Be the Better You – As a young woman, the choices you make about your health are among the most important decisions of your life. You can start with easy decisions and small changes.

  • Get up and move. Take a walk. Dance a whole song. Take the stairs. Park away from the store and walk across the parking lot. Try it once a week; then, once a day.
  • Make a healthy choice when eating out. No fries. Salad instead of a burger. No soda. Cut down on the sugar.
  • Help prepare more healthy meals at home. Low fat ingredients. More fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get enough sleep. Adults need 7-8 hours a night. Teens and children need more.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Make an appointment to see a doctor especially if it has been over a year since you had a checkup.
  • Start taking a multivitamin with folic acid.
  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Google a health topic that interests you on the internet.
  • Talk to family and friends about joining you in trying to be healthier.

Be a Healthy Weight

A healthy you is key to a healthy pregnancy. Before you get pregnant, be sure to have a physical exam to evaluate your overall health. This is particularly true if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic diseases. Your visit to the doctor can also help you establish a healthy eating and exercise plan, give you information on local resources that may help you, and uncover if you have untreated infections or sexually-transmitted diseases that could harm you or your baby. For more information about STD’s and pregnancy, visit STDs and Pregnancy – CDC Fact Sheet.

For women who want to increase their chances of having a healthy pregnancy, an important step is to have a body weight that is in the “normal range” for their size before they get pregnant.

Women who are underweight before they get pregnant are at greater risk of having their baby born with a low birthweight (less than five and a half pounds). These babies may be born too small to be healthy or to survive. Women who weigh too little need to eat more healthy foods and try to gain weight before getting pregnant.

Women who are overweight or obese before they get pregnant are at greater risk of having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and other complications. These babies have an increased risk of having some birth defects. Women who weigh too much need to learn to eat healthy foods and exercise, so they can lose weight before getting pregnant.

For more specific information, talk to your doctor or nurse, or ask them to refer you to a nutritionist in their practice or at the local health department.

Eat healthy and get folic acid

Eating healthy is important for everyone. A healthy diet helps protect against certain diseases and provides energy to the body. Poor nutrition before getting pregnant and during pregnancy can cause a baby to grow too slowly during pregnancy (growth retardation). Growth retardation can lead to premature (early) birth, fetal distress, or death. Poor nutrition can also increase the risk of some birth defects of the spinal cord and brain. Learn more about nutrition and resources available to pregnant women.

  • Follow these daily guidelines (2015) for a healthy diet:
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight – Reduce the risk of health issues for you and your future baby by maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Get Folic Acid & Other Nutrients – Learn about this important nutrient and its benefits. You can also visit the March of Dimes website. See chart below for info on other important nutrients:
Nutrient Foods to eat
Calcium Milk and milk products, cheese, broccoli, kale, clams, oysters, almonds, dried peas and beans, tofu, salmon or sardines
Iron Liver, lean beef, pork, or lamb, dried fruit, whole-grain bread, enriched cereals, dried peas and beans, broccoli, kale, collard greens, poultry, and fish
Folic acid Liver, eggs, broccoli, greens (collard, mustard, turnip, kale), yeast, black-eyed peas, and dried beans, whole-grain breads, nuts, strawberries, corn, okra, green peas, butternut squash, spinach, orange juice

Reduce Stress

Stress is real and can increase your risk for some health problems. Some stress is short-term stress. Some stress is long-term. It’s important to “get a handle” on the stress you feel now before you become pregnant. Stress that affects your health can also affect the health of your growing baby!

Short-term Stress

Getting stuck in traffic and meeting new people are examples of short-term stress. These kinds of everyday activities can make people feel worried or anxious. One way to deal with stress is to change our reaction to it.

What Can You Do to Reduce Short-term Stress?

(Reproduced with permission from the 2004 issue of
FamilyDoctor.org Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Family Physicians. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Don’t worry about things you can’t control, like the weather
  • Prepare to the best of your ability for events you know may be stressful, like a job interview
  • Work to resolve conflicts with other people
  • Ask for help from friends, family or professionals
  • Set realistic goals at home and at work
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat well-balanced meals and get enough sleep
  • Meditate
  • Get away from your daily stresses with group sports, social events and hobbies
  • Try to look at change as a positive challenge, not a threat

If you find that short-term stresses are affecting you too much, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you and can point you to other resources in your area.

Long-term Stress

Long-term stresses — such as a broken relationship, being in an abusive relationship, the death of a loved one, racial discrimination, money problems, and sexual harassment — are larger and longer-lasting sources of stress. These are stresses that can affect your health over time. Some long-term stresses have been linked to complications in pregnancy that can cause problems for the developing baby.

What Can You Do to Reduce Long-term Stress?

Long-term stress often comes from complex problems. These problems may seem impossible to solve. Close friends, clergy and family members can give you emotional support. Talk to them. In addition there are professional people and agencies that can help you:

Everyone has stress. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Finding help to lessen long-term stress can go a long way to improving your health. Be sure your doctor or nurse knows about the stress in your life. If they know, they can better monitor your health, and they can suggest community resources that can help.

Resources

Healthy habits

  • Be the Better You – This video shows you can start with easy decisions and small changes about your health to become the better you.

Healthy weight

Nutrition and folic acid

Reduce Stress