Six Essential Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
When you discover you are pregnant you will feel joyful and your natural instinct will be to protect your unborn child. If this is your first pregnancy, you may even get a lot of warranted and unwarranted advice from friends and family, which may overwhelm you. They mean well but whom do you listen to and how do you know what advice to follow? Especially when you hear stories about the things you should or should not do that can affect the health of your baby.
This article will help empower you to make the right decisions about your health during your pregnancy and therefore the health of your unborn child. All of the decisions you make about what you eat, how active you are and your lifestyle will ultimately determine how your baby grows inside you and how this precious little being will be born into life.
Here are the 6 most essential tips to a healthy pregnancy:
1. Don’t drink
Did you know that the experts are still not sure how much alcohol consumed will harm your unborn child? The safest bet is to avoid alcohol altogether throughout your pregnancy. What the experts do know is when you drink alcohol it passes from your bloodstream into the placenta and straight into your baby. The liver is one of the very last organs to develop in the foetus which means your baby is unable to process alcohol the same way as a fully formed adult. Too much alcohol going through your system can seriously harm your baby’s development.
2. Quit smoking
Cigarettes contain toxins which are harmful to the human body. When these toxins enter your bloodstream they deplete the only source of oxygen and nutrients your unborn baby needs to grow. No amount of cigarettes is safe for your baby because every puff you take is less oxygen for both of you. When you plan to fall pregnant, you should already try to quit smoking then so that by the time you conceive you are no longer a smoker.
3. Eat healthily
We have all heard of the saying that when you are pregnant you should eat for two. This simply isn’t true. During pregnancy you are only required to eat about 300 calories more a day than normal. This amounts to about as much as a small plate of healthy food. It is important to eat a healthy diet while you are trying to fall pregnant as well as during your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding. Poor nutrition during pregnancy can result in poor foetal development and gaining too much weight can lead to gestational (pregnancy) diabetes, chronic backache and high blood pressure. During pregnancy a woman’s macronutrient (energy) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) needs increase so it is vital for you to be eating food which is nutritionally dense and contains all the right nutrients. Your doctor can guide you with regards to the food you should be eating.
4. Get active
Whoever tells you not exercise because you will harm the baby is wrong. Unless it is your doctor who is telling you not to exercise for good reason. If you are pregnant, you should be exercising around three times a week for 20 minutes. Research has shown that doing exercises during pregnancy results in a shorter labour and helps with symptoms of pregnancy like nausea and stiffness. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight plus you will feel stronger and fitter after giving birth. Don’t throw yourself into a vigorous exercise routine. Take it easy and consult with your doctor before you begin.
5. Rest up
You will feel exhausted during two of the three trimesters of your pregnancy. In the first trimester (1-3 months) hormonal changes can make you feel tired, as your placenta grows to accommodate the healthy development of your baby. During the second trimester (4-6 months) you will regain your energy. Then, in the third and last trimester (7-9 months) your fatigue will return and you will feel more tired than ever. To help you through the tired stages you should get a lot of rest and try to sleep more than usual. It is also important to eat small, nutritious meals more often during the day. Rest is also important during your pregnancy because once you have given birth you will be getting very little sleep for at least the first 3 to 6 months of parenthood.
6. Get regular checkups
Your antenatal care is vital for both you and your baby during your pregnancy. This means you must commit to regularly seeing your medical practitioner. This could be your doctor, a gynaecologist, or the maternity clinic at your nearest hospital. They know exactly what milestones to be aware of. They will also detect any problems early on and therefore help prevent any unnecessary traumas.
You should trust your doctor and listen to his or her sensible advice. Your doctor will guide you throughout your pregnancy and let you know what to expect along the way.
Your pregnancy should be something you enjoy because becoming a mother is one of the most important milestones in your life. By following the six tips we have discussed in this article you should be well on your way to a very healthy and problem-free pregnancy. This will in turn provide you with a strong, healthy and contented little bundle of joy at the end of your nine-month journey.
If you are planning to fall pregnant or think you are pregnant, contact your doctor today and make an appointment to discuss the next steps.
For more information please contact:
Dr N Maligavhada (Paediatrician/Pulmologist)
BSc (Univen) MBChB (Natal) DCH (SA) FCPaed (SA) Cert. Paed Pulmonology (SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
Telephone: +27 (11) 411 3089
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.