8 Prenatal Do's and Don'ts
Are you in the early stages or pregnancy or trying to conceive? Here are 8 do's and don'ts to help you achieve a healthier pregnancy
Whether you’re a first-time mum or not, taking care of your body during the early stages of pregnancy or when you are trying to conceive is very important. “Everything we put into our bodies, for years prior to conceiving, makes up the microenvironment for our developing babies,” says Jennifer Lang, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn in Beverly Hills, California.
Here are 8 prenatal do’s and don’ts that will help you achieve a healthy pregnancy:
Do’s: Have a healthy diet
A well-balanced diet is important for women who are trying to conceive, or in the early stages of pregnancy. Do consume lots of protein, fruits and vegetables as these will help maintain a healthy weight for both you and your baby, help with your baby’s brain development and provide you with enough energy during your pregnancy.
Cutting down on sugar is important as “high levels of sugar in the diet lead to insulin resistance, a major concern during pregnancy,” says Dr. Lang.
Do’s: Be aware of the ingredients
Prolonged exposure to toxins can be harmful to you and your baby and can lead to multiple health problems. Looking at the ingredients used for household products can be useful as some of them may include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), parabens, or phthalates in shampoos and cosmetics; mercury in certain fish; and bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in raincoats and backpacks.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), like dioxins, PCBs, and DDT have been linked to diseases and abnormalities in a number of animal species. Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic, can also have adverse health effects when they build up in our systems, Dr. Lang explains. “POPs and heavy metals are stored in animal fat cells and are difficult to eliminate from the body once stored there,” she says. “They can transfer into our bloodstream and cross the placenta.”
Avoiding these chemicals completely isn’t possible, but you can minimise your exposure, says Dr. Lang, using natural household cleaners; sticking with a mostly plant-based diet; and storing food in stainless steel, ceramic, or glass containers instead of plastic whenever possible would be able to minimise the risks.
Do’s: Consume folic acid (or folate)
Consuming folic acid helps to prevent serious birth defects of the spinal cord and brain by up to 70%. “By the time a woman knows she is pregnant and begins taking prenatal vitamins, many key changes that require folate have already been made in the developing baby,” Dr. Lang says.
There is a recommended dosage of 400 micrograms daily before or during pregnancy.
However, if you have missed the 3-month window, you do not need to worry. Taking in your vitamins and increasing your intake of folate-rich foods like spinach, lentils, and garbanzo beans, and folic acid-rich foods such as kale, spinach, orange juice, and enriched grains will help you just as much.
Do’s: Get up and get moving!
You may feel too tired to move during the later stages of your pregnancy, so take advantage of the early stage of your pregnancy by staying active! Plan an exercise routine that won’t strain your body, such as brisk walking, jogging or even prenatal yoga. Check with your doctor to ensure which activities are safe for you to do.
Don’ts: Take medication without consulting a doctor
As many prescription and over-the-counter medication are not safe for pregnant women, it is best to consult your doctor before taking any medication without a doctor’s prescription. Should you feel unwell, it is best to take a drug-free approach if possible.
Dr. Lang says, “It seems that so many of the meds we once considered perfectly safe in pregnancy are now associated with some adverse outcomes. So many headaches in pregnancy are due to neck muscle tension and strain, poor posture, and poor sleep. I would always begin with a holistic remedy and use prescription or OTC meds only with a doctor’s approval if the previous natural remedies are not working.”
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. High cortisol (the main hormone involved in stress) levels in the early stages of pregnancy lead to higher rates of early miscarriage, premature birth, pregnancy-induced hypertension, fetal growth retardation, preeclampsia and premature birth, and postnatal developmental delays.
Manage your stress by going for walks, talking it out with your partner, or even trying prenatal yoga.
Having the mindset that you’re eating for 2 can be unhealthy in the long run. Pregnant women should only consume about 300 more calories a day to support their baby and do not need to make much diet changes in the beginning as long as they are maintaining a well-balanced diet.
Speak to your doctor about how much you should be eating if you’re unsure. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid your pregnancy cravings, you can still satisfy them as long as you do not overdo it!
It’s a no brainer that pregnant women should not take drugs and alcohol, even in the earlier stages as crucial brain development takes place in the utero. It is best to quit the moment you decide you would want to get pregnant, so your body has the chance to cleanse itself and be in its cleanest state before it starts to change.
Smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke is also harmful to a developing baby.
Mummies, what are some other prenatal do’s and don’ts that you know about? Share with us in the comments below!