Find out about proper prenatal care
Prenatal care is extremely important in determining the eventual health and wellness of the child. Many birth defects have been linked to the mother's health and behavior during pregnancy, and some research also indicates a link between prenatal development and problems that show up later in childhood, such as learning disabilities.
As soon as you know you are pregnant, consult your doctor or health practitioner not only to confirm the pregnancy but also to begin a prenatal health regimen. Better still is to consult your doctor as soon as you are thinking of becoming pregnant. This will ensure that you are preparing the proper prenatal environment from the very moment of conception.
While proper diet is essential to good health all the time, nutrition during pregnancy is particularly important. A balanced diet of grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, along with at least eight glasses of water a day, should be accompanied by a prenatal vitamin for optimum nutrition. Prenatal vitamins are specifically designed to deliver those nutrients needed most by developing fetuses - namely, calcium and folic acid, among others.
But when you're pregnant, what you don't eat is almost as important as what you do. Raw or rare meats, liver, sushi, raw eggs (such as in mayonnaise and other sauces), soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and canned or deli meats can all lead to birth defects, miscarriage or even stillbirth. Of course, alcohol and cigarette smoke are also well-documented causes of birth defects, abnormalities and later health problems.
Exercise, too, is important during pregnancy, both in order to curb unnecessary weight gain and to fight physical pregnancy symptoms like fatigue and back pain. Of course, physiological changes during pregnancy require a specialized exercise routine to avoid injury to both you and the fetus.
In addition to following general exercise guidelines that include maintaining proper posture, drinking plenty of fluids, allowing for adequate warm-up and cool-down, and stretching, pregnant women should adhere to the following rules:
- Never exercise past the point of being able to walk and talk easily
- Don't arch your back or perform any exercise that may hurt the abdomen, even mildly
- Avoid bouncing - perform low- or no-impact cardio (swimming, walking, cycling, etc.)
- Exercise regularly to achieve benefits and to avoid shocking your system
- Consult your doctor or health practitioner before starting or changing your exercise program
Remember, joints are looser during pregnancy, so be careful when stretching and avoid exercises that require good coordination - yours will likely be a little (or a lot) off. Also, your center of balance will shift as your pregnancy progresses, so avoid exercises that require balance, too.
Prenatal yoga has become a popular exercise for expectant moms, and it has the added benefit of preparing women for birth through its focus on breathing. As with other exercise, consult a doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a prenatal yoga practice, and be careful of the positions and the extent of stretching you do. It is best to join a class led by an experienced prenatal yoga instructor, even if you are a fairly experienced yoga practitioner.