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Taking Care of Your Body

Clean Up Your Act Before Conception
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Exercise continued...

It's much easier to maintain an exercise routine once you get pregnant if you've been working out all along. "Pregnancy isn't a time to begin new exercise techniques, it's a time to continue them," says Zinaman. Check with your doctor to make sure the activities you're doing are safe for pregnancy, and if you're just starting out, try yoga and a low-impact exercise like swimming or brisk walking for 30 minutes two or three times a week.

Keep the intensity of your workouts moderate since extremely strenuous activity (like marathon running, for instance) can make it harder to conceive and could even be dangerous to a developing fetus, Berk says. A good rule of thumb is to keep you heart rate between 60% and 80% of your maximum. To calculate your range, subtract your age from 220, then multiply by 60% for the low end and by 80% for the high end.

Kick the Habits

"Short of an occasional glass of wine periodically, you should not be drinking, and you should never be smoking," says Dr. Robert Stillman, medical director of Shady Grove Fertility Centers in the Washington, D.C., area. "Not only do they have a profound effect on maintaining a healthy pregnancy, but most women don't know they can have a profound effect on the ability to conceive, too."

During pregnancy, smoking can cause low birth weights, premature labor and miscarriage, and heavy drinking is one of the leading known causes of mental retardation in the U.S. Studies haven't proven how much alcohol is enough to cause problems -- although the numbers are getting more conservative -- so doctors suggest that it's better to be safe than sorry and eliminate alcohol consumption entirely, especially during the first 12 weeks. By quitting alcohol and nicotine early, you also avoid the unpleasant task of battling withdrawal symptoms and morning sickness at the same time.

As for caffeine, researchers are less clear about its effects on pregnancy, but since large amounts have been suspected of contributing to miscarriage and low birth weight, doctors suggest playing it safe and limiting yourself to one or two cups per day.

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