It is said that the nine months of pregnancy are a magical time for the mother-to-be. I’m sure they are with a new life growing inside, the new experiences, and all the excitement (with a tad of nervousness) in the air.
Bringing a tiny person into the world is nothing less of a miracle, which is why it requires a lot of planning and preparation in advance for prenatal as well as post-natal care. Putting together a baby-kit replete with samples and freebies of baby products will ready you for the time when he/she arrives into the world.
While doctors will give you their expert advice for most of your queries and confusions, they aren’t going to be with you at all times. Old wives tales aren’t always helpful (or reassuring) either. You need to get all the facts about looking after yourself and your unborn baby right.
Staying healthy during pregnancy depends largely on you. You need to get all the information you’re going to need about the ways in which you can keep yourself and your unborn baby as healthy and safe as possible.
Here’s more on that.
1. Early Prenatal Care
As I’ve already mentioned, good prenatal care is crucial to the health of the mother and the baby. It is advisable to get in touch with your doctor soon as you discover (or may suspect) that you’re pregnant, which will be within 6 to 8 weeks of conception.
During your first prenatal visit, your doctor will discuss your medical history, check you for certain conditions that may be potentially harmful for the fetus, and talk about how you’ve been feeling. You will then be weighed and have your blood pressure checked. This will be done on almost every visit.
Additionally, you will have to undergo a pelvic exam where your doctor will check the size and shape of your uterus, as well as conduct a Pap smear test to check the health of your cervix. Urine and blood tests will also be taken to check for other conditions such as hepatitis and syphilis.
2. What You Eat Matters
Eating well can ensure that you stay fit and have a healthy baby. Focus on getting enough protein and calcium throughout your pregnancy. Apart from that make sure that your food is fresh, high in quality, and well-cooked.
Be wary of the kind of meats you eat. Cold deli meats, undercooked meat, chicken, eggs and seafood (especially fish with high levels of mercury) as well as unpasteurized dairy items should be avoided at all costs as there is a risk of ingesting bacteria/contaminants which can harm the baby.
3. Take Prenatal Supplements
On your visits to your doctor, you will be recommended certain prenatal supplements that contain higher levels of folic acid and iron. Ideally, you should get enough folic acid before you conceive and it is critical that you get it early in your pregnancy. Folic acid brings down the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida in babies.
Further, you need to cater to your increased iron requirements as well, especially in your second and third trimester. Talk to your doctor about the dosages though, to ensure that you do not overdose on anything. If you’re trying certain home remedies, get your doctor’s nod of approval beforehand.
4. Keep Physically Fit
While heavy exercises are a strict no-no during pregnancy, you will need to have a suitable exercise program in place to derive the strength and endurance you need to carry the weight you gain during pregnancy.
Exercising will also help prevent/ease aches, reduce stress, uplift your mood, improve proper blood circulation in your legs, and help endure labor pains. It will also make it easier for you to get back in shape after the delivery.
Remember to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid hot tubs and saunas. See your doctor immediately if exercising causes you any kind of discomfort.
5. Shun Alcohol and Caffeine
This one’s a no-brainer. Don’t drink when you’re pregnant as the alcohol can reach your baby through your bloodstream and lead to an increased risk of having low birth weight, problems with speech, language, learning, and hyperactivity.
Women who drink during pregnancy are at a greater risk for delivering a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), mental/physical retardation and other birth effects. In extreme cases, drinking alcohol can also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Another potentially harmful substance that pregnant women are better off without is caffeine. It has no nutrition and makes it difficult for your body to absorb iron. It may also give the mother sleepless nights leading to headaches and other physical conditions.
It makes sense to stop/limit the consumption of coffee or switch to decaf. Also, avoid drinking tea, aerated water, readymade juices and so-called energy drinks.
6. Say No to Smoking and Drug Abuse
Smoking and taking drugs are extremely harmful and increase the risk of miscarriage, growth problems, placental abruption, premature delivery and can generally make the pregnancy a highly complicated one.
If you’ve been participating in either of these activities, bring it to your doctor’s notice immediately.
7. Avoid Everyday Dangers
If you’re in a job that exposes you to environmental dangers such as chemicals, heavy metals, biological agents, radiation, and so on, you will need to make certain important changes as soon as possible as these elements can be harmful for you and your baby.
Apart from that, common household items that you may be using to keep it clean, pesticides, and lead in drinking water from old pipes can also pose a threat.
8. Visit Your Dentist
Several pregnant women encounter oral health issues such as swollen, bleeding and tender gums (gingivitis), thanks to the hormonal changes, increased progesterone and estrogen levels.
Do make it a point to brush, floss and get regular dental care. Visit your dentist as and when required for dental check-ups and clean-ups.
9. Get Ample Rest
Your body will talk to you throughout your pregnancy, so make sure you listen to it. The fatigue you experience in the first and third trimesters will tell you to slow down and take it easy.
Do give your body ample rest to cope with the changes. If you find it difficult to sleep, put your feet up as you sit and relax with a book or soothing music.
Employ relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, stretching and massages. These will help you deal with the stress and get a better night's sleep.
10. Be Happy
It is important that the mother-to-be stays happy throughout her pregnancy. However, it is common to experience mood swings during this phase.
If your mood swings are extreme and last for more than two weeks at a stretch, you may want to bring that to the notice of your doctor as it may be depression.
The key to the well-being of your child lies in getting regular prenatal care. A healthy mother makes a healthy baby. So ensure that you take excellent care of yourself without taking risks and making compromises. Do not skip visits to your doctor just because everything seems fine. Undergo all recommended examinations. The above tips should put you on the right track towards a healthy and normal pregnancy.