Hesperian Health Guides

Staying healthy during pregnancy

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 10: Pregnancy > Staying healthy during pregnancy


If you can take good care of yourself while pregnant, you are more likely to have a safe pregnancy and birth, and a healthy baby. Try to:

  • Sleep and rest whenever you can.
  • Go for prenatal (before-birth) checkups.
  • If you have never had a tetanus immunization, get one as soon as you can. Get at least 2 before the end of your pregnancy.
  • Keep clean. Bathe or wash regularly and clean your teeth every day.
  • Practice squeezing exercises, if you can, so the muscles in your vagina will be stronger. This will help them recover more quickly after the birth.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water or juice each day and pass urine frequently to prevent bladder and kidney infection.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Get treatment if you think you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or other infection.
  • Avoid taking modern or plant medicines, unless a health worker who knows you are pregnant says it is OK.
  • Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or chew tobacco. They are bad for you and will harm the baby.
  • Avoid pesticides, herbicides, or factory chemicals.
  • Stay away from a child with a rash all over its body. The rash may be caused by German measles (rubella), which can harm the baby.
  • If you use a bowel program to pass stool, do it regularly.

Eat a variety of foods

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you need to eat more than usual. The extra food will give you enough energy and strength, and will help your baby grow. As much as possible, try to eat different kinds of food: main foods (carbohydrates), grow foods (proteins), glow foods (vitamins and minerals), and go foods (fats, oils, and sugar), along with plenty of fluids. (See more information on eating well for good health.)

Prevent anemia (weak blood)

It is especially important for you to get enough food with iron so your blood will be strong. If a pregnant woman has anemia and she bleeds heavily during childbirth (hemorrhage), she is more likely to become seriously ill or even die.

Folic acid (folate)

Not getting enough folic acid can cause anemia and can also cause severe birth defects in the baby, such as growths on the spine or in the brain. To prevent these problems, it is most important for you to get enough folic acid before you get pregnant and in the first few months of pregnancy.

These foods contain a lot of folic acid:
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • meat (especially liver, kidney, and other organ meats)
  • peas and beans
illustration of foods containing folic acid.
  • sunflower, pumpkin, and squash seeds
  • whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat)
  • fish
  • eggs
  • mushrooms

Some women also take folic acid pills.

Folic acid pills

Take 0.5 to 0.8 mg (500 to 800 mcg) folic acid by mouth, 1 time each day.
Women who have spina bifida should take 800 mcg folic acid by mouth, 1 time each day.

Sex during pregnancy

Some women do not want much sex when they are pregnant. Others want sex more than usual. Both feelings are normal. Having sex and not having sex are both OK for the woman and her baby. Sex is not dangerous for the baby.

Sometimes sex is uncomfortable in pregnancy. Depending on your disability, you can try different positions until you find something that is comfortable for you. It may feel better with you on top, or in a sitting or standing position, or if you lie on your side.

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Of course, couples can be close and make each other happy in ways other than sex. Some couples touch and massage each other’s bodies. Some talk about their hopes and dreams for the future.

Safer sex

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Condoms are a good way to prevent infection during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and have sex, it is important to avoid infection by making sure that anything put inside your body is clean. This includes the penis and hands. A man who is having sex with more than one woman must always use condoms— including with his pregnant partner. Condoms are a good way to prevent infections, HIV/AIDS, and other illnesses.

Sex and early labor

If you have had a baby before, and you went into early labor, it is probably best for you not to have vaginal sex after the 6th month. This may help prevent you from going into labor too soon.