Importance of Health During Pregnancy

In pregnancy, one has to take care of self. Staying healthy during pregnancy depends on the mother, so it is necessary to be updated with the information on about the many ways to keep the mother and baby as healthy as possible. The main key to protecting the health of the child is to get regular prenatal care.

During the  first visit, the doctor calculates how many weeks pregnant you are based on a physical examination and the date of the last period. She uses this information to predict the delivery date. Depending upon the case one has to regular visit her doctor for a general checkup:

  • every 4 weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy
  • then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks
  • then once a week until delivery

Throughout the pregnancy, the doctor checks the weight and blood pressure and also checks the growth and development of the baby. During the span of the pregnancy, one has to go through different prenatal tests  as blood, urine and cervical tests and probably at least one ultrasound.

Nutrition and Supplements
Now the mother has to eat for two. It is not the time to cut calories or go on adiet. In fact, she needs about 300 extra calories a day, especially later in the pregnancy when baby grows quickly.

Healthy eating is necessary, especially when the mother is pregnant. So, this is the time to take sufficient calories from nutritious foods so they can contribute to the baby's growth and development. One must include the following in a well-balanced diet:

  • lean meats
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole-grain breads
  • low-fat dairy product

Eating a healthy, balanced diet means to get the required nutrients one needs. A pregnant women needs more of the essential nutrients (especially calcium, iron, and Folic acid) than one needed before pregnancy. The doctor also  prescribes prenatal vitamins so as to supplement the diet and must not be  the only source of much-needed nutrients.

  • Calcium

Most pregnant women need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, as the growing baby's calcium demands are high, the mother should increase her calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from her own bones. Good sources of calcium include:

    • low-fat dairy products including milk, cheese and yogurt
    • calcium-fortified products including orange juice, soya milk and cereals
    • dark green vegetables including spinach, kale, broccoli
    • tofu
    • dried beans
    • almonds

  • Iron

Pregnant women need 27 to 30 mg of iron every day. This is a must because iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Without it, the body's tissues and organs won't get the oxygen they need to function well. So it's especially important for pregnant women to get enough iron in their daily diets for themselves and their growing babies. Some examples of iron-rich foods include:

    • red meat
    • dark poultry
    • salmon
    • eggs
    • tofu
    • enriched grains
    • dried beans and peas
    • dried fruits
    • leafy green vegetables
    • black strap molasses
    • iron-fortified breakfast cereals

  • Folate (Folic Acid)

A pregnant woman is always recommended to take about 400 micro grams (0.4 milligrams) of Folic acid supplements daily. It can be from a multivitamin or Folic acid supplement in addition to the Folic acid found in food.

  • Fluids

One must drink plenty of fluids, especially water during pregnancy. Blood volume increases during pregnancy and drinking enough water each day can help to avoid  common problems such as dehydration and constipation.

A healthy pregnant women needs 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity every day. Regular exercise can help:

  • prevent excess weight gain
  • reduce pregnancy related problems like back pain, swelling and constipation
  • improve sleep
  • increase energy
  • improve outlook
  • prepare for labor
  • lessen recovery time

One should get sufficient sleep during the pregnancy. The body is works hard to accommodate a new life, so she will probably feel more tired than usual. And as your baby gets bigger, it will be harder to find a comfortable position when one is  trying to sleep.

Lying on the side with knees bent is likely to be the most comfortable position as pregnancy progresses. It also makes heart's job easier because it keeps the baby's weight from applying pressure to the large blood vessels that carry blood to and from heart, feet and legs. Lying on side also helps prevent or reduce varicose veins, constipation, hemorrhoids and swelling in the legs.

Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on the left side. Because the liver is on the right side of the abdomen, lying on left side helps keep the uterus off that large organ. Lying on left side also optimizes blood flow to the placenta and, therefore, the baby.

Some Things to Avoid
During pregnancy, following are some things to be avoided:

  • Alcohol

One of the most common reason of mental and physical birth  defects is alcohol. It produces severe abnormalities in a developing fetus than heroin, cocaine or marijuana. The alcohol is easily passed along to the baby, who is less equipped to eliminate alcohol than the mother. It can damage a baby's developing nervous system.

  • Recreational Drugs

Pregnant women who use drugs may be responsible for premature birth, poor growth, birth defects and behavior and learning problems of their babies. And their babies could also be born addicted to those drugs themselves.

  • Nicotine

The smoking mother passes nicotine and carbon monoxide to her growing baby. The risks of smoking to the fetus include:

    • stillbirth
    • prematurity
    • low birth weight
    • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
    • asthma and other respiratory problems

One must talk to the doctor about options for stopping the smoking habit.

  • Caffeine

High caffeine consumption may lead to increased risk of miscarriage, so it is always wise to limit or avoid caffeine. Caffeine is not limited to coffee. Green and black tea, cola and other soft drinks also contain caffeine.

  • Certain Foods

There are some foods that must be avoided, that cause food-borne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be life-threatening to an unborn baby and may cause birth defects or miscarriage. Some of these foods include:

    • soft, unpasteurized cheese (often advertised as "fresh") such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert and blue cheese
    • unpasteurized milk, juices and apple cider
    • raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse,  raw cookie dough, homemade ice cream and Caesar dressing
    • raw or undercooked meats, fish or shellfish
    • processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats
    • shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish.