Staying Healthy Before, During and After Pregnancy

Staying Healthy Before, During and After Pregnancy

Taking care of your health is always important. But it takes on a whole new level of importance when a baby enters the picture. Be sure to step up your self-care while you’re trying to get pregnant, during your pregnancy and after you give birth.

“Pregnancy is a life-changing experience, and it’s important that you have the best information from the start,” says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsleaving site icon 

Make a before, during and after pregnancy wellness plan. There are a lot of steps you can take, and there are ways your family and friends can join in to help.

And preventive care services are available for you and your baby at no additional cost to you when you use in-network providers.* Find out more about your preventive care servicesleaving site icon 

Before Pregnancy

Some things are important from preconception until after the baby is born:

  • Good eating habits
  • Regular activity
  • Taking care of your mental health

Get started by focusing on good health to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. These steps can help while you’re trying to get pregnant:

  • Make sure any health issues you have are under control.
  • Avoid being around chemicals.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Talk to your doctor about any supplements you may need. And if you take any OTC or prescription medicines, ask your doctor if they’ll be safe to take during pregnancy.

Download our Perinatal Wellness Guidelines leaving site icon for more information about staying healthy during pregnancy.

And find out what preventive care services for mom and baby are available at no cost-share for you.

During Pregnancy

Your Health
Living a healthy life and keeping doctor’s visits are key while you’re pregnant. You’re more likely to have a healthy birth if you have a healthy pregnancy, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. leaving site icon Some things to talk to your doctor about:

  • Healthy weight gain
  • What you eat
  • How much and what types of exercise you can do
  • What drugs and vitamins you take
  • The impact of your job on your health

Pay Close Attention to Your Blood Pressure
Many women have high blood pressure during and after pregnancy. It is critical to get treatment for it. It can put both mom and baby at risk. It can also cause problems during birth. High blood pressure and the complications it causes are among the leading causes of maternal death.

High blood pressure can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including preeclampsia and stroke. Preeclampsia happens when a woman suddenly develops high blood pressure and signs of liver or kidney damage after the 20th week of pregnancy. Signs of preeclampsia leaving site icon include:

  • A headache that doesn’t go away
  • Changes in eyesight, like blurry vision or seeing spots
  • Pain in your upper stomach area
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling in your hands or face
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Having a hard time breathing

High blood pressure also puts the baby at risk for early delivery (before 37 weeks) and low birth weight.

Baby’s Health
Your doctor will track your baby at all stages during your pregnancy, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. leaving site icon This may include:

  • Ultrasound exams to track your baby's growth and organs with images made from sound waves.
  • Nonstress test to electronically track the baby’s heart rate and movements.
  • Other tests that may be needed based on your own health and family health record. That can include checking for high blood sugar levels, which could be a sign of gestational diabetes.
After the Baby Comes: Mom’s Mental and Physical Health

Your doctor plays an important role in your postpartum recovery. The postpartum period is the first six weeks after your baby is born. A health check during this time is your chance to make sure you’re healing well and ask your doctor questions about your health.

New moms worry about many things. Being responsible for a baby can be stressful and overwhelming.

“Disrupted sleep and being overtired can amplify these feelings. The best thing you can do is accept help from your partner, family and friends — even if they’re not doing things exactly the same way you do — and then rest and recharge while someone else is caring for your baby,” says Shari Lawson, M.D., medical director of general obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Lawson suggests additional tips leaving site icon for feeling better mentally and physically:

  • Get plenty of rest. Allow others to help so that you can rest.
  • Be reasonable about your weight loss expectations. It takes time to get your body back to where it was before pregnancy.
  • Ease back into working out, focusing on your core. And try Kegel exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Eat healthy foods. If you’re nursing, you may need extra calories. Talk to your doctor about a healthy eating plan.

You may have heard of the “baby blues.” If you’re feeling very sad and anxious, and it doesn’t go away, you might have post-partum depression. leaving site icon If you think you may have post-partum depression, it’s important to get help. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and what kind of help you may need.

Start off Right: Get Your Baby's Vaccinations

From babyhood to preschool and beyond, keeping your child healthy means following a vaccine schedule. Vaccines protect against serious diseases, like polio, whooping cough and mumps. Those diseases can result in a hospital stay, or even death.

It’s important to make sure your child is fully vaccinated against these vaccine-preventable diseases. That means finishing the whole series of recommended shots at the right time. Studies have shown leaving site icon they are safe. But veering from the shot schedule is not.

For quick reference on the immunization schedule for children and more, download our Children’s Wellness Guidelinesleaving site icon 

*If you have a grandfathered plan (a plan that was in existence on or before March 23, 2010), preventive care without out-of-pocket costs may not apply to you.
Sources: Pregnancy, leaving site icon American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; How can I tell if my sadness after pregnancy is normal or a sign of depression? leaving site icon ACOG, 2020; Prenatal Care, leaving site icon U.S. Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health, 2021; Taking Care of You and Your Baby While You’re Pregnant, leaving site icon American Academy of Family Physicians, 2022; What Really Helps You Bounce Back After Pregnancy, leaving site icon Johns Hopkins Medicine; High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023; Your Body After Baby: The First Six Weeks, leaving site icon March of Dimes, 2023

Originally published 1/7/2022; Revised 2023, 2024