Pregnancy Precautions: Care Instructions

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There is no sure way to prevent labor before your due date (preterm labor) or to prevent most other pregnancy problems. But there are things you can do to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Go to your appointments, follow your doctor's advice, and take good care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, and exercise (if your doctor agrees). And make sure to drink plenty of water.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Make sure you go to your prenatal appointments. At each visit, your doctor will check your blood pressure and weight. Your doctor will also listen for a fetal heartbeat and measure the size of the uterus.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can cause contractions. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Tell your doctor right away if you notice any symptoms of an infection, such as:
    • Burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • A foul-smelling discharge from your vagina.
    • Vaginal itching.
    • Unexplained fever.
    • Unusual pain or soreness in your uterus or lower belly.
  • Avoid foods that may be harmful.
    • Don't eat raw meat, deli meat, raw seafood, or raw eggs.
    • Avoid soft cheese and unpasteurized dairy, like Brie and blue cheese.
    • Avoid fish that are high in mercury. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, and bigeye tuna, as well as tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • If you smoke or vape, quit or cut back as much as you can. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • If you use alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs, quit or cut back as much as you can. It's safest not to use them at all. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • Follow your doctor's directions about activity. Your doctor will let you know how much exercise you can do.
  • Ask your doctor if you can have sex. If you are at risk for early labor, your doctor may ask you to not have sex.
  • Take care to avoid falling. Changes in your body during pregnancy, such as a growing belly, can make you more likely to fall. Sports such as bicycling, skiing, or in-line skating can increase your risk.
  • Avoid risky activities like horseback or motorcycle riding, water-skiing, scuba diving, and exercising at a high altitude (above 6,000 feet). If you live in a place with a high altitude, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
  • Avoid things that can make your body too hot and may be harmful to your pregnancy, such as a hot tub or sauna. Or talk with your doctor before doing anything that raises your body temperature. Your doctor can tell you if it's safe.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter or herbal medicines or supplements without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through your usual pads or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You have severe pain in your belly or pelvis.
  • You have had fluid gushing or leaking from your vagina and you know or think the umbilical cord is bulging into your vagina. If this happens, immediately get down on your knees so your rear end (buttocks) is higher than your head. This will decrease the pressure on the cord until help arrives.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of preeclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
    • A severe headache.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • You have any vaginal bleeding.
  • You have belly pain or cramping.
  • You have a fever.
  • You've been having regular contractions for an hour. This means that you've had at least 6 contractions within 1 hour, even after you change your position and drink fluids.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in your low back (below the rib cage and above the waist).
    • Blood in your urine.
  • You have a sudden release of fluid from your vagina.
  • You have low back pain or pelvic pressure that does not go away.
  • You notice that your baby has stopped moving or is moving less than normal.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have vaginal discharge that smells bad.
  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You have other concerns about your pregnancy.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.