10 Savvy Tips for How to Boost Your Prenatal Health
If you’r considering having a baby or are already expecting, you likely know the basics about how to stay healthy. Avoiding alcohol and smoking, getting plenty of sleep, and eating well are a given for those seeking optimal prenatal health. But what else do experts recommend? Here are a few tips to help you have a safe, healthy pregnancy.
1. Take your vitamins.
To boost your prenatal health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advise the regular intake of prenatal vitamins containing 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid has been proven to decrease the risk of neural tube defects, such as those affecting the brain, spine, or spinal cord, by a significant 70%. It’s worth noting that these defects typically form within the initial month of pregnancy, often before a woman is even aware of her condition. Furthermore, prenatal vitamins contain additional essential nutrients required by expectant mothers and their developing fetus.
When it comes to seeking prenatal health essentials, water is a big one. Throughout pregnancy, your blood plays a crucial role in providing oxygen and vital nutrients to your baby through the placenta, while simultaneously removing waste and carbon dioxide. This increased activity requires a remarkable 50% rise in blood volume, highlighting the importance of increased fluid intake. Drinking an ample amount of water also aids in preventing uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms such as constipation, hemorrhoids, urinary tract infections (UTIs), fatigue, headaches, and swelling. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant people consume 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day. If you find plain water unappealing, consider adding a squeeze of lime or a splash of fruit juice to enhance the taste.
3. Stay away from tobacco smoke and alcohol.
Tobacco smoke and alcohol consumption is dangerous even after your little one is born and can heighten the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS (the unexpected death of an infant under the age of one). Additionally, the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy escalates the chances of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), leading to a range of issues including birth defects and intellectual disabilities. By abstaining from tobacco and alcohol, expectant mothers can significantly reduce these risks.
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4. Educate yourself.
Whether you're an experienced parent or not, enrolling in a childbirth class is great prep for labor and delivery. By participating in these classes, you not only expand your knowledge about childbirth and infant care, but you also have the opportunity to get answers to specific questions and address any concerns you may have. You'll also get a chance to become familiar with the birthing facility and its staff, fostering a sense of comfort and familiarity. Be sure to take this opportunity to review your family's medical history. Discuss any complications or issues experienced in previous pregnancies with your healthcare provider, and make sure to inform them of any instances of birth defects within your family.
5. Do your Kegels.
Kegel exercises fortify and maintain your pelvic floor muscles. This helps keep your bladder, bowels, and uterus in place and in good working order. When done properly, this basic exercise can facilitate childbirth and help you avoid issues down the road with incontinence. And the coolest part is that no one can even tell you're doing them! That means you can do Kegels at your desk, when driving to work, or while pumping gas! Here’s how to do it:
- Squeeze your muscles as if you're trying to stop peeing.
- Hold it for three seconds, then release it for three.
- Repeat 10 times.
6. Check your meds.
Talk to your healthcare provider before using any supplements, herbs, or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Even something as common as ibuprofen may be dangerous for pregnant people (according to the National Health Service, ibuprofen during pregnancy can harm the fetus’s kidneys and circulation, as well as increase your risk of miscarriage). Consult with your doctor before using any medication, prescription or otherwise.
7. Apply sunscreen.
Pregnancy can render your skin more susceptible to the sun's rays, making you more prone to sunburns and chloasma (dark and blotchy spots on the face). To safeguard your skin, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Numerous brands now offer chemical-free options for added safety. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses provides further protection against harmful UV radiation. While there is no conclusive evidence linking tanning bed usage to fetal harm, experts strongly recommend avoiding them during pregnancy.
8. Be cautious with spa treatments.
Pregnancy is undoubtedly a period when self-care and pampering are important, but you have to exercise caution. Experts recommend staying away from saunas and hot tubs as they can lead to overheating. Similarly, certain essential oils have the potential to induce uterine contractions, particularly during the first and second trimesters (like juniper, rosemary, and clary sage). It’s essential to consult with your massage therapist to ensure that only safe oils are used.
9. Invest in comfy shoes.
Finally, a perfect justification to indulge in shoe shopping! As your pregnancy progresses, you may notice changes in your feet. This is because the natural weight gain during pregnancy disrupts your center of gravity, exerting additional pressure on your feet. Over time, this increased pressure can lead to uncomfortable overpronation, causing your feet to flatten. Fluid retention is also common during pregnancy, which can result in swelling of the feet and ankles. That’s why it’s essential to wear comfortable shoes that do not restrict your feet. Taking breaks throughout the day to elevate your feet is also important to prevent fatigue and reduce swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles.
10. Read up on postpartum depression and learn the symptoms.
While you may be familiar with postpartum depression, you may be surprised to learn that a whopping 10 percent to 20 percent of pregnant individuals experience symptoms of major depression during pregnancy. This can potentially heighten the risk of preterm labor. If you find yourself inexplicably feeling sad, angry, guilty, losing interest in activities you typically enjoy, or experiencing excessive sleep, it is essential to inform your doctor. Therapy, participation in a support group, prescription of antidepressant medication, or a combination of these approaches can help you feel better. It’s important to note that not all antidepressants are considered safe during pregnancy so consult with a healthcare provider who has expertise in pregnancy-related mental health concerns. To locate a prenatal/postpartum support organization in your locality, you can visit Postpartum Support International.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. Please contact your health provider if you have any medical questions or concerns about your child or yourself.
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