Striving for a healthy pregnancy, baby and life after birth

Regardless if you are trying to conceive, currently pregnant or have just given birth, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key in preparing both the mother and the baby for the best possible outcomes and a healthy start.  There are many recommendations for a healthy pregnancy that come from health practitioners, experts and many of our own friends and familia.  This article will focus on key practices that will support and prepare women for some of the many challenges that come from being and staying healthy in every stage of pregnancy.

Preparing for Pregnancy  There are a couple of measures to keep in mind throughout the process of conception.  Specifically, maintaining a healthy weight tends to support fertility as it helps with balancing key hormones that impact your ovaries which affects your ability to get pregnant.

Weight & Fertility  “Weighing too much or too little can interrupt normal menstrual cycles, throw off ovulation or stop it altogether. The best range for fertility is a body-mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24.”[1]

 Obesity is a known risk factor for ovulation problems, but it also contributes to infertility in women who ovulate normally, new research shows. Women in the study who were severely obese were 43% less likely to achieve pregnancy than normal-weight women or women who were considered overweight but not obese during the yearlong study.”[2]

Now may be a good time to check in with a doctor to develop a health plan that can assist you in your goal towards pregnancy.  Your plan should include three key components: a balanced diet, vitamins and mineral supplements, and an exercise plan.

A Balanced Diet  Your diet will not only help you to prepare you in getting pregnant but also, will set you up for a healthy pregnancy.  Your health plan should include a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains not processed foods, healthy fats, good sources of protein and minimal if any simple sugars.  Harvard researchers studied a variation of this diet called the Fertility Diet and discovered 10 evidence based suggestions for improving fertility.  These suggestions will assist you in losing or gaining any necessary weight while also increasing the nutrients that are critical for conception and pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamins  A health plan should also include prenatal vitamins that increase vital vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy baby and pregnancy.

In addition to serving as a back-up for any nutritional gaps in your diet, a prenatal supplement approved by your doctor can help reduce risk for some birth defects, preterm birth and low birth weight baby, while helping you to maintain your own health during pregnancy.”[3]

“Forty percent [of obese women are] deficient in iron, 24 percent in folic acid and 4 percent in B12. This is a concern because certain vitamins, like folic acid, are very important before conception, lowering the risk of cardiac problems and spinal defects in newborns.”[4] 

Exercise  No health plan is complete without the inclusion of exercise.  This may not be the time to train for a marathon but if you are currently not exercising, it is important to start some moderate exercise that will help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight while also preparing for the changes to come.

Moderate physical activity was found to benefit women of all body types in a new study examining the impact of exercise on fertility, while intense exercise appeared to increase the time to conception for normal weight.” [5]

During Pregnancy  There are many changes that come with pregnancy of which some are easier to deal with versus others.

Your Growing Body…and Appetite  Between food cravings and nausea, figuring out the right balance in eating can be difficult for many women who want to stay healthy and maintain normal weight gain.  Generally, the same food standards for non-pregnant women apply–eating your daily portion of fruits and vegetables, whole grains not processed foods, good sources of protein and minimal if any simple sugars.  Most importantly, maintaining a balanced diet helps the healthy development of your baby while also helping avoid food related problems that emerge during pregnancy such as excess weight gain, constipation and gestational diabetes.

“Gestational diabetes affects 1 to 3 percent of all pregnant women, according to, but it usually disappears after the baby is born. If you have gestational diabetes, your body has trouble using the glucose in your blood for energy, so your blood sugar levels elevate. This can affect your health by making your delivery more difficult, to the point where you may need a cesarean section. Also, you’re at increased risk of developing preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure, swelling that doesn’t go away and elevated amounts of protein in your urine. The condition is dangerous if left untreated. Gestational diabetes also affects your baby’s health by increasing the risk of problems at birth. For instance, your baby might have jaundice, a low blood sugar level or an abnormally high birth weight.”[6]

 A healthy diet helps keep weight gain to the recommended amount of 25 to 35 pounds.  Staying within this range will help in losing the extra pounds much more easily after birth.

Exercise  Regular exercise is beneficial at every stage of pregnancy but remember to consult first with your doctor before proceeding.  In fact, exercise during pregnancy can help prevent or bring relief to many pregnancy symptoms or problems that emerge.  For example, exercise:[7]

  • Improves circulation that directly impacts and prevents constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, leg cramps and swelling of the ankles;
  • Strengthens back muscles which help prevent back pain;
  • Increases energy especially when hormones increase tiredness;
  • Helps you to sleep better;
  • Helps prepare you for childbirth and potentially result in a shorter labor, fewer medical interventions and improved endurance during labor; and
  • Has been shown to improve your mood.

It is important to note that there are things to avoid while exercising including:[8]

  • Activities that increase the likelihood of falling;
  • Exercise that may cause any abdominal trauma;
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing;
  • Intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity; and
  • Exercise in hot, humid weather –stay hydrated!

 Post Pregnancy  Proper nutrition is still important after your baby is born.  The same health guidelines apply to help with healthy weight loss while supporting breastfeeding and hence, your growing baby.  The key is not to try any drastic changes that may limit your nutritional intake and that of your child.  This is especially true as diet supports the mother’s ability to provide the essential nutrients needed for the child.

Breastfeeding  There are many benefits of breastfeeding especially if a baby exclusively breastfeed for six months.  By doing so, you can expect benefits that support you and your child.  If you are unclear of the benefits of breastfeeding, we have collected some information below by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Benefits for Baby:

  • Breast milk contains everything your baby needs: proteins, fats, lactose, vitamins, iron, minerals, water and enzymes in the exact amounts required for optimal growth and development.
  • Breast milk contains substances that prevent harmful bacteria from growing in the intestines that cause gastrointestinal and diarrheal infections.
  • Breastfed babies have fewer middle ear infections, fewer respiratory infections and a decreased risk of developing allergies, cancer, childhood diabetes and obesity.
  • Breastfed babies have a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Breastfed babies are less prone to develop diabetes, heart disease, eczema, asthma and other allergic disorders later in life.
  • Breastfeeding a premature baby decreases their risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
  • Breastfeeding enhances brain development. Research shows there is better visual development and visual acuity in breastfed children.
  • Breast milk is clean, free from bacteria and has anti-infective properties.
  • Breast milk has the right temperature and needs no preparation. It is readily available whenever your baby needs it.
  • Breastfeeding is more than just food. It enhances the emotional bond between the baby and the mother and provides warmth, love and affection.

Benefits for mom:

  • Breastfeeding reduces post-delivery bleeding and the risk of anemia.
  • Breastfeeding mothers have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Breastfeeding mothers have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. They are also four times less likely to develop osteoporosis.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of developing postpartum anxiety and depression.
  • Feeding your baby breast milk can help you burn over 500 calories per day and will help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. You would need to run nearly 5 miles or walk almost 7 miles every day to burn the equivalent amount of calories.

 Final Takeaways

Pregnant or not, healthy nutrition and exercise is key to a healthy life, changing body during pregnancy and growing family.  Setting up the right habits before getting pregnancy will help during and after pregnancy.  For more information, please go to Bienestar or to Latino Best Start.










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