How Lifestyle Can Impact the Health of
Mother and Baby

Beware of these lifestyle factors when trying to carry a healthy baby

Nearly everything a woman does or consumes during pregnancy affects their unborn child, whether in the short or long-term. It’s important to notice everything you’re consuming and know whether or not it’s helpful to the baby. This ranges from your diet to caffeine consumption to cigarettes and drinking.

Engaging in these lifestyle factors may result in low birth weight, premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth and a variety of lifelong problems in the child.

Diet and nutrition

Diet during pregnancy is important. Be sure to consult regularly with your doctor or nutritionist on the many things to consider, including eating fruits and vegetables, being a healthy weight, taking enough folate or folic acid before and during pregnancy (at least 400 micrograms a day), limiting salt intake, avoiding certain seafood and raw food, and generally eating healthily. Calcium levels must be watched, along with Vitamin D, protein and iron.


The good news is that there is a safe amount of caffeine you may consume while pregnant. You don’t have to avoid it completely. You can safely consume up to 200 milligrams max per day during pregnancy. To put this in context, an 8-oz cup of coffee has around 95 mg of caffeine. A caffeinated soda has around 33 mg.


Smoking during pregnancy isn’t safe for the child or the mother. This includes any products with nicotine and tobacco, including e-cigarettes. In addition to nicotine being dangerous, so are some artificial flavors in e-cigarettes.

It’s better to quit before getting pregnant, but anytime is better than never. Your doctor can help guide you towards resources for quitting safely for both you and the baby. There is also free support to quit smoking if you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or check out these smoking cessation resources.

There were studies done in 2016 and 2017 in Wisconsin that showed a stark difference between mothers who smoked and mothers who didn't. According to the studies, 13.9 percent of babies born to smokers had a low birthweight, while only 6.9 percent of those born to non-smokers had the same low birthweight. In terms of infant mortality rate, there was a 9.4 percent death rate when mothers smoked versus 5.7 percent when mothers didn’t.

Smoking while pregnant can cause preterm birth, low birth weight and physical defects of the baby’s mouth and lips (cleft lip or cleft palate). After birth, there’s an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Nicotine can also damage an unborn baby’s brain and lungs.

The easiest way to prevent these effects is to stop smoking before pregnancy or, if not, as soon as you realize you are pregnant.


According to leading officials and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. This includes beer, liquor and wines. They are all equally harmful to the developing baby. The best time to stop drinking is when trying to get pregnant.

In cases where a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant until after she has been drinking, it’s best to stop immediately (consult your doctor first if you are a regular or heavy drinker).

Alcohol is a common cause of birth defects in babies. The alcohol in a woman’s blood passes straight to the baby through the umbilical cord. Effects of alcohol on pregnancy include miscarriage, stillbirth and a range of lifelong disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).


Certain substances used during pregnancy, including marijuana, can be dangerous to an unborn child. Opioid use, for example, can cause preterm birth, stillbirth, the mother’s death and withdrawal symptoms in newborns. Substance abuse during pregnancy has a strong effect on pregnancy outcomes. Drugs on this list include prescription and over-the-counter ones, cocaine, heroin, inhalants, MDMA, meth and more.

The effects of marijuana use during pregnancy are still being studied, but the CDC recommends avoiding the use of it entirely since it has been linked to developmental problems in adolescents.

For the use of legal drugs such as prescribed opioids, antidepressants and all other medications, speak with your doctor to make the right choice for you and your pregnancy before stopping or starting any use. They will have the best information for you and your needs.

There are a number of lifestyle choices that can cause an unborn baby’s death or serious illnesses/conditions, including the mother’s diet and intake of tobacco products, drugs and alcohol. It’s absolutely vital to reconsider these before pregnancy or as soon as pregnancy is known.

If you need help making lifestyle changes now that you’ve discovered you’re pregnant, contact our North Florida maternity team at All About Women today. We will schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns as soon as possible.