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Moms & Pregnancy

Healthy Eating
Healthy Weight
Food Safety
Common Problems
Feeding Your Baby
  • Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

    Good nutrition for you and your baby!

    One of the best things about pregnancy is that it makes you more aware of your body's nutritional needs. The nutrients you need during pregnancy are not very different from those you need when you're not pregnant; however, good nutrition is especially important now because it affects yoru baby's growth and development!

    Being pregnant is the perfect motivation to improve your diet and lifestyle habits so that both you and your baby will be as healthy as possible. Strive for these three goals:

    • Eat a well-rounded diet: Choose nutrient-rich foods from the major food groups. Use the USDA's MyPlate as your guide.

    • Aim for appropriate weight gain, as recommended by your doctor.

    • Make time for regular physical activity, such as walking or swimming, most days of the week.

    The Importance of Folic Acid

    When is folic acid important for me?
    Folic acid is good for all women, even if they don't plan on getting pregnant. It is especially important to have enough folic acid in your body before you get pregnant and during the first months of pregnancy.

    What kind of birth defects may folic acid prevent?
    Taking folic acid before you get pregnant lowers your chances of having a baby with serious birth defects of the brain or spinal cord. It may also lower your chances of having a baby with birth defects of the heart, lip or mouth.

    What are the other benefits of folic acid?
    You need folic acid for the growth and repair of every cell in your body. Since hair, skin, and nails grow every day, folic acid is really important.

  • Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

    How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

    Gaining weight during pregnancy is important and vital to your baby's development, but how much is "the right amount?"

    Many women think that eating for two means eating twice as much as usual; however, most women only need to eat an additional 150-200 calories per day (a 6oz low-fat yogurt) during their first trimester and an extra 300 calories per day (a half a sandwich and a glass of skim milk) during the remainder of their pregnancy. Surprised?

    Your actual weight gain depends on a number of factors, including your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI, your health and your baby's health. Work with your health care provider to find a healthy weight gain for you. Many women gain just a few pounds during the first three months, then a pound a week until delivery.

    See also: Pregnancy weight gain: What's healthy? by Mayo Clinic.

    Calculate your pre-pregnancy BMI.

    Where does the weight go?

    Let's say your baby weighs in at 7 or 8 pounds. That accounts for some of your pregnancy weight gain, but where does the rest go? Here's a sample breakdown:

    How many extra calories do I need?

    In general, pregnant women need between 2,200 and 2,900 calories per day. A gradual increase in calories as your baby grows is the best bet.

    • The first trimester requires an added 150 calories per day
    • The second and third trimesters require an added 300 calories per day

    It woud be easy to add calories to your diet with junk food, but this won't give your baby the nutrients he or she needs. It's important to avoid overeating and make nutrient-rich choices. Consider these suggestions:

    • Trade white bread and pasta for whole-grain varieties
    • Choose a salad with low-fat dressing or black beans instead of a burger and fries
    • Eat sliced fruit instead of a cookie

    Should I exercise during pregnancy?

    Being active throughout your pregnancy can help feel better and manage weight gain. The activity guidelines for most pregnant women are 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
    Be sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine while pregnant.

    The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, yoga and low-impact aerobics (taught by certified instructors). These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.

  • Food Safety

    Are there foods that aren't safe to consume during pregancy?
    What is foodborne illness?
    • It's a sickness that occurs when people eat or drink harmful microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, viruses) or chemical contaminants found in some foods or drinking water.
    • Symptoms vary, but in general can include: stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, or body aches. Sometimes you may not feel sick, but whether you feel sick or not, you can still pass the illness to your unborn child without even knowing it.

    Why are pregnant women at high risk?
    • You and your growing fetus are at high risk from some foodborne illnesses because during pregnancy your immune system is weakened, which makes it harder for your body to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms.
    • Your unborn baby's immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms.
    • For both mother and baby, foodborne illness can cause serious health problems - or even death.

    There are many bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Here are 4 Simple Steps you should follow to keep yourself and your baby healthy during pregnancy and beyond!

