Pregnancy is a good thing, you are about bringing in a new human into the world and who doesn’t know that children are blessings in many ways.
This process of has a mixture of sweet and unpleasant experiences and this is one of the reasons I am writing this, to help you know what you should do and what you should avoid so that this journey will be exciting and healthy for you and your baby.
Some of the complication and problems that arise in pregnancy can be preventable if only women know what to do. This post will open your eyes to the right nutrition, the kind of exercises good for you and the ones you should avoid, and many more. Below are some important things you should do and also those you shouldn’t do.
1. Healthy Nutrition
Don’t joke with your meals during pregnancy, they must be made of real foods and not junks or overly processed foods. This will supply your body with the vital nutrients it needs and also boost the growth and development of your baby.
Depression and most chronic diseases have their roots deep in the kind of food one eat from the early stage of life, and the life of your baby started at conception and not when you give birth.
Bringing in a human into the world is one thing, bringing in a healthy human is a different thing altogether. One way to ensure that your baby will be healthy even up to adulthood is to eat well during pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
The FDA recommends about 300 extra calories every day for pregnant women to help them have a healthy pregnancy. These calories are to come from real food, not junks and processed foods, but real foods like whole grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables while fats should be kept to a minimum.
One of the rewards of healthy eating during pregnancy is that it relieves and reduces the symptoms of pregnancy like nausea, vomiting, weaknesses, unhealthy cravings, mood swings, sleeplessness, constipation, and irritability.
2. Proper Hydration
Dr. Batmanghelidji in his book “Your body many cries for water, you are not sick, you are just thirsty” said the dehydration of a pregnant woman can affect her baby for life.
Don’t joke with water because it is life. It not only supports healthy functions of your body but that of your baby also, it helps the baby develop properly.
Pregnant women should take more than 8 glasses of water daily, especially during hot weather, you can also include homemade unsweetened fruit juices so that you can stop all those chemicals and preservatives from going into your body.
Consume lots of fruits and vegetables, they also contain water and the purest form of water on earth for that matter. Herbal teas (except certified safe because some are not advisable during the first trimester), soups, and smoothies. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, and drinks with artificial sweeteners.
3. Increase your Intake of Folate
Folate is a very important nutrient that can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds, citrus fruits, nuts, berries, and fortified cereals. Some doctors even prescribe folate supplements for pregnant women.
This vitamin is of great importance in pregnancy, it prevents birth defects, especially neural birth defects. Neural birth defects occur in the brain and spinal cord and the most common is spina bifida.
In this condition spina bifida, the vertebrae don’t fuse together properly, this leaves the spinal cord exposed and this, in turn, leads to incontinence, mental retardation, and some degrees of paralysis.
Folate is most important from the first to the 28th day of conception because this is when most neural tube defect takes place. Women have to take in rich sources of folate on a daily basis especially those who are trying to take in because it is hard to know if you’re pregnant at that early stage.
When you have a good amount of folate in your body before pregnancy, it can reduce the risks of this problem, but still, it can also work when you are pregnant. Eat lots of folate-rich foods before conception and continue till you put to bed. If you are deficient in folate, your doctor can prescribe a good supplement for you, make sure you take it according to prescription.
This supplement cannot replace a healthy diet, and it is better you get your folate from organic foods because these supplements can have some undesirable side effects.
4. Moderate Exercise
Regular and moderate exercise will help to reduce the symptoms and discomfort of pregnancy. It will also help you to recover fast after the baby is born.
Moderate exercises also help women with gestational diabetes, it makes you fit during pregnancy and relieve unnecessary weaknesses. Pregnant women who want to exercise should be examined by a physician first.
The safest and effective exercise for pregnant women is walking. There are low risks of falls, you can control the levels of tiredness, and it improves your overall health and that of your baby.
Do not try these exercises during pregnancy: water skiing, high altitude skiing, scuba diving, horseback riding, contact sports, and exercises that can make you fall or cause serious accidents.
You should also avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back, don’t try this after your first trimester because it will reduce the flow of blood to your womb.
Don’t exercise in hot and humid weather because the ability of your body to exchange heat is reduced. Don’t take part in exercises that require you to hold your breath during exertion, this will increase the pressure on your abdomen.
Though very beneficial, exercise is not advised for all pregnant women, this means that not every woman who is pregnant can exercise, women who fall into this group are: women with a history of preterm labor, heart disease, high blood pressure, tachycardia (increased heart rate), vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal activity, shortness of breath, cervical problems, fainting, dizziness, spilling of the amniotic fluid, and other complications.
5. Increase your Intake of Vitamin D
This vital vitamin and hormone the fetus develop healthy muscles, bones and teeth. It also helps regulate the levels of phosphate and calcium in your body and it keeps your bones and teeth healthy too.
Rich sources of vitamin D are eggs and moderate exposure to sunlight. You can take your walks in the mornings and evenings when the heat of the sun is low.
A deficiency in this vitamin raises your risks of birth defects and complications, women at risks of vitamin D deficiency can meet a doctor to prepare a good supplement for them.
