If you have recently found out that you are pregnant, it is an exciting time, but it is also essential that you take steps to make sure that both you and your developing baby stay healthy during your pregnancy. From following a healthy diet and taking the necessary supplements to avoiding potential hazards, all will help to ensure that you have a successful pregnancy. If you’re a first time mum or you just need a reminder, here is a checklist of what you need to remember.
There is never a more important time to follow a well-balanced diet than while you are pregnant. The same rules apply about eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, starchy foods and protein-rich foods as before pregnancy and you should continue to opt for healthy snacks, but remember that you only need to eat an extra 200Kcal during the last trimester, so there’s no need to significantly increase your food intake.
When pregnant it is best to avoid alcohol altogether, though if you do decide to still have the occasional drink, guidance recommends you have at most two units of alcohol no more than once or twice weekly. This is because drinking more heavily than this can affect your baby’s development and may also increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. You should watch your intake of caffeine as well and limit it to 200mg daily, equivalent to two cups of tea or instant coffee, five cans of coke or two energy drinks; don’t forget that dark chocolate also contains caffeine, at around 50mg in a 50g bar. Following the advice about caffeine intake during pregnancy may help to protect against miscarriage and restricted growth.
Follow Food Safety Advice
You are more susceptible to food poisoning during pregnancy due to changes within your immune system. However, by taking steps such washing fruit and vegetables, keeping your fridge at the right temperature and organising it appropriately, and cooking food till it is piping hot in the middle you can greatly reduce your risk. Additionally, you should avoid mould-ripened cheeses and blue cheese, anything that contains raw eggs or meat that is not well-done, as these foods carry a higher risk of food poisoning, which could harm your baby. Although unrelated to food poisoning, you should also avoid liver and products made from it, as this is too high in vitamin A (a vitamin that can affect your baby’s development), as well as swordfish, marlin and shark, as these fish are high in mercury that could harm their developing nervous system.
Take Folic Acid and Vitamin D
While you can buy pregnancy supplements, if you are eating well, these are unnecessary. However, you need to take folic acid till the 12th week of pregnancy and vitamin D throughout the nine months. Ideally, you should start taking folic acid before you start trying to conceive, but if you become pregnant unexpectedly, you should start taking this supplement as soon as you find out, as folic acid helps your baby’s neural tube to develop fully.
Although pregnancy isn’t the time to begin strenuous exercise regimes, keeping active when you are expecting can help to prevent excessive weight gain and certain pregnancy complications, as well as making sure that your body is in good shape to deliver your baby. Good options for exercise while you are pregnant include walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga classes and aquanatal. Current guidelines suggest you should complete at least 30 minutes activity on most days of the week, so this is what you should aim for.
Besides quitting smoking if you haven’t already, you should also be wary of other harmful substances you are exposed to. For instance, if your job involves work with toxins, heavy metals or radiation, you will need to discuss with your employer about making changes to the duties you carry out. You should also be careful when using items such as cleaning products and pesticides in the home to avoid unnecessary exposure to these.
Attend All Antenatal Appointments
As well as the changes you make to your lifestyle during pregnancy, it is important that you also receive full antenatal care with your doctor and midwife. This makes sure that any health problems that affect you or your baby are detected early, increasing your chances of a successful pregnancy.