Guidelines for a healthy pregnancy

special to the Herald-LeaderJune 24, 2013 



Women who are pregnant are often concerned with altering their lifestyles to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Patients often ask OB/GYNs for recommendations about exercise, caffeine intake and the use of artificial sweeteners.

Here are some guidelines that will help you maintain a healthy pregnancy:

Caffeine intake: There is general agreement that pregnant women and those trying to conceive should avoid large quantities of caffeine. But after decades of controversy and conflicting evidence, there is still no consensus on how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy. To err on the side of caution, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes advise women to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day, which is about one 10-ounce cup of coffee.

To manage your caffeine intake, you'll need to be aware of sources other than coffee, such as tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine also shows up in herbal products and over-the-counter drugs. Read labels carefully.

Exercise: Pregnancy is an ideal time for lifestyle modifications, including increasing physical activity and eating a more healthy diet. Exercise during pregnancy can maintain or improve fitness. In addition, exercise might improve some pregnancy outcomes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines recommend that, in the absence of medical or obstetric complications, pregnant women exercise at a moderate level for 30 minutes or more a day on most, if not all, days of the week.

Because the safety of a vigorous level of aerobic activity during pregnancy has not been studied sufficiently, vigorous exercise is not recommended during pregnancy. However, in the absence of medical or obstetrical complications, fit pregnant women may engage in more strenuous activities under proper supervision.

Artificial sweeteners: Moderate consumption of artificial sweeteners appears to be safe in pregnancy while avoidance of saccharin is recommended.

Stevia, aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) are considered safe during pregnancy according the Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA, recommends avoiding saccharin (Sweet'N Low).

Dr. Thomas Lewellen is a laborist, an OB/GYN who works in a hospital delivering babies. He practices at Baptist Health Lexington.

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