Even though you may not have planned to have a baby this early in life, you probably still want a healthy teen pregnancy. As a pregnant teenager, you can gain access to all kinds of health information for you and your developing baby directly from our website or our toll-free helpline by calling 1-800-672-2296.
Advise for Pregnant Teenagers
You can also follow your pregnancy week by week through our free pregnancy e-newsletter. Each week, a new email will give you insights into what is going on with you and your baby while also providing tips for a healthy teen pregnancy and things to plan for. All you have to put in is your email and due date!
In the three topics below, we discuss how you can pursue a healthy teen pregnancy. Nutrition, exercise, and a healthy and safe lifestyle are all important factors during pregnancy. Malnutrition or a lack of certain nutrients and/or consuming unsafe foods can cause serious problems for a developing baby and mom. Exercise helps you to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight, can contribute to reducing pregnancy symptoms, and prepare your body for an easier labor. Unhealthy lifestyle choices (drugs, activities, smoking) can all negatively affect your growing baby and cause permanent damage. Read on to learn how to avoid these issues and have a healthy and safe pregnancy!
Teen Pregnancy Nutrition
Nutrition is essential for a healthy teen pregnancy, so here is some helpful information about eating for a healthy mother, pregnancy, and baby:
- nutrition during pregnancy
- essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals for pregnancy
- prenatal vitamins
- foods to avoid
- staying hydrated
“Eating For Two”
It’s important to remember that your growing baby only needs about 300 healthy calories per day (for an average pregnancy)! The saying that now you’re “eating for two” is misleading because you don’t have to double your intake. If you want to avoid unnecessary weight gain, only add 300 calories to an already healthy and balanced daily calorie count. It’s also necessary to be aware that pregnancy is not the right time to go on a “diet” or try to lose weight, as this can be unsafe for the baby. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about being under or overweight during pregnancy.
Food Groups and Healthy Choices
There are a few different aspects of your food choices that are important to think about. One is the food groups you choose from. We all know that it’s necessary to choose from a variety of foods including proteins (3+ servings daily), fruits (4+) & vegetables (2 – 4), bread & grains (6 – 11), dairy products (4+), and fats & sugars (limited). During pregnancy, this is especially important because your body and growing baby have more needs than you are used to. Of course, fats and sugars should be limited, just like in a regular nutritious diet.
There are certain foods you will want to avoid, including but not limited to:
- raw or undercooked meats
- certain fish (high in mercury or other pollutants)
- unpasteurized cheese and milk
- deli meats
- raw eggs
- caffeine in coffees, sodas, energy drinks, large portions of chocolate, etc
There are different problems that each of these foods can cause. Many times it is a type of food poisoning, infection, or toxicity, which can cause miscarriage, developmental delays in the fetus, or other various issues for pregnancy.
Though you should be able to get all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from the healthy food you eat, you may still need supplementation. This is where prenatal vitamins come in! These vitamins are not meant to replace healthy food choices, only to supplement them. There are many good choices when it comes to prenatal vitamins, but if you have questions, ask your healthcare provider for a suggestion or prescription.
Here are the vitamins and minerals you’ll want to look for in a vitamin (there may be additional ones too):
- Calcium: 1300 mg for teens
- Folic Acid/Folate (Vitamin B9): 400 – 800 mcg (0.4 – 0.8 mg), daily max 1000 mcg (1.0 mg)
- Iron: 27 mg
- Protein: 71 g
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene): 770 mcg, daily max 3000 mcg
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 1.4 mg
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1.4 mg
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 18 mg, daily max 35 mg
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 1.9 mg, daily max 100 mg
- Vitamin B12: 2.6 mcg
- Vitamin C: 80 mg (under 18 y.o.), 85 mg (above 18); daily max 2000 mg
- Vitamin D: 600 IU, daily max 4000 IU
- Vitamin E: 15 mg, daily max 1000 mg
- Zinc: 13 mg (18 y.o. and under), 11 mg (above 18)
Click here to find out why these vitamins are important and in what foods you can find them naturally. If you aren’t getting 2 – 3 servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies) a week, you will also want to add Omega-3 fatty acids to your supplementation. DHA and EPA are the two most important Omega-3s, and the APA suggests getting 300 mg DHA and 200 mg EPA daily.
