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Ante natal care

A woman’s health and behaviour in pregnancy affect her baby. A poor diet, smoking, intake of alcohol, certain drugs, and severe illnesses can hold back the baby’s development. Hence during pregnancy, you should not only take good care of your own health but also go for regular check-ups with your doctor.

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Pregnancy dos and don'ts

While pregnancy and childbirth do bring about a significant shift in lifestyle, you must keep in mind a few things that will help you better manage the changes taking place in your body.

Avoid alcohol

  • Drinking during pregnancy is potentially dangerous because the alcohol tends to cross the placenta and into your baby’s blood. The child’s still-developing liver cannot possibly process it as fast as you can
  • Too much alcohol raises the risk of miscarriage and the chance of your baby having a low birth-weight. It can also lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which could cause serious health problems for your baby, such as heart defects and behavioral disorders

Avoid smoking and taking drugs

  • Cigarettes increase the risk of babies being born with a low birth weight, prematurely and/or with respiratory issues, and maternal smoking is strongly linked to miscarriage and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • For some smokers, pregnancy could possibly even help one get over addiction. Due to the heightened sense of smell that sometimes accompanies pregnancy, women often feel nauseous or sickened by the smell of tobacco
  • If you are a smoker and are unable to quit, remember that every cigarette you smoke is bad news for your baby
  • If you use drugs then so does your baby because drugs cross the placenta in the bloodstream and greatly increase the risk of complications and abnormalities. Don't worry about what you may have done in the past, just concentrate on quitting in the present

Consume balanced diet

It is important to consult a dietician or read up on a reasonable diet during pregnancy in order to avoid complications and ensure the health and safety of your baby. The following is simply a brief list of dos and don’ts.

  • Avoid raw or under-cooked foods like blue cheeses, raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat, liver, fish liver oils, shark, swordfish and marlin, raw shellfish and undercooked ready meals. Try to avoid foods containing bacteria that cause infections and might lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or infection in your newborn
  • Eat plenty of starchy foods for energy and general good health but also to prevent or at least limit, constipation (experienced by many women during pregnancy)
  • Maintain strict kitchen hygiene: Wash fruit and vegetables well before consumption, store meat, fish and dairy separately and at the correct temperature, wash your hands after handling raw food, particularly meat 
  • Current research indicates that high levels of caffeine can result in miscarriage or low birth weight, so government health advice is not to exceed 200mg of caffeine a day. Simply put, if you eat a bar of plain chocolate and drink one mug of filter coffee a day, or if you drink two mugs of tea and a can of cola, you will have reached the 200mg limit. You should avoid having any more than that.

Weight gain in pregnancy

It is most natural for a pregnant woman to gain weight as her body prepares to house a growing foetus. For some women this can be a blessed relief and an excuse to satiate all those food cravings that they would usually avoid to stay in shape. Others may find the weight gain alarming and feel out of sorts with their bodies. Whichever way you feel about it, weight gain is necessary during pregnancy to help your baby grow and your body will store more fat than usual in order to be able to produce milk to feed your baby after birth.

How much weight gain can you expect?

There are many factors that will determine how much weight you will put on during pregnancy but, most women put on between 8kg to 14kg (17.5lb to 30lb) and most of this is post Week 20. About a third of this will be your baby, placenta and the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby. The rest of the weight gain will be:

  • Increase in size and weight of breasts to over 1kg (3lbs) as they prepare themselves for breastfeeding
  • Increased blood volume
  • Extra fluid in the body
  • An increase in the muscle layer around the uterus
  • Increased fat stores

What happens if you are overweight or underweight during pregnancy?

Being underweight or overweight can be harmful to the development of your baby. Women who are malnourished before they become pregnant are more prone to miscarriage, premature birth or having babies with a low birth-weight.

Those who are overweight before they get pregnant run the risk of complications such as:

  • Pre-eclampsia- Eclampsia is a condition that involves seizures and could lead to coma during pregnancy
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • The baby having unusually high birth weight

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