The journey towards motherhood is truly remarkable. As a mother-to-be, you can empower yourself to make the most of your pregnancy by being informed about and being prepared for the significant changes your body will go through, as well as the fluctuating emotions that you might experience. This will help you to take the best possible health decisions for you and your baby.
- Management of any chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy is crucial for your and your baby’s health. Consult your healthcare provider as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed, as your medication might need to be adjusted. Do not stop taking your medication without consulting your healthcare provider. Also don’t use any over-the-counter medication without first talking to your doctor. If you are planning to fall pregnant you can consult your healthcare provider even before conception on the continuation of chronic medication.
- Practise good oral hygiene and visit your dentist during your pregnancy. Different hormonal levels, which are associated with pregnancy, may affect the health of your gums: plaque build-up, bleeding, and inflammation or infection are more likely and may, in turn, cause damage to your teeth.
- Ensure that you stay adequately hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses (1.5 litres) of fluid, mostly water, every day. This also helps in preventing urinary tract and bladder infections. Limit tea and/or coffee intake as they both contain caffeine.
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid the mindset that you have to eat for two. Do not eat raw protein such as raw fish and meat, soft cheeses, and condiments such as homemade mayonnaise or ice cream which may contain raw eggs. Pregnancy suppresses your immune system, so you’re far more susceptible to contracting serious illnesses from any food-borne organisms. Your doctor can advise you on what a healthy weight gain would be for your body and your pregnancy.
- Exercise, but play it safe. Exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both mother and baby. Keeping moving helps minimise stiffness and aches, might alleviate constipation, helps you sleep better and lowers your risk of depression, gestational diabetes and other pregnancy-related conditions. It might even help you have a shorter, less complicated labour and to get your body back in shape easier and faster after delivery.
However, it is important to discuss your proposed exercise programme with your healthcare provider before embarking on it as certain types of workouts and sports are not recommended. Exercising may also be detrimental to you and your baby’s wellbeing in certain circumstances or if you have particular medical conditions.
- Get plenty of rest. Your body is taking more strain than usual, working hard to ensure that your baby is nurtured as he/she grows, so try to go to bed earlier and rest when possible – you absolutely deserve it.
- Don’t smoke and do NOT drink alcohol or use recreational drugs, as it may be detrimental to your baby’s growth, development and health. Remember that whatever you put into your body will reach your baby via the placental circulation.
- Wearing a seatbelt could save your life and that of your unborn baby, or lessen the severity of injuries in case of a motor vehicle accident. The safest type of seatbelt is the three-point harness found in most cars, comprising a lap belt and a shoulder strap. The lap belt should go over the hips and under your belly and the shoulder strap up between your breasts.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women who are pregnant during the flu season should get a flu vaccine. There is sufficient evidence showing that the vaccine is safe for mother and baby at any stage of pregnancy, as it offers protection from what could be a severe illness in pregnancy. A flu vaccine does not contain the live virus which means it cannot infect you but does cause your body to build up antibodies that protect you when you’re exposed to the live virus.
- Don’t add a kitten or cat to your ‘family’ for the first time during your pregnancy. If you do have a cat, do not clean the cat’s litter tray yourself. Toxoplasmosis is an extremely dangerous parasitic infection which usually has no symptoms but may cause blindness or mental retardation in your unborn baby. It is carried by cats, transmitted in cat faeces and is found in gardens where cats defecate, therefore also be careful when gardening. If you’ve had cats for a while before your pregnancy, chances are that you have already developed antibodies against toxoplasmosis – a blood test can confirm this.
- Don’t get into the sauna or steam room or overheat in the bath, as increasing your core temperature significantly may be threatening to your pregnancy. It could also cause dizziness with the risk of fainting when you get up to get out of the bath or sauna/steam room.
- It is recommended not to fly internationally after 34 weeks or locally after 36 weeks gestation. Due to the health risks involved it is best to avoid travelling to a malaria area, however there are malaria prophylactics that could be prescribed during pregnancy if travel is unavoidable.
- Go for regular check-ups, as recommended by your healthcare provider and have the recommended scans of your unborn baby.
- Familiarise yourself with conditions that are specifically associated with pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, and with the signs and symptoms of miscarriage and premature labour, so that you can take immediate action if you experience any of these. Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any aspect of your pregnancy.
Article from www.netcare.co.za/News