Resolution Health: Taking Care of Yourself during Your Pregnancy
I’m pregnant, what now?
Look after yourself. Eat well, get moderate exercise, quit smoking, avoid alcohol and be sure to get enough rest. Most of all, enjoy this miraculous period of your life and find out as much as you can about becoming a parent and living with a baby.
What can I do to prevent and treat morning sickness?
If you have nausea, get up slowly in the morning. Too much movement too soon can make the condition worse. Don't allow your stomach to be completely empty, eat five or six small meals throughout the day. Drink plenty of fluids, get lots of fresh air and avoid fatty, rich foods that are difficult to digest. Any excessive nausea should be discussed with your doctor.
What food should I avoid while I'm pregnant?
- High levels of mercury can damage a baby's developing brain, so it’s best to avoid eating fish with a high mercury content, like swordfish, tilefish and shark. But don’t cut this source of protein out completely - fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Stick to about 2 servings of fish per week, like salmon, catfish, mahi mahi, and cod or shellfish like shrimp, crab and scallops.
- Raw fish - sorry, sushi and sashimi lovers.
- Unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses like brie, camembert, feta, gorgonzola and Roquefort. They could contain a certain bacterium called listeria that has the ability to cross over into the placenta, potentially causing a miscarriage or leading to a life-threatening infection.
- Cold, ready-to-eat meats, like hot dogs and luncheon meats that can also contain listeria. If you simply can’t avoid the craving, reheat these foods until they are, quite literally, steaming.
- Uncooked or cured eggs and meats like prosciutto, runny eggs and sauces made with raw eggs (like some hollandaise).
- lcohol. There is no known safe level of exposure to alcohol for a foetus. Prenatal exposure can interfere with healthy development and lead to foetal alcohol syndrome, one of the most common causes of mental retardation - and the only one that is completely preventable.
- While some studies show that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy is acceptable, others have found a link to miscarriage, so it is best to steer clear of caffeine, especially during the first trimester. Large amounts of caffeine have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, so do your best to switch to decaf.
What should I, or can I, do during pregnancy?
- Exercise. Light to moderate exercise during pregnancy is good for you, strengthening your back and abdominal muscles, improving your balance and helping to speed up your period of recovery after delivery.
- Have sex. Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy and your doctor has advised against it, sex during pregnancy is perfectly safe and, in many ways, beneficial. In later pregnancy, though, avoid lying flat on your back during sex as the uterus can compress the veins in the back of your abdomen and leave you feeling lightheaded or nauseous.
- Wash your hands before preparing food, before meals, after handling raw meats and after using the bathroom.
- Clean. Most household cleaning products, including bleach, are safe to use during pregnancy. Just be sure that the room is well ventilated, that you read warning labels and that you avoid mixing chemicals.
- Travel by air (sometimes). The second trimester is the safest time for air travel, when you're at the lowest risk of miscarriage or premature labour. Generally, if you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, there's no special risk posed by commercial air travel until you reach 36 weeks. Be sure to stay hydrated during the flight by drinking plenty of fluids - and keep your seat belt on!
- See your dentist. Preventive cleanings and annual exams are a very good idea during pregnancy as your rising hormone levels can cause bleeding gums and irritation. Since gum infections have been associated with pre-term births, keeping your mouth healthy is important.
What activities should I avoid doing?
- Cleaning the cat's litter box. Cat faeces can transmit an infection called toxoplasmosis, which can lead to severe problems in new-borns, including low birth weight, jaundice, mental retardation and convulsions.
- Using saunas, hot tubs and tanning booths. Excessive heat can be harmful to the baby and has been linked to spinal malformations.
- Painting. Pregnant women shouldn't be exposed to toxic substances and chemicals which include paint and cleaning solvents.
- Having an X-ray. Unless you absolutely have to, avoid tests like X-rays and mammograms while pregnant. If you absolutely must have an X-ray, make sure that your doctor or dentist is aware that you are pregnant so that they can take extra precautions.
How can I safely exercise while pregnant?
Exercise during pregnancy is generally considered safe for most healthy women and can even relieve some of the discomforts of pregnancy. Some forms of exercise that are particularly good for pregnant women are walking, swimming, stationary cycling and yoga. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing while exercising, drink plenty of fluids and don't push yourself to the point of exhaustion.
While pregnant, when you reach your second and third trimesters, avoid exercises that require lying on your back, and never engage in workouts that pose a risk of trauma to your abdomen. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme.
How can I make a decision regarding the birth?
Speak to your doctor about the options of natural and C-section births and carefully weigh up the pros and cons of both. Ask questions like whether a C-section is medically necessary, whether you will be able to have future births naturally etc.
Don’t choose a C-section simply for convenience. Consider all of the options and all of the advice before making a decision.
Click here for an overview of your medical scheme option’s confinement benefits.
When should I contact my doctor between antenatal visits?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately,
- Unusual or severe cramping or abdominal pain.
- Significant reduction in the baby's movements after 28 weeks.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Any bleeding in the second or third trimester.
- Signs of premature labour such as regular pains or tightening in the lower back or abdomen or significant fluid discharge.
- Pain or cramping in the arms, legs or chest.
- Fever over 37.5 degrees.
- Severe or persistent diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Fainting spells or dizziness.
- Blurred vision or spots in front of your eyes.
- Swelling in your hands, fingers, or face.
What should I know about postnatal depression?
Depression during or after pregnancy is perfectly normal and is one of the most common complications associated with pregnancy. Symptoms can include feeling sad and hopeless, crying often, withdrawing from friends and family, eating or sleeping too little or too much, feeling worthless or guilty and even being afraid of hurting yourself or the baby.
As many as 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues right after delivery and these relatively mild symptoms (mood swings, crying spells, irritability) can go away within a few days or weeks. Treatment isn't always needed, but support can be invaluable. If the feelings linger, become severe or if you have a family history of depression, it's important to get treatment and care to help you back on the road to recovery.
For more information about your pregnancy journey with Resolution Health, click here.