Pregnancy is such a special time, but mothers-to-be may be confused at times due to contradictory information and advice dished out by family and friends, self-help books and ‘Dr internet’. This misinformation may lead to stressed mothers who are always wondering whether they are doing something that could potentially harm their baby.
“Although you will have to undergo lifestyle adjustments as your body’s needs and limitations change during your pregnancy, there is no need to second guess every move you make,” says Dr Anchen Laubscher, medical director at Netcare.
Here are a few tips you can follow:
Get plenty of rest
“Early in your pregnancy you might feel sleepy during the day because of high levels of the hormone progesterone, which may also cause sleep disruption at night, so that you feel even more fatigued during the day. This hormone brings on a sudden need for naps, and could make a normal day at work feel as taxing as running a marathon,” Dr Laubscher says. “Being tired could also worsen early pregnancy nausea and vomiting. Your body is telling you to slow down, so try and get as much rest as possible by having a quick nap whenever you can,” she adds.
Look after your health
Manage any chronic medical conditions like hypothyroidism, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes or epilepsy. “Always consult your healthcare provider on whether the medication you are taking for a chronic condition is safe for your unborn baby, before taking any new medication or changing dosages of current medication,” cautions Dr Laubscher.
Drink at least eight glasses (1.5 litres) of water every day. While juices could make up a part of that, bear in mind that they may be high in sugar and therefore high in calories. “If you don't like drinking water on its own, try adding a wedge of lemon or lime, or a small amount of juice for some extra flavour,” Dr Laubscher advises. Tea and/or coffee could also form part of your daily fluid intake, but should be limited as they both contain caffeine.
Visit your dentist during your pregnancy
“It’s a good idea to visit your dentist during pregnancy because the hormones circulating in your body may impact on the health of your gums,” says Dr Laubscher. She adds that your gums are more likely to bleed and there is a bigger chance of them becoming inflamed or infected, which may, in turn, cause damage to your teeth. “You're also more likely to get a build-up of plaque on your teeth, so make mouth hygiene, especially regular and thorough cleaning of your teeth, an important part of your routine,” she says.
Ensure that you always wear a seatbelt when driving or travelling by car
Wearing a seatbelt could save your life and the life of your unborn baby in case of a motor vehicle accident. “It is highly recommended that all pregnant women make use of a seatbelt when driving or travelling in a motor vehicle,” notes Dr Laubscher. She says that the safest type is the three-point harness found in most cars, comprising a lap belt and a shoulder strap. The lap belt should go over the hips and under the belly and the shoulder strap up between the breasts.
Get a flu vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women who are pregnant during the flu season should receive the flu vaccine. “There is sufficient evidence showing that the vaccine is safe for mother and baby at any stage of pregnancy, as it offers protection from what could be a severe illness in pregnancy,” notes Dr Laubscher. A flu vaccine does not contain the live virus, which means it cannot infect you but does cause your body to build up antibodies that protect you when you’re exposed to the live virus.
Things to avoid
Smoke, drink or use of recreational drugs
Remember if you're pregnant, whatever you put into your body reaches your baby too. “Smoking, drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs may be detrimental to your baby’s growth, development and health, so it's important for you to change your habits,” cautions Dr Laubscher. “The best time to do this is when you and your partner decide to start a family. A baby's brain and other organs start to develop before you even realise that you're pregnant,” she notes.
Don’t eat raw protein
Dr Laubscher says pregnant women should not eat raw protein as it could increase the risk of bacterial contamination. “It is important to remember that raw protein does not only refer to raw or undercooked meat or fish but also to foods or condiments such as homemade mayonnaise or ice cream made with raw eggs,” she notes. “Although the chances of getting a parasitic infection from eating sushi or sashimi are slim, the consequences are severe enough that you don’t want to take the risk,” she warns adding that pregnancy suppresses your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to contracting serious illness from food-borne organisms.
Don’t clean the cats’ litter tray
“Toxoplasmosis is an extremely dangerous parasitic infection carried by cats, which is transmitted in cat faeces and found in gardens where cats defecate, says Dr Laubscher. “It is advisable to avoid changing the cats’ litter box and to be careful when gardening. If you have to do these tasks, wear gloves and a mask, and change the litter at least every 24 hours,” she adds.
“To prevent this infection, which usually has no symptoms but may cause blindness or mental retardation in your unborn baby, it is recommended that you don’t get a new cat while you are pregnant.”
Don’t get into a sauna or steam room or overheat in the bath
Dr Laubscher mentions that increasing your core temperature significantly may be threatening to your pregnancy and may also cause dizziness with the risk of fainting when you get up to get out of the bath or sauna/steam room. “It is best to avoid taking long hot baths or to visit a steam room or sauna while pregnant,” she says.
Don’t travel far from home in your third trimester or to a malaria area
“Consider staying close to your place of delivery for the entire third trimester. If you do deliver unexpectedly at 27 to 34 weeks, your premature baby will need expert neonatal care,” she advises. Dr Laubscher advises against flying internationally after 34 weeks or locally after 36 weeks.
She also notes that you should avoid malaria areas throughout your pregnancy. “Even though there are malaria prophylactics that can be prescribed during pregnancy, due to the health risks involved it is best to avoid travelling to areas where you are at risk of contracting malaria,” she adds.
To access more useful and reliable pregnancy information, the Netcare Pregnancy App can be downloaded free for either iPhone or Android smartphones. The app features a dashboard for quick reference to aspects such as the size and gestational age of the unborn baby, a countdown calendar, and information and tips on a number of pregnancy related topics. A week-by-week guide gives insight into the physiological and emotional changes that moms-to-be are likely to experience and things to be on the lookout for during every stage, as well as detailed information on a baby’s development.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare hospitals
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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