a photo of a pregnant women stretching her hands

Pregnancy health series part 2: Staying healthy while expecting

Once you become pregnant, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Your doctor will be able to advise you on many steps you can take to boost your chances of having a healthy and problem-free pregnancy. The simple tips below will help you to get started.


Quit Smoking and Avoid Alcohol

Smoking during pregnancy is one of the single most preventable causes of illness among mothers and infants. It can cause problems with the placenta, which is the source of the baby’s oxygen and food. Smoking can also cause a baby to be born too early or have certain birth defects.

Alcohol should also be avoided. Alcohol crosses the placenta into the bloodstream of the fetus and can interfere with how it grows and develops. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, heart defects, low birth weights and learning and behavioral disorders. In extreme cases, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) can result from drinking during pregnancy.


Study Your Diet

Eating healthy foods is more important than ever during pregnancy as the body requires more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid. There are also certain foods which should be avoided as they could cause harm to your unborn baby. Pregnant women should limit consumption of some types of fish including tuna – others, such as shark and raw shellfish, should be avoided completely as they can cause food poisoning. Cheeses such as brie and gorgonzola are made with mold and can contain a listeria bacterium that causes listeriosis. In addition, avoiding undercooked or raw eggs helps to prevent salmonella food poisoning. These are just a few examples of foods to avoid or limit, so be sure to speak to a healthcare professional about how you can adapt your diet for a healthy pregnancy.


Keep Fit

It is recommended that healthy pregnant women should get at least 2.5 hours and of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This can prevent aches and pains during pregnancy as well as preparing the body for labor. Exercise may also lower the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Check with your doctor which sports or exercise are advisable but be sure to avoid activities in which you can get hit in the abdomen, like kickboxing, or those in which you could fall, such as downhill skiing. For many pregnant women, low-impact activities such as walking, swimming and cycling are often comfortable and enjoyable. Women are also advised to begin Kegel exercises to tighten the pelvic floor muscles prior to labor.


Travel Safely

Wearing a seatbelt during car and air travel is always recommended and is safe for pregnant women. When traveling by car, the lap strap should go under your bump and across your hips and the shoulder strap should go between your breasts and to the side of your bump. Try to limit driving to no more than 5 hours a day, taking frequent breaks to stretch your legs. Most women can travel by plane during pregnancy but it is important to discuss this with your doctor or midwife before deciding to fly. Airlines also have rules about flying while pregnant and you should check these carefully before booking your ticket.


Take Time to Rest

In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy it’s common to feel tired, nauseous and hormonal. Make time to sit with your feet up during the day. As your bump gets bigger, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep, so you may have to adapt your sleeping positions and take regular rests throughout the day.