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- Move your body
- Eat the good fish for Omega-3
- Ditch the regular coffee or try decaffeinated
- Keep an eye on your weight
- Know your folic acid (or folate) needs
- Follow a mediterranean diet
- Don't smoke cigarettes of any kind
- Don't drink alcohol
- Don't heat plastics
Women need to get enough moderate exercise every day, in general, but especially when pregnant (unless a medical doctor advises bed rest), as it help the body in a variety of ways:
- ensures proper blood flow/circulation - to ensure all the nutrients and oxygen are being passed onto the unborn baby, which is especially required in pregnancy as there is an increase of about 50% of the blood volume
- relieves swelling - exercise helps to ensure better lymphatic and blood circulation and can reduce swelling in the legs especially
- reduces stress and tension - exercising releases endorphins which can reduce the hormones that contribute to feeling stressed and tense and this is better for the unborn baby, not just the mother
Pregnant women need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. You can try walking, yoga, pilates and some gentle (low-impact) aerobics.
The good and healthy fats in oily fish especially provide essential fatty acids which otherwise cannot be obtained other than from the diet. The essential fatty acids
The essential fatty acids, and especially omega-3 fatty acids are vital for proper and healthy brain development and to help reduce the risk of the child developing allergies and skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.
Pregnant women need to eat a variety of oily fish each week to ensure the health of your unborn child. The best and safest fish sources are those which are wild and from the deep ocean, to avoid contamination with mercury (a heavy metal found in some fish due to industrial pollution):
- salmon (not raw)
- tuna (not raw)
There are also non-fish sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can be eaten on a regular basis, in addition to (or instead of) the oily fish and they are:
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed is the best)
- sunflower oil
- canola oil (be sure to use only GM free)
Some studies have shown that drinking more than 1-2 cups of coffee (that contain about 200mg of caffeine) per day may increase the risk of miscarriage by almost double!
Look at the amount of caffeine in the foods/drinks below and check out your risk:
- 1 cup instant coffee: 60-100mg caffeine
- 1 cup brewed coffee: 80-350mg caffeine
- 1 cup tea: 8-90mg caffeine
- 1 cup hot chocolate: 10-70mg caffeine
- 1 cup cola drink: at least 35mg caffeine
- 1 x 200g chocolate bar: 20-60mg caffeine
To limit your risk of miscarriage, ensure you limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy, use decaffeinated coffee or better yet, try not to drink any coffee at all (if you can).
It is important that know that while gaining some weight during pregnancy, it is not healthy to gain too much weight, nor is it healthy to over-indulge in sweets and processed foods. It is better for you and your unborn child to eat as much natural (unprocessed) foods as possible each day, to get all the nutrients you need and to ensure weight gain is normal.
To keep you pregnancy healthy and ensure you gain only an appropriate amount of weight, the following should be considered:
- Eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables each day
- Eat at least 3-5 servings of fruit each day
- Eat one serving of legumes each day
- Eat at least 3-5 servings of whole grains each day
- Eat good quality protein each day
- Get enough good fats in the form of vegetable oil, nuts, seeds and avocado every day
- Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes every day
- Limit intake of processed food
- Limit intake of deep fried foods
- Limit intake of sweets and sugary food
- Limit intake of saturated fats
Folic acid (or folate) is a B vitamin which has been proven to prevent neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in the unborn baby, especially in the first 12 weeks, when the foetus is developing the neural tubes.
It is recommended that women of child-bearing age get enough folic acid in their diet, either through supplementation or through food intake in the diet.
Recommended daily intake for folic acid: 600mcg
Some foods high in folic acid are:
- green leafy vegetables
- orange juice
- fortified breakfast cereals and pasta
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet based on the foods eaten by the people in the Mediterranean region (Italy, Greece, Turkey) and consists of eating the following foods:
- olive oil (with every meal)
- fresh fruit
- fish (a few times a week)
- poultry (a few times a week)
The following are restricted or disallowed on a Mediterranean diet:
- red meat (restricted)
- processed foods (disallowed)
Cigarette smoking is dangerous not only to your health, but it is also detrimental to your unborn child.
Cigarette smoke depletes many of your vitamin levels, but especially vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient required for enabling the absorption of iron and to produce collagen needed for your body, but also for the growing foetus' body. If you are not getting enough iron, you may become anaemic and this is not beneficial at pregnancy where your blood volume can increase by up to 50%.
In addition to this, cigarette smoking can decrease your chances in conceiving in the first place and may increase your risk of miscarriage when you are pregnant.
Before you try to conceive, talk to your doctor about ways to help you stop smoking, for your health and your child's health.
At present (2008), there is conflicting evidence about the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy - some studies show that having one glasses of alcohol on some days of the week do not harm the unborn foetus, while other studies show that any alcohol can harm the unborn foetus and cause miscarriage (or some type of abnormality in the foetus).
In order to err on the side of caution, it would be prudent to avoid all alcohol consumption when you are pregnant in order to reduce risk of miscarriage or abnormality in the foetus.
Recent research has uncovered a concern about a certain chemical (Bisphenol A) in plastics and in linings of cans, which could have carcinogenic effects on both the pregnant (and lactating) mother as well as on the child because of its endocrine disrupting activity. In addition, Bisphenol A (BPA) is also implicated in learning and behavioural difficulties in the child.
The BPA levels in the pregnant (and lactating) mother concentrate in the fatty tissue and also pass through the placenta into the unborn child.
BPA in plastics is especially released at high levels into the liquid when the plastics containers or bottles are heated or when hot liquid is added to a plastic container. When cans of food are heated (as would happen when canned food is placed in water and boiled), the BPA inside the can lining also leeches into the food inside.
To avoid exposure to BPA:
- always use glass or ceramic containers in the microwave
- always use a glass baby bottle (or try to find one which is certified to be BPA-free)
- always take food out of cans and use a stainless steel saucepan to heat it (or put it in the microwave into a glass or ceramic container) - better yet, avoid usage of canned food and use fresh food instead
As of April 2008, Canada has banned all plastic baby bottles that contain BPA (and most do) and is looking into the health implications of BPA on adult health and will ban all other plastics (and cans) if they deem they are also unsafe.
- Canada Government Health Alerts. Accessed 19 April 2008
- Duyff, RL. American Dietetic Association: Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 2nd edition. John Wiley & Sons, NJ USA
- Environmental Working Group web site- accessed 19 April 2008
- Osiecki, H. The Nutrient Bible. Bio-Concepts Publishing QLD, 2002
- Osiecki, H. The Physicians Handbook of Clinical Nutrition. Bio-Concepts Publishing QLD, 2002
- Stoppard M. New Pregnancy and Birth: A Practical Guide for All Parents To Be. Dorling Kindersley, 2007pregnancy, healthy, pregnant, exercise, diet, nutrition, legumes, olive oil, vegetables, spinach, leafy green vegetables, immune system, foods, omega 3, omega-3, fish, folate, folic acid, allergies, baby, plastics, heating, BPA, bisphenol A, endocrine, disruptor, weight, brain, gaining eight, smoking, coffee, decaffeinated, alcohol, processed, drinking,
- Whitney EN, Cataldo DB, Rolfes SR. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 6th Edition. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002