You are at risks of vitamin D deficiency if you have dark skin if you cover your body a lot for cultural and religious reasons, and if you stay inside a lot or your lifestyle doesn’t permit you to have enough sunlight.
6. Eat Food Prepared Hygienically
Food prepared unhygienically or food with microbial or heavy metal contamination can affect you and your baby. This is known as “food poisoning” and examples are salmonella, Listeriosis, and mercury poisoning.
Listeria infection happens rarely but when it does, it can damage the fetus severely. Foods that have high risks of a listeria infection are mold-ripened soft cheese and soft-blue-veined cheese.
There is no risk at all with hard cheese. Unpasteurized milk and pate, including vegetable pate, should be avoided to prevent listeria infection.
Salmonella food poisoning does not cause harm to the baby but it can cause discomfort and unwanted symptoms like severe diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pains.
Food with high risks of salmonella poisoning are partially cooked or raw eggs and food that contain them e.g., mayonnaise, but if the food is produced under the supervision of a government safety agency, you can eat it but you still have to be careful though.
Unpasteurized milk also has a high risk of salmonella infection
Toxoplasmosis infection is uncommon but when it occurs, it can cause severe damage to the unborn baby. Foods with a high risk of this infection are under-cooked or uncooked meals, fermented meat, unwashed vegetables, and partially cooked or raw poultry.
Freeze your meat or cook them before eating
Avoid taking vitamin or mineral supplements when in pregnancy, you should only do that when a doctor prescribes it for you and this is usually done in cases of deficiency.
Supplements increase the risks of toxicity, excess vitamin A supplement can affect your developing baby. It is not possible to get vitamin A toxicity from food but avoid those supplements when a doctor has not prescribed it for you.
Excess of heavy metals like mercury and other unhealthy chemicals found in process food and conventionally raised animals can cause harm to your developing baby. Restrict your intake of this food, eat grass-fed animals and prepare most of your meals by yourself so that you can have control over what goes into your body.
7. Sleep on your Sides
Ensure you sleep on your sides, especially in your third trimester of pregnancy because it raises the risks of stillbirth.
8. Avoid Alcohol
Avoid alcohol especially in your first trimester because it affects the development of your baby’s brain. The fetus brain is undergoing intense development in the first trimester of pregnancy.
It also raises the risks of you giving birth to a bay with fetal alcohol syndrome, even when taken in little amounts, it can still cause problems for you. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy.
The sooner you stop drinking, the healthier your baby will be, symptoms of alcohol fetal syndrome are lagging in terms of growth and development, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and low birth weight.
Other complications caused by alcohol poor or abnormal facial features, poor memory, coordination problems, poor attention span, delay in speech and language, low IQs, difficulties coping in school, poor judgment skills and reasoning, problems with hearing and vision, problems with their vital organs like kidney, heart, and bones also and difficulties sleeping and sucking as infants.
9. Avoid Excess Caffeine
Excess consumption of caffeine during pregnancy leads to low birth weight and this increases the risks of health problems in the life of the baby. It also leads to miscarriages.
Avoid caffeine and caffeinated foods especially in your first trimester of pregnancy when you always feel tired. It can penetrate the placenta and affect the heart rate of your growing baby.
10. Get Sufficient Sleep
Sleep helps you cope with pregnancy, it relieves fatigue especially in the third trimester, and it helps you cope with anxiety, anticipation, and your changing levels of hormones.
11. Have Sex
It’s okay to have sex when you are pregnant, it is safe to have it up to the point that your water breaks and you can try new positions if you have any discomfort. Although in cases of high-risk pregnancy like placenta previa, you have to check with your doctor or midwife before doing so.
12. Reduce your Intake of Soda and Diet Soda
Studies have revealed that soda and diet soda give some minimal effects to pregnant women, and these effects are because of the aspartame and other artificial sweeteners used in preparing these drinks.
13. Avoid Harmful Chemicals
Avoid places where you will interact with harmful chemicals, e.g., your workplace or a nail salon, the nails of a pregnant woman grows faster and this might push you to the nail salon often.
Those strong smelly chemicals are not good for your baby, it can affect the mental development of your baby and put the brain of your baby at risk. Pregnant women who work in these places are at high risks also: medical laboratories, nail salons, manufacturing plants, and cleaning establishment.
Avoid weed killers and chemically treated golf courses to make sure you don’t harm your developing baby. Don’t drink water from plastic bottles made with BPA, they increase your risk of miscarriage and they are highly toxic.
14. Be Cautious with Herbal Teas
A lot of herbal teas are safe for pregnant women but not all, some like red raspberry and peppermint herbal teas are not safe for pregnant women because they increase the risks of preterm labor and also cause contractions.
Ginger tea should be taken moderately in the first trimester to help with nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms of morning sickness which is quite common in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Moringa tea is very safe for pregnant women from the first to the last trimester. Also avoid tea packs that you are not sure of the ingredients, e.g., orange extract (it might be synthetic) and remember that the term “natural” does not connote “safe”.