    1. Clean
      • Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
      • Wash hands before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.
      • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot water and soap.
      • Rinse raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.
    2. Separate
      • Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from ready-to-eat foods.
      • If possible, use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another one for fresh fruits and vegetables.
      • Place cooked food on a clean plate. If cooked food is placed on an unwashed plate that held raw meat, poultry, or seafood, bacteria from the raw food could contaminate the cooked food.
    3. Cook
      • Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. See the Apply the Heat chart for the recommended cooking times for foods.
      • Keep foods out of the Danger Zone: The range of temperatures at which bacteria can grow - usually between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C).
      • 2-Hour Rule: Discard foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
    4. Chill
      • Your refrigerator should register at 40°F (4°C) or below and the freezer at 0°F (-18°C). Place an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically.
      • Refrigerate or freeze perishables (foods that can spoil or become contaminated by bacteria if left unrefrigerated).
      • Use ready-to-eat, perishable foods (dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, produce) as soon as possible.

    3 Foodborne Risks for Pregnant Women

    As a mom-to-be, there are 3 specific foodborne risks that you need to be aware of. These risks can cause serious illness or death to you or your unborn child. Follow these steps to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

    1. Listeria
      What it is:
      A harmful bacterium that can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other foodborne bacteria do not. It causes an illness called listeriosis.

      Where it's found:
      Refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods and unpasteurized milk and milk products.
      How to prevent illness:
      • Follow the 4 Simple Steps above.
      • Do not eat hot dogs and luncheon meats - unless they're reheated until steaming hot.
      • Do not eat soft cheese, such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, "blue-veined cheeses," "queso blanco," "queso fresco," and Panela - unless it's labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Check the label.
      • Do not eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads.
      • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood - unless it's in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. (Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel, is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." These types of fish are found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.)
      • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
    2. Methylmercury
      What it is:
      A metal that can be found in certain fish. At high levels, it can be harmful to an unborn baby's developing nervous system.

      Where it's found:
      Large, long-lived fish, such as shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish.
      How to prevent illness:
      • Don't eat shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish. These fish can contain high levels of methylmercury.
      • It's okay to eat other cooked fish/seafood as long as a variety of other kinds are selected during pregnancy or while a woman is trying to become pregnant. She can eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
    3. Toxoplasma
      What it is:
      A harmful parasite. It causes an illness called toxoplasmosis that can be difficult to detect.

      Where it's found:
      Raw and undercooked meat; unwashed fruits and vegetables; soil; dirty cat-litter boxes; and outdoor places where cat feces can be found.
      How to prevent illness:
      • Follow the 4 Simple Steps above.
      • If possible, have someone else change the litter box. If you have to clean it, wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards.
      • Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox.
      • Don't get a new cat while pregnant.

    For More Information:

    See your doctor or health-care provider if you have questions about foodborne illness.
    FDA Food Information Line: 1-888-SAFE-FOOD.
    FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
    Gateway to Government Food Safety Information
    U.S. Partnership for Food Safety Education
    Recomended Fridge and Freezer Storage Chart (PDF)

    Information retrieved from: FDA Safe Eats

    Yes. Your developing baby is highly sensitive to the effects of bacteria and other contaminants found in certain foods. Follow these food safety guidelines throughout your pregnancy:

    • Eat or drink pasteurized milk products only
    • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot
    • Do not eat refrigerated or meat spreads
    • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, blue-veined cheese or Mexican style cheeses like "queso blanco fresco" unless they are labeled as made with pasteurized milk.
    • Do not eat raw or undercooked foods, or cooked foods that have been cross-contaminatd with bacteria from raw food nearby
    • Avoid uncooked seafood or shellfish. Avoid shark, king mackeral or tielfish because of higher mercury levels. You can safely eat 12 ounces weekly of a variety of other fish and shellfish, including shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish and canned light tuna.
    • Wash fruits and vegetables well. Even "prewashed" salad greens.
    • Never serve cooked foods using utensils that have touched raw meat or eggs.
  • Relief from Common Problems


    Nausea or vomiting, sometimes called morning sickness, may occur during the early months of pregnancy. It usually disappears after the third month. If you have this problem, try the following:

    • Before you get out of bed in the morning, eat a few crackers, a handful of dry cereal, or a piece of toast or dry bread. Put these within reach of your bed the night before.
    • Get up slowly in the morning. Avoid suddon movements.
    • Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. Never go for long periods without food.
    • Drink fluids, including soups, between rather than with meals.
    • When you feel nauseated between meals, drink small amounts of apple juice, grape juice, or carbonated beverages.
    • Avoid greasy or fried foods. These include butter, margarine, mayonnaise, bacon, gravies, pie crusts, pastries, fried meats and french fries.
    • Eat lightly seasoned foods. Avoid foods cooked with pepper, chili, and garlic.
    • When you cook, open windows or use the exhaust fan to get rid of odors.
    • Be sure to have plenty of fresh air in the room when you sleep.


