Health  

How to stay healthy during pregnancy and birth

Nutrition

Nutrition

Nutrition
If you did only one thing to help yourself stay healthy during pregnancy, good nutrition would be it! It is the single most important factor in having a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

Eating well in pregnancy means following the Brewer diet, which consists of 75 to 100 grams of good quality protein per day from varied sources.

Great high-protein food sources include meats, soy products, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans and seeds. You should also be eating five servings of high-complex carbohydrates to ensure adequate calories for energy, as well as an additional source of protein.

This would include whole grains that are not milled or processed, retaining the most nutrients, protein and fiber. Eating dairy, soy, nuts, bean products and broccoli will assist in getting enough calcium. Additional healthy foods to include would be whole, fresh fruits and vegetables — and don’t forget to drink to thirst and salt to taste! But try to avoid desserts and junk food.

Organic food sources are highly recommended when available. Think color and variety! This will help you obtain all the nutrients your body needs to build a healthy baby. Eating right during pregnancy can help prevent premature labor and birth, toxemia, placental abruption, gestational diabetes, problems with breastfeeding and healing, and many other serious health problems that would place a mom in the high-risk category.

Pregnancy exercises can help prepare your body for the birth of your baby by targeting specific muscles used during labor. Regular physical exercise can help build strength and stamina. It also makes it easier to recover after birth. Check with your care provider as to any physical limitations you may have.

Avoidance of harmful substances
Everyone knows you should avoid all street drugs during pregnancy so that your baby will not be harmed, but there are many other elements that should also be avoided to have a healthy pregnancy. They include tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, pollution, pesticides, household and industrial chemicals, and any medically unnecessary medications, including over-the-counter drugs. According to the Physicians Desk Reference, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration, there is no drug that is considered safe during pregnancy. Sadly, this would also include all medications commonly given during birth, as they all reach the baby and can have negative side effects for both the mom and baby. Any medication given to a pregnant or laboring woman should be for a true medical problem only. All prescription medications should be taken to your care provider and checked to see if they are truly necessary during pregnancy, if there may be a safer medication or if a smaller dose might be appropriate. Before taking anything, you should always check with your care provider first.

Education
Educating yourself with regard to all the issues involving pregnancy and birth will help you make responsible decisions that are right for you and your family. As the authors of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth say, “If you don’t know what your choices are, then you don’t have any!”

There are many different types of childbirth classes, and you need to research to find out which one will fit your needs.

Educating yourself well will help you avoid unnecessary health risks common today in birth in the United States. This would include educating yourself as to the necessity of routine testing and procedures during pregnancy. Before consenting to routine testing or procedures, be sure that they are being done for a true medical need or problem. You need to be aware of the risks and benefits of all tests and procedures during pregnancy.

Choosing a birth attendant wisely
When choosing a doctor or midwife to assist at your birth, it is important you choose one who not only matches your birth philosophy, but also respects your right to make choices that are right for you. Be sure to interview all candidates before choosing. Think about what kind of a practice you would be comfortable with. Would you prefer a large practice of doctors or midwives or a small practice of only one or two care providers? If you discover along the way that you are no longer comfortable with your original choice, it is important to know that you have the right to change care providers. Choosing wisely the first time will create less stress in your life.

© 2001 Amy Haas and Midwifery Today, Inc

[This article first appeared in Having a Baby Today Issue 4, Winter 2001.]

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