If you haven’t been taking care of yourself before you discovered you were pregnant, now is the perfect time to make a change and do whatever you can to look after your mind and body. By doing so, you can ensure that you have as happy and healthy a pregnancy as possible.
Here are some simple guidelines for living a healthy lifestyle during your pregnancy:
Seek Medical Advice
The second you find out you are pregnant, you should call your GP or a midwife to sort out your pregnancy care. By doing so, you can access the right help and advice straight away, which will help you to get things off to a good start. Throughout your pregnancy and after the birth, you might also want to stay in touch with a maternity support worker. Maternity support worker jobs typically deal with things like eating well, preparing for birth and managing any illnesses during pregnancy, so having access to one will really help you out.
Eat a Healthy Diet
When you’re pregnant, you need to eat a healthy balanced diet which will not only support your changing body but which will also nourish your baby. Many women tend to eat and eat and eat when they’re pregnant, but you only really need an extra 200 calories a day to support your growing child and not eating more than this will help you to maintain a more stable weight during and after pregnancy.
Midwives and maternity support workers will almost always suggest that you take pregnancy vitamin supplements which contain around 400 micrograms of folic acid. This should be taken in the first 12 weeks or pregnancy, and if you’re not yet pregnant, you should also take it when you’re trying for a baby. Folic acid can help to reduce the risk of conditions such as spina bifida, so it’s really important that you should supplement your diet with it. Ideally, your supplement of choice should also contain vitamin D, which will help your baby’s bones to grow strong.
Avoid Certain Foods
There are certain foods which could pose a risk to your unborn baby, and you should avoid these altogether if possible. They include:
- Unpasteurized milk
- Soft, mouldy cheeses
- Raw shellfish
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs (Most eggs are fine, but if you are in doubt about their origin or status, avoid them)
Of course, even foods that should be fine to eat can pose a risk if they are contaminated with various bacterium that causes food poisoning, so be sure to fully cook your meals and wash utensils carefully before after use.
You might not feel like it if your ankles are swollen and you’ve had trouble sleeping, but exercise is vital for your health when you’re expecting. Regular exercise will help you to build a strong, fit body and that will help you when it comes time to give birth! Daily activity will also help you to keep your weight under control and, when the baby comes, you’ll find it’s much easier to get back into shape than it would be if you hadn’t exercised in the prior nine months.
Exercises which are particularly good for mums-to-be include prenatal yoga, walking swimming and Pilates. You can exercise for as long as you feel comfortable to do so, but if you usually play contact sports and take part in activities where there is a significant risk to knocks, bumps, falls and excessive strain on joints, you might have to switch to a less intense form of exercise until baby is born.
Exercise Your Pelvic Floor
If you want to avoid the risk of stress incontinence, which causes you to experience urine leakage when you laugh, exercise or cough, you should start doing pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible. Your pelvic muscles support your vagina, bladder and bottom, and they can become loose when you are pregnant and following birth. Spending even a few minutes a day doing pelvic floor exercises will make all the difference to these muscles and help you to avoid any embarrassing problems.
Give Up Alcohol
Although advice on how much alcohol it is safe to drink varies, more and more researchers are coming to the conclusion that drinking any alcohol at all could have a detrimental effect on your unborn child. When you drink alcohol, it very quickly makes its way through your bloodstream to the baby, so cutting it out will really make a difference. If you really can’t do without the occasional drink, having one or two units once a week should be the most you take.
Cut Down on Caffeine
As you will probably know, caffeine is a mild stimulant and there has been some debate as to whether drinking colas, coffees and teas that contain a lot of caffeine could increase a woman’s chances of having a miscarriage. There is also some research to suggest that drinking lots a of caffeine could result in giving birth to a low-weight baby, which can increase the risk of health issues.
Researchers currently recommend taking no more than 200mg of caffeine each day, which is the equivalent of just two mugs of instant coffee. So, you don’t have to completely do without your favourite vice, but you should try to cut down on it to this level.
Smoking whilst you’re pregnant is one of the worst things you can do for your own health and especially for the health of your baby. Smoking can result in a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth and sudden infant death syndrome, amongst other things, so this is a really important thing to deal with.
That being said, I know how difficult giving up smoking can be, which is why you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you’re finding it difficult to give up. What you should do is get in touch with your midwife or a smoking cessation specialist, who will be able to give you help and advice if you want to give up.
Get Plenty of Rest
When you’re pregnant, it is not unusual to feel constantly fatigued, especially in the early months of pregnancy. This is because your hormones will begin to change and they will signal your body that it is time to slow down.
If you have difficulty sleeping at night, you should try to schedule a nap or two during the day to ensure you’re getting adequate rest.
If you cannot sleep because you are experiencing back pain, you may be able to find some relief by sleeping on your left-hand side with a pillow under your baby bump and your knees bent. Doing some light exercise can also help to deal with a backache, but try not to exercise too late in the evening or you may feel too energetic to sleep.
If you are feeling stressed out, chances are your baby will be feeling some of the side-effects too, which is why it is so important that you do anything you can to feel calm and relaxed. Activities that will help you with this include yoga, meditation, visualisation and taking hot baths.
Having your husband, partner or a good friend help you with some of the day to day tasks that can put a strain on you, such as housework, shopping and attending appointments, will also help to take a load off and give you more time to yourself, which you can use to rest, relax and concentrate on being the healthiest you can be.
If, despite trying to live a healthy lifestyle, you experience any troubling symptoms, you should seek the immediate advice of your midwife or GP because you can never be too careful about your health when you’re a mum-to-be.