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Pregnancy Health & Wellness

While pregnant, quitting bad habits and adopting healthier ones will benefit not just you, but your baby too!   It’s good to be aware of the choices you will face and the actions you might take to give your baby a healthy start!   

Physical Health
Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise.  In fact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests pregnant women get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week! Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits, like improved posture, improved mood, fewer backaches, and it may even make for an easier delivery. However, remember to check with a doctor before you start exercising during pregnancy to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby, since everyone is different.


The type and intensity of your workout will change at each trimester. During the first trimester it is important to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute.  Going for walks is a great exercise for the first trimester. Moving into the second trimester it is helpful to try exercises designed to strengthen your back.  Swimming, riding a stationary bike or low-impact aerobics are good moderate physical activity workouts.   During the last trimester your body is preparing for labor and while you may continue low to moderate-intensity workouts, be sure to use caution.  Some things you should not do during workouts in you third trimester are performing exercises that require you to hold your breath for long periods of time, require a lot of bouncing, jumping, or running, or require you to lie on your right side or back for longer than three minutes. 


While pregnant, your body is working over-time!  You will probably feel more tired than usual; however, getting ample sleep may help boost your energy.  As your baby grows, you might have a hard time finding a comfortable position to sleep in. Try lying on your left side with your knees bent.  This position optimizes blood flow to the placenta and allows large blood vessels to carry blood to and from your heart and legs. 


Nutritional  Health
Maintaining a well-balanced diet is key in supporting your baby’s growth and development. Being pregnant does not mean you can eat whatever you want because you are “eating for two”. Eat foods that are rich in essential nutrients – calcium, iron and folic acid – that promote growth and development of your baby. Your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, or pasta, low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese, lean meat, poultry, nuts, and beans.  Your healthcare provider will probably provide you with a prenatal vitamin supplement, but remember that it is not a substitute for a healthy diet! 


While pregnant there are some foods you should avoid eating.  Such foods may cause a miscarriage, brain damage, or developmental delays. Stay away from:


·        Raw meat and fish/shellfish (uncooked seafood and rare beef and poultry)

·        Deli meat

·        Fish with mercury (shark, swordfish, and king mackerel)

·        Smoked seafood (lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky)

·        Raw eggs and food containing raw eggs (mousse, tiramisu, raw cookie dough, homemade Caesar dressing)

·        Soft cheese

·        Unpasteurized milk, cheese (feta, goat, Brie, Camembert), juice, and apple cider

·        Pate or meat spread

·        Caffeine (limited to fewer than 300 mg per day)

·        Unwashed vegetables


Emotional Health
Due to hormone changes, you may find yourself feeling a little more emotional than usual and you may experience emotions that change from minute to minute. You may even find yourself crying for little to no reason! Remember, these emotional mood swings are temporary.


You may also feel more stressed than usual.  You might be filled with thoughts about whether your baby will be healthy, if you’ll be a good parent, or how your baby will change your life.  Even though it may be difficult, try not to let stress or negative emotions build up.


It is important to make positive choices related to your emotional health.  Try to be aware and accepting of changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and pay attention to your own needs.  It is important to deal with emotional changes during pregnancy in a positive way, like sharing your feelings with your partner, friend, family member or a therapist.  You could also relieve your emotions and stress by exercising regularly, finding a hobby you enjoy, or reading about pregnancy and parenting and what to expect.


Lifestyle Health
There are several lifestyle choices that can have harmful effects on your baby’s health.  It is important to always remember, whatever you put in your body, you are also giving to your baby! 


Alcohol: There is no determined “safe” amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, so it is best to stay away from alcohol.  The negative effects of alcohol consumption on a developing baby include mental and birth defects and miscarriage.  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) occurs when a mother consumes large amounts of alcohol during her pregnancy.  Babies with FAS can be born underweight and/or have small, widely spaced eyes, flat cheeks, and an upturned nose.  Also, a baby with FAS can suffer from heart defects or mental retardation. 


Smoking: Similar to alcohol consumption, when you smoke your baby also inhales nicotine and carbon monoxide.  If you become pregnant and smoke you should try to quit, in doing so you will take the right step toward creating a healthier lifestyle for you and your child!  Smoking while pregnant could lead to low birth weight, stillbirth, premature birth, asthma, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For information and help on quitting, talk to your health care provider about different options.


Cold or other illnesses: If you begin to feel the symptoms of a cold, stop and think before grabbing cold medicine. It is crucial that you talk with your doctor before taking both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Your health care provider can suggest alternative ways to help you feel better that are not harmful to you and your baby.


Caffeine: High caffeine consumption has been linked to an increased rate of miscarriages, so it’s best to avoid it altogether while pregnant. If you can’t quit your daily dose of coffee cold-turkey, try, for example, weaning down to 1-2 cups per day, then switching regular for decaffeinated beverages only. Ideally, you will come to a point where you can cut out your daily cups of coffee altogether! And remember, caffeine is also in some soft-drinks/soda and teas.

Other indulgences: Other things you may consume that you should talk to your doctor about limiting during pregnancy include: artificial sweeteners, computer monitors, flying, hair dyes, high-impact exercise, household chemicals, bug sprays (insecticides, pesticides, and repellants), lead, high temperatures/overheating (hot tubs, saunas, electric blankets, etc.), self- or sunless-tanners, sex, tap water, teeth whiteners or bleach, vaccinations, and x-rays.

For more information, visit the American Pregnancy Association at www.americanpregnancy.org

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