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Friday, October 1, 2010

17 Tips For A Healthier Pregnancy

1. Watch Your Weight

Come as close to your ideal weight as possible. Being seriously overweight or underweight can influence birth defects such as cleft palate and diabetes

2. Stop Smoking

"While many substances from smoke that could be harmful to a fetus are cleansed from the body in days, some are stored in fat and take longer to eliminate.

3. Don't Drink

As with smoking, some harmful substances are stored in fat and can take a month or more to eliminate. Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause serious defects and learning disabilities—some of which might not show up for several years.

4. Don't Do Drugs

Stop recreational drugs. "All have an adverse effect on the fetus," says Dr. Cole.

5. Schedule Checkups

Plan checkups for both parents-to-be. This is the time to talk about your medical history, ask questions, and find out whether any tests are recommended. This preconception visit is especially important if you have preexisting conditions, such as thyroid disease or diabetes, or if you have had problems with a previous pregnancy. Note that the father's health and habits also play a role in the health of your baby. "Most men don't think they need to do anything," says Dr. Cole.

6. No More Pill or IUD

According to the March of Dimes, "If you have been using birth control pills, your provider can tell you how long to wait before trying to conceive. However, birth control pills will not cause birth defects, no matter how close to conception you stop using them.

7. Ask about Prescriptions

Discuss any prescription medications you are taking with your physician, especially drugs for depression, anxiety, and other common disorders, advises Dr. Cole. These medications can be very damaging to a fetus. "You may need to stop or change medication, and you want give your body time to adjust before trying to conceive," he adds.

8. Take a Prenatal Vitamin

Start taking prenatal vitamins at least two months before conception. A good prenatal vitamin should include folic acid and calcium among other nutrients that are important to a healthy pregnancy and baby. The March of Dimes reports that birth defects of the spine and brain, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, can occur if the mother does not get sufficient folic acid during the first few weeks of her pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, the suggested dosage for folic acid for a non-pregnant woman is 0.4 mg. and for a pregnant woman it is 0.8 to 1.0 mg. Folic acid is also contained in many foods, including leafy greens, oranges and grapefruits, and whole grain breads.

9. Get Vaccinated

Check to see if you've had or been vaccinated for rubella and varicella. "Your immunity to both childhood diseases can be easily checked with a blood test and save you from concern if you are exposed to them during pregnancy.

10. Take an HIV Test

If you don't know your HIV status, most obstetricians routinely offer the test shortly after verifying pregnancy—yet HIV-positive women have a much better chance of sparing their babies from contracting the disease if they are aware of their HIV status before conception.

11. Know Your Blood Types

If you don't already have this information, it's helpful to learn your blood types before conception (though they don't actually come into play until pregnancy). "If they are not compatible, you run the risk of the mother being incompatible with her fetus, leading to anemia or more serious problems for the infant at birth," says Dr. Cole.

12. Build a Family History

Create a prenatal family history to identify possible genetic birth defects.

13. See Your Dentist

Periodontal inflammation plays a possible role in the development of preeclampsia, the potentially deadly condition that affects approximately five percent of pregnancies in the United States, according to a recent study in The Journal of Periodontology. It may be implicated in other pregnancy complications as well.

14. Reduce Stress

Women should monitor their stress levels. "An anxious day or two at work probably won't do you in, but prolonged stress can cause real problems. There are no magic rules for a when a woman should stop working during pregnancy. A woman's decision should be based on her level of fatigue, the type of work involved, her pregnancy history, and her doctor's opinion," advises Dr. Jonathan Scher, author of Preventing Miscarriage: The Good News.

15. Watch out for Toxins

Dr. Scher notes that while environmental factors are often a great concern and cause of guilt for parents when they suffer a miscarriage, studies are inconclusive about specific environmental factors and pregnancy loss or recurrent miscarriage. "We cannot control many factors, other than doing our best to curb certain social habits and known toxins," Dr. Scher says.

16. Be Sure You're Physically Safe

Domestic violence is a real problem in our country, and women who are pregnant are victims more often than we realize. If you are not safe, the chances are that your baby will not be safe either. This is something about which you can speak with your doctor.

17. Make a Contract with Your Husband

Men and women often think everything will be equal when the baby is born only to find one party doing it all. Clearly spell out—in writing if necessary—who is going to be responsible for what chores and how baby care will be divided.

For More Information

To read up on what to eat to stay healthy for your coming pregnancy:

Your Preconception Diet
The Ultimate Trying-to-Get-Pregnant Diet: What to Shop for and How to Eat
The Fertility Diet for Him

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