Pregnancy should be one of the happiest times of your life.
That’s not to say it doesn’t come without its challenges.
Even healthy women can encounter problems during pregnancy.
But by following some tried and true practices, including diet, relaxation and stress management, you can create the best possible environment for both you and your baby.
Here are some of the most important things you should consider which will improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
It’s not unusual to encounter a few concerns in the early stages of your pregnancy as your body changes.
Talk to your doctor if you are suffering:
- Morning sickness
- Constipation or haemorrhoids
- Vaginal thrush or a need to urinate frequently
- Back pain or tiredness
- Swollen ankles, feet or fingers
It’s important to remain active and be as physically fit as possible.
That’s because it is physically demanding both being pregnant and giving birth.
Having a solid fitness base will help your body cope better as you change shape and hold you in good stead for after your baby is born too.
Food and nutrition
Your baby will demand certain nutrients as they grow.
Iron, calcium, iodine, folate, omega-3 fats and Vitamin D as well as a number of other vitamins are all at the top of the menu so it is really important to have a balanced and varied diet.
High fibre grains, meat, vegetables, fruit and dairy are all really important.
Read more about the daily recommended quantities here.
The amount of weight gained during pregnancy can impact both your own health and that of your baby’s.
Your doctor or midwife will closely monitor this.
Recommended levels vary according to your BMI index before pregnancy but anywhere between 5-18kg may be considered normal.
This will also be influenced by what you eat, how active you remain, whether you are suffering regular morning sickness, and fluid retention later in your pregnancy.
To maintain a healthy weight:
- Maintain a balanced diet eating regularly, including a minimum three meals a day
- Monitor your portion sizes
- Limit sweet or fatty foods like biscuits, cakes and fast foods
- Limit sugary liquids like fruit juices, soft drinks and sports drinks
- Maintain regular exercise, unless you have encountered complications in pregnancy
Pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel.
It is important to keep them strong to guard against issues such as incontinence and prolapse.
These muscles can be weakened through childbirth, constant heavy lifting, constipation, age especially around menopause, excessive coughing and by being overweight.
It is advised women of all ages practice pelvic floor exercises every day.
Learn more about these exercises here.
These support your abdominal organs and spine.
But they are stretched by a growing baby, hence gentle exercise is important to maintain core stability.
Learn more about stomach exercises during pregnancy here.
As your baby and tummy grows, more pressure is exerted on your spine and you can find yourself hunching forward.
This is known as “sway back”.
It is important to retain good posture both when standing and sitting, gently elongating your spine from your pelvis to your head.
Draw in your abdominal muscles around your baby during all daily activities, particularly when walking or lifting.
You can maintain your spine’s flexibility by practising belly dancing techniques.
Talk to your GP or a physiotherapist if you are struggling.
Reducing the risk of stillbirth
A child is deemed stillborn if it dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy and before or during birth.
Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight, being older than 35 or more than 41 weeks pregnant are all factors that can increase the risk of a stillbirth.
But there are some steps you can take to reduce that risk. They are:
- stop smoking and get help to do so if necessary
- be aware of your baby’s movements
- sleep on your side
- have regular checks of your baby’s growth
- consult with your doctor or midwife about the timing of your baby’s birth
Here are a few more tips for a health pregnancy
- avoid toxic chemicals when cleaning
- eat more fish (except those with mercury)
- avoid soft cheeses like brie and feta which may contain bacteria
- limit caffeine
- don’t drink alcohol
- avoid changing cat litter (to reduce risk of toxoplasmosis)
- don’t take over the counter meds or herbal remedies without medical consultation
- Wear your seatbelt
Call your doctor
Regular visits with your doctor are vital to maintain a healthy pregnancy and give you and your baby the best preparation for the arrival of a new life.
AHA Clinics provide ongoing support for women throughout their pregnancy and beyond.
To book an appointment, click here.