A Healthy Pregnancy Makes a Healthy Baby
A Healthy Pregnancy Makes a Healthy Baby
Optimizing Lifestyle and Behaviour During Your Pregnancy
It's important for an expectant mother to create and maintain a healthy 'internal environment' for herself and her growing baby. In order to be healthy inside, you have to start on the 'outside'. Lifestyle factors and your Behaviour heavily influence the health of a newborn.
During breastfeeding nicotine is carried to the baby via your breast milk if you are a smoker. Even second-hand (passive smoking) smoke poses a risk. Nicotine may affect the quantity of milk your body makes.
Studies show an increase in the foetal heart rate for 15 minutes after each cigarette the mother has, as well as a decrease in foetal movement. Complications include an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, allergies, childhood cancers, respiratory illness and ear infections. These conditions may present in the newborn.
Medicines and Drugs
The effect a drug has on the foetus depends on the drug itself and the stage of development of the foetus. Between days 17-57 after fertilization, baby is particularly susceptible to harm, as his vital organs and nervous system are developing. Drugs reaching him at this stage could cause miscarriage, deformity or defects that may only be detected later.
Certain Drugs are known to harm the foetus. These include:
The sedative drug, thalidomide, prescribed for scores of pregnant women in the 1950's and 1960's, shockingly illustrated the extent to which drugs can affect the unborn child. Thalidomide resulted in birth defects like severely underdeveloped arms and legs and defects of the intestine, heart and blood vessels.
Use of illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, cannabis and others during pregnancy increases the risk of:
Babies may also be born addicted to illicit substances, and will endure painful withdrawal symptoms after birth. It is also wise to check all "alternative" treatments (like St John's Wort or Echinacea) with your doctor. Remember, if they can have a beneficial effect, they have the potential to have side effects in some people too.
Always check with your caregiver before taking any medication you or on with out consulting your doctor.
Characteristics of FAS include:
While FAS occurs most often in women who drink moderate to large amounts, some of the characteristics of FAS can be seen in babies whose mothers report that they drank very little alcohol- are behavioral problems, hyperactivity and distinctive facial features. There is no safe limit for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Your blood volume increases by about 40% during pregnancy, while heart rate increases by about 10 to 15 beats per minute. This ensures efficient transport of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Exercise will increase the heart rate and blood flow again, so be careful of overdoing it. Never exercise to the point of exhaustion and keep your pulse rate at a level of 140 to 150 beats per minute. Stop exercising and contact your doctor at the first sign of problems.
The most comfortable exercises are those that don't require your body to bear extra weight for long periods of time:
Chronic (ongoing) Illnesses
Anemia: The most common cause of anemia in pregnancy is iron deficiency. It is important to be tested for anemia and your first prenatal visit. Even if you're not anemic then, you may develop anemia as your pregnancy progresses.
Being tired, weak or pale are some of the symptoms of anemia. There are several instances in which a woman is at high risk to develop anemia, including:
If you think you may be anemic, see your doctor. The solution may be as simple as taking a supplement and/or adapting your diet (like eating more liver or spinach).
High Blood pressure. Although many pregnant women with high blood pressure (HBP) have healthy babies without serious problems, it can be dangerous. Women with pre-existing HBP are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. However, some women develop HBP while they are pregnant (often called gestational hypertension).
The effects of HBP range from mild to severe. High blood pressure can harm the mother's kidneys and other organs, and can cause low birth weight and early delivery. In the most serious cases, the mother develops preeclampsia, which can threaten the lives of both the mother and the fetus.
Diabetes is a condition in which your body isn't able to use the sugar (glucose) in your blood as well as it should, so the level of sugar in your blood becomes higher than normal. Diabetics must practice strict control with their diets and medications.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that usually begins in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy (between the 24th and 28th weeks), and affects about 4% of all pregnant women. If there's a history of diabetes in your family, or you have had gestational diabetes before, you must inform your doctor. If untreated, your baby may be more likely to have problems at birth, like low blood sugar or jaundice - or weigh much more than is normal. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.
Reviewed by Tina Otte,