One of the most critical factors in ensuring a healthy pregnancy for a woman and her baby is early prenatal care. Prenatal care means health care before your baby is born. Prenatal care is important to ensure that problems and treatments can be administered as soon as possible.

If you are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, here are some ways to take care of yourself and your baby:

n Eat healthy foods consisting of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

n Exercise regularly. About 30 minutes a day is recommended. Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have an easier time recovering from childbirth.

n Take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid will help to prevent certain birth defects.

n See your health care provider for a check-up as soon as you become pregnant. Your health care provider will then set up a schedule of visits throughout your pregnancy and may suggest prenatal vitamins if you are not already taking them.

n Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs. When you inhale, or ingest these things, your baby does as well. Babies can have slow development and may be born prematurely from these toxins.

n Protect yourself and your baby. Talk with your health care provider about getting your flu and Tdap (pertussis) shots during your pregnancy.

By following these steps both the mother and baby can have a healthy beginning.

For more information on prenatal care or women’s health, contact your health care provider. WIC, Reproductive Health Center, and Community Health Worker Program can help you plan a healthy pregnancy.

Local departments of health also offer services for women who are thinking of becoming pregnant and who are pregnant.

In Genesee County, call (585) 344-2580 ext. 5555 or visit its website at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/health/index.html.

In Livingston County, call (585) 243-7299 or visit its website at www.livingstoncounty.us/doh.htm.

In Orleans County, call (585) 589-3278 or go online to www.orleansny.com/publichealth.

In Wyoming County, call (585) 786-8890 or visit its website at www.wyomingco.net/health/main.html.

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