HEALTH CENTER

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Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy by Minnie Alcantara

Minnie-640x4071-300x190Pregnancy is an exciting journey for expecting mothers.  Here are a few suggestions to help you have a healthy pregnancy.

1.         Contact your healthcare provider.  Schedule an appointment as soon as you think you are pregnant. Your first visit to your physician will confirm your pregnancy with a urine or blood test to measure your HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) level.  Your practitioner will be able to figure out how far along you are based upon your last menstrual period.  This helps to predict your estimated delivery date. 

2.         Prenatal vitamins are a must.  If you already haven’t been taking prenatal vitamins prior to your pregnancy, now is the time to get started.  Prenatal vitamins will help compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the pregnant mother’s daily diet.  Folic acid, iron, and calcium are very important for an expectant mother.   Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects that impact the baby’s brain and spinal cord development.  A recommended dose of at least 400 micrograms of folic acid should be taken daily during pregnancy.  Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to the mother and the baby. During pregnancy the volume of blood increases so more iron is needed to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to other cells.  It is recommended that pregnant women should have an average intake of 27 milligrams of iron a day.  Calcium is also important for an expecting mother because it helps to prevent bone density loss since the baby uses calcium for its own bone growth.

3.         Establish healthy eating habits. Remember that you’re now eating for two and be aware of what you are putting inside of your body.  If you have a poor diet, this is an important time to transition toward a healthy one filled with nutritional foods.  However, eating better doesn’t necessarily mean eating more.  Healthy eating should include foods with certain vitamins and minerals rich in folic acid, iron and fiber.  Foods that are high in folic acid are dark green leafy vegetables, whole wheat bread, sprouts, oranges, grapefruits, poultry, fortified breakfast cereals, and enriched grain products.  Examples of iron-rich foods are red meat, egg yolks, dried fruits, beans, soybeans, and artichokes.  Foods high in fiber are spinach, pears, bananas, brown rice, oatmeal, corn, avocado, white, black and kidney beans.  Choose healthy snacks such as low-fat or fat-free yogurts, or whole grain crackers as opposed to junk food with empty calories.   It is also recommended to eat about 8-12 ounces of seafood each week, but avoid fish and shellfish with high mercury levels.  Fish that contain high mercury levels include shark, mackerels, eels, swordfish and white tuna.  Seafood with low mercury levels including salmon, catfish, clam, oysters, scallops, shrimp and tilapia.  In addition, certain cheeses should also be avoided, mainly soft cheeses, such as feta, brie and goat cheese. Soft cheeses are made with unpasteurized (raw) milk which may cause several infectious diseases which presents a health risk for the unborn child.  Be cautious of eating luncheon meats or hot dogs to avoid listeria.  Listeria is a bacteria commonly found in contaminated foods, uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables and unpasteurized milk.  It is not recommended for pregnant women to dine in certain places that serve deli meat sandwiches because they do not properly steam or reheat their meats.  

4.         Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.  The caffeine consumed by the mother passes through the placenta. The baby may experience problems since the baby cannot fully metabolize the caffeine as well and as fast as the mother and the caffeine tends to stay in the placenta longer.  Although experts have found that moderate levels of caffeine intake do not seem to have a negative effect on pregnancy, it is best to avoid caffeine as much as possible for the safety of the baby.  If you must get a fix, moderate levels of caffeine should be limited to 150mg-300mg a day according to the American Pregnancy Association.  Decaffeinated coffee or tea would be the best way to go, however there is still a small trace of caffeine found in decaf. Also, take note that caffeine is not just found in coffee and tea, but in chocolates, sodas and some medications as well.  The American Pregnancy Association states that alcohol is a teratogen which is a harmful substance for human development.  When alcohol is consumed by a pregnant woman, it crosses over the placenta to the baby. This may result in harmful birth defects since the alcohol stays in the baby’s blood longer than the mother’s blood.  There is no “safe” amount of alcohol to be consumed while pregnant. The more you drink, the more you put your baby at risk for irreversible damage.  Any drink containing alcohol is not safe for the baby and could cause a range of lifelong health conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  The most serious disorder is fetal alcohol syndrome which causes harm to the baby’s physical and mental development. Tobacco use is another habit to avoid during pregnancy because it causes complications.  According to the Center for Disease Control, it is more likely for women who smoke during pregnancy to have miscarriages, babies born with birth defects such as a cleft lip or cleft palate, and have a higher risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Smoking during pregnancy may also lead to premature births with low birth weights.  As a result, the baby is more susceptible to illnesses and possibly even death.  

