Cincinnati Family Magazine

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June 15, 2024

The Truth About Prenatal Care

What you eat and drink affects Baby’s brain development. But don’t worry, Mama — we’ve got you covered!

You may have worried about that girls’ night out and one too many cocktails just before learning you were pregnant. Or what about those antibiotics you had to take and found out a week later you were carrying a bundle? You can worry yourself into a tizzy, but more than likely, everything’s going to be just fine.

Yes, your baby’s brain and spinal cord begin to form just past four weeks from your last period, according to Dena Costa, M.D., OB/Gyn at the Christ Hospital. But will those cocktails affect your baby’s brain that early on?

“There are unlikely to be significant effects from a one-time alcohol consumption in early pregnancy,” assures Costa. “However, the safest thing to do is to avoid any alcohol use if there is a chance you are or could become pregnant,” she adds.

Excessive use of alcohol during pregnancy can cause complications, according to Costa.

“There are genetic variations both in how women process alcohol and in how susceptible babies are to the effects of alcohol in the womb, meaning it is difficult to confirm any ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Babies can be at risk anytime during the pregnancy as well,” she adds.


Taking care of your health is the most important thing you can do when you’re expecting. This will keep you on your feet (exercise) and it will keep Baby healthy, too.

“Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and a few different sources of protein is the best way to get the nutrients that your baby needs,” says Costa.

Avoid what we know can harm the growing baby: alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs — and just keep moving! Exercise like prenatal yoga and walking is encouraged to help make your labor go smoothly, minimize back pain and decrease stress and anxiety.

“For most women, continuing a baseline level of exercise is fine with just a few modifications as pregnancy progresses,” says Costa.

And keep an eye on your weight gain; the “normal” weight gain is 25 – 35 pounds. Too much gainage can increase the chances of a big baby at birth plus it’s been linked to increased rates of obesity in childhood and later on.


You take your prenatal vitamins (loaded with folic acid and DHA), and you’re trying to eat right, but what if you experience nausea throughout pregnancy?

“The good news is babies are pretty resilient (and a little bit selfish!),” Costa says. “They are generally going to take what they need before Mom gets what she needs. Unless someone is truly malnourished they generally are able to keep up with adequate calorie and nutrient intake to support the pregnancy.”

So take those prenatal vitamins and eat as healthily as you can. A chocolate and Cheeto splurge is OK every now and then, just not all the time.

“There are going to be many years ahead to stress and worry about this little one – give yourself grace during pregnancy and trust that you are doing the best you can for your baby,” says Costa.

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.