There’s no doubt pregnancy is an exciting journey filled with anticipation to meet your new little bundle of joy. However, to accommodate your growing baby, your body goes through many sudden and dramatic changes and it’s important to work with your body throughout the nine months and listen to what it needs.
As founder of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition and author of Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy, Patrick Holford says babies demand the best and no time is more important than pregnancy to ensure you follow the right pregnancy tips to stay strong and healthy. The good news is, you don’t need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle. Aside from steering clear of cigarettes, certain medications and alcohol, a few key lifestyle tweaks is all it takes to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
Follow these pregnancy tips to improve your mental and physical health:
Chronic or severe stress (such as a death in the family or abuse) throughout pregnancy could have negative short-term and long-term consequences for your little one. According to research conducted by the Emory University School of Medicine, maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy has been associated with:
- A higher incidence of preterm birth
- Smaller birth weight and length
- An increased risk of miscarriage
Studies have also shown that if you’re too stressed or anxious throughout pregnancy, your little one could be born with certain emotional and developmental problems, which might only arise later. These include:
- Temperamental problems and increased fussiness
- Problems with attention regulation and emotional reactivity
- Lower scores on measures of mental development
While it’s not always possible to control the many emotional ups and downs that come with pregnancy (thanks hormones!), it’s important to try and reduce any chronic stressful situations and practice calming techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
Take the right supplements
The American Pregnancy Association believes it’s critical to take prenatal vitamins as they help to support a healthy pregnancy and will assist in replenishing any vitamin stores that are depleted during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Here’s a list of essential vitamins and minerals you should be taking:
- Vitamin A. Forms of vitamin A, known as retinoids are important for healthy foetal growth and development including the limbs, eyes, ears and the heart.
- A vitamin B complex including B6, B9 and B12. These three vitamins help to minimise the risk of birth defects as well as relieve some symptoms of pregnancy such as fatigue, skin rashes and dryness, nausea and digestion.
- Folic acid. Derived from a B-vitamin called folate, folic acid is a pregnancy superhero! In fact, most healthcare providers recommend taking 400 micrograms folic acid while you’re trying to conceive and then continuing throughout pregnancy. Folic acid plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into her brain and spinal cord.
- Vitamins C, D and E. While vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and helps to support your immune system, it also plays a critical role in pregnancy as it promotes optimal bone health as well as regulating blood pressure, mood and brain function. Vitamin E helps to prevent oxidative damage.
- During pregnancy your body’s demand for iron increases thanks to the rise in both blood flow and volume. While iron is an essential mineral for many reasons, it’s critically important during pregnancy because it helps to support the growth and development of the placenta.
- Not only does calcium support your baby’s bones throughout pregnancy, it also protects you from bone loss. This mineral also helps to support the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems.
Choose foods wisely
While you might have more of a sweet tooth during pregnancy, it’s important to focus on a healthy, balanced diet which includes plenty of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water! Avoid caffeinated, sugary drinks as too much caffeine is not good for your baby and can increase her heart rate.
Exercise as often as you can
There are so many benefits of exercising regularly – especially during pregnancy:
- Exercising throughout pregnancy helps to build strength and stamina for childbirth.
- It increases oxygen and blood flow throughout the body.
- It’s a brilliant stress reliever- and helps to release feel -good endorphins.
- It also helps to keep your weight in check, which is good for reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and obesity.