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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Exercise, Good Food, And Prenatal Care Are the Keys

By Rebecca D. Williams

"I think if women truly understood the adverse impact smoking and drinking have on their babies, they would quit," says Jeffrey King, M.D., the director of the division of maternal and fetal medicine at Wright State University School of Medicine, and the author of a recent study on substance abuse in pregnancy.

Smokers put their babies at a significantly higher risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth compared with nonsmokers. After birth, the babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to have poor lung development, asthma and respiratory infections, and to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If a woman quits smoking early in pregnancy, however, she can still improve her chances of having a healthy baby. Expectant fathers or other members of the family should quit, too, because studies suggest breathing second-hand smoke may be dangerous as well.

Alcohol, too, can damage a developing fetus. Alcohol travels rapidly to the bloodstream, so when an expectant mother drinks, her baby drinks also. Alcohol is known to cause mental retardation and facial abnormalities in babies, a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome. The Institute of Medicine estimates some 12,000 children with fetal alcohol syndrome are born in the United States each year. No one knows what amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy; therefore, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends pregnant women avoid alcohol altogether.

A few other activities are known to be dangerous during pregnancy. X-rays can expose the fetus to radiation and potentially cause birth defects. Hot tubs and saunas can raise the core temperature of a pregnant woman's body and could potentially harm the fetus. Warm baths, however, are fine if the water is kept at body temperature.


Many drugs are appropriate for use in pregnancy, if really needed. But a pregnant woman shouldn't take any medication, even an over-the-counter one, unless she checks with her doctor first. If possible, she should avoid taking drugs in the first trimester or taking more than one medication at a time. She can also ask for the lowest dose possible to treat her condition.

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