A healthy pregnancy routine encompasses following a nutritious and well-balanced pregnancy diet and suitable pregnancy exercise regimen. This helps to maintain an optimum weight gain during pregnancy. Is caffeine harmful to a pregnancy? What are the effects of alcohol on an unborn child? These questions and more are discussed here.
Questions about pregnancy nutrition range from the diet required for maintaining a healthy pregnancy to specialized diets for mothers with health conditions. A well-planned and nutritious diet can help you get the nutrients that a pregnant woman and her unborn baby need. Vitamins are vital for a healthy pregnancy. Choosing vitamin-fortified foods and taking vitamin supplementation can help in ensuring adequate vitamins to the growing pregnancy.
Following a healthy pregnancy nutrition plan ensures that the mother maintains a healthy weight, build up fats and fluids that are critical for breastfeeding, reduces the risk of premature birth and complications during pregnancy. Healthy and nutritious diet must continue well after pregnancy if the mother is breastfeeding her baby. Following a healthy pregnancy nutrition can help keep pregnancy complications such as anemia, morning sickness, fatigue and constipation in check.
You can include suitable carbohydrates in the form of cereals, brown rice and pasta. Unrefined and complex carbohydrates are beneficial as they can provide fiber and vital B vitamins and trace minerals that are so essential for a healthy and fit pregnancy. Adequate quantities of green leafy and yellow vegetables are vital for cell growth, healthy skin and bones and eyes in the growing fetus.
Calcium from dairy products can help in building the baby's bones and teeth. In case of deficiency in calcium, the body will draw from your bones to meet its increased need for calcium. Excessive fat in the pregnancy diet must be avoided, as it would merely add as excess pounds. Only moderate amount of fat must be part of the pregnancy diet. Iron is essential for the fetal blood supply as well as that of the mother. Iron absorption is better if complemented with foods rich in Vitamin C. It is important to stay hydrated during pregnancy so as to rid your body of toxins and waste products as well as reduce excessive swelling and risks of urinary tract infection.
Since Vitamin C is critical for bone growth, tissue repair and other metabolic processes, pregnancy is a time when your diet must include generous amounts of Vitamin C. Including citrus fruits, strawberries, raw cabbage or cooked broccoli can provide you with necessary amounts of Vitamin C. A pregnancy diet should ideally include:
- 3 to 4 servings of meat and protein foods
- 2 to 4 servings of fruits
- 6 to 11 servings of grain products (cornmeal, cornbread, whole wheat bread, tortillas)
- 4 to 6 servings of milk and milk products (whole or skim milk, cheese, yoghurt, buttermilk, butter)
- 6 to 8 glasses of water, milk and fruit juice (lime, lemon, orange, tomato and grapefruit juice)
A pregnant woman must adhere to a new and healthy diet that will be beneficial to the growing baby but also to the general health of the mother.
Exercise during pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy promotes muscle tone, strength and endurance. Being active during pregnancy can help alleviate fatigue, swelling and backache. To remain fit during pregnancy, you need to work out your major muscle groups and strengthen your heart. Which pregnancy exercise to follow depends to a large extent on your levels of fitness. Swimming and walking promote overall fitness levels in pregnancy.
Exercise during pregnancy should be carefully undertaken. You should avoid activities that can cause hard falls such as horseback riding, skating and water skiing. Even bicycling should be avoided because of the potential for falls. Low impact activities are the best activities during pregnancy.
Racket sports such as squash should be avoided because of the risk of the ball hitting your belly.
You need to modify your pregnancy exercise routine from trimester to trimester. The exercise routine needs to be scaled down to suit your growing body. The pregnancy exercise schedule should be monitored so that you don't experience problems such as dizziness, faintness, vaginal bleeding and contractions. Never exercise to exhaustion during pregnancy. Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes during a pregnancy exercise routine. Supportive shoes are essential for support to ligaments and tendons. It's essential to drink lots of water before, during and after pregnancy exercising. Dehydration can raise the body temperature that is dangerous for the mother and baby. Listed below are some of the complications that may arise while exercising during pregnancy:
- If you are anemic, exercising during pregnancy can lead to breathlessness, dizziness and fatigue.
