If you have not looked after your body before, when you are pregnant it is an important time to start. You now have two people to look after whose health is closely intertwined. Here are some tips for a healthy pregnancy.
Regular Check Ups
In the UK, the National Health Service provide excellent pre natal care. Many other countries have similar programmes. As soon as you get a positive pregnancy test result, make an appointment with your doctor. Once confirmed, your doctor will set the pre-natal care programme in motion.
You will usually be asked to attend your first check with the midwife at 6-8 weeks. Make sure you don’t miss it. Not only will they review your medical history to see if you will need any special monitoring or treatment, they will also provide you with a lot of useful information about your pregnancy.
This will be your first of many visits to or from your midwife. It varies between health authorities but typically you can expect to see your midwife every 4 weeks during the second trimester and every two weeks in the third trimester. She will check your weight, blood pressure, how you are feeling and occasionally will take a urine sample.
In the UK you will also be sent for an ultrasound scan between 8 and 14 weeks and another one between 18 to 21 weeks.
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The saying ‘eating for two’ when you are pregnant does not mean that you need to eat twice as much. However the average mum of a healthy weight carrying one child does need to eat around 300 calories more per day.
A nutritious balanced diet is important to ensure your baby gets everything they need. Lean meat and low fat dairy products for the protein and calcium, fruit and veg for the vitamins and minerals and whole grain bread and cereals for the fibre and carbs.
Your GP/Midwife may also recommend supplements such as calcium, iron and folic acid. In the UK folic acid is recommended for all pregnant women. Iron and calcium supplements are normally only given if your doctor detects that your levels are low.
Research shows that taking folic acid 1 month before pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects by 70%. Neural tube defects can cause problems like spina bifida in children.
Extra calcium is needed because of the calcium loss in your bones during pregnancy. In addition to the foods already mentioned, spinach, broccoli , tofu, almonds and orange juice are good sources of calcium.
The body needs extra iron during pregnancy to make the haemoglobin which helps carry oxygen through the blood. Red meat, eggs, dark poultry, tofu, leafy vegetables and salmon are good sources of iron. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with iron.
It is also necessary to drink plenty of water when pregnant. The baby, placenta and the amniotic fluid all require plenty of water. Your body also contains a lot more blood when pregnant so needs more fluid.
Of course there are also a lot of types of food that you need to avoid and that in itself is a minefield. We have another blog specifically on this subject that will help you.
Your body needs exercise to stay healthy. Not only does it help your heart, lungs and blood pressure but it also works your lymphatic system which is important for fending off disease.
When you are pregnant you still need exercise. It avoids excessive weight gain and will help prevent back pain, swelling and constipation. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is recommended. Being fit can also help make labour easier and recovery time less. Swimming,walking and yoga are all suitable exercises when pregnant.
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Pregnancy, especially in the latter stages can leave you feeling exhausted so be sure to get plenty of sleep. Try to get a few naps in the day also if you can.
Of course there are no guarantees, but looking after yourself when pregnant gives you a better chance of a smoother, healthier pregnancy.
Of course pregnancy is still no easy ride and if you want to know more about some of the common complaints of pregnancy read our blog on that subject.