Pregnancy is an exciting period in any woman’s life, but it’s also a time for education, especially for first-time moms. Before you go through all the new experiences that occur after birth, you need to ensure you provide your baby with the best start to life by taking good care of yourself during your pregnancy.
In many cases, that means gaining an understanding of behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate during the months you’re with child. Here are just a few things I address with my pregnant patients:
- Nutrition. It’s even more important to eat a balanced diet and have an ideal caloric intake during pregnancy. Most foods are OK, but it’s best to eliminate fish with high mercury content, like shark, mackerel and swordfish.
- Weight gain. Your pre-pregnancy weight will determine how much is healthy for you to gain during gestation. That figure typically ranges from 11 to 20 pounds for overweight women and 28 to 40 pounds for underweight women.
- Vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are important, but you should refrain from taking high levels of Vitamin A, or fat-soluble vitamins like D, E and K. Vitamin B6 can help with nausea, something experienced by 70 percent of all pregnant women.
- Exercise. Thirty minutes or more of daily exercise is recommended, but you should stay away from activities with a high risk of falling or suffering abdominal trauma as well as those featuring a supine position. This isn’t the time to take up a strenuous sport, but if you’re already involved in one, there’s no reason you can’t continue.
- Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco. Smoking and drinking alcohol are detrimental to a baby’s development, so they should be avoided. Regardless of what you may have heard, no level of alcohol consumption is safe when you’re pregnant. Most over-the-counter medications are OK, but it’s best to check with a health care professional first.
- Immunization. Pre-conception immunizations are preferable when live vaccines are involved (rubella, varicella). If you’re pregnant during flu season, you should consider having a flu vaccine.
- Domestic violence. Unfortunately, you need to be aware that you can face physical challenges at home from your partner. Domestic violence is one of the most frequent causes of maternal death in the U.S.
- Working through pregnancy. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you should be able to work up to the onset of labor. If you’re more at risk, you may need to make adjustments to your work schedule.
- Air travel. If you’re without medical or obstetrical complications, it’s OK to travel by plane up to 36 weeks. Support stockings are suggested, as is moving around the cabin as much as possible, and staying hydrated.
- Dental care. Do you know that many pre-term deliveries are associated with poor dental care? You should continue to brush and floss, as well as have routine professional cleanings. Be aware that your gums may bleed more easily than normal. Many dentists require a doctor’s note before they’ll treat pregnant women.
- Anticipating labor. To lessen the stress on yourself, your partner and your loved ones, it’s a good idea to learn the signs and symptoms of labor, to eliminate false alarms. Also be aware that you shouldn’t eat solid food when you’re in labor. It always surprises me how many women show up to deliver after having wolfed down a burger in the car on the way to the hospital.
Your goal is to give birth to a healthy baby, and you can improve the odds tremendously by adhering to the prenatal care regime suggested by your obstetrician.
Dr. Zubair is a board-certified OB/GYN with Sutter Medical Group, affiliated with Sutter Medical Foundation and a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.