Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Having a baby alters a woman's life in many ways, especially during the pregnancy. You are not only responsible for your own health, but the health of your unborn child. Proper healthcare, nutrition, exercise, and amount of rest are essential to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. What you should be doing during your pregnancy is equally important as what you should not be doing.

Prenatal Care

The first step to a healthy pregnancy is to get regular prenatal care. You should schedule an appointment with your health care provider as soon as you think you might be pregnant. Your doctor will most likely do a pregnancy test to confirm your pregnancy. Next is making the calculation of how far along your pregnancy is based on a physical exam and the date of your last menstrual cycle.

Often an ultrasound will be performed to better approximate your due date. Your doctor will want to see you every 4 weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy, then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks, finally once a week until delivery.

Nutrition

Nutrition is extremely important during your pregnancy. In the last 6 months you should take in an extra 300 calories because your baby is growing quickly. If you are very thin or are carrying more than one baby you need to eat even more. If you are overweight your doctor may recommend you to consume fewer extra calories.

A well-balanced diet is the key to a healthy development and growth for your baby. By eating a variety of lean meats, fruits, vegetable, whole-grain products, and low-fat dairies both you and your baby will get the proper nutrition you need. Your doctor will most likely prescribe prenatal vitamins as a supplement to your diet. You will also need to "bulk" up on more of the essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and folic acid. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during your pregnancy, especially water. This can help with common problems such as dehydration and constipation.

Exercise

Exercise is very beneficial during your pregnancy. It is important to always to discuss your exercise regimen with your doctor to make sure it is safe for both you and your baby. Low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise activities such as walking, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are great choices. You will reap the benefits of relaxation, flexibility, and strength by participating in these exercise activities.

Regular exercise during pregnancy can help prevent excess weight gain, reduce back pain, swelling, and constipation, improve sleep, improve mental outlook, increase your energy, prepare for labor, and lessen recovery time.

Be cognizant of your balance: during pregnancy your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which loosens the ligaments in your body making you less stable. This also makes it easy to over-stretch or strain yourself, especially the joints in your pelvis, back and knees. Your center gravity also shifts during pregnancy, another reason to be careful.

Get proper rest

During your pregnancy you are going to feel more tired than you normally do because your body is hard at work to support the baby growing inside of you. As your baby gets bigger, finding a comfortable sleeping position will become a little difficult. Most likely the most comfortable position for sleeping is lying on your side with your knees bent. You can also prop pillows between your legs, under your back, and underneath your stomach to create a more comfortable resting position.

Some doctors recommend sleeping on your left side because the right side of your body contains a large blood vessel. By resting on the left side you prevent the uterus from applying pressure on that vessel, which would constrict blood flow. Sleeping on your left side will increase blood flow to the placenta. On the other hand, alternating sides will help to reduce or prevent varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and swelling of the legs.

Avoid the "No-no's"

There are quite a number of things you should avoid while pregnant such as alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs, excessive caffeine, and certain foods. It has not been determined what a "safe" amount of alcohol to consume during your pregnancy is so your best bet is to not drink at all. Drinking while pregnant can damage your baby's developing nervous system. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, prematurity, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and other respiratory problems. High caffeine consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of a miscarriage, so it is better to avoid caffeine altogether during the first trimester. You should also avoid consuming soft, unpasteurized cheeses, milk and juices, food that contains raw eggs or meat, and sea food containing high levels of mercury. Lunch meats are safe if steamed in the microwave first.

Finally, be intentional and think about what you do -- give yourself and your child the little extra care and help Mother Nature.

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