Every pregnant woman wants her baby to be healthy. That is perhaps stating the obvious, but there is a significant number of women who seem not to understand the extent to which their baby’s health is dependent on their own health during pregnancy. As a stark example of this, medical surveys have shown that maternal obesity greatly increases the likelihood of death during pregnancy or childbirth.
The UK has one of the world’s lowest rates of maternal deaths, but that rate has risen from less than ten per 100,000 in 1985 to 14 in 2005 and the studies which reveal this increase point not to diseases or accidents as the main cause but a lowering of the average level of mothers’ health and especially a rise in the prevalence of obesity. Obesity is predicted to rise in the developed world and so any woman who either becomes or wants to become pregnant seriously needs to ask herself whether she is overweight. Around half of obese pregnant women end up having a Caesarean section and obese patients face higher risks of other complications too.
The most common ones are dangerously high blood pressure, heart disease such as angina, which could cause a heart attack in pregnancy, and obese patients are much more prone to bleeding. Even if a pregnant woman is slim and healthy, however, there are several simple and important things that she should do or not do during pregnancy in order to optimize the chances of having a happy and healthy baby as well as a comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy.
- Get early prenatal care, prenatal vitamins
- Watch what you eat and drink
- Avoid nicotine, alcohol and other addictive drugs
- Exercise regularly and get enough rest
- Avoid stress and try to stay calm
- Prenatal Care and Precautions
If and when you discover that you are pregnant, one of the first things you should do is to arrange your first prenatal visit, during which you will be screened for certain conditions which could cause complications. If you are wise enough to be thinking ahead, take some time to find the right person, whether it is a doctor or midwife, as this person will be an important part of the process. Also think about your diet. During pregnancy you only need an extra 300 calories per day, so don’t overdo the carbohydrates and sweets, but make sure you get enough protein because you now need 70 grams a day compared to 45 before you got pregnant.
Your calcium requirement does not rise but it is much more important that you meet it. Vitamins are also vital. Prenatal vitamin supplements contain more folic acid and iron than standard multivitamins.
Ideally, you should start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant. Once your pregnancy is confirmed, increase your daily dose to 600. You also need to make sure you're getting enough iron as the requirement increases significantly during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. Steer clear of undercooked eggs and meat, unpasteurized dairy products, raw seafood, and cold deli meats to avoid ingesting bacteria that could harm your baby.
The Importance of Oral Health
Along with pregnancy come physiological changes for women. The changes, including fluctuating hormones, increase the woman’s susceptibility to oral infections such as periodontal disease. Studies have demonstrated a relationship between periodontal diseases and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. An oral cavity serves as both a site of and a gateway entry of microbial infections, which can affect general health.
Diet, nutrition, sleep, psychological status and social interaction can all be affected by poor oral health. Another oral disease pertinent to maternal child health is dental caries. Dental caries is the process of tooth decay and the development of cavities. Dental caries are transmitted from mother to child as colonization of carcinogenic bacteria through saliva-sharing activities.
Just Say No
Even one drink a day can increase the chances of having a low birth weight baby and possibly cause problems with learning, speech, attention span and so on. Women who have more than two drinks a day put their children at risk of mental and growth retardation. It simply is not worth the risk. Cocaine restricts the flow of blood to the uterus and may lead to miscarriage, growth problems or premature delivery. Nicotine carries very similar risks and smoking has been linked to having a baby with a cleft lip or palate. So if you’re a smoker, quit.
Work Out an Exercise Routine
You need extra strength and endurance to carry the weight you gain during pregnancy and so you need an exercise program to help ease the aches and pains, improve the circulation in your legs and help you handle the physical stress of labor. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and so it helps psychologically as well as physically. However it is important not to push yourself too hard and get overheated or dehydrated.
Avoid hot tubs and saunas. Loose, cool, comfortable clothing is important, so go shopping and get suitably attired. If your exercise routine is taking up most of your free time then it’s probably easier to buy your maternity clothes online. Don’t overdo the exercise, though. The fatigue you feel in the first and third trimesters is your body's way of telling you to slow down, so remember to do just that. It is very important to give your body the rest and relaxation it needs during pregnancy. This is more important than any of your other responsibilities, so take a break and put your feet up when you need to.
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