Expectant moms are usually bombarded with views and opinions, and caring friends and relatives are all too happy to impart their words of wisdom to the soon-to-be mom. Internet websites, childcare and pregnancy handbooks, doctors, aunts, sisters and even strangers are constant sources of heaps of suggestions and tips for the pregnant woman on what they should be doing and what they should be avoiding during pregnancy.
At the end of the day, women are often left feeling very confused and bewildered and have difficulty weeding out the facts from the myths. This is especially true for first time moms!
Throughout the pregnancy, mothers want to do what is best for their baby, and at no time do they want to put their unborn baby at any risk. Adding to the confusion however, are new views and opinions which are constantly being formed and formulated, and few of these so-called risks and definite no-nos have been confirmed – and most do not hold water! To help expectant moms to distinguish between fact and fiction, here is a comprehensive and up-to-date listing of the dos and don’ts of pregnancy.
Eat well – foods which are healthy for mom are healthy for baby and nourishing foods include almost all fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, limited dairy, foods which are excellent sources of iron and protein (red meat) are highly recommended.
Eat smaller meals – eating smaller, healthy meals during the pregnancy will help with morning sickness and smaller snacks will also help to avoid feeling bloated.
Keep fit and remain active – exercising during pregnancy is suggested, as long as the expectant mom feels up to it. Certain contact sports should be avoided, but low impact sports or exercises are ideal, such as swimming and yoga.
Keep hydrated – water is critical for survival and no less vital during pregnancy. Drinking sufficient water during the day will reduce constipation and will also reduce strain on the kidneys. Women should attempt to drink at least two litres of water per day.
Reduce caffeine intake – although there is no conclusive evidence that proves that caffeine during pregnancy should be avoided, soon-to-be moms should limit their caffeine intake.
Rest and relax – do not overdo it! If you feel tired, rest or sleep. Find hobbies that will help you to relax and unwind, such as yoga, reading, walking, swimming, etc. Women should schedule many early nights during pregnancy.
Make time for your partner and work on your relationship – for the next few months your attention will be on your pregnancy. Don’t forget about your partner’s feelings and make time to discuss each other’s concerns. Plan a -couple’s weekend’ away and focus on your relationship. Up until the 30th week of pregnancy, air travel is safe. Go for picnics and dates. Sex can be enjoyed throughout the pregnancy (as long as there are no complications or risks).
Involve your partner as much as possible throughout the pregnancy – share views on birth and childcare, discuss possible names and try to arrange checkups for times that suit his schedule.
Continue to work and know your rights – a pregnant woman is able to work, by law, up until one month before the baby’s due date (the month can be reduced if the woman is medically fit or extended due to health reasons). South African workers are entitled to at least four consecutive months of maternity leave. Workers may not return to work within six weeks after the birth, unless their caregiver has given the go-ahead for the woman to return to work.
Attend antenatal classes – these classes will prove invaluable for first time parents and will also give couples the chance to meet and mingle with other -pregnant’ couples.
Always keep doctor’s appointments and checkups and take the prescribed folic acid, and pregnancy vitamin mineral supplements.
Call or notify your caregiver of any usual or worrying symptoms – you may think that your concern is silly or unfounded but be sure to mention your worries. Excessively itchy skin, especially on the hands may be an indication of a serious liver problem, while severe nausea and vomiting far into the pregnancy may be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
Keep a pregnancy diary and take photographs of your growing -baby bump’.
Explore the benefits of writing a birthing plan and do research on the different birthing methods, such as water births, home births, etc.
Ensure that your finances are in order and try to pay off as much debt as possible.
Remember to register for UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund), if you are currently employed.
Enjoy every moment of your pregnancy (even the morning sickness and the swollen breasts). You are growing a new life and the journey is exciting and rewarding.
Eat certain foods – danger or high risk foods which have been proven to be unsafe during pregnancy include, soft and blue veined cheese, any undercooked meat and eggs as well as certain seafood. Expectant mums have been advised to avoid liver patÃ©s as well as unpasteurised dairy products. These foods contain listeria bacteria which may cause birth defects, miscarriages and even result in a stillbirth.
Eat peanuts! – If there is a family history of an allergy to peanuts or if there is a known family history of eczema, hay-fever or asthma, peanuts during pregnancy should be avoided all together.
Smoke – this is an obvious and clear-cut no-no! Smoking is not only bad for the mom but the toxins in the cigarette smoke will put the baby’s health at risk and will increase the chances of miscarriages and stillbirths. Babies who are born to mothers who smoke are born with low birth weights.
Drink alcoholic beverages! – most medical experts are suggesting that a pregnant woman avoid alcohol totally, as a -safe’ number of drinks per day or week has not been established.
Clean or change a cat’s litter tray – this may sound odd but the faeces of cats could have a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. If contracted during the first trimester, this infection can have serious and irrevocable consequences for the unborn baby. The risk may be low, but better safe than sorry. Never clean or change the cat’s litter tray when pregnant, and when gardening always wear gloves.
Take hot baths – extremely hot water will cause lowered blood pressure that will cause the pregnant woman to feel sick and lightheaded. A number of medical professionals warn against excessively hot baths during pregnancy, but there is little evidence to suggest that the baby is at risk or if the water temperature will have any effect flow of blood to the placenta. As such, it is recommended that lukewarm baths are enjoyed. It is also a good idea to avoid saunas and hot tubs.
Stress – for many working pregnant moms, this may be near impossible! Excessive stress may negatively impact the growing baby and research has shown that stress decreases the flow of blood to the placenta, and what’s more stress is not good for the expectant mom. Try to avoid stress triggers and remember to relax and take it easy!
Sitting for extended periods – working pregnant moms especially should not remain seated for long periods behind their desk. Frequent walks are important and will help circulate the blood, and will help to reduce swelling of the legs and feet (a common complaint in late pregnancy).
Avoid household toxins and hazards – such as paint fumes, solvents and aerosols. A number of birth defects have been linked to the use of common household products.
Spread yourself too thin – don’t try and be superwoman! Learn to say no!
Wear uncomfortable shoes! – wear shoes which have low heels and which are comfortable. Wearing the wrong shoes during pregnancy may lead to back problems later. Choose easy-wearing and loose fitting maternity clothes.
Listen to horror stories from other women about labour and birth – if it’s your first pregnancy, remember that all women experience childbirth differently.