1. Quit smoking
The toxic ingredients of cigarettes enter your bloodstream, which is the only source of oxygen and nutrients for your growing baby. Lack of oxygen can seriously affect your baby’s health, even to the point of stillbirth. There’s no safe number of cigarettes you can smoke daily. Every puff lessens the oxygen available to you and your baby.
2. Have a good relationship with your doctor
It’s important to have good antenatal care during your pregnancy. An unsteady relationship with your caregiver can cause unnecessary stress and problems during your pregnancy; so a good gynaecologist with whom you can get along is a must. Ask your doctor or friends to recommend one.
Research shows that pregnant moms, who exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes, have shorter labour hours than moms who don’t. Exercise also helps control pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, weight gain and stiff muscles. Remember to chat to your doctor before you start an exercise routine and always take it easy.
4. Know how to interpret your baby’s activity
You’ll probably feel the first flutter of your baby when you’re around 16 to 20 weeks, although it can be later. She won’t move constantly and you won’t notice all her movements either. But you’ll soon become used to a regular pattern of her movements during waking hours.
If you’re concentrating on other things, it’s sometimes possible not to notice her movements. This is quite normal, but if she doesn’t respond to loud noise or stimuli contact your doctor as soon as possible. A decrease in her movements could mean she’s not getting enough nutrients or oxygen through the placenta.
Most times babies tend to kick once you’ve had something to eat or drink – especially something sugary. So if you think she’s not active, try it and check her response.
5. Take time to rest
Your hormones create havoc while your body produces the placenta and gears up to grow your little one during your first trimester. The second trimester is usually a time of renewed energy but by the third trimester your fatigue can return in full force.
Rest when you feel tired. Get more sleep and eat often to keep your energy levels high. Include proteins and complex carbohydrates in your diet.
6. Don’t eat for two
The average mom only needs about 300 extra calories a day when she conceives – the equivalent of a large banana. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes, backache, high blood pressure, and possibly a C-Section if your baby is too big for natural birth.
7. Understand how your body changes
Find out why your body changes during pregnancy so that you know what to expect. A host of changes will take place in your body to accommodate your growing baby and prepare you for labour.
8. Avoid very hot baths, hot tubs and saunas
Hot baths, tubs and saunas can push up your body temperature, which may be dangerous for your baby. Some studies reveal a risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects in the babies of women who spend time in really hot water during the first four to six weeks of pregnancy.
10. Know your medicines
Everything that goes into your body passes from your bloodstream to your baby, so check the safety of various medications with your doctor. Medicines, including herbal remedies, may not be safe for your baby.
11. Check proper food intake daily
If you’re a healthy weight at the beginning of your pregnancy, you needn’t increase your calorie intake in the first trimester. Remember that you need only an extra 300 calories a day (600 for twins). It’s important to up your intake of lean protein during pregnancy. The general recommendation is 1.1g of protein per kilogramme of body weight per day.
12. Folic acid
Studies reveal that taking folic acid before and after conception – especially during early pregnancy – reduces the risk of serious neural tube defects in babies by up to 70%. All women of child-bearing age should take between 400-600 mcg of folic acid daily.
Folic acid can be found in foods such as almonds, avocado, pear, grapefruit, green melons, green vegetables, hazelnuts, naartjies, oranges, pears, melon, strawberries, sunflower seeds, and the usual meat sources. You doctor can also prescribe a folic acid supplement, especially if you suffer from morning sickness.
13. Don’t change cat litter
Toxoplasmosis is an infection found in the excrement of many birds and mammals, especially cats. It can cause central nervous system disorders, jaundice, anaemia, and enlargement of lymph nodes in your baby.
Ask a friend or your partner to take care of the cat’s litter box while you’re pregnant.
14. Don’t fly after 36 weeks
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, it’s safe to fly during the first and second trimester. But doctors advise pregnant women not to fly after week 36. Flying during pregnancy can possibly increase the risk of thrombosis (blood clots) and varicose veins because you’re sitting down for long periods.
15. Drink lots of water and cut out caffeine
You should drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day and try to avoid all drinks containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause agitation and palpitations. Coffee, drinks and foods containing caffeine can also excite your baby. Rather opt for a cup of decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea. But avoid drinking tea with your vitamins, as this may prevent your body from absorbing iron in the supplements.
16. Keep your prenatal meetings
Your doctor needs to examine you and check your weight and blood pressure at every appointment to ensure you’re healthy and that your baby’s development is progressing. He screens for foetal abnormalities at specific times during your pregnancy, as well.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.