    Certain changes which take place in your body during pregnancy may make you constipated. Little exercise or not enough fiber and liquids in your diet may also cause this problem.

    The food guide in the Give Your Baby a Healthy Start booklet contains enough fluid and bulk to aid in elimination. If you are still constipated, the following may help:

    • Eat more raw fruits and vegetables, including skins. Also try dried fruits, stewed prunes and apricots, and prune juice.
    • Use whole grain cereals and breads such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Try wheat germ on your cereal or have a bran muffin.
    • Drink more liquids. Include water, milk, cocoa, fruit juices, and soups. A glass of warm water as soon as you get up may help.
    • Eat meals at regular times.
    • Exercise regularly.

    If constipation continues, talk to your doctor. Do not take over-the-counter drugs or home medications such as mineral oil.


    Heartburn is sometimes a problem during the last months of pregnancy. As your baby grows, there is increased pressure on your stomach. If you have heartburn, try the following:

    • Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day.
    • Limit fatty and fried foods.
    • Avoid spicy foods.
    • Wear clothes which are loose around your waist.

    Over-the-counter drugs may be harmful to your baby. Never take medication before talking to your doctor.

  • How are you going to feed your baby?

    Mom's milk is best!
    • Human milk is best nutrition for human babies. It provides powerful health, financial, and time benefits for both moms and babies. Formula comes from cow's milk or soybeans. It is not the same as human breast milk. Human milk is meant for human babies.
    • Breastfeeding is best for the baby’s brain development. Children who were breastfed as infants are more likely to do well in school.
    • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity. Breastfeeding helps a baby to eat enough to grow and not to overeat.
    • Breastfeeding is a once in a lifetime experience that promotes a special closeness with the baby. A special mothering hormone is secreted while you are breastfeeding that makes you feel calm and contented. Breastfed babies are happy and secure.
    • Breast milk helps the baby stay healthy. Breastfeeding for 6 months will help reduce your child’s risk for many infections including: ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and urinary tract infections. Breastfeeding may also reduce your child’s risk of diabetes, leukemia and asthma.
    • Breast milk is free. Breastfeeding your baby can save you hundreds of dollars!
    • Breastfeeding is the natural way for mom to get back in shape and stay healthy. Breastfeeding returns your uterus to its normal size. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight and lowers mom’s risk for breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis.
    • Breast milk is always safe, convenient, and ready to feed.

    What if....
    • I do not have enough milk? Most healthy women will have enough milk if they breastfeed often and do not give bottles of formula. You have enough milk if your baby is gaining weight and having enough wet and dirty diapers every day.
    • I need to go back to work? Get a good milk supply started by fully breastfeeding your baby. When you are close to returning to work you can begin to pump and store your milk. If you cannot pump at work, there are alternatives. WIC can help.
    • My family does not like the idea of me breastfeeding? Share with your family why you think breastfeeding is best for your baby.
    • My breasts sag? Changes in breast shape are the result of aging and pregnancy, not breastfeeding. It depends on the elasticity of each individual’s breast tissue.
    • I am embarrassed to breastfeed? Breastfeeding moms can simply throw a blanket over the shoulder. Loose fitting tops that pull up from the bottom are easiest. A little practice helps you learn how to nurse discretely.
    • I am afraid breastfeeding will tie me down? Get lots of practice in the first weeks until breastfeeding feels easy, then, with planning, you can make breastfeeding work around your schedule.
    • I don’t like it or it hurts? Your can learn to breastfeed so that it does not hurt. Ask for help. Getting the right position helps avoid soreness and makes it easier for your baby to get enough milk.

    Questions? Call the Breastfeeding advice line at 1-866-878-7767.