Lifestyle whilst pregnant
Pregnancy is a very special yet delicate time that embodies not only your developing baby, but many dietary and lifestyle guidelines that you might be following to a T or perhaps still practicing to make perfect. Every pregnant woman has her own struggles and it helps to confide in your own mother and other mothers for advice and tricks they have for coping with these and other expecting bumps. Some lifestyle changes mentioned below will become easier to follow as your tummy continues to grow giving away your major reason for living a healthier lifestyle. Your new good habits may even become so natural to you that you’ll continue reaping in their health benefits throughout your life.
Now’s not the time to diet
A healthy weighing woman prior to pregnancy should not restrict her eating or ignore her appetite in fear of gaining too much body fat. Put simply, pregnant women should embrace the scales not shy away from them. Weight gain is a necessary part of pregnancy, with well over half of it being water, almost a third of it is the baby, and less than a third is collected in maternal fat stores. Not gaining enough weight will threat your health and the health of your baby and pregnancy. Concern yourself instead with gaining this necessary weight the healthy way. Eat nutrient dense foods and not regular take-outs; remember it’s about making healthier food choices rather than increasing your food portions. You’ll have plenty of time to lose the weight after giving birth and your stored fat will provide some energy towards lactation if you decide to breastfeed.
Don’t cancel that gym membership just yet for exercising during pregnancy right up until birth is highly encouraged by healthcare professionals. Thirty minutes a day of moderate physical activity on most, if not all days of the week, is very beneficial for pregnant women when supported with adequate food and water intake. It can prevent or manage gestational diabetes, reduce stress levels, provide the strength and endurance needed to carry around the pregnancy weight and facilitate delivery. By maintaining exercise during pregnancy, you are more likely to exercise after childbirth which will help you return back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Before continuing with your daily exercise routine, take a stroll to see your doctor to be certain that your fitness program and level of intensity is safe for pregnancy. Choose activities you’ll enjoy so that you are more likely to commit to it and as the pregnancy progresses, you’ll need to modify your intensity and possibly the activities.
Safe low-impact activities include
- Walking, jogging and dancing although refrain from any bounce and twirl movements.
- Swimming and water exercises are excellent for the water will keep your body cool and well supported making you feel weightless and relief from joint pain.
- Pilates and Kegel exercises can strengthen your core relieving tension from your aching back and pelvis.
- Pelvic floor exercises can prevent urinary incontinences after labour which can occur when you sneeze, cough or laugh however you must avoid lying on your back when doing these exercises.
- Keep your muscles and bones healthy and strong with light weights and flexibility exercises.
- Some group fitness classes are designed for pregnant women where you can enjoy others company and be assured that the movements are safe for your baby.
Unsafe activities include
- Contact sports
- Scuba diving
- Any activities that can increase your risk of falling or being hit by objects
- Stay clear from saunas, steam rooms and hot tubes
- Refrain from exercises that require you to lie on your back especially after the first trimester
Stop right there!
Cigarette smoking, narcotic addiction and chronic alcoholism are associated with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR); a condition implying limited baby growth. A low birth weight is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a birth weight less than 2.5 kg. These infants are more likely to experience complications during delivery, have a higher chance of developing mental or physical defects, developing illnesses and dying early in comparison to normal-weighing babies which weigh between 3 and 4.5 kg.
Alcohol can freely cross the placenta depriving your baby-to-be of its oxygen and nutrients. These associated effects are collectively termed as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and infants who are at the most severe end of this spectrum are diagnosed as having fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). These babies have many abnormalities including permanent mental and physical retardation and the likelihood of birth defects. FAS can only be prevented not treated hence the safest recommendation is no alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Most people know these potential dangers so your partner, family and friends will eagerly help you keep the alcohol temptations at bay but professional help is always available if you need.
