You can do many things during your pregnancy to help improve your and your baby's health. You can also avoid risks that can complicate a pregnancy. For example, you probably know that getting enough Folic Acid is important. But did you know it is just as important to avoid cats? You probably knew that X-Rays are harmful to the fetus, but did you know about electric blankets?.
One of the best reasons for you to plan your pregnancy (rather than having it happen by accident) is so that you can have control of all of these different factors starting from conception.
Things You SHOULD Do
You Should Get Regular Medical Exams
One of the easiest and best ways to avoid problems and complications during pregnancy is to get regular medical exams from your doctor or midwife.
You Should Get the RDA (Reccomended Daily Allowance) for Folic Acid
By getting the proper amount of Folic Acid you significantly reduce your baby's risk for spinal bifida. The current recommendation is 0.4 mg of folic acid daily.
You Should Check Your Immunity to German Measles (Rubella)
German Measles (Rubella), if caught during pregnancy, can lead to miscarriages and fetal deformities. The best way to avoid this possibility is to be vaccinated for Rubella prior to getting pregnant.
You Should Take Prenatal Vitamins
Both you and your baby need plenty of vitamins during pregnancy, and by taking special prenatal vitamins you guarantee that you are getting everything you need. Getting the proper vitamins can also help you avoid diabetes.
You Should Eat Plenty of Protein
The RDA of protein for pregnant women is 75 grams but 100 grams is often recommended. Adequate protein is essential for the development of the baby (especially the brain) and may help protect against preeclampsia during pregnancy.
You Should Eat Well and Get Plenty of Exercise.
Your diet needs to include plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber and so on, just as it normally should. You also need to exercise and watch your weight as your normally would.
You Should Be Sure to Get Enough Fat in Your Diet
Fat and cholesteral, which you normally try to avoid, are important for absorbing the fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E, and K) and for stretchable skin. Fat is also necessary for the developing baby brain. That does not mean you want to be over-consuming it, but you need to make sure you are getting enough. There are so many fat-free foods on the market today (fat free milk, butter, ice cream, meat, bread, cookies etc.), it is very easy to consume a fat-free diet without realizing it. 2 tablespoons of fat a day is recommended for pregnant women.
You Should Do Kegal Exercises
Weak kegal muscles can contribute to pain during birth, premature flexion of the baby's head and a prolonged second stage. Childbirth can also weaken these muscles and cause discomfort afterwards. The following show how to do the kegal exercises.
You Should Use House Plants
A modern house is full of hundreds of hidden chemicals that are emitted by paints and stains, carpet, particle board, household cleaners and so on. One of the best ways to filter and remove these chemicals is with house plants. Spider plants, for example, are known to be good at removing formaldehyde (which is quite common in paints).
You Should Take Care When Traveling
Traveling when pregnant requires some special considerations, especially when traveling to foreign countries.
You Should Talk to Your Doctor about Existing Conditions and Your Family History
If you have any pre-existing conditions, chronic problems or a family history of reproductive problems, you should let your doctor know about them so that he/she can take appropriate action. Pre-existing conditions include things such as diabetes, herpes (and other STDs), heart problems, epilepsy and high blood pressure.
Things You Should NOT Do
You Should Not Smoke or be Around People Who Do
Smoking is such a well-known hazard to the mother that it only follows that it is also harmful to the baby. Yet hundreds of thousands of pregnant women still smoke. Secondhand smoke from smokers who live or work with a pregnant women can also affect the fetus. Exposure to smoke can result in spontaneous abortion, pre-term births, low-weight full-term babies, and fetal and infant deaths.
You Should Not Drink Alcohol
Alcohol has a variety of negative effects on your developing baby depending on the dose and frequency. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the worst-case scenario, leading to severe retardation and other abnormalities.
You Should Not Take Illegal Drugs
In utero drug exposure is associated with an increased rate among newborns of low birth weight, central nervous system damage that may delay or impair neurobehavioral development, mild to severe withdrawal effects, and physical malformations such as cleft palate, heart murmurs, eye defects, and abnormalities of facial features and other organ systems.
You Should Not Take Prescription Drugs or Over the Counter (OTC) drugs, Including Aspirin, Unless Told to Do So by Your Doctor
Drugs that are safe to take when not pregnant can cause devastating effects to a fetus when you are pregnant. If you are even thinking of becoming pregnant, you should discuss the use of any drugs you currently take with your doctor beforehand. It is recommended to not take any OTC drugs during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy when the heart, lung, and brain is being formed.