- Some women experience pre-term contractions that might increase on account of pregnancy exercise. This can be countered by sticking to a non-weight bearing pregnancy exercise routine, such as yoga and stretching.
- Lower back pain is a common complaint during pregnancy. Weight bearing exercises during pregnancy can worsen this condition
Contraindications to exercise during pregnancy
Though a regular exercise program can be beneficial for women suffering from high blood pressure, this must be carefully undertaken during pregnancy. Toxemia can worsen with exercise. Women with placenta previa or instances of vaginal bleeding should not participate in any exercise program during pregnancy. If you have had a pre-term labor, you should be cautious before exercising during pregnancy. If your health provider suspects intrauterine growth retardation, it is best to avoid any exercise during pregnancy.
Weight gain during pregnancy
The average weight gain during pregnancy is about 25 to 35 pounds or more. It is necessary to monitor the pregnancy weight gain. Women who have not gained sufficient weight are at a risk for delivering babies with low birth weight. At the same time, too much weight gain during pregnancy has its own problems. It can lead to hypertension and diabetes. Excess weight gain can lead to backaches, leg pain and varicose veins.
This situation is also bad for the baby. Overweight babies tend to have increased risk for health problems later in life. Women who have gained more than 35 pounds during pregnancy tend to find it difficult to shed the weight and keep it off. The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is based on the woman's body mass index (BMI). This is arrived at by measuring weight to height ratio. A normal BMI ranges from 19.8 to 26. Excessive pregnancy weight gain can be controlled by a proper nutrition program.
Caffeine and pregnancy
Caffeine is a nutritional loser, as it contains no vitamins or minerals. Being a stimulant, caffeine during pregnancy can stress the developing fetus. Caffeine is a diuretic and causes your body to lose water and other fluids. This also hampers the body's ability to absorb iron. Caffeine is found in coffee and chocolate and sodas. Health providers and researchers do not provide any consistent information on caffeine during pregnancy. While some advocate completely banning it from the diet of a pregnant woman, others feel that up to 3 cups of coffee a day is not harmful to the growing fetus.
Alcohol and pregnancy
Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects. Nearly 40,000 babies are born each year with alcohol related damage. Sometimes, even moderate and light alcohol during pregnancy can harm the fetus. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it passes swiftly through the placenta to the baby. The unborn baby's infantile body cannot break down the alcohol as easily as an adult body. So the fetal blood can carry high levels of alcohol for a longer time causing the baby to suffer lifelong damage.
It is estimated that nearly 5,000 babies are born each year in the United States with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). This can result from excessive drinking of alcohol during pregnancy or periodic episodes of binge drinking. Babies with FAS are born abnormally small and with under-developed organs. Some even have a degree of mental disability. Alcohol related birth defects generally result out of excessive drinking during the first trimester and growth problems were the result of alcohol consumption in the third trimester. FAS usually was seen in offspring of chronic alcohol abusers. It has been noticed that children of mothers who drank alcohol during pregnancy were more likely to demonstrate delinquent behavior.
Other than FAS, the other resultant problems of alcohol during pregnancy are increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and stillbirth. Since small amounts of alcohol pass into breast milk, it is not safe for breastfeeding mothers to consume alcohol. Though there is no proof that heavy alcohol consumption by fathers is detrimental to the babies, there is evidence that it can lower the male hormone testosterone and thereby lead to lower sperm count.
Yoga during pregnancy can be beneficial in aiding breathing and relaxing and thereby preparing you for the rigors of labor and birth. But these yogic exercises during pregnancy must be undertaken under the supervision of a trained person.
- Avoid yogic poses that stretch the abdominal muscles too much. They are more susceptible to tears and strain on account of the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which allows the uterus to expand.
- Practice twisting poses from the shoulder rather than placing pressure on the abdomen.
- Use support for standing poses to avoid losing your balance and risking injury.
- Breathing exercises (pranayama) - These are powerful breathing techniques that ensure plentiful oxygen supply thereby inducing better life force for you and the baby.
- Yoga exercises - They work on the reproductive organs and pelvis to aid an easy childbirth. Stretching improves coordination, increased range of motions and prevents injuries.
- Meditation - This helps the mind to relax and relieve stress and neuroses. It can help relax the body and mind.
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