It is undebatable that the ability to bring life into the world is a superpower. Pregnancy is a wondrous journey filled with anticipation, excitement, and, of course, a few challenges along the way. As a growing baby thrives within your womb, focusing on your health and well-being is important to ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy. From maintaining a nutritious diet to finding time for physical activity, you can take many simple yet effective steps to support yourself and your baby throughout this magical time.
Getting Ready for a Pregnancy
Ideally, once you feel like you are ready to conceive and start trying, take these few necessary steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
A Healthy Diet
Ensure that you get enough nutrients to make your body strong enough to support a healthy pregnancy. Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like fish in your diet.
Being pregnant means you are responsible for your own well-being and your baby’s. At a time like this, you need to be extra careful.
Take steps to prevent infections
Avoid catching infections by washing your hands regularly, cleaning surfaces, cooking meat thoroughly, avoiding contact with the sick, and getting vaccinated.
Infections during pregnancy can pose significant risks to the fetus, including:
- Congenital defects
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Fetal death
Many infections can impair fetal development and predispose the fetus to birth defects like cerebral palsy. According to data collected by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 1 – 4 out of every 1000 children born worldwide are diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
This issue does not have visible symptoms in an infant, so the question arises, when is cerebral palsy diagnosed? It is typically diagnosed after 18 months, usually before the age of three. Diagnosis typically involves a thorough evaluation of the child’s physical, developmental, and medical history, as well as a physical examination and assessment of muscle tone, reflexes, and movements. In some cases, imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, may be performed to make a definitive diagnosis.
Moreover, it is necessary to include prenatal vitamin supplements in your diet. The most essential of these is Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, which plays a key role in the formation of the neural tube during the 3rd week of pregnancy. It is the precursor to the baby’s brain and spinal cord development. An adequate folic acid intake before and during early pregnancy helps prevent brain and spine defects.
Remember to take other supplements as well. These include iron to compensate for the body’s demand for an increased blood volume to support the growing baby. Vitamin D and B12, and minerals like calcium and iodine, are also crucial for the healthy development of the fetus. Consult your doctor before starting any medication.
During the Pregnancy
Pregnancy can give you a hard time, and every health issue gets you wondering if the baby is okay.
Worry no more. Sit back, take a deep breath, and let’s discuss how you can keep yourself and your little one safe and healthy.
Staying active during pregnancy can do wonders to improve your health. The numerous benefits of exercise include:
- Improved cardiovascular health, and a reduced risk of pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
- Relief from common pregnancy discomforts like constipation, swelling of the feet and ankles, and back pain
- Better weight management
- Reduced stress and improved mood, lowering the risk of anxiety and depression
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of a C-section delivery
- Easier labor and birth
Take a 15-minute walk at a moderate pace during the day, or try Pilates, yoga, or swimming. Make sure that you stay indoors or in shaded areas to prevent overheating. Consult with your doctor before starting anything new, or opt for an exercise class led by a pregnancy counselor. But whatever you do, listen to what your body tells you, and don’t put yourself through excessive strain.
Avoid Strenuous Household Chores
During pregnancy, routine chores like scrubbing the floor, doing the laundry, or cleaning the bathroom can pose potential risks for the baby.
Avoid climbing steep stairs and bending over to pick up objects from the floor, and try not to stand for long periods.
Adequate rest and physical stress management are crucial for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Keep a Check on your Medications
Some medications are teratogenic, meaning that while safe in normal circumstances, they may cause birth defects or fetal malformations if taken during pregnancy. These include:
- Accutane (isotretinoin) for acne treatment
- Antibiotics like tetracycline and streptomycin
- Anticonvulsants like phenytoin or valproate
- Anti-depressants like lithium
- Cancer drugs like methotrexate
- Anti-rheumatic drugs like penicillamine
- Antithyroid drugs like thiouracil
- Over-the-counter NSAIDS like ibuprofen
Always consult your ob-gyn before starting a new medication or even continuing the one you might take regularly. If you go to a new doctor for a different health issue, it is absolutely necessary that you give them the history of pregnancy so they can adjust the dosage accordingly or prescribe alternatives.
Use Appropriate Shoes
Your feet may change size and shape during pregnancy, so it is important to look for comfortable shoes with ample room for your feet. It is noteworthy that the best shoes for pregnancy will depend on your individual needs, preferences, and the level of physical activity you engage in.
- Avoid shoes that are too tight, as they can restrict blood flow and cause discomfort.
- Look for a pair that has good arch support, especially if you have flat feet. This can help reduce strain on your feet and legs and prevent lower back pain.
- Consider shoes that offer cushioning and shock absorption, as this can help reduce the impact of each step and prevent foot and leg fatigue.
- Choose shoes with a stable base to help prevent slips and falls, especially as your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy.
- Look for shoes made from breathable materials, such as canvas or leather, to reduce the risk of foot odor and fungal infections.
- Avoid shoes with high heels or stilettos, as these pose a risk of falls and put extra strain on your feet, legs, and back.
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by about 50% to carry out essential functions like supplying oxygen and nutrients to the baby via the placenta and removing carbon dioxide and waste. To keep up with this extra volume, aim to drink 1 to 2 liters of water throughout the day. You can squeeze in a little lime or lemon juice to change the taste.
Staying hydrated also helps in several other ways that include:
- Maintaining a healthy fluid balance for normal fetal development and function
- Helping with constipation, hemorrhoids, and UTIs, common pregnancy issues
- Preventing fatigue and headaches
- Preventing preterm labor
- Reducing swelling or edema
- Preventing dry and itchy skin
A healthy pregnancy requires a combination of good nutrition, exercise, rest, and self-care. Navigating through a pregnancy can be scary, especially if you are a first-time mom. By following these tips, you can ensure optimal health and well-being for yourself and your growing baby. Taking care of yourself during this time can help you look forward to a healthy, happy pregnancy and celebrate the joy of bringing new life into the world.