You Should Avoid Hot Dogs
Hot dogs have been implicated in several studies. (Note: It has also been found that children under the age of five who eat more than 1 hot dog a week may have an increased risk of cancer).
You Should Avoid Excess Caffeine
Caffeine taken during pregnancy is thought to increase the probability of a child contracting diabetes.
You Should Avoid Contact with Reptiles
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any contact with lizards, iguanas, turtles, or snakes as the salmonella bacteria is transferred through their feces and can affect your pregnancy. Also, children under the age of 5 are also at risk for contracting salmonella if they are in contact with reptiles.
You Should Avoid Tick Bites
Tick bites open you to the risk of lyme disease, which can be deadly to your developing baby.
You Should Avoid Certain Types of Fish
This warning comes from the November 27 issue of Time Magazine (page 31). Fish concentrate methylmercury, which is known to affect the developing child's brain.
You Should Not Eat Excessive Junk Food
The basic problem with junk food is that it fills you up but does not provide vitamins or protein. As your stomach size decreases during pregnancy, junk food takes up room and prevents you from eating the foods you really need for your and your baby's health.
You Should Avoid Extra Vitamin A Supplements
By consuming as little as 4 times the RDA of vitamin A, you greatly increase the risk of having a baby with birth defects or other problems. Exposure during the first trimester is the worst. Natural sources of vitamin A are OK - it is foods that are artificially supplemented that cause the problem, and most foods are. You need to start reading packages to make sure you are not getting too much Vitamin A. Other fat-soluble vitamins
such as D,E, and K can also accumulate in the body organs and tissues and high-dosage supplementation should be discussed with your doctor.
You Should Avoid X-Rays
According to the book What to Expect When You're Expecting, the risks posed by X-Ray exposure are fairly small, with the greatest risk occurring early in the pregnancy. Informing your doctor or dentist of the fact that you are pregnant
is probably the best way to control your risk. If an X-Ray can be postponed until after the pregnancy, then that would eliminate the risk.
You Should Avoid Microwaves
Particularly vulnerable to excessive microwave radiation is the developing fetus.
You Should not Use an Electric Blanket
Electric Blankets give off low-level electromagnetic fields which may be harmful to a developing baby
You Should Not Use a Water Bed
The heaters used in water beds give off the same electric fields as those found in electric blankets (see previous) and should therefore be avoided for the same reasons.
You Should Avoid Drinking Tap Water if Possible
Recent studies have shown that drinking tap water during the early months of pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage. If this concerns you or you have a history of miscarriage, you may want to discuss drinking bottled water with your doctor.
You Should Avoid Stress
Stress at work is defined as, high psychological demands from work activities, and low decision-making powers on the job.
You Should Not Expose Yourself to Pesticides
Pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and so on) can have a variety of effects on your unborn baby depending on the type of chemical, the length and intensity of exposure and the age of the fetus. In general it is best to avoid exposure to all pesticides. The problem is that pesticide use is extremely widespread in the U.S. You can be exposed to pesticides in your home (ant and roach bait traps, no-pest strips, household pest control products and services, flea collars on dogs and cats...), in your yard (lawn care services, do-it-yourself herbicides and insecticides on the lawn or garden), in your neighborhood (especially in rural areas, but also from suburban neighbors spraying their yards), from various food sources... The most you can do is attempt to avoid these dangers as best you can.
You Should Avoid Fumes from Paint, Paint Thinner, Household Cleaning Products and so on
As with pesticides (see previous) the best you can hope for is educating yourself and trying to limit your exposure. Try to use low VOC paints when decorating your nursery.
You Should Avoid Raising Your Body Temperature
There is a potential danger to the developing fetus if your body temperature rises above 102 degrees. You can raise your body temperature to this level by getting a fever, by exercising too strenuously, working outside on hot summer days, and so on.
You Should Not Use a Sauna, Hot Tub or Take Long Hot Baths
Hot tubs and hot baths have a tendency to raise your body temperature and therefore are to be avoided. See the previous item for details.
You Should Avoid Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes. You Should Avoid Uncooked Meat.
Both cat litter and undercooked meat present the risk of toxoplasmosis, which causes birth defects.