1. What should I do before I get pregnant to ensure a healthy pregnancy for me and my baby?
As per the famous adage “WELL BEGUN IS HALF DONE” , preparation before conception is a must.
A good preparation in terms of - mutual understanding, balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle of both partners results in a complication free pregnancy, easy delivery and higher viability of the coming child. The joint venture of a diligent pregnancy preparation must be taken up by a couple, at least six months before conception.
MUST DO’S FOR BOTH PARTNERS
- Plan a pregnancy unanimously.
- Take a balanced diet consisting of plenty of water, abundant fresh fruits –vegetables and an optimum intake of cereals-pulses-nuts-milk etc as per individual physiological requirements.
- Cut down completely on the stale, packed and preserved eatables having low nutritional value. These not only burden you with extra calories but also adulterate your system with unwanted toxins and infections.
- Try to reach your ideal body weight to enhance your general health status and minimize unwanted health problems. This will help you to welcome the pregnancy-related surprises more efficiently.
- Get screened and treated for Sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) because these can have serious effects on the unborn child.
- Also, talk to your doctor about present and past medical history, intake of any therapeutic/recreational drugs and family health histories.
- Quit smoking, alcohol intake and recreational drug intake.
- Keep away from known harmful entities like radioactive substances, pesticides, fertilizers, X-rays and the like.
- Keep distance from electro-magnetic gadgets (computers, mobiles, microwaves ) as far as possible.
- Follow a regular exercise program, especially Pranayama- Yogasanas- Meditation.
- The above maneuvers would help you to minimize complications, get rid of physiological toxins, mental stress and lead to development of healthier Sperms and Ova.
ADDITIONAL MUST DO’S FOR THE “WOULD BE MOTHER”
- Maintain an accurate record of your periods.
- Practice timely eating and sleeping habits.
- Maintain a good oral hygiene and visit your dentist if you are suffering from bleeding gums/ dental infections. As the oral hygiene deteriorates up to some extent during pregnancy and problems like gingivitis can exacerbate in it. In worst cases there is risk of bacteria reaching the uterus through blood. In such cases production of inflammatory chemicals is triggered which are suspected to induce premature labor and Pre-term deliveries.
- Educate yourself theoretically and practically for pregnancy, labor, postpartum precautions and care of the new born. Also try to resolve domestic/financial/professional issues if any, before conception.
- Practice Pelvic floor exercises aditionally along with other routine exercise plans like :
- Kegel exercise - helps in strengthening the Levator Ani muscle complex resulting into a safer pregnancy, lower risk of pelvic prolapse and urinary incontinence.
- Butterfly pose - increases flexibility of pelvic joints and muscles thus reduces discomfort during labor.
- Squatting - as an exercise or regular use of Indian toilets is proven to strengthen the uterus and help during childbirth.
- Last but not the least, make a questionnaire before seeing your gynecologist and discuss elaborately about the following aspects:
- Your menstrual history.
- Past pregnancies/ miscarriages/ surgical episodes, if any!
- Your medical and psychological concerns related to pregnancy.
- Complete medical history/ family history/drug intake incidents/habits/allergies if any!
- Birth control measures adopted by you till date.
- Precautionary blood/urine tests, USG or other investigations if required?
- Your diet and lifestyle routines; check if they need to be changed?
- Physical and emotional aftermath of pregnancy.
- Apprehensions about occupational or domestic hazards if any which might affect your pregnancy!
- Check if you need to be vaccinated with the Rubella (German measles) vaccine? Rubella infection in a pregnant woman may cause the unborn infant to die before birth or be born with physical defects.
- Whether you need to start Folic acid or other nutritional supplements to facilitate a healthy pregnancy?
- Make a list of pregnancy safe medicines for common ailments which can be used during emergency or absence of expert medical help.
The above said preparation protocols might sound tedious but are certainly fruitful for building the healthy future of a mother and her precious child!
“HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY “
2. What should and shouldn't I eat while I'm pregnant?
It is important to have all essential vitamins & minerals. So stick to a healthy diet including milk products (milk, paneer, yogurt), broccoli, vegetables, fruits, whole grains (wheat chapaties/bread, cereals), lean meats like chicken and mutton etc. and take folic acid tablets supplements.
Foods to be avoided during pregnancy:
- Avoid fish of lots of mercury because high level of mercury has damaging effect on developing brain of the Baby. Do not cut out fish completely as they give you important omega-3 fatty acids. Cut out fish like swordfish, tilefish and shark. You can eat tune, snapper – upto one serving a week. Fish like salmon, mahi mahi, catfish, cod and shelfish such as shrimp, scallops, and crab upto 2 servings.