15. Avoid Pets’ Litter
Don’t clean your pet’s litter box or if you do so make sure you are well protected and wash your hands properly afterward because the waste of pets, especially cats and Toxoplasma gondii is dangerous to women who are pregnant.
It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and increase the risk of you giving birth to a baby with this parasite which can cause serious health problems like eye problems, mental disabilities, and seizures.
16. Eat Lots of Seafood
Seafood contains lots of vitamins and minerals that your body and baby need. This includes zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-friendly nutrient and this will help boost your health and your baby’s also.
Make sure you cook them thoroughly and don’t eat uncooked seafood or raw seafood because they may carry harmful microorganisms and cause problems. Raw fish contains high levels of mercury which can harm your baby.
Don’t eat more than 12 ounces of fish a week and eat varieties so that you won’t be getting excess of a nutrient and lacking in one and reduce your intake of fish with high levels of mercury, examples are king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and shark.
17. Avoid Hot Tub or Sauna
These can be relaxing and help you relieve stress and fatigue but they are too dangerous for expecting mothers. It raises your risk of miscarriage, and it affects your body temperature which will directly affect your baby and cause problems like birth defects. So, avoid high heat environments like saunas, hot tubs, and jacuzzis.
18. Don’t Diet
Dieting in pregnancy is not allowed, it starves you and your baby of the vital nutrients needed for proper growth, development, and optimum health. It also puts you at risks of complications in pregnancy. Don’t diet, rather have a balanced diet.
19. Stop Substance Abuse and Drugs
Avoid illicit drugs and psychoactive substances like cocaine, cannabis, and meta-amphetamine because they lead to lots of health problems and complications in pregnancy.
If you are already into any of these, try and talk to your doctor or midwife, they won’t judge you but give you the right care and support you need. When they know more about you, they can help you properly.
20. Quit Smoking and Avoid Second Hand Smoke
Smoking and second-hand smoke affect your health and that of your unborn baby. It poses many dangers and complications in pregnancy and it also raises the risks of learning disability in the unborn child.
The children will try to smoke at a younger age and become regular smokers as adults than children born to non-smoking moms. This is caused by physiologic nicotine addiction.
Other complications caused by smoking are birth defects, premature, cleft lip, infant death, low birth weight, learning disabilities, and sudden infant death. Nicotine damages the brain and lung of a developing baby.
21. Use Seat Belt
Pregnant women fear that this would put pressure on the baby if they encounter minor crash but studies have shown that seat belts actually reduce pregnancy-related complications caused by accidents by 3%.
Using seat belts and deploying airbags help reduce post-crash complications by 57%. Put the belt under your belly and across your hips while that of the shoulders should be placed tightly between your breasts.
You will be protecting yourself and your baby if you do so but if you don’t, both of you will be prone to injuries if an accident should occur. See a doctor immediately even if it’s a minor accident you had.
22. Choose a Good Hospital and Register
You need a regular checkup, when you are registered with an ante-natal session in a good hospital, they will follow you up properly and give you all the care and support you need.
They will run a very important test on you and start treating pregnancy complications early if there is, this will ensure you have a safe pregnancy.
They will also carry out prenatal testing on your baby, these tests check for Down’s syndrome, birth defects, and chromosomal disorders. Other tests carried out are amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.
23. Traveling in Pregnancy
Traveling is safe in the second trimester when the risks of preterm labor and miscarriage are low. International travels are usually restricted until after 32 weeks of pregnancy. Flying is permitted if you have no record of complications and bleeding or abdominal pain.
24. Lifting Heavy Objects
This has no direct effect on the baby, the effects are only directed at the mother and it makes her more prone to injuries.
25. Be Careful with Drugs and Medications
Medications like painkillers (ibuprofen, paracetamol, and aspirin) should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor. They have harmful side effects that can affect you and baby.
26. Wait and Deliver at the Right time
Some women find it OK to deliver after 37 weeks but science has shown that babies are not fully ready for delivery until 40 weeks. Babies delivered at 39 to 40 weeks have better brain development than babies given birth to at 37 weeks.
They also spend less time in the hospital and have less respiratory distress. Please don’t rush things even if your tummy is big, don’t follow trends, be patients and give birth to a healthy baby, it worth the wait.
27. Don’t Take X-rays
Pregnant women should avoid taking X-rays because radiation can affect their unborn babies. It can cause childhood cancers and malformations in their development. Only do it when it is prescribed by a doctor and you should be covered properly before doing it.
When to See a Doctor?
There are many uncomfortable symptoms associated with pregnancy but some are not to be taken for granted, some symptoms are signs that the baby is not doing well. Seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms below:
- Excessive vaginal discharge and smelly vaginal discharge
- If you feel or think your water has broken, in pregnancy trust your instincts
- Vaginal bleeding
- Changes in baby movement or when your baby movement slows down
- Painful urination
- Itching on your hands and feet and other body parts
- Continued abdominal pains or cramps, it can also be sudden or sharp
- Spots in front of the eyes and blurred vision
- Severe and persistent headache
- Swellings in your hands, legs, and face