The inspiration for this blog has partly come from personal experience with my wife currently nearing nine months of pregnancy, the advice I’ve given to her from my osteopathic learnings and from a few other tips we’ve picked up along the way which I thought I’d share for the benefit of any other couples fortunate enough to be expecting.
Being pregnant is a wonderful time for all involved but care needs to be taken to maintain good health both for the benefit of the mother and the baby so therefore, some temporary sacrifices need to be made. The following ten tips cover some of the main areas to consider:-
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
An entire blog could be written on this topic alone but I’ll try to stick to the main points.
– It’s important to eat the right things so that you’re taking in the necessary vitamins and minerals to help your baby develop and one of the best ways of doing this is through keeping up your 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables (remember to wash them too).
– Also, eat plenty of wholegrain carbs for energy, such as pasta, rice and bread which will make sure you’re getting enough fibre, useful for preventing constipation.
– Protein is important for the creation of the cells and organs of the baby and this can be found in lean meats, beans, eggs, nuts, and fatty, oily fish such as salmon.
– Dairy and dairy-alternatives are vital to ensure you’re taking in enough calcium for the development or maintenance of the bones in both the baby and yourself.
– For a list of foods to avoid, be sure to check the NHS website for guidance.
– Before moving on it should be said that you need to be careful about food hygiene too such as washing hands, utensils and surfaces after handling raw meats. Finally, make sure all your meals, especially those with meats and eggs, are cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
Drink plenty of water.
– Stay hydrated in order to fend off unwanted bouts of nausea, cramps, headaches, dizziness and contractions which can lead to pre-term labour.
– Your body needs more water to cope with the demands of pregnancy, to maintain healthy blood cells and enable good lactation, so aim for around two to three litres of fluid a day. This will also help the transportation of the vitamins, minerals and blood to the foetus. Teas and coffees don’t count as they are diuretics so you lose more water through increased urination.
– The colour of your urine is a good indicator as to whether you’re taking enough fluid in; it should be a pale or colourless.
– If you’re not keen on the taste of water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or other fruit to provide a bit of flavour.
– The water you drink should ideally be filtered and if you use a bottle, make sure it’s BPA free to avoid any associated problems.
– On the topic of fluids, reduce your caffeine intake to minimise mood swings, the risk of miscarriage and stop the loss of nutrients such as calcium which can occur as a result of it’s diuretic effects.
– Finally, it is unknown as to how much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy so it’s best just to cut it out completely to avoid the increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and behavioural & developmental problems.
Smoking in pregnancy can cause serious health issues for both you and your baby including an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and Sudden Instant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Other complications which can occur in pregnancy from smoking are ectopic pregnancy, morning sickness and placental abruption (where the placenta comes away from the uterus wall before birth).
– Exercise helps you cope better with the extra weight of pregnancy and prepares you for the hard work of labour.
– Exercise will also help to improve your mood, circulation and sleep, whilst also helping to control your weight.
– Great activities to partake in during pregnancy are swimming, walking, pilates and yoga.
– Don’t forget to exercise your pelvic floor through kegel exercises too. Kegels involve contracting the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine, then holding this for a count of three and relax, ten times, two or three times a day to support the bladder, bowels and uterus.
– It’s just as important to relax as it is to exercise. Relaxation will help to reduce stress, anxiety, tiredness and fatigue as well as helping to reduce muscular aches and blood pressure.
– Stretching, deep breathing and massage are a few techniques you could adopt or even just listening to music, having a warm bath or reading can help you to unwind.
– When sleeping, the ideal position is to lie on the left, with a wedge cushion under the belly and pillow between the knees to minimise back pain and reduce the pressure on the vena cava, helping circulation and reducing swelling in the legs.
Be careful doing the weekly chores.
– Firstly, avoid carrying heavy items as the increased relaxin in the body could cause you to potentially strain your back, joints and ligaments which have become extra lax.
– The strain of carrying heavy items can also cause muscle strains, hearnias and bring on premature labour.
– Wear rubber gloves when using cleaning chemicals and open the windows or avoid doing such cleaning activities completely.
– Refrain from changing the cat litter due to the potential of contracting a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis.
– Try not to stand for long periods of time as this can negatively affect your baby’s development.
– Lastly, avoid using step-stools and ladders for obvious reasons.
Watch your posture.
– The usual postural rules apply in pregnancy as they would outside of pregnancy such as holding yourself upright, sitting with a cushion behind your lower back, don’t cross your legs and avoid slouching which could put undue pressure on your back and sacrum.
– Keeping your knees lower than hips when sitting can help manouvre the baby into the correct position and using a gym ball can assist with this.
Wear the right clothing.
– It’s best to wear comfortable, loose, non restrictive clothing so as not to cause problems such as heartburn and acid reflux which can arise from compression around the ‘bump’.
– Look out for maternity wear in the shops, this will also be useful for underwear too in order to reduce sensitivity and increase comfort in these areas.
– In terms of footwear, wear comfy shoes with good support as now is not the time for heels. Your weight gain will alter your centre of gravity, putting extra strain on your feet, potentially causing over-pronation or flattening of the feet. You may also find that you need to buy the next shoe size up if your feet and ankles swell during pregnancy.
Have a good support network around you.
– Friends and family are a great place to start, especially those who have been through pregnancy before and can offer their advice and prepare you on what to expect.
– Attending classes such as NCT and antenatal ones are a good next step to aid you in your preparations, research and help you to feel more at ease and in control of your choices.
– Regular visits to the midwife will help to keep you reassured and organised in terms of scans and tests.
Osteopathy for joint and muscle aches & pains in pregnancy.
Mechanically, there will be many changes occuring in the body and which can at times be a little too much to handle. Osteopathic treatment can be very effective in helping oust some of those pregnancy related ailments. See my other blog on Osteopathy & Pregnancy for further information.
In summary, whilst in some ways it can all seem a little overwhelming and a lot to consider, ultimately, most of this is common sense with a few minor adjustments to make here and there. If you bear this advice in mind then you’ll be well on the way to taking control and increasing your chances of a happy and healthy pregnancy. Best of luck to anyone reading this who is also on their journey to parenthood.