Now that you’re pregnant, here are some essential steps to follow to ensure that your pregnancy is as smooth and healthy as possible.
WORDS CHIA YING MEI
Pregnancy is a journey that can be fraught with worry, stress and guilt. All mothers want the best for their child and the selfless sacrifice often begins when the child is still in the womb. Discover what you should do to ensure that your pregnancy is as smooth and healthy as possible to give your child the best start you can provide for them.
1. Start your pregnancy on the right foot.
If you are planning for a baby, or if you are about to undergo fertility treatments, you can already begin preparing for a healthy pregnancy. Visit a gynaecologist who will give you a check-up and be able to advise you if you have any underlying conditions that need to be treated.
You can also begin pre-emptively taking folic acid. This ensures that your body builds up a store of folic acid, which helps prevent spinal and brain birth defects. The American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women take folic acid at least a month before becoming pregnant, so if plans for a baby are in the works, then go for it.
2. Make sure you eat well.
It is recommended that pregnant women should eat from four food groups: Rice and alternatives, fruits, vegetables and meat and alternatives.
Rice and alternatives refer to carbohydrates and starches such as noodles, potatoes, pasta, chapatis, quinoa and other grains. Where possible, go for wholegrain versions instead of refined white carbohydrates as whole grains retain the most nutritious parts of the grains. The extra fibre is very helpful during pregnancy as most women suffer from constipation. Don’t skimp on fruits and vegetables, and remember: fruits are NOT an alternative to vegetables. You still have to eat your greens! The two food groups contain very different nutrients. Finally, the amino acids in protein are the building blocks of your baby’s cells. Be sure to get enough protein from healthy sources such as low mercury fish, lean meat or tofu.
3. Watch your gains.
If you’ve been eating a well-balanced diet with the right portions, your weight gain should be on track. However, every woman is different and your gynaecologist may or may not recommend that you change some parts of your diet. The weight you are at before you get pregnant plays a big part in determining your recommended weight gain.
Underweight ladies, for instance, are usually
recommended to gain more weight during
pregnancy compared to overweight ladies.
Obese mums-to-be may be tasked with maintaining or even losing a bit of weight under their doctor’s supervision.
One thing to note is even if your weight gain numbers are on track, your baby’s growth might be a little off-kilter depending on your diet. Overindulging in soft drinks and desserts while skimping on calories from proper meals could lead to your baby growing too fat around their middle. While in-utero, your baby’s head should be the widest part of their bodies. The excess sugar could make their little tummies’ circumference larger than their heads’ circumference, which may result in a longer and more distressing labour. To avoid this, be sure to eat balanced meals!
4. Stay well hydrated.
While pregnant, your body will produce approximately 50 per cent more blood and bodily fluids, such as amniotic fluid, to meet the needs of the growing baby. This means you need to drink more fluids to ensure your body has the proper hydration needed. Pregnant women are recommended to drink about 2.3 litres of fluids a day – note that it’s fluids and not water. Rejoice, as this means that your daily milk and soups count towards your intake!
5. Keep yourself active.
Regular physical exercise has a whole host of benefits for everyone. Pregnant women are no exception! If you have a regular exercise regime that does not include body contact sports, you should be able to continue with it, although you may want to tone down the intensity a little. And even if you haven’t been regularly exercising, you can always start with safe and low impact exercises. Walking is a great way to get the blood flowing and best of all, it’s free! If you prefer a classroom setting, prenatal yoga, pilates or barre are just some of the popular fitness classes you can attend.
It’s important to keep active during your pregnancy.
It improves your posture and decreases common pregnancy
discomforts such as backaches, swelling, constipation and
bloating. It may also prevent you from developing gestational
diabetes and help you sleep better.
You will also build muscle tone and stamina, which you’ll need for the labour process. This may sound counterintuitive, but expending energy on exercise can actually make you feel more energetic and brush away the fatigue that sometimes comes with pregnancy. Regular exercise can also help you control your weight gain during pregnancy, as well as make it easier for you to get back into shape after birth.