For most people, finding out they are pregnant is one of the most exciting and happiest moments of their life. However, it is a moment that also comes with a lot of new responsibility. You now have a person growing inside of you, and you need to take care of yourself during your pregnancy to ensure that you are also taking care of the baby. You should of course consult your doctor for more detailed advice, but whether you’re pregnant or planning to have a family in the near future, we have put together a number of great tips below for a healthy pregnancy.
- Get plenty of rest – In the first few months of your pregnancy, you will feel fatigued, and this is because of the high levels of pregnancy hormones that are circulating in your body. After this, if you feel fatigued, it is your body’s way of telling you that need to slow down. You should take a quick nap during the day if you have struggled to sleep the night before. Or, at the very least, make sure you put your feet up and relax. If the reason you are finding it difficult to sleep is back pain, you should try lying on your left side, placing a pillow under your bump, with your knees bent.
- Stop smoking – You are probably aware of the importance of quitting smoking during your pregnancy. Smoking can increase the risk of cot death, low birth weight, premature birth and miscarriage. It can also make the following complications more likely during your pregnancy - placental abruption, ectopic pregnancy, and nausea and vomiting.
- Cut back on the caffeine – Energy drinks, cola, tea and coffee are mild stimulants. They contain caffeine and there are concerns that too much caffeine can contribute to the risk of miscarriage or a low birth weight baby.
- Start doing pelvic floor exercises – When you are pregnant, there is more pressure placed on your pelvic floor muscles, which is why they feel weaker. These muscles are important because they support your back passage, vagina and bladder. Pregnant women are at risk of developing stress incontinence due to weak pelvic floor muscles, which means small amounts of urine may leak out when you exercise, laugh or sneeze. This is why it is a good idea to do pelvic floor exercises frequently throughout your pregnancy so you can strengthen your muscles.
- Exercise frequently – There are many benefits associated with exercising while you are pregnant. This includes boosting your spirits, making it easier for you to get back in shape once your baby is born, and building your endurance and strength. Good exercise choices include Pilates, yoga, aquanatal classes, swimming and brisk walking. There are certain forms of exercise pregnant women should avoid, so you should inform your fitness instructor about your pregnancy so they can adapt as necessary, or you may wish to consult a doctor.
- Be careful about food hygiene – You also need to be careful about food hygiene when you are pregnant. This is because certain foods can carry a health risk for your baby. You should avoid the following cheeses – blue-veined cheeses, soft, mould-ripened cheeses, undercooked ready meals, unpasteurised milk, and pate of any type. The reason for this is because these foods can harbour listeria – a bacteria which can cause an infection known as listeriosis. While the infection is rare, it can cause birth or pregnancy complications, and in some cases, it has led to miscarriages. Aside from this, you also need to be careful about salmonella bacteria, which can be caught through eating raw shellfish or raw / undercooked meat.
- Take supplements – Another way to boost your health during your pregnancy is to take vitamin supplements. These supplements should not be viewed as a substitute for food, but they can help if you are sick when you eat or if you are worried you are not getting all of the vitamins you need. When choosing a pregnancy vitamin supplement, make sure it contains 400 mg of folic acid. This is vital because it reduces the risk of your baby developing spina bifida and other neural tube defects. It is especially important to take folic acid during your first few months of pregnancy. It is also crucial to make sure that the supplement contains Vitamin D, as this is important for the bone health of your baby. Fish oil supplements can be helpful for those who do not eat fish. When selecting a supplement, make sure it is not made from the liver of the fish – it should be from the body. This is because fish liver oils, for example, cod liver oil, can contain the retinol form of Vitamin A, and this is not advised while pregnant.
- Follow a healthy, balanced diet – It is important to eat healthily while you are pregnant. You should try to have two portions of fish per week. This is because fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, Vitamin D, and protein. Daily servings of protein are crucial. You can also get this from some milk and dairy foods, as well as nuts, pulses, eggs and lean meat. You will need plenty of carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta and bread. It is a good idea to opt for wholegrain carbohydrates, as this will ensure you get a good dose of fibre. And, of course, try to get your five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Drink plenty of water – Last but not least, make sure you drink plenty of water. Aim to drink ten glasses of water per day. This will help to ensure your amniotic fluid amounts are at a healthy level while also preventing nausea and keeping you hydrated. Dehydration can cause fatigue, morning sickness, and second and third trimester contractions.