What about morning sickness and cravings?
Morning sickness and nausea/vomiting can make eating healthy (or eating much at all) difficult. When it is hard to keep any food down at all, the APA suggests to “eat what you can, when you can” and supplement with healthier foods and prenatal vitamins whenever you feel well enough. If your nausea and vomiting get to the point where you haven’t been able to hold water/liquids down for a couple of days or food for several days, you will want to contact your doctor or make a visit to get help. Dehydration and malnutrition are dangerous for pregnancy! Check out our Morning Sickness Relief article for tips on how to combat nausea.
Intense [and sometimes downright weird] cravings come with many pregnancies and can be hard to ignore! Whether it is for something normal like a hamburger or ice cream, or something strange like pickles with peanut butter, you might feel like you NEED that food. As long as you’re not indulging too often and/or eating things that are unsafe during pregnancy, you should be alright. Even if you feel hungry all the time, remember that you don’t need to eat as much as your body is telling you – 300 more calories daily is all you need during the average pregnancy.
You will also want to talk to your healthcare provider about exercise, which is also healthy for both you and your baby. Here are some articles to give you some safe ideas for exercise:
The APA suggests getting at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 – 4 times a week. Taking a walk, swimming, or doing pregnancy yoga are three great, low-impact exercises that can help you maintain and support a healthy pregnancy. Exercise during pregnancy can have some significant effects: it can help prepare you for labor and make it shorter and/or more bearable, can help you sleep better, and can help improve one’s mood.
If you are able and your doctor approves, exercising is good for the well-being of your entire body. Core exercises and hip flexor stretches and exercises can help prepare your most vulnerable parts of your pregnancy body for the weight of a baby. Start early to strengthen and stretch/loosen your muscles in these areas.
Lifestyle and Habits
It is also important to make changes in your lifestyle if it includes harmful habits. To give yourself and your baby the best chance at a healthy pregnancy, it is best to avoid the following:
- illegal drugs
- smoking of all kinds (including secondhand smoke & marijuana)
- prescription medications
- roller coasters
Taking part in the above things during pregnancy can cause permanent harm to your growing baby. Things like newborn addiction to illegal drugs or caffeine, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), deformities or syndromes from lack of oxygen from smoking, heart problems, premature birth, and more can happen from taking part in these activities. If you think about it, you don’t want to put your baby’s life and health at risk just for a temporary fix or “fun” night out! If you currently have an addiction or problem with the above habits, please confide in your doctor so that you can get assistance with quitting.
With alcohol, smoking, using illegal drugs, and abuse of prescription medications, there is no specific amount of usage or consumption that will cause problems for your growing baby…any amount can cause difficulty or deformity! Typically issues occur when there is sustained, excessive use of one of these things; however, even just one drink or one hit can be problematic.
There are many free and no-penalty rehab clinics for pregnant women who are trying to quit different addictive substances. Have an honest conversation with your healthcare provider and/or your local pregnancy center to access free help to quit. If you want to step out and get help with a bad habit, these people do not want to punish you, but rather to come alongside you and help you help yourself and your baby!
Roller coasters, riding motorcycles or horses, and shooting guns are all hobbies that you should also try to avoid during pregnancy. All of them involve a “kick,” a “drop,” or a lot of bumps that can interfere with the baby’s safety in the womb.
Need more information or assistance for a healthy teen pregnancy?
If you have further questions or need a referral to help with eating healthier, exercising, or getting away from substance abuse, give our helpline a call at 1-800-672-2296. Our confidential line can get you access to the help you need and information you require.
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Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Nutrition in Pregnancy, Chapter 17, p 313.
2. Mother To Baby. Teratology/Substance Fact Sheets.