10 Tips to a Healthy Pregnancy

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food.  Folate helps produce and maintain new cells.  This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy.

1. Ensure adequate intake of Folate

Leafy green vegetables (like spinach and turnip greens), fruits (like citrus fruits and juices), and dried beans and peas are all natural sources of folate.  A deficiency of folate can occur when an increased need for folate is not matched by an increased intake, or when dietary folate intake does not meet recommended needs.

In such instances, it can be useful to supplement your diet with multivitamins that contain folate.  Please consult your obstetrician to ensure a proper recommendation for your specific needs.

2. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Preferably water.  Pregnant women should drink between six and eight glasses of water each day.  In fact this recommendation does not only apply to pregnant women.

But for pregnant women there are several additional advantages to staying properly hydrated:

  • Hydration prevents constipation
  • Dehydration can cause the uterus to contract and may bring on preterm labour
  • Water is important to maintain biological functions such as production of amniotic fluid, carrying nutrients to your baby and carrying waste away.

Do not substitute water with coffee, tea or soda water.  These are actually diahretics and can have the opposite effect.

3. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol crosses the placenta and directly affects your unborn child.  Alcohol can cause problems such as miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, small babies due to slow growth in pregnancy, and may affect the developing fetal brain.  The risk to the baby appears to be highest in the earlier stages of pregnancy.  However, it is recommended to avoid alcohol during any stage of your pregnancy.  Doing so benefits both the mother and the baby’s health.

4. Don’t Smoke

There are many chemicals in tobacco, including ammonia, cyanide and phenol.  Like alcohol, these chemicals can cross the placenta and directly affect your unborn child.

But there are also other effects such as:

  • Reduced oxygen supply and blood flow to the foetus
  • Increase of your heart rate and your baby’s heart rate
  • Causing your blood vessels to narrow, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to other birth problems such as spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and premature birth.  The fewer cigarettes you smoke during pregnancy, the better.  But again, it is strongly recommended to stop smoking altogether.

5. Exercise Regularly

Exercise has numerous benefits to both the mother and the child:

  • Assist in strengthening your joints and thereby avoiding injuries
  • Allow you to maintain a healthy weight gain and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Exercise will help you to feel energised, reduce stress, stabilise your mood and improve your sleep
  • Women who exercise have shorter labours and are less likely to need interventions
  • Exercise improves oxygenation and blood flow via the placenta to the baby

Some expecting mothers are concerned that exercise is a traumatic experience on the foetus.  However this is not the case as long as you don’t partake in any extreme sports.

6. Get plenty of Sleep

Sleep is a very important aspect of a healthy of your pregnancy.  Regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not, research shows that proper sleep improves your metabolism and your psychological well-being.  But research also shows that pregnant women who slept longer than 7 hours experienced roughly half the duration of labour, which in itself is probably incentive enough.

7. Wear Comfy Shoes

Being pregnant has many impacts on your body both physiologically as well as chemically.  Hormones such as relaxin loosen ligaments, which could increase your risk of joint injuries (for example, sprains).  When you add to the equation that you’re gaining weight, your body shape is changing, thereby affecting your posture, you can understand the risk of improper footwear to your feet and ankles.  By wearing comfortable and supportive shoes, you are avoiding the risk of sprains, as well as helping your overall posture and comfort levels.

8. Wear a Seatbelt

Although statistics vary from country to country, it’s generally a known fact that about two-thirds of all pregnancy trauma is the result of car accidents.  Regardless of the stage of pregnancy, seat belts should be used with both the lap belt and shoulder harness in place.  Proper use of seat belts will not only save your life, but the life of your unborn child.

9. Consult your Doctor before taking any Medications or Supplements

There are many websites and alternate medical consultants who will advise you to take certain medicines or supplements.  Without personal clinical assessment of your individual condition, and proper consideration of your pregnancy, you may be doing unforeseen harm to you and your unborn child.  It is always best practice to consult your GP and/or obstetrician before undertaking any course of medicines or supplements.

10. Eat Healthily

Eat well-balanced nutritious meals to increase intake of certain vitamins and minerals which your body needs during pregnancy (e.g., folic acid and iron).  These vitamins and minerals need not be obtained through supplements as they naturally occur in foods such as spinach and other fruits and vegetables.  Be vigilant about eating well.  Common sense will tell you what foods are out (junk food) and which foods are in (fruits and vegetables).

Also take care not to over-eat.  You need not eat for 2 people as some will advise.  An average woman needs an additional 300 kilojoules per day in her diet for the first trimester, 600kJ in the second trimester and 900kJ in the last trimester. 300Kj is the equivalent of one slice of bread.

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