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Four Simple Tips For A Healthy Pregnancy  

 

The steps you should take to help ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy aren’t that different from steps you should be taking every other day. With a few tweaks to your daily routine, you should be able to enjoy and cherish this time as much as possible.

Pregnancy can and should be an incredible, joyous experience. But it’s not without its aches, pains and complications.

With November 17th being World Prematurity Day, Dr. Allison Ring, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Columbia St. Mary’s, has some simple tips to help make sure you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy that goes as smoothly as possible.


Eat Well
This one should be obvious whether you’re pregnant or not. But when you’re carrying a child, the foods you should focus on as well as the ones you should avoid get a little more complicated.

“To start, you should eat five or six well-balanced meals each day that include 6-11 servings of breads and grains, 2-4 servings of fruit, 4 or more servings of vegetables, 4 servings of dairy (you want to be getting around 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium daily), and 3 servings of protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts),” says Dr. Ring.

It’s essential that you get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Some of the important nutrients to include are:

Iron
: You want to eat at least 27 mg of iron a day, so focus on iron-rich foods such as beef, poultry, spinach, sweet potatoes and beans.

Vitamin C: Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of vitamin C daily. Oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C.

Folic Acid: 400 mcg of folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of spina bifida. Eat dark green leafy vegetables, veal, lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas to get the necessary level.

Vitamin A: Eat at least one source of vitamin A every other day, such as carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, apricots and cantaloupe.

A prenatal vitamin is recommended in most cases to help make up for any deficiencies. There are many over-the-counter options, or your doctor can prescribe you one.

As important as it is to consume the proper foods while pregnant, it’s equally important to be aware of what foods you should avoid.

“Women who are pregnant should not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury. Raw fish, especially shellfish like oysters and clams, can also pose health hazards for pregnant women,” says Dr. Ring. “It’s also important to avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses such as brie, camembert and feta, as these have been linked to Listeria infection.” 

 

Exercise
Like diet, exercise is a health necessity that gets a little more complicated with pregnancy.

 

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day – unless you have a health issue such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.

Maintaining a regular exercise regimen while pregnant is not only beneficial for your physical health, but it can help ward off illness and reduce stress. Additionally, it can help prevent some pregnancy related side-effects such as body aches, fatigue and even gestational diabetes.

“The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day – unless you have a health issue such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes,” says Dr. Ring. “Before you begin any program, however, you should talk with your health care provider.”

The key to any pregnancy exercise program is moderation. If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to safely continue your exercise program while pregnant, albeit at a reduced level of intensity.

Low-impact cardio is the best and safest form for exercise – things like swimming, walking, light jogging and elliptical or cycling machines. Light strength training and yoga are also great activities for pregnant women. Any activities that include contact or excessive jumping and bouncing or quick, jarring movements should be avoided.

“The bottom line, as always, is to listen to your body,” says Dr. Ring. “If you’re feeling especially fatigued or sore, take a break and tone it down.”


Avoid Harmful Chemicals
Another one that seems obvious – when should you ever not avoid harmful chemicals? But when you’re pregnant, the definition of “harmful” changes a bit.

Of course there are the obvious ones like alcohol (alcohol has been shown to cause premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects, and low birth weight), cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke. But caffeine should also be limited to 300 mg per day – for reference, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine and a 12-ounce can of soda has around 30 mg.

The artificial sweetener saccharin (found predominantly in Sweet’N Low) should also be avoided. Other sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are fine in moderation.

Again, consult your physician, as he or she knows you and your body best. You should also talk with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements.


Get Adequate Sleep
In the beginning of pregnancy, most women report sleeping more often than usual. As your body adjusts to the pregnancy and works to nurture the fetus, fatigue is common. However, as women advance in their pregnancy, and the fetus grows, sleeping can become more difficult.

There are several other factors that can contribute to difficulty sleeping, including an increased need to urinate, an increased heart rate, body aches and cramps, indigestion and heartburn and, of course, stress. So what’s a woman to do?

“Most doctors recommend expectant mothers sleep on their side,” says Dr. Ring. “Many women, however, report difficulty in getting comfortable. I usually tell women to start sleeping on their side as soon as possible, in order to get accustomed to it. The left side is preferable, as it prevents putting undue pressure on your liver and allows for better circulation – but either side is better than sleeping on your back.”

Avoiding caffeine should also help with sleep. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime, as that will alleviate nausea and the need to urinate that often interrupts sleep.

If stress is keeping you up, yoga, some meditation or even a nice, warm bath before bed can do wonders. Maintaining a regular routine – going to bed and waking up at the same time – is also a good idea.

In most cases, however, there will come a time when you just can’t sleep at night. When this happens, tossing and turning and stressing out about it will only make the situation worse. Get up, read a book, listen to some music or do whatever quiet, soothing activity you like that will take your mind off it. Chances are you’ll soon get drowsy and fall asleep.

The steps you should take to help ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy aren’t that different from steps you should be taking every other day. With a few tweaks to your daily routine, you should be able to enjoy and cherish this time as much as possible.

Columbia St. Mary’s is a recognized leader in addressing the health care needs of Milwaukee-area women. We offer a wide variety of programs and services for women of all ages. Experts in gynecology and obstetrics provide diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, follow-up care and education.

If you are looking for an OB-GYN, please visit our Find a Physician page or call 414-963-WELL (9355).

 

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