5.         Exercise during pregnancy.  If you haven’t already made exercising a part of your lifestyle, there is no better time to get started than when you’re pregnant.  Pregnancy causes achiness, backaches, bloating and constipation. Surprisingly, exercising may help minimize these unwanted side effects of pregnancy.   It is recommended that women with normal low risk pregnancy should get about 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days or every day.  Exercising is very beneficial to your health especially during pregnancy. It can give you a boost of energy since getting too much rest may actually make you feel more tired.   Exercise can help improve your mood with all the endorphins the brain releases even helping with stress and anxiety.  There are even exercises that can help relieve back pain by strengthening your core abdominal muscles.  Prenatal yoga classes can help with breathing exercises as well as stretch and strengthen sore muscles.  Don’t forget that an active body means active bowels which helps constipation.  Mothers who exercise during pregnancy tend to have shorter labors and recover faster physically since they were fit throughout the pregnancy.  During exercise, be cautious and listen to your body, do not overexert yourself to a point of breathlessness, wear comfortable shoes with strong ankle and arch support, avoid exercising in the heat, and drink plenty of fluids. 

6.         Stay hydrated.  Keeping hydrated during pregnancy is very important for the well-being of the pregnant mother and her baby.  Water helps flush out waste products from the mom and the baby.  The mother’s blood volume increases throughout pregnancy and water makes this increase possible.  In addition to hydration, water plays a role in constipation, fatigue, preterm labor, miscarriage, and breast milk production.  The recommended amount of fluid is 8-12 eight ounce glasses per day.  It’s also better to drink small amounts often as opposed to large amounts infrequently since the latter will most likely run right through the body.  Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids. It’s better to be proactive instead of waiting for thirst which may already be a sign of dehydration for some people.  

7.         Educate yourself.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, become fearful, and have many questions while you’re pregnant.  That’s why it’s best to keep informed with what is going on with your body and your baby throughout the pregnancy. The more you are aware and have knowledge of what to expect, the less worrisome it could be for the pregnant mother.  This can eliminate any unnecessary stress and fear for the future mother.  Read books, take child birth classes, and talk to other mothers.  This information can keep you informed on the development of your baby and pregnancy.  Also, you will learn tips to make your pregnancy more comfortable.  Additionally, you can learn to identify any warning signs that something is wrong.  Child birth classes are a great forum and an opportunity to be around other expecting parents.  This can be comforting to know that you have the same concerns as the other couples.  Knowledge can tremendously help to ease a pregnant woman’s mind and nerves.  

8.         Keep in touch with your physician.  After your initial visit with your practitioner, you should find an obstetrician to check on you throughout your pregnancy and deliver your baby.  Your visits will start with a monthly visit and will increase as you get closer to your due date.  The obstetrician will follow your health and make sure that the development of your baby is on track.  Your OB will perform the necessary blood work to track your levels, order screening tests for the fetus, and perform an ultrasound to take a closer look at the baby.   It’s important to ask your OB questions.  Staying in touch with your OB can save you trips to the emergency room.  A simple phone call to your physician can reassure you that symptoms you may be experiencing are normal.  Having a good relationship with your OB is very calming and reassuring for many nervous future mothers. Keeping an open line of communication with your physician is very beneficial.

These are just some valuable tips to help you sail smoothly along during your pregnancy.  Remember that it’s no longer just you and to be thoughtful of your future bundle of joy in your belly. I wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy!

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.