Eat well – Eat a healthy, nutritious balanced meal, rich in proteins, vitamins, carbs, minerals, fiber and good fats. You only need to have an additional 300 calories from your usual consumption, daily. Don’t go overboard with food that is high in calories but low in nutrition. You will gain weight that may be hard for you shed after childbirth.
Eat protein rich foods, healthy fats and fiber – Proteins are your body’s builder blocks; healthy fats have omega 3 fatty acids, necessary for your developing your baby’s brain and fiber is needed to avoid constipation and allow for smooth expulsion of waste matter.
Take folic acid and prenatal vitamins – Folic acid is very important for brain and spine development of your baby. Start on folic acid supplements as soon as you discover you are pregnant. Plus, eat foods rich in folic acid like okra (ladies finger), asparagus, broccoli, lentils, avocado, leafy greens, all types of seeds & nuts and lentils. Vitamin supplements will compensate for any deficiency in your diet.
Exercise every day – Exercise is an absolute must during pregnancy. Exercise strengthens your pelvic muscles through which the baby can come out smoothly and easily. Moreover, exercise eliminates complication during childbirth and ensures a safe delivery.
Check your prenatal stats regularly – Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it is very important to visit your gynecologist regularly to get an update about yours and your baby’s health, in order to avoid complications during labor.
Mention your family’s medical history to your doctor – You must come clean with your doctor about your family’s medical history such as diabetes, cardiac issues, herpes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, liver problems and renal issues, so that your doctor will examine you and recommend treatment and medications based on your medical history.
Take your tetanus shot – Tetanus is a dangerous bacteria that can enter your body through an open wound on the skin. It is necessary to take tetanus vaccine during pregnancy to protect your baby from harm and to prevent premature delivery. If it is your first pregnancy, you will be required to take two doses of tetanus vaccine.
Check for immunity to Rubella – If you did not get immunized for rubella before your pregnancy, then it is important to take a blood test right away and follow up with your doctor. Nowadays, Rubella has been quite effectively controlled but it is better to get screened for immunity in order to avoid a miscarriage and protect your baby from birth defects.
Choose the right hospital and doctor – It is important to choose the right hospital and a doctor, as you need to be feel comfortable and at ease during childbirth. A well-equipped hospital, its efficient and competent doctors and nursing staff will boost your confidence in them and set the tone for your entire pregnancy and childbirth.
Close Proximity of hospital to your residence – It would be ideal if the hospital was not very far from your home, especially in case of an emergency, when you might be required to rush off at a moment’s notice, when your water breaks or you have sudden contractions or your pelvic passage is showing full dilation. In such cases, having the hospital at easy distance would be a true blessing.
Don’t worry and be happy – You will go through various changes in your body mentally as well as physically. Don’t worry about them as they are the byproducts of pregnancy and will go away after childbirth. It is important to stay happy at all times because your mental well-being transmits to the baby and will ensure its proper growth. ‘Pranayam’ or deep breathing yoga exercises is a great stress buster and regular practice will leave you relaxed and calm
Take proper precautions while traveling – Traveling, during pregnancy, especially far off places, requires additional care. Take adequate precautions while doing so.
Avoid fast food and junk food – Junk and fast foods are very high in calories and have very low nutritive value. You need food that will enhance your baby’s health.
Avoid raw meat and unpasteurized cheese – Raw meat may contain a parasite called toxoplasma gondii that can cause ‘toxoplasmosis’ to you and your baby, leading to miscarriage or birth defects. Raw meat also contains bacteria called salmonella that can cause food poisoning, harming your baby’s health. Cook your meat well and make it safe to eat for you and your baby.
Avoid fish high in mercury content – Oily fishes like sardines, salmons and mackerel are very good for health as it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, needed for brain and spine development of your baby. But some fish like swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tile fish are very high in mercury and should be avoided to prevent risk of mercury poisoning to you and your baby. Sardines, salmon, oyster, tilapia, herring and catfish have the lowest mercury levels and are safe for eating. Closer home, in the Indian shores, pomfret, Bombay duck, shrimp and crab have been detected with high mercury levels, on account of water contamination. In fact, water pollution and contamination has been on the rise, worldwide. Pregnant mothers and children must think twice before tucking into seafood.
