TEN SIMPLE STEPS FOR A HEALTHY PREGNANCY
Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Now that you know you’re pregnant, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. You can increase your chances of having a problem-free pregnancy and a healthy baby by following these simple guidelines.
GET EARLY PRENATAL CARE
Good prenatal care is essential for you and your baby. If you’re seeing a gynecologist you like who practices obstetrics as well, you may want to ask him or her to care for you during your pregnancy. If you need to find an obstetrician, ask your healthcare provider to recommend someone, or talk to friends or relatives who have recently had a baby who they would recommend.
TAKE CARE IN WHAT YOU EAT
You’re eating for two, but surprisingly, you only need to consume an additional 300 calories per day. Make sure to consume plenty of protein, your body needs 70 grams of protein a day compared to the 45 grams when you were not pregnant. Make sure to get enough calcium in your diet, this can be a challenge for a lot of women. Stay away from undercooked eggs and meat, unpasteurized dairy products and juices, raw seafood, and cold deli meats to avoid ingesting bacteria that could harm your baby. Also avoid certain fish that may contain high levels of mercury and hot dogs that contain nitrates.
TAKE PRENATAL VITAMINS
Prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid and iron than you’ll find in a standard multivitamin. Folic acid greatly reduces your baby’s risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Ideally, you should start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant, but if this wasn’t possible make sure your daily dose is 600 mcg once your pregnancy is confirmed. You also need to make sure you’re getting enough iron. Your iron requirement increases significantly during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. Avoid taking too many vitamins, and don’t take any additional supplements or herbal preparations without your caregiver’s approval.
Exercising while pregnant will give you the strength and endurance that you’ll need to carry the extra weight you gain during pregnancy. Exercising also helps ease aches and pains, improve the circulation in your legs, and help you handle the physical stress of labor. Exercising regularly also makes getting back into shape after you have your baby much easier. Exercise is a great method in helping to reduce stress, and research has shown that staying active can boost the level of serotonin in your brain. Make sure not to push yourself too hard, do not let yourself get overheated and make sure to stay hydrated. Avoid going into the hot tubs and saunas while you are pregnant.
The fatigue you feel while being pregnant is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. So listen to your body and take it easy when you can. Try to take naps whenever possible and give yourself a break, and if you can’t nap, at least put your feet up and relax. Try relaxation techniques like yoga, stretching, deep breathing and massages, these are all great ways to combat stress and improve nighttime sleeping.
STAY AWAY FROM ALCOHOL
Do not drink any alcohol while you’re pregnant. Any alcohol you drink reaches your baby rapidly through your bloodstream, crossing the placenta, and your baby can end up with higher levels of blood alcohol than you have. As little as one alcoholic beverage a day can increase your chances of having a low-birthweight baby and increase the chances that your baby will have problems with learning, speech, attention span, language, and being hyperactive. Two or more drinks a day increases the risk of your baby having FAS, fetal alcohol syndrome. Children born with FAS suffer from mental and growth retardation, behavioral problems and facial and heart defects. Play it safe and stay away from alcohol completely, and if you’re having trouble giving up alcohol, let your doctor know so that they can get you help.
STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS
Any drug you use gets into your baby’s bloodstream as well. Your baby could be stillborn or have birth defects or developmental and behavioral problems. If you have a drug problem, tell your doctor, and get help immediately.
Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, growth problems, placental abruption, and premature delivery. Some research has even linked smoking to an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip and Smoking while pregnant increases the chance that a baby will be stillborn or die in infancy. If you’re unable to quit on your own, ask your doctor for a referral to a smoking cessation program. If you’re not a smoker, stay away from secondhand smoke, it’s just as bad.
LIMIT CAFFEINE INTAKE
Limit caffeine consumption intake to less than 200 mg per day, an amount you could get from one 8-ounce cup of strong coffee. Caffeine has no nutritive value and makes it harder for your body to absorb iron. It’s also a stimulant, making it even harder for you to get a good night’s sleep. It can also give you headaches, and contribute to heartburn. Check the caffeine content of other products you consume, like tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and coffee ice cream, as well as over-the-counter drugs, such as headache, cold, and allergy remedies and avoid “energy” drinks all together.
SEE YOUR DENTIST
Don’t forget about your oral health; hormonal shifts during pregnancy can make you more prone to gum disease. Increased progesterone and estrogen levels can cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in swollen, bleeding, tender gums (gingivitis). Make an appointment with your dentist for a checkup and cleaning now if you haven’t had a visit in the last six months.