- Unpasteurized milk or chees – which may contain a bacteria called listeria that can cross the placenta, potentially causing miscarriage or leading to a life threatening infection.
- Uncooked or cured eggs & meats like hot dogs, runny eggs, and sauces made with raw eggs can also contain listeria. Heat these foods until they are steaming.
- Alcohol interfers with healthy development of the featus and can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and mental retardation. Unfortunately there is no known safe level of exposure to alcohol for a fetus, therefore you are advised to refrain from it completely.
- Some studies have found a link of caffeine with miscarriage, so its important to stay clear of caffeine in the 1st trimester specially. Also it is linked to premature birth and low birth weight so avoid it. If you can not completely avoid it then take only 1-2 cups of coffee a day.
3. Are there other activities I should steer clear of while pregnant? Do more of?
- Exercise –Light to moderate exercise during pregnancy is good from 2nd trimester onwards. However you must do it under guidance of an expert. Exercise helps in strengthening back muscles, improving balance and to speed up recovery after delivery.
- Sex: Unless you have a high risk pregnancy and your doctor has advised abstinence, you can have sex during pregnancy. However you must avoid in the 1st trimester and in the last trimester as there is a risk of miscarriage and premature birth respectively. Avoid lying down on you back during sex as it may compress your veins in the back and make you feel lightheaded and nauseous.
- Travel: 2nd trimester is the safest time for travel as there is lowest risk of miscarriage or premature labor. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water, move around often and stretch your legs and back.
- Dentist examination: Preventive dental checkups are a good idea during pregnancy as rising hormonal levels can cause bleeding gums and and irritation. Gums infections have been seen to be associated with preterm birth therefore oral hygiene and health is very important.
- Don’t use saunas, tanning booths and hot tubs. This is because excessive heat is harmful for the baby and is also linked to spinal malformations.
- Don’t be involved in painting of the walls and cleaning of the house with cleaning solvents. The toxics substance and chemicals in paints and the cleaning solvents are very harmful for the baby.
- Don’t get investigations such as an X-ray, Mammogram, Dexa Scan done on you while being pregnant, because X-rays are harmful for the developing body. If it is absolutely required, please inform your doctor before the test about your pregnancy so that extra precautions can be taken care to avoid any complication.
- Don’t go for rides which lead to rapid stops and jarring forces as it may cause premature separation of the placenta from uterine wall.
4. How can I safely exercise while pregnant?
- During pregnancy exercise is considered to be safe in most of the Healthy women. The forms of exercises which are particularly safe during pregnancy are Walking, swimming, yoga and stationary cycling. The exercises should be non weight bearing and those that don’t require enormous amount of balance. Drink plenty of fluids if you exercise and do not work to the point of exhaustion.
- In second and third trimester do not go for exercises which require lying on your back and those exercises which pose a risk of trauma to the abdomen. Also ways consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Generally women with pre-eclampsia, premature labor history, heart disease or hypertension are advised not to exercises and to adhere to very limited physical activities.
5. What can I do to relieve or prevent pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting, heartburn, leg cramps, and hemorrhoids?
There are many uncomfortable symptoms that are associated with pregnancy, you may be suffering from one or more those. There are some tips – implementing which you can prevent or at least ease out the discomfort.
- Nausea and Vomiting in pregnancy: Get up slowly in the morning as movement can increase the nauseating feeling. After waking up eat something dry 1st thing in the morning, such as a toast or a biscuit. Avoid fatty foods which are difficult to digest also do not keep your stomach completely empty and must have small frequent meals. Trust your instinct and you can eat foods which smells good to you and thought of which does not make you nauseous.
- Leg Cramps: To relieve leg cramps, have plenty of fluids in diet, do regular exercise and avoid sitting in one position for long period. Do some leg stretching exercises before going to bed by straightening your leg heel first and then wiggling your toes. Massage your legs every day and may do hot fomentation to relieve cramps.
- Heartburn: Eat smaller and frequent meals and avoid fatty, spicy, garlic containing meals and caffeine containing drinks. Avoid bending or lying down right after a meal.
- Hemorrhoids: Eat high fiber diet and fluid containing diet. Exercise regularly, and avoid long periods of standing and sitting. To relieve hemorrhoids do warm water sitz bath 2-4 times a day, apply cold compresses and ask your doctor for any OTC cream which is safe to use in pregnancy.
