Being pregnant is the happiest milestone for us mums. But while the news is scary and exciting at the same time, aiming for a healthy pregnancy should be your ultimate goal. It’s essential to take the extra steps, not only for your baby but also for your speedy recovery. Here is a guide to help you get started.
Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet
Yup, we know that eating healthy foods is beneficial, all the more so now that you’re eating for two. But you need to do more other than eat the rainbow. Aside from making the right food choices, you also have to be extra careful during prep and cooking time. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind:
- Do eat two to three servings of fish per week. Read the advice of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand about high mercury content in certain fish types.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat and proteins. Follow proper cooking temperatures for meat and eggs to avoid the risk of food poisoning. Steer clear of store-bought sushi for now and make homemade ones with cooked ingredients instead. Check this list of food items to avoid during pregnancy, too.
- Do wash your fruits and vegetables well. Sanitise your cutting boards and knives, too.
- Do include four or more servings of dairy in your daily diet. However, avoid unpasteurised milk and dairy products. Soft cheeses like feta, brie, blue cheese and camembert, for instance, may contain disease-causing bacteria that can harm your baby.
- Don’t drink more than one or two cups of caffeinated drinks. Limit caffeine during pregnancy, but drink up to 10 glasses of water daily. It will protect you from constipation, haemorrhoids, UTIs, swelling and other complications during pregnancy.
- Do eat folate-rich food sources. Examples are fresh orange or orange juice, asparagus, lentils, fortified cereals and wheat germ. You can learn more about food rich in folate here.
Mums should achieve a healthy weight gain during pregnancy between 11.5kg and 16kg. Make sure to talk to your doctor about this together with your healthy pregnancy diet.
Avoid Toxins of Any Form
Make it a point to stay away from illicit drugs or solvent fumes that are not good for you or your baby. Alcohol drinking and smoking are also sources of toxic substances that can potentially harm your little one. Some may even continue to drink or smoke without knowing they are pregnant. Women should then avoid these before conception to prevent defects in babies.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy, for example, increases the chances of delivering a baby with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder or FASD. This medical condition, in turn, results in facial feature abnormalities, learning disabilities and behavioural problems. Smoking, on the other hand, can lead to miscarriage, premature birth or SIDS. Talk to your doctor in case you need help with alcohol or smoking cessation. Medical professionals can assist you in finding the right people and programme.
Adjust Your Daily Habits
Your routine may no longer suit your pregnant state and may put your baby in harm’s way. So, you need to assess and rethink your daily activities first. For instance, avoid lifting heavy objects or exposing yourself to harmful substances. Also, steer clear of stairs, step stools, ladders or anything that can lead to falls or accidents.
If your job duties require standing for extended periods, take as many mini-breaks as you can or consider making temporary work adjustments. Most importantly, keep yourself clean at all times. Bathe regularly and wash your hands frequently. Also, wear protective gear or gloves when gardening, handling raw foods or cleaning up the litter box.
Prioritise Travel Safety
Travelling exposes you to several risk factors and infectious diseases, even more so today. Although air and car travel are safe during your second trimester, you still need to check it with your doctor and airline first. Safe travel is particularly crucial if you are going through a high-risk pregnancy.
If you’re on a plane, keep yourself hydrated. For long flights, secure an aisle seat, so it’s easier for you to get up and walk around or go to the bathroom. If you’re in a car, sit as far away from the airbag as possible. Also, position your seat belt properly. The shoulder part should sit on your collar bone, and the bottom part should be under your abdomen, not above. Ideally, try to avoid any unnecessary travel while you’re pregnant. You can also check this list of pregnancy and travel precautions to learn more.
Take the Proper Medicines
Self-medication is a big no-no if you want a healthy pregnancy. Anything you take in your body can affect your baby. So, consult your doctor if you need over-the-counter medicine, herbal supplement and other oral remedies.
What you need to take, however, are prenatal vitamins or supplements, which include folic acid, calcium and iron. These will ensure that you have the essential nutrients your growing baby needs. Folic acid, in particular, is vital for your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. So, make sure to get sufficient folate through supplement and diet at least a month before pregnancy.
You may be crossing out strenuous activities from your to-do list for now. However, safe pregnancy exercises should still be part of your routine. Just make sure your workout plan matches your pregnancy status and doctor’s advice, though.
Exercise among pregnant women has several benefits. Aside from promoting healthy pregnancy, it can help alleviate feelings of discomfort. It promotes blood flow and makes labour and delivery more tolerable, too. Plus, regular exercise is a foolproof way to reduce stress and make you feel good about yourself.
Walking, swimming, Pilates and yoga are some low-impact exercises you can try. Kegel exercises are also ideal for preparing your pelvic floor muscles and avoiding incontinence. Exercising for 30 minutes every day should be good enough. Remember not to overdo things, wear comfy shoes and keep yourself hydrated.
Get Adequate Rest and Sleep
When you’re pregnant, you cannot help but think and worry a lot. So, ensure a healthy pregnancy with a long list of stress busters! Ample sleep of up to 9 hours every night should be on the top of your list. During the day, try not to overexert yourself.
Breathe and relax. Recruit your partner, friends or family to help you stay away from stressful situations. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns or childbirth worries. Pregnancy is a harbinger of many more life adjustments to come. And it will be a big help if you can manage anxiety and tension early on. When your baby arrives, continue your self-care routine and apply ways to keep mum burnout at bay.
I also recommend attending childbirth classes, if possible, even if this is not your first time having a baby. Aside from infant care tips, these sessions let you voice out concerns or meet other pregnant mums. Spending time with people in the same boat can help ease worries.
Educate Yourself and See the Doctor Regularly
Finally, you need expert advice and help throughout for a healthy pregnancy. Make sure to follow your prenatal care check-up schedule and contact a health professional when needed. You can also read books on pregnancy to learn more about the causes of discomfort. But do call your doctor if you’re experiencing chills, fever, dizziness, severe pains, bleeding, palpitations and other serious symptoms.