Dr Melissa Delgado, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

General health advice during pregnancy

General health advice during pregnancy can offer reassurance at an exciting but often daunting time. In the first instance, it’s crucial to ensure a balanced diet with sufficient nutrients that contribute to the healthy development of your baby. This means making thoughtful choices about what you eat and drink. For this reason, it’s best to cut down on sugar, salt, and fat and avoid junk food altogether. Instead, focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and foods that are high in iron and calcium, such as leafy greens, lean meats and dairy products. These should be part of your daily diet, along with drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Good food hygiene practices, such as preparing, storing and refrigerating/freezing food properly, are also extremely important during pregnancy. Proper food handling can prevent foodborne illnesses that could harm both you and your baby. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, cook meats to the right temperature, and avoid foods that are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria, like unpasteurised dairy products and undercooked seafood.

You may also need dietary supplements such as folic acid or iodine to support your baby’s development. Folic acid is particularly important in the early stages of pregnancy as it helps prevent neural tube defects. Iodine is essential for your baby’s brain development. Dr Delgado can provide advice on the appropriate supplements for your specific needs and ensure that you are taking the right amounts.

It is highly recommended that you avoid alcohol consumption during your pregnancy as it can be dangerous to your baby’s health. Any alcohol you consume passes directly through the placenta and enters the baby’s bloodstream. This can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth, as well as developmental issues like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

Similarly, smoking during pregnancy can also be harmful to your baby. Smoking restricts the oxygen supply to your baby and can lead to complications such as low birth weight, premature birth, and respiratory problems. Exposure to second-hand smoke is equally dangerous, so it is important to avoid smoke-filled environments while pregnant.

You should also try to avoid both indirect and direct exposure to chemicals, including household chemicals, pesticides and chemicals at work. These substances can be harmful to your developing baby and can increase the risk of birth defects and other health issues. If you work with chemicals, it is best to take maternity leave to avoid exposure during pregnancy, or at least discuss safer work practices with your employer.

Engaging in moderate physical activity is generally safe and beneficial during pregnancy, but you should avoid excessive activity that might increase stress on your body. Suitable activities include brisk walking, swimming, cycling on a stationary bike and prenatal yoga. These exercises can help maintain your fitness, reduce stress, and prepare your body for childbirth. However, always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

Taking care of your physical health can also have a positive impact on your mental health. Regular physical activity can help manage mood swings and reduce feelings of anxiety. While a certain amount of anxiety is normal during pregnancy, it is important to seek medical help if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness can be effective in managing stress and promoting relaxation.

In addition to these practices, it is important to get plenty of rest and avoid overexertion. Listen to your body and take breaks when you need them. Surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends who can provide emotional and practical support throughout your pregnancy.

Overall, taking a proactive approach to your health during pregnancy can help ensure the best possible outcomes for both you and your baby. By following these guidelines and working closely with your healthcare provider, you can navigate your pregnancy with confidence and peace of mind.

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