Healthy babies start from healthy pregnancies. What can you do to give your baby the benefits of a healthy start? Here are our top 10 recommendations:
1. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet: Choose a diet low in fat and one that encompasses all food groups. During pregnancy, you will need about 300 extra calories a day. Whenever possible, eat organically to reduce you and your developing child’s exposure to harmful pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Farmer’s markets are another alternative if organic is too expensive and/or inconvenient for you. Avoid foods which can harbor harmful bacteria such as soft cheeses, unpasteurized foods, undercooked meats and prepared meats such as hot dogs and deli meats. Remember, fish is part of a healthy, diet and provides your baby with much needed DHA. DHA is essential for brain, eye and central nervous system development. Choose fish low in mercury such as calamari, flounder, Pollock, salmon, scallops, tilapia and shrimp. Not sure how to choose a healthy diet? Check out MyPyramid Plan for Moms to get your customized plan.
2. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins: Iron and folic acid, as well as other nutrients, play an important role during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins, in addition to eating a well-balanced diet, will help to ensure proper amount of needed nutrients throughout your pregnancy. Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider which vitamins are best for you.
3. Get plenty of rest: 6-8 hours of sleep is optimal for health and well-being.
4. Keep hydrated: Water is the best fluid to maintain hydration (remember….60% of our body is made of water). Maintaining hydration influences amniotic fluid levels and reduces the presence of Braxton Hicks contractions. For adequate hydration, drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. Avoid drinks full of sugar, empty calories and caffeine. Limit caffeine intake to less than 200-300 milligrams per day
5. Exercise: A minimum of 2 ½ hours of moderate low-impact exercise (e.g. dancing, walking, prenatal yoga and swimming) per week is recommended during pregnancy. Besides burning calories, exercise promotes health by increasing circulation, energy, muscle strength, and endurance all of which will be needed during labor and for recovery after birth. Remember to consult your health care provider before beginning any exercise routine. If you experience shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, chest pain, racing heart rate, contractions, vaginal leaking or any other complication, stop the activity immediately and notify your doctor.
6. Reduce your stress level: Stress can contribute to a variety of ailments such as headaches, anxiety, fatigue, high blood pressure, lowered immune system and premature delivery. Since pregnancy in itself can be a stressful time for expecting moms, it’s important to recognize symptoms and reduce stress. Here are some stress-reducing strategies:
- Get a prenatal massage from a certified massage therapist specially trained in prenatal massage. Acupuncture can also be helpful.
- Take some time for yourself each day. Read, rest, meditate, cook…do any activity that is enjoyable and brings a feeling of calmness and well-being.
- Treat yourself to a spa day.
- Sign-up for prenatal yoga classes.
7. Be vigilant in your prenatal care and follow your healthcare professionals instructions: Generally (for low-risk pregnancies), prenatal visits occur every 4 weeks during the first 28 weeks, about every 2 weeks from 28-36 weeks and then every week after 36 weeks gestation.
8. Abstain from alcohol, drugs and cigarettes during pregnancy: The use of any one of these could lead to birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight, miscarriage, placental complications, addiction and possible death of mother and/or infant. Also, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking ANY medication. Remember, what goes into your body also enters your baby’s.
9. Reduce your exposure to chemicals: A study by the Environmental Working Group concluded that babies are exposed to more than 200 harmful chemicals before they are even born! Umbilical cord samples taken during pregnancy showed babies are exposed to flame-retardants, pesticides and many other toxins. Although chemical exposure occurs every day, there are ways to reduce the number of toxins that you and your baby are exposed to:
- Read labels of your personal care products and check Skin Deep database for the safety ratings of your products.
- Reduce your use of plastics. Especially those with recycle numbers 3, 6 and 7.
- Do not heat food or drinks in plastic containers.
- Choose organic or locally grown foods.
- Use non-toxic cleaners or make your own. Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda are all very effective cleaners.
10. Prepare yourself for the birth of your baby: Read books, watch videos, attend classes and talk with other moms.