Avoid excess intake of mineral supplements – Anything in excess is harmful for health. Everything in moderation should be catch phrase. Therefore, popping in vitamin supplements as if there is not tomorrow is dangerous. Any medication should be as per doctor’s orders.
Avoid smoking and passive smoking – It is needless to say that you must stop smoking when you are pregnant, for obvious reasons. Smoking reduces the supply of oxygen to your baby due to increase in carbon monoxide and nicotine in your blood. Consequently, your baby’s heart beats faster to take in more oxygen and the blood vessels that transfer the nutrients to your baby gets constricted and affects your baby’s growth. Passive smoking, wherein, you are inhaling smoke from other people’s cigarettes, is even worse. Stay away from cigarettes and other people with cigarettes.
Avoid alcohol and drugs – Anything you eat or drink is passed on to your baby. When you drink alcohol, the alcohol level in your baby’s blood becomes higher than the alcohol level in your blood because your baby is unable to break down alcohol the way you, as an adult can. Stop alcohol to avoid fetal damage. Drugs contains strong chemicals, which is potentially harmful to your baby. Drugs can impair your baby’s development and cause complications during delivery. Consult your doctor before using prescription or over-the-counter drugs, especially if they are unsafe to be taken during pregnancy.
Avoid strong smells and fumes from paints, aerosols and pesticides – These things have strong chemical smells that are very toxic and poisonous. Stay away from them.
Be careful around pets – As much as you love your pets, like dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, iguanas, guinea pigs etc., looking after them during pregnancy is challenging, especially with issues like hair shedding, transferring bacteria through their feces etc. A little precaution, when you are around them is advised. Wear gloves while disposing off their litter and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Avoid steam and sauna baths – Sauna and steam baths can turn up your body temperature, raising your baby’s body temperature as well. As your baby cannot sweat or cool off inside your womb, you must take care not to raise your body temperature above 100 degrees F or it could turn serious. It would be better to avoid hot baths. If you must have one, ensure you drink plenty of water and juices before using a hot bath, to avoid dehydration.
Avoid doing strenuous workouts – Strenuous workouts will work you up into a sweat and heat up your body, thereby raising your baby’s temperature inside your womb. In hot weather, your body will be inclined to get hot faster. Drink lots of water to cool off and check your body temperature with a thermometer every ½ hour.
About X-Rays – Although risks due to exposure to x-rays, is not much, it might be wise to use a good protective shield or postpone any treatment requiring x-rays during a visit to a dentist or an orthopedic.
About cell-phones and lap tops – These devices have low-level electromagnetic fields emitting less energy but consistent exposure to radiation may impact the baby’s body cells. New studies have declared that long-term usage of cell phones is unadvisable and may cause miscarriage and development defects.
About Electric blankets – Sleeping with an electric blanket on high can pose a hazard, as your body will overheat and dehydrate, which may be harmful to your baby, especially as your baby cannot sweat or cool itself off inside your womb. Electric blanket on a comfortable and safe setting is alright but make sure you drink enough water for your body to cool off. The best way to use an electric blanket would be, to heat up your bed before your bedtime, so that it is adequately warm by the time you are ready to hit the bed.
About water bed heaters – They are the same as electric blankets and should be used moderately.
About microwave ovens – They emit radiation although in low levels. However, an old appliance might not be safe. To be on the safe side, don’t stand directly in front of the microwave while using it.
About sonography(ultrasounds) – They pose no harm if used minimally but long term and frequent scan can be controlled. Do the sonography only on doctor’s orders.
About caffeine – Caffeine is said to be an energizer that is good to kick start your day. However, a pregnant woman is advised against consumption as studies claim that chemicals present in disagrees with fetal growth.
About unfiltered tap water – Tap water may contain harmful contaminants that could cause water borne diseases like diarrhea or jaundice. Use a water filter to remove dirt, fluoride and other sediments. In India, village women drink unfiltered water without any health issues. The reason is that your body becomes tough and immune with strong antibodies to fight germs.
Every day, there are new discoveries about the good and bad effects of substances used for daily consumption. What is good today may not be good tomorrow as per recent studies. Therefore, it would be wise to use anything in moderation, in order to enjoy a healthy life. Do your own research about the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy and have a safe childbirth.