or short of breath. It’s important to know whether these symptoms are normal,” Dr. Williams says. “If you have an exercise regimen you are very used to, it is usually safe to continue that, possibly with some modifications, depending on the exercise.”

Here are some additional tips for moms-to-be:

  • Get adequate sleep, meaning at least eight hours a night. If you’re suffering from sleep disturbances, take naps during the day.
  • Pay attention to fatigue. The fatigue you feel in the first few months is due to high levels of pregnancy hormones circulating in your body. Fatigue later in pregnancy is your body’s way of telling you to slow down.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and put your feet up several times a day to prevent swelling of the feet, legs and ankles.
  • Don’t take over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies without first consulting your obstetrician or midwife.

Dr. Williams says pregnant women should also apply caution to chores like changing the litter box and gardening. Cat feces can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that can be spread to humans and to your baby.

“We recommend women take precautions. With the litter box, it’s usually easy to have someone else change it. Gardening is not something you have to give up, but wear gloves, wash your hands and be mindful.”

When seeking information about pregnancy, it’s common to head straight for the Internet. Dr. Williams says to look for information from reputable sites, and to share that information with you doctor.

Each trimester of pregnancy comes with new questions and topics you and your physician will want to discuss to keep you and your baby healthy. Be sure to jot down those questions, and remember to bring them to your next checkup.