Pregnancy indeed brings joy but also health concerns. Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life, but it also significantly changes her body and health. Proper healthcare and attention are crucial during this period to ensure the mother’s and child’s health and well-being. This article will discuss the proper health care for pregnant women, including tips on a healthy lifestyle, medical check-ups, and what to avoid during pregnancy.
A Healthy Lifestyle for Pregnant Women
Healthy living is essential at any stage of life, more so during pregnancy. Expectant mothers should pay close attention to their diet, exercise regimen, and sleep schedule. A healthy diet should include a balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, and it’s essential to avoid processed and junk foods. Additionally, pregnant women should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Exercise is an essential part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Women who exercise regularly before pregnancy should continue their routine during pregnancy unless their doctor advises against it. Walking, yoga, and swimming are excellent low-impact exercises ideal for pregnant women.
Getting enough sleep is equally important during pregnancy. Pregnant women should aim to get at least eight hours of sleep a night to help their bodies adjust to the physical changes and keep stress levels low.
Maintaining a Healthy Body even before Pregnancy
You should start taking care of yourself before trying to get pregnant. This is called preconception health. It means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect you or your unborn baby if you become pregnant. For example, some foods, habits, and medicines can harm your baby — even before conception. Some health problems also can affect pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor before pregnancy to learn what you can do to prepare your body. Women should prepare for pregnancy before becoming sexually active. Ideally, women should give themselves at least three months to prepare before getting pregnant.
The five most important things you can do before becoming pregnant are:
- Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day for at least three months before getting pregnant to lower your risk of some birth defects in the brain and spine. You can get folic acid from some foods. But getting all the folic acid you need from foods alone is hard. Taking a vitamin with folic acid is the best and easiest way to be sure you’re getting enough.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Ask your doctor for help.
- If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control. Some conditions include asthma, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disease, or epilepsy. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
- Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using. These include dietary or herbal supplements. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. At the same time, stopping medicines you need also can be harmful.
- Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials at work and home that could be harmful. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
Regular prenatal care and medical check-ups
Regular prenatal care is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. Women should schedule their first prenatal visit as soon as they confirm their pregnancy. Prenatal visits include medical check-ups, blood tests, urine tests, and ultrasounds. These tests can detect potential health issues like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and anemia.
Doctors also advise expectant mothers about proper nutrition and exercise during pregnancy, what to expect during labour and delivery, and how to manage common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, back pain, and fatigue.
What to Avoid during Pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid certain foods and activities that can harm their pregnancy. Some foods that should be avoided include:
- Raw meat, eggs, and fish. Food that isn’t fully cooked can put you at risk for food poisoning. Don’t eat more than 2 or 3 servings per week (including canned fish). Don’t eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. These fish have high levels of mercury, which can harm your baby. If you eat tuna, make sure it’s light tuna. Don’t eat more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna and tuna steaks per week. It’s safe to have 12 ounces of canned light tuna per week.
- Fruits and vegetables. Wash all produce before eating it. Keep cutting boards and dishes clean.
- Dairy. Eat four or more servings each day. This will give you enough calcium for you and your baby. Don’t drink unpasteurized milk or eat unpasteurized milk products. These may have bacteria that can cause infections. This includes soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert, and blue cheese, or Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco.
- Sugar substitutes. Some artificial sweeteners are okay in moderation. These include aspartame (brand names: Equal or NutraSweet) and sucralose (brand name: Splenda). However, if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), avoid aspartame.
- Caffeine. Don’t drink more than 1 or 2 cups of coffee or other drinks with caffeine each day.
Smoking and drug use can also have harmful effects on a developing fetus. Pregnant women should also avoid exposure to chemicals and toxins such as lead, mercury, and pesticides.
The Dos and Don’ts of Pregnancy
Follow these do’s and don’ts to take care of yourself and the precious life growing inside you:
Healthcare Dos and Don’ts
- Get early and regular prenatal care. Health care is extremely important whether this is your first pregnancy or third. Your doctor will ensure you and the baby are healthy at each visit. Early action will help you and the baby if there are any problems.
- Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is most important in the early stages of pregnancy, but you should continue taking folic acid throughout pregnancy.
- Ask your doctor before stopping any medicines or starting any new medicines. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. Keep in mind that even over-the-counter medicines and herbal products may cause side effects or other problems. But not using medicines you need could also be harmful.
- Avoid x-rays. If you must have dental work or diagnostic tests, tell your dentist or doctor that you are pregnant so that extra care can be taken.
- Get a flu shot. Pregnant women can get very sick from the flu and may need hospital care.
Food Dos and Don’ts
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, and foods low in saturated fat. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- Get all the nutrients you need each day, including iron. Getting enough iron prevents you from getting anemia linked to preterm birth and low birth weight. Eating various healthy foods will help you get the nutrients your baby needs. But ask your doctor if you need to take a daily prenatal vitamin or iron supplement to be sure you are getting enough.
- Protect yourself and your baby from food-borne illnesses, including toxoplasmosis and listeria. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Don’t eat uncooked or undercooked meats or fish. Always handle, clean, cook, eat, and store foods properly.
- Don’t eat fish with lots of mercury, including swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish.
Lifestyle Dos and Don’ts
- Gain a healthy amount of weight. Your doctor can tell you how much weight gain you should aim for during pregnancy.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. These can cause long-term harm or death to your baby. Ask your doctor for help quitting.
- Unless your doctor tells you not to, try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. It’s best to spread out your workouts throughout the week. If you worked out regularly before pregnancy, you could keep up your activity level as long as your health doesn’t change and you talk to your doctor about your activity level throughout your pregnancy. Learn more about how to have a fit pregnancy.
- Don’t take very hot baths or use hot tubs or saunas.
- Get plenty of sleep and find ways to control stress.
- Get informed. Read books, watch videos, go to a childbirth class, and talk with moms you know.
- Ask your doctor about childbirth education classes for you and your partner. Classes can help you prepare for the birth of your baby.
Environmental Dos and Don’ts
- Avoid chemicals like insecticides, solvents (like some cleaners or paint thinners), lead, mercury, and paint (including paint fumes). Not all products have pregnancy warnings on their labels. If you’re unsure if a product is safe, ask your doctor before using it. Talk to your doctor if you are worried that chemicals used in your workplace might be harmful.
- If you have a cat, ask your doctor about toxoplasmosis. This infection is caused by a parasite sometimes found in cat feces. If not treated, toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects. You can lower your risk by avoiding cat litter and wearing gloves when gardening.
- Avoid contact with rodents, including pet rodents, and with their urine, droppings, or nesting material. Rodents can carry a virus that can be harmful or even deadly to your unborn baby.
- Take steps to avoid illness, such as washing your hands frequently.
- Stay away from secondhand smoke.
The Importance of Proper Healthcare during Pregnancy
Maternal and child healthcare during pregnancy is vital for ensuring the health and well-being of both the mother and the child. Expectant mothers should maintain a healthy lifestyle, schedule regular prenatal visits, and avoid harmful foods and activities during pregnancy. By following these guidelines, pregnant women can increase their chances of healthy pregnancy and delivery.