What you eat and how well you treat your body and mind directly affect how well your little one thrives (no pressure!). but you don’t need to feel overwhelmed — we’ve condensed the important stuff into 10 simple guidelines. just follow our advice to give yourself a healthy and happy pregnancy.
1) Plan ahead
“To identify potential medical problems and optimise your health, you should ideally visit your gynae six months before trying to conceive,” advises Dr Kelly Loi, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Health & Fertility Centre for Women.
Once you get the all clear, your doctor will start you on prenatal vitamins, such as folic acid, which lessens the risk of your baby being born with a neural-tube defect like spina bifida. A woman should take at least 400mcg of folic acid a day (5mg if there’s a family history of it).
2) Rest and relax
If aches and pains are keeping you up at night, get a referral to a physiotherapist and learn simple exercises to ease them, Dr Loi suggests. A prenatal massage may help, too.
Also, drink more fluids during the day, but less after 10pm, so you won’t have to keep going to the toilet during the night. If you need help sleeping, try deep-breathing exercises or download a meditation app.
“If you have been exercising prior to your pregnancy and your doctor gives you the all clear, then three to five times a week of gentle movement is great for you.”
3) Eat well
Follow a nutritious, balanced diet and include green, leafy vegetables; healthy fats such as raw nuts; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat; plus starchy vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin.
Also drink at least 2 litres of water daily, suggests medical nutritionist Karin G Reiter. Try and eat free range, organic meats and produce whenever possible, she adds.
4) Exercise regularly
Do low-impact exercises such as swimming, Pilates and yoga (they help strengthen pelvic-floor muscles) and walking. “If you have been exercising prior to your pregnancy and your doctor gives you the all clear, then three to five times a week of gentle movement is great for you,” notes Reiter, who is also a certified fitness instructor. Avoid jumping and lifting heavy weights.
5) Avoid smoking, drinking and reduce caffeine intake
Nicotine and other poisons you inhale when you smoke will increase your risk of a premature or still-born baby, or one who has a low IQ and learning difficulties. Alcohol can harm baby’s growing brain, Reiter warns.
Also, stick to just two cups of coffee (200mg caffeine) a day. Any more and you may have a miscarriage or low birthweight baby. “Green tea, black tea, chocolate and even Coke and Diet Coke contain caffeine,” Reiter points out.
6) Be alert to food hygiene
Eating rancid food may give you food poisoning, which can affect the foetus. Reiter has tips for this: Always buy fresh food and store it in the fridge. Wash your hands before and after eating. Rinse veggies before cooking. Use separate chopping boards and knives for meat, fish, vegetables and diary.
Last, smell your food: “If the smell is not great, don’t eat it. Your nose is your best guide for checking if a food is good or bad for you.”
7) Protect your teeth
“Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause gums to swell and tissues to become thin, which can lead to bleeding of the gums and infection,” warns SmartParents ob-gyn expert Dr Christopher Chong. If you feel there’s a problem, visit your dentist.
Many women also develop cavities during pregnancy. Prevent this by taking calcium and vitamin D-rich foods and brushing well, even after snacking.
“Also avoid endemic places, such as the Zika-virus-risk areas.”
8) Avoid infectious diseases
If you’ve been exposed to diseases such as chickenpox, shingles or a viral illness, inform your doctor immediately. If you’ve been infected, you may need hospitalisation and anti-viral medication.
“Also avoid endemic places, such as the Zika-virus-risk areas,” notes Dr Chong.
9) Take care of your emotional health
Expectant women are more emotional, sensitive and vulnerable, thanks to hormonal changes, a lack of sleep and poor eating habits. Don’t feel guilty about asking the hubs for a nightly foot massage or more help with household chores.
If your feelings persist, you might have prenatal depression. A therapist can help sort out your feelings.
10) Hire a doula
Expectant mums — especially first-timers — need lots of support. Besides being birthing coaches, doulas can provide advice and support in the weeks leading up to the delivery.
“We work with mums to give them the kind of birth they want and we are a source of emotional comfort,” explains doula Ginny Phang, owner of Four Trimester, which offers pregnancy, labour and postnatal support.
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