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Your pregnancy is a great adventure, and the same things that make it exhilarating can also make it nerve-wracking. The new life growing inside you depends on you for all of its needs, and that's not always an easy thought. But don't fear, just keep your eyes on the prize of a healthy pregnancy. Keep up with everything you'll need to know '- from A to Z '- to stay healthy during pregnancy.
A Avoid chemicals and other substances that may be toxic, including cleaning solvents, lead and mercury, some insecticides and paint. Take yourself off nursery decorating duty to steer clear of paint fumes. It's better to be safe than sorry during pregnancy.
B Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for you and your baby. Talk to your doctor, your family and friends, and your employer about your baby-feeding choices and how they can support you.
C Cigarette smoking has been associated with a whole slew of problems, from low-birth-weight babies to later learning disabilities. Give your baby a better start '- and minimize your risk of miscarriage, tubal pregnancy and future infertility '- by kicking the habit ASAP. And don't feel bad about asking others to snuff their cigarettes out around you during your pregnancy and after baby is born.
D Drink extra fluids, preferably water, to help you keep up with your increased blood volume. Be sure to have at least six to eight glasses of water, fruit juice or milk each day. You'll know you're getting enough fluids when your urine is clear or very light yellow.
E Eat healthy to make a healthy baby. Your daily diet should be a smattering of the five basic food groups, including: 6 to 11 servings of whole grains, 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, 2 to 4 servings of fruit, 4 to 6 servings of dairy and 3 to 4 servings of lean meat or other protein. Opt for low-fat, high-fiber foods whenever you can.
F Folic acid '- 400 micrograms daily '- before and during the first few months of pregnancy reduces the risk of brain and spine defects for your baby-to-be. Any woman who could possibly become pregnant should take a vitamin with folic acid every day. Eating a healthy diet that includes fortified foods (enriched grains, cereals, rice, breads and pastas) and natural sources of folate (orange juice, leafy green vegetables, beans, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, peas and lentils) helps too.
G Genetic counselors can help you sort out the favorable family traits from the not-so-nice ones. These health care workers specialize in helping couples determine their risk of having a child with birth defects or other conditions passed through their families and educating them on their options. Tell your doctor about any family history of pregnancy problems or birth defects, and he or she will help you decide whether you and your mate are candidates for genetic counseling.