Smoking cigarettes exerts harmful effects by reducing the blood supply thus oxygen being delivered to your unborn baby. Mothers who smoke are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and delivery, and have a low-weighing baby with compromised lung and heart development. It can also increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome which is also known as cot death. To prevent any harm, the safest recommendation is to not smoke and to also avoid passive inhalation of smoke whilst pregnant and after the baby is born.
Caffeine consumption to the equivalent of 2 cups/day of coffee or 4 cups/day of tea or less (≤200 mg/day) is safe. Caffeine can cross the placenta and the baby has a limited ability to metabolise it. Caffeine can also behave like a diuretic, flushing away valuable nutrients from the body before they get effectively absorbed and delivered to the baby. Drinking high amounts of coffee (eight or more cups) can increase the risk of miscarriage. Energy drinks, soft drinks, tea and chocolate can all contain caffeine so make sure you read the food labels to regulate your consumption amount. Get stimulated naturally with good nutrient foods such as carbohydrates, fruits, exercise and sleep. Here’s a handy trick, go decaf and still enjoy the flavours and aromas of coffee without the added caffeine and choose sparkling water over caffeinated drinks to quench your bubbly texture thirst.
Are your emotions, feelings, thoughts and stress overwhelming you because in all too soon or not soon enough, you’ll embrace your baby and become its mother? It’s common for a first time mum to have days of certainty and others when she questions her suitability as a mother. Other expecting mothers may question if they will love this child as much as their first born or if all their children will get along. It’s only natural to be nervous and stressed out for your baby’s homecoming but don’t go stressing further about the effects stress has on your baby for sporadic episodes will not cause any harm but prolonged, severe anxiety may and you should see your doctor. Confiding in your partner, own mum, other mothers, fellow expecting mothers and friends will help you to worry less. Engaging in your hobbies, brisk waking, yoga or deep breathing and meditation exercises could help to bring down your stress levels. There may be stressors at home or at work that need to be managed more effectively. Asking for help can make overwhelming tasks manageable so don’t be shy to ask, you’ll find that many people are more than willing to help. Eat nutritious foods, stay hydrated, get enough sleep and be physically active to have a healthy mind and body.
Work and Finance
You might be approaching or already carrying in second trimester and wondering when you should tell your boss that you are pregnant. Your position within the company, your workplace environment, the way you look and feel, and even your relationship with your boss can influence your decision on when to tell. Although, before you go confirming your colleagues’ suspicions, learn about your government’s and company’s policies on maternity leave. Consider when you’d ideally like to take maternity leave, when you’ll be ready to return to work and if so, will you return full-time or part-time and whether your partner can take parental leave. Once you are both clear about your options consider how your financial situation will be implicated by your choices. Once you and your partner have planned what’s ideal for the family and when you feel ready, speak with your boss before your growing belly beats you to it.
At work wear comfortable shoes, loose clothing, eat small meals frequently and keep hydrated. Expect to have good and bad days at work, don’t be too hard on yourself when your energy or attention levels are low, don’t put any more pressure on yourself by accepting extra work and make lists to help you remember tasks. Collect all relevant letters from your doctor, obstetrician or midwife for appointments that interrupt your work schedule or for days when you’re feeling unwell or have no energy. Your boss will appreciate you informing them on when and why you need to take extra-long lunch breaks to fit in your appointments or if you need to easier tasks until you leave for maternity leave.
Thinking of taking a sweet little get away before the arrival of your baby and new life ahead? The best time to travel is usually trimester two as the nasty trimester one symptoms may have disappeared and you won’t have to deal with the big uncomfortable pregnancy bump like in trimester three. Trimester two you might find that you are more yourself and able to relax and enjoy your time more. However try to avoid long flights, places where dangerous diseases are rampant (e.g. malaria), and certain activities that could be harmful (e.g. bungee-jumping). Speak to your doctor before you go anywhere. As you enter trimester three and the closer you get to your due date, it is probably advised to limit the time and/or distance you spend away from home. As many women deliver at least 2 weeks either side of their proposed due date, the last place you probably want to be is in a foreign place, a long way from your home or hospital.