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Healthy Eating & Exercise in Pregnancy

written by Guest Blogger April 12, 2013

Are you planning a baby or know someone who is? If yes, you may like today’s guest post by Nurse Geraldine Saunders!  

Healthy eating and an exercise routine that is tailored and suited to a pregnant woman are very important. In fact, there are certain foods you should be avoiding and others you should be eating more of. When it comes to exercises, there are some which can help you and relieve the stress of pregnancy while there are others which could be risky or lead to strains and over-exertion.

Should I opt for preconception genetic screening?

A couple of lines dedicated to preconception genetic health testing for couples trying for a baby are worthwhile going into. Before starting to try for a baby, it could be worth assessing the genetic health of the couple. These prenatal DNA analyses will enable doctors to determine whether there are any hereditary illnesses that could affect the child.

Gene disorders run in families. Examples of gene disorders are cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. You might also have a history of genetic disorders in the family. Determining the full extent and how likely it is for the baby to inherit the disease is important as it can help you make some vital decisions and help tailor your prenatal care.

Moreover, besides DNA testing, a simple assessment of the couple’s medical and family history, their diet, ethnic group and a few basic tests such as a blood test and urine test can all assist in a complete preconception assessment. Doctors might want to determine whether you have high blood pressure or diabetes and other general health conditions that might need to be seen to in order to maximize your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

What exercises should I be doing?

Well if you normally follow an exercise program you can probably follow it for the first weeks of pregnancy. Exercise has great benefits which are specific for pregnant women – it can help reduce fatigue and tone the back muscles (these will be indispensable to carrying the added weight that pregnancy brings). It is also a great way to reduce stress for both the body and the mind.

You must however, be attuned to your body and respond to its needs and those of your baby. Remember your body is changing. You will not be able to move as first or carry out certain movements once your pregnancy progresses – your body will be in many ways hampered by the added weight and bulge. You need to avoid straining yourself or pushing yourself. Being pregnant is not a good time to increase stamina and exert oneself.

Remember that any exercise you are doing needs to leave you able to easily hold a conversation. If you are asthmatic, you are better off avoiding exercise altogether. Also keep in mind whether the sport you are carrying out is a risky sport – running, horse riding and a range of other daily activities like climbing ladders or other activities which require balancing should be avoided altogether. Contact sports like soccer or rugby need to also be avoided for obvious reasons.

A fall or violent collision whilst pregnant could have catastrophic consequences including miscarriage. Swimming and walking are great exercises which can be easily toned to suit the needs and demands of your body. With swimming, the natural buoyancy of water and its high surface tension means your body is comfortably supported while exercising.

A few important tips: remember while pregnant you should be drinking more water. Most of the water you lose is through simple breathing. The demands of exercise on the body in terms of breathing and sweating mean you need to up your intake of water even further. Headaches, chest pains, nausea, dizziness, swelling of hands and feet are all reasons to stop exercising immediately.

What about eating during pregnancy

Dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts and asparagus are great sources of folic acid. Folic acid helps reduce the chances of having a baby with a neural tube defect. If you are in fact trying for a baby, you need to increase your folic acid intake through supplements before even getting pregnant. When shopping at your local supermarket, pick cereals and foods that are “fortified with folic acid.” Should a doctor suspect a neural tube defect, he or she may suggest undergoing some specific prenatal genetic tests.

There are no dramatic changes in your usual diet that need to be made when pregnant (this is assuming you follow a relatively healthy diet anyway). But here is a sketchy but insightful bunch of advice which you should follow.

  • Ensure to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible of all types and of all colors. Pregnant women are more likely to suffer from constipation and thus, a high fiber diet will ensure a comfortable passage of food through the digestive system. Water is also important as it too helps the digestive system work properly. Of course, the many other important properties of water mean that you must ensure over the normal two liters of water recommended when not pregnant.
  • Red meat, white meat and eggs are good sources of protein which help, among other things, in developing muscles and tissue. You also need to be aware of the importance of an adequate intake of iron (red meat, beans, cereals and seeds are all good sources).
  • Dairy products are also important for the value they provide in calcium which will ensure that your baby has healthy bones.

Foods to stay away from

It is best to stay away from any unpasteurized cheeses and blue cheese as these could be contaminated with a bacterium known as Listeria. Infection caused by these bacteria can cause a condition known as listeriosis which could in turn lead to premature birth or miscarriage.

Any raw or under-cooked foods (obviously excluding vegetables) are also to be avoided. Steaks need to be well-cooked and sushi is best avoided. Seafood such as muscles, oysters and clams should be avoided altogether as they have a relatively high chance, when compared to other foods, of causing food poisoning. This might be stating the obvious but it is always best to reiterate that it is mandatory all drugs and alcohol be avoided.

About the Author

Geraldine Saunders is a qualified nurse, working in a prenatal care unit of private hospital. She is also a mother of two who spends her free time with her children as well as writing quality posts about pregnancy, children and parenting. Geraldine regularly contributes articles to the Knowledge base for easyDNA – a company offering twin DNA testing as well as other types of relationship tests. Click here to find out more.

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