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A healthy pregnancy

It can be extremely overwhelming discovering you are pregnant. The nine-month span in which you’re pregnant is full of ups, downs and every minute thing in-between. With so much contradictory information available from the internet, magazines, friends and family, it can be hard knowing what and who to trust. Here, we help you overcome these feelings of uncertainty and give you some important tips on how to keep your mind, body and baby healthy throughout your pregnancy.

1. Avoid certain foods

Despite the unusual food cravings that accompany pregnancy, there are certain foods that definitely need to be avoided to prevent infection and contamination:


Raw meat and shellfish:
Uncooked seafood (such as oysters, mussels, and clams) and rare or undercooked beef and poultry can be contaminated with toxoplasmosis or salmonella.


Deli meat:
Deli meats can be contaminated with listeria, bacteria that can cross the placenta and infect your baby. An infection in utero could lead to blood poisoning and could be life-threatening for your baby. If your cravings for deli meats get the better of you, you must eat them hot (over 70°C) (e.g. on a scorching hot pizza or in a well-cooked pasta).

Fish with high levels of mercury: Although fish is an excellent food to eat when you are pregnant, you should avoid fish such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish, uncanned salmon, kahawai, red cod and tilefish. These fish have had the time to accumulate more mercury, which is damaging to your developing baby.

However, oily fish such as canned salmon, tuna and sardines provide vitamin D and omega-3 fats for your baby’s brain and nervous system development.

 

Raw eggs: Raw eggs can present the risk of salmonella so be cautious of homemade Caesar dressings, Hollandaise sauces, mayonnaise, and certain custards.

 

Soft cheeses: Some imported soft cheeses can have listeria, so pass up soft cheeses such as roquefort, feta, gorgonzola, camembert, and brie. However soft cheeses such as ricotta and cottage cheese are acceptable to eat within two days of opening the pack.

 

Unpasteurized dairy: Products made from raw milk could contain listeria. These may include certain creams, soft cheeses, Mexican soft cheeses (such as Queso Fresco, Panela and Asadero), yoghurts and puddings.

2. Avoid these substances
It goes without saying but it’s never too late to kick your alcohol, caffeine, drug and/or nicotine habit, especially when pregnant. In regard to alcohol, the new Australian Alcohol Guidelines states that “for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.” Potential risks can include premature birth, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, brain damage, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth.

However you don’t have to forego caffeine entirely. Moderate levels of caffeine (150mg to 300mg a day) is acceptable but be wary of the fact that caffeine can also be found in chocolates, sodas and even certain over-the-counter medications. Being a stimulant and a diuretic, caffeine will increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and your bathroom trips.

Even if you’re not a smoker, exposure to second-hand smoke can be just as harmful. This can potentially lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, learning or behavioural issues as your baby grows and sudden infant death syndrome.

 

3. Take a prenatal vitamin
It’s critical to get enough folic acid while trying to conceive and during your first trimester. Folic acid greatly reduces your baby’s risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida, and is vital for the formation of new blood cells. It’s important to start taking folic acid before you start trying to conceive as neural tube defects occur before many women know they’re pregnant, during the very early stages of pregnancy. It’s been reported by The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US that women can reduce their baby’s risk of neural tube defects by up to 70% by taking the recommended daily dose of folic acid starting at least one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. 400 micrograms of folic acid a day is the recommended dosage, beginning at least a month before you start trying to conceive.

Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter at most pharmacies or via prescription from your doctor. You can continue to up your folate intake naturally by consuming folate-rich foods like fortified cereals, asparagus, lentils, wheat germ, oranges, and orange juice.

Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter at most pharmacies or via prescription from your doctor. You can continue to up your folate intake naturally by consuming folate-rich foods like fortified cereals, asparagus, lentils, wheat germ, oranges, and orange juice.

4. Exercise
While pregnant, regular exercise will:

  • Control your weight
  • Improve circulation
  • Enhance your mood
  • Reduce back and pelvic pain
  • Improve posture
  • Increase energy
  • Aid with better sleep
  • Provide fewer complications in delivery
  • Provide you with faster recovery after labour

Doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week is recommended. Pilates, yoga, swimming, and walking are great activities for most pregnant women, but be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you have been cleared to exercise, but were sedentary before your pregnancy, begin with low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming, and build up to moderate-intensity. Let your body be your guide though – don’t overdo it, avoid raising your body temperature too high, stay hydrated and stop if you need to.

 

5. Manage stress

Deep breathing, guided imagery, prenatal yoga, meditation, short walks and progressive muscle relaxation can help you remain balanced and avoid unwanted emotional outbursts.

 

6. Learn the signs of a pregnancy problem
Your body experiences so much during pregnancy that it’s hard to know which aches and symptoms are “normal.” Yet it’s never a bad idea to consult your GP if you’re unsure or if your instinct has convinced you of something troublesome. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult your GP:

  • Decreased activity from the baby
  • Strong cramps
  • Vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluid
  • Heart palpitations, chest pain or rapid heartbeat
  • Fainting, dizziness and/or confusion
  • High fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Trouble walking
  • Changes in urination
  • Persistent swelling (especially if an indentation remains for a few seconds on your skin after pressing your thumb on it)
  • Vomiting accompanied with fever or pain
  • Flu, chicken pox or rubella exposure
  • Profound depression and/or anxiety

7. Talk to your GP
There is a sea of inconsistent information and pregnancy horror stories out there, especially on the internet, so be careful with what you read and hear. Don’t be shy to communicate to your GP any queries or concerns you may have. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially while pregnant.

 

8. Educate yourself
Attending a childbirth class better prepares you for delivery. Many birth-related classes exist and can involve not just you and your baby, but also your partner.

Now is also a good time to review your family’s medical history. Doctors will most likely ask you about your mother’s pregnancies and if she encountered any problems or gave birth to any children with congenital malformations. Be sure to encourage your partner to look into their family history and report on any fetal or maternal issues, or genetic conditions. Ethnic background, your age and previous pregnancies (if any) will also be enquired about. Don’t be embarrassed of bringing up “the wrong thing” though. As mentioned earlier, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
9. Rest
While pregnant, sometimes going for an easy 15 min walk may feel like an ordeal. This is why it’s important to listen to your body while pregnant and follow its orders if its pleading for some downtime. Once the baby is born, your recreational time will naturally diminish, so get as much downtime as you can before giving birth. Whether you want to relax with some television or get your hair done, don’t feel excessive for wanting to treat yourself – it’s beneficial to both you and the baby.

Claudia

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