By Jane Thurnell-Read
It is always important to take whatever steps you can to be healthy, but while you are pregnant it is even more important. Not only do you need to take good care of yourself, you are also profoundly affecting the life of another person - your baby. Here's 7 tips to help you along the way.
1.If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do is to stop smoking: babies born to mothers who smoke have a lower average birth weight, are more likely to be born prematurely, and are at greater risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome than babies of non-smokers. Sometimes mothers feel having a low birth weight baby could be an advantage as it will make the baby easy to deliver. This is not necessarily the case, as it may lead to an emergency delivery, which can result in all sorts of complications. Even if you are already pregnant, stopping smoking will benefit the baby for the rest of your pregnancy. It is not only the baby who benefits. You are likely to suffer from less morning sickness, experience fewer complications and have a more contented baby after the birth.
2. It is also important to pay attention to your diet. Many women feel they should 'eat for two', but research has shown that women only need an extra 200-300 calories a day while pregnant, and you may be eating those extra calories anyway. What is important is to ensure that you get the protein, vitamins and minerals necessary to build another human being. Those extra 200-300 calories should not be squandered on chocolate or crisps, but should be eaten as fruit, vegetables, etc. It is also important to increase your water intake, which will help avoid constipation.
3. It is generally a good idea to take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement too. There are now ones specially formulated for pregnant women. Ideally these should be started before you become pregnant, so that you are in the best shape possible for the pregnancy, and then continued throughout your pregnancy. An adequate supply of vitamins and minerals is important right from conception. For example, a deficiency of one of the B vitamins, folic acid, in the first month of pregnancy may lead to the baby being born with a cleft lip, congenital heart disease or spina bifida. Omega-3 fatty acids (obtained by eating oily fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, spinach and spirulina, or taken as a supplement) are important for the development of the baby's eyes and brain. Omega-3 also reduces the risk of premature birth and post-natal depression.
4. Nobody knows how much alcohol it is safe to consume during pregnancy, so many health experts feel it is better to avoid alcohol entirely for the sake of the baby. This can seem hard on the pregnant woman when everyone else is drinking, but it is important to remember that alcohol is a poison for the growing baby, and no caring mother willingly gives her baby poison.
5. Pregnancy is not a time to sit still. Although adequate rest is vitally important, most experts believe that healthy pregnant women should be taking 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
6. It is also important to minimise exposure to toxic chemicals while pregnant, so spending a lot of time painting the house and laying new carpets is not a good idea, especially in the early stages of pregnancy when the baby is particularly vulnerable.
7. Many women find pregnancy stressful, and this can be a particularly good time to turn to safe, non-invasive options such as Bach flower remedies, homeopathy, kinesiology and other therapies.
Making a new life is something miraculous. Doing the best you can for that new life starts long before you have the baby in your arms for the first time.
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