Pregnancy is a time when everyone has a piece of advice on how to do it. Eat this if you want a boy, exercise or don’t exercise and so on. Just like a lot of health-related topics, right now, we have huge amounts of information about on what to do or what not to do.
Even if it is a lot of information to process, keeping mum healthy during pregnancy is incredibly important. After all, pregnancy does put her body through its paces. It’s also vital for baby, as what the mother does can affect the health of her child.
I’ve looked at what the science tells us is important for mum to do when she’s expecting. And I’ve spoken to some experts in the field to get their take and give you these top tips.
Are you really eating for two?
As the baby grows, the mother provides it with energy to grow by calories. She also provides vitamins, minerals and macronutrients like protein that are important in building a human. This doesn’t translate to eating double. It’s more vital than ever for mum to consume a diet that is balanced, full of healthful foods and all the extra vitamins and minerals needed. While it’s normal and healthy to gain weight, not everyone needs to gain a lot. The more weight you carry to begin with, the less you should aim to gain during your pregnancy.
As a general rule, mums should aim to consume an extra 340-450 calories a day in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. In the first trimester, you don’t need to go back for a second helping. Pregnant women need a bit of extra protein and carbohydrate but gulping down protein shakes probably doesn’t help pregnant women and in fact, may cause some harm.
On the vitamin and mineral side of things, all women who are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant must have folate in their diet which helps prevent birth defects. Other vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, folate and vitamin D are important to keep mum at her best. A standard pregnancy multi-vitamin should help you meet any needs that your diet doesn’t give you.
Breaking a sweat with baby
This has been a controversial topic for many years. Pregnant women were often told to rest up but research has shown that bed rest doesn’t help have a healthy mum or baby. In fact, it can cause problems like clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and loss of fitness.
Mums who keep active tend to have better relief from aches and pains of pregnancy, less constipation, lower risks of gestational diabetes and easier time getting back to a healthy weight after delivery.
It’s recommended that pregnant women take part in moderate intensity exercise at least five days a week for 30-minutes at a time. When exercising during pregnancy, it’s important to be safe and avoid anything that may injure yourself of the baby, avoid overheating and don’t let pregnancy be the time to try out a new, high intensity workout.
Avoiding baby blues
With post-partum depression affecting around 10-15% of new mums, it’s important to be on the lookout for what used to be called the baby blues. Even a normal, low-risk pregnancy can leave mum (or sometimes dad) feeling low, tearful, lethargic or even hopeless. It’s important to be screened via a short test given by your doctor or midwife during and after pregnancy. If you do feel low, reach out to your doctor, midwife or services like BeyondBlue or Lifeline early to get the help you need.
Other do’s and don’ts
It goes without saying but avoiding smoking during pregnancy is vital especially for baby. Babies born to smokers are smaller and have more lung problems. When it comes to alcohol, a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy isn’t yet known so doctors tend to recommend erring on the side of caution and sticking to the non-alcoholic beverages for the time being.
Getting an infection during pregnancy can be devastating for both mum and baby, so being up to date with vaccinations is vital. In the last few years, we’ve also made strong recommendations to avoid areas that are struggling with Zika virus infections.
When it comes to living your life, working is encouraged depending on what mum does for a living and if her pregnancy is healthy. Most airlines will let you fly up to 37 weeks pregnant but be sure to carry a letter with you from your doctor if you have to take to the skies. Hair dye is another slightly under-investigated area but the likelihood is that modern dyes are safe but make sure you let your hairdresser know.
Finally, enjoy the experience whenever you can. It can be an incredibly exciting time but also a stressful time. Be sensible and take care of yourself so that you have the best possible experience and give your baby the best start in life.