- Backache: Wear low heeled shoes with good arch support to avoid straining of the back muscles. Do not lift heavy objects and avoid standing for long period of time. Ensure that mattress on your bed is firm and the chair you sit on has a good back support (If not you may keep a cushion/pillow for support). You may use a heating pad/ warm water bottle for comfort in the back. Do not take any type of medication without consulting your doctor.
6. How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
- During pregnancy gaining weight is a positive and healthy sign. There are two reasons to weight gain: to nourish the developing baby and to store up reserves for breast feeding. However weight gain has to be in right amount otherwise it may have negative effects. The healthy weight gain is around 15 kgs during the period of 9 months of pregnancy. Inadequate weight gain or dieting during pregnancy may have severe ramifications on the health of the baby. If the weight gain is less than 10 kg, there are chances of premature baby, and growth retardation.
- Also gaining too much of weight is a matter of concern, because it leads to back ache, leg pains, varicose veins and fatigue. Assessment and measurement of featus becomes difficult and if size of baby becomes too large then vaginal delivery becomes impossible.
- Optimum Weight Gain During pregnancy: the optimum weight gain during the period of 9 months of pregnancy is around 15 kg (25-35 pounds). Following is the week wise weight gain breakup:
One always has a buffer of gaining 2-3 kg in first few weeks or in the last few weeks.
7. Which are the signs I should be conscious of in informing my doctor as soon as they appear?
In the 9 months duration of your pregnancy, you will be seeing your obstetrician regularly; however there are few signs and symptoms which you need to intimate to your doctor as soon as they appear:
- Unusual or sever cramping or abdominal pain.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Significant reduction in the movements of the fetus after 28th week (less than 10 movements in a 2 hours period.
- Signs of premature labour such as regular pain or tightening in the lower abdomen and lower back.
- Bleeding per vaginum
- Fever over 100 Fahrenheit
- Sever or persistent Diarrhea or vomiting.
- Fainting spells or dizziness
- Swelling in hands, fingers or face
- Blurred vision or spots in front of your eyes
- Pain or cramping in arms, legs or chest
8. What preparations are required for breast feeding your baby?
Breastfeeding is very is an important and integral part of growing up of a healthy baby and it helps protect the baby from a host of diseases in infancy, childhood and even later on in life. Also it protects you as well: research have found that breastfeeding women have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
However for some women it may become difficult phase initially, if the infant has a difficult latch or if the mother has developed mastitis (breast infection)
But breastfeeding doesn't always come easy for every woman. It's easy to get discouraged early on, especially if you expect your baby to just latch on and start suckling, only to find he has a "difficult latch" or you've developedmastitis (an infection in the breast). Support organizations are there to help while you're getting used to breastfeeding. Here are resources:
- To protect yourself from developing infection, soreness keep your nipples clean and dry during the pregnancy. And if you notice any kind of problem, consult your doctor immediately.
- Products that you can buy during the later part of your pregnancy, in preparation for breast feeding:
- Nursing Bras:
- To support your larger than usual breasts during the lactation period will require these special bras. These bra come with flaps to provide you convenience and ease while breastfeeding.
- You should shop for nursing bras in the last couple of weeks as at that time your breast will be closest to your post partum size, however once milk comes in your breasts they will grow bigger by a size or two, so keep this in mind while purchasing.
- Nursing Pillows:
- These pillows are specially designed to support your baby while breastfeeding, so that you do not have to strain your shoulders and neck while doing so.
- Breast pads:
- While you are nursing your breast may leak with stimulus like another baby’s cry or sight of an infant, so these disposable breast pads will keep your dress nice and dry.
- Breast Pumps:
- Even if there is no plan to join back to work and pump regularly, a breast pump can be a handy tool to relieve engorgement whenever required.
- Other useful products:
- Lanolin ointment : this will help relieve your sore nipples.
- Hot/Cold Gel Packs: these will fit inside your bras and are used to sooth sore and swollen breasts.
- If you are facing problem because your baby has a difficult latch, you may consult other breast feeding mothers in your family or friends or may consult your pediatrician.
9. What should I know about postpartum depression?
common complication associated with pregnancy. Depression is because of increase and fluctuation in some of the hormones associated with pregnancy and also because of a major transition to parenthood.
The symptoms will include feeling hopeless and sad, crying at small stimulus, isolating yourself from social life, eating too less or too much, sleeping too less or too much and sometimes being afraid of hurting yourself or your baby.
Many new mothers experience baby blues after delivery; however the mild symptoms such as mood swings, crying spells and irritability will vanish in a few days to few weeks time on its own. Treatment is not needed but support can be invaluable.
In case the feeling lingers and there is severity in symptoms and if you have a history of depression, professional help must be taken for post partum depression.