Pregnancy is an exciting time, filled with new discoveries and numerous body changes. Each pregnancy is different but knowing what is right and what is not during pregnancy will make you enjoy the experience, as well as the result.
Pregnancy and childbirth place great demands on your stamina and health so it is important to keep yourself fit and healthy right up to and after the birth of your baby.
Of essence is to ensure you eat a balanced and healthy diet and also take care of your body. The following tips will help you.
- Eat right
Pregnancy does not require you to be on a special diet but you need to eat nutritious and balanced meals, as your body needs to nurture the growing life inside you. Studies show that what you eat can have far reaching effects on your baby’s health in the short and long term. You should eat sufficient proteins, starch, fats, vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre to ensure a balanced diet. When eaten in the right proportions these foods promote health and vitality and also provide energy and boost your immunity, as well as repair worn out tissues.
You should reduce your intake of fats and sugars, as these contain empty calories, which have very little nutritional value, but can cause weight gain. Include two servings of protein and two to four of dairy products every day. These are body-building foods and are essential for proper growth of your baby. Dairy products also contain calcium, which is essential for development of the baby’s bones. Avoid products like cream and butter, which have high levels of cholesterol and instead go for low fat cheese and milk.
Fruits and vegetables are essential because they provide vitamins and minerals. They also provide fibre that helps reduce constipation, which can be troublesome in pregnancy. Aim at having four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Include starch-based carbohydrates, as well. In the last three months of your pregnancy, aim to increase your daily calorie intake by about 200 calories, the equivalent of a banana and a glass of milk.
- Take more fluids
As your pregnancy progresses, there is a physiological increase in the volume of blood circulating in your body. There is also a dramatic increase in kidney function and output. You need to increase your fluid intake accordingly to ensure your body continues to function normally. You should aim at taking three to five litres of fluid every day. Drink more water and fresh juice. Avoid fizzy drinks, which are high in sugar. Also avoid caffeine in tea and coffee and cola drinks. It is difficult to give a safe limit of alcohol in pregnancy because its effects vary from woman to woman. However, it is an established fact that high levels of alcohol in the blood lead to mental and physical problems in your child and it is, therefore, best to avoid it. To be absolutely safe, avoid alcohol in pregnancy.
- Snack sparingly
Snacking in itself is not a bad thing because it keeps sugar levels up, especially when you go without a proper meal for hours. When your sugar levels are low, you may feel faint. Because the growing baby increases your metabolic needs, your blood sugar gets depleted rapidly and this explains why you may feel the urge to eat often. However, you should try and snack on healthy foods, especially those that release energy slowly. These include fresh fruits, nuts, raisins, unsalted popcorn and raw vegetables. Snacks such as potato crisps and chips are high in calories, fats, sugar and salts and contain very few of the nutrients that your baby needs. They may also contain artificial colouring and additives that could be harmful to your baby. However, the occasional snack in small proportions will satisfy your cravings without harming your baby.
- Do not diet
It is not a good idea to be on a diet while pregnant because it is not right to deny your developing baby essential calories and nutrients. You will also need plenty of energy to cope with extra physical demands of pregnancy and birth. However, this does not mean eating for two, but eating just enough to feel satisfied.
- Quit smoking
Smoking is a definite no in pregnancy. Smoking, whether active or passive, reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients passing through the placenta. If you or your spouse smoke, your baby is likely to have a low birth weight, low intelligence and be vulnerable to falling ill in the first months of life. The risk of bleeding, miscarriage and premature birth also increases. Stop smoking for the good of your baby.
- Don’t worry about weight gain
You should not be concerned about your weight unless you are underweight or seriously overweight. What is more important is the growth rate of the baby. His growth does not depend on your weight or how much you eat, but on the efficiency of the placenta and the quality of your food, which supplies the appropriate nutrients. It is suggested that a weight gain of 10 to 12kgs during your entire pregnancy is ideal. You will feel happier if you gain the weight steadily as the pregnancy progresses.
Published in February 2012