Congratulations on your pregnancy! For some conception is an easy ‘he just looked at me’ time and others have a longer journey. If you’d like to improve your health and the health of your future child, please read my earlier articles on preparing for pregnancy. If not, let’s look at this stage and see how we can make a different.
Now that you’ve conceived, the road forward is a little different. This is a beautiful time in your life and one that is filled with much emotion – excitement, apprehension, curiosity and intrigue. Simultaneously, depending on where you’re at in your pregnancy, it also filled with a host of physical symptoms namely exhaustion and can even be affecting your mood. My plan with this article is to help demystify some of the facts about what to do and what not to do in pregnancy.
Pregnancy do’s and don’ts
Ask any pregnant woman and they are generally flooded with information – sometimes conflicting information so I’ll try to keep this as succinct as I possibly can. I’ll focus first on the dietary aspects and will then consider the lifestyle factors that need addressing.
When you consider the principle that ‘you are what you eat’ it’s quite easy to see that the health of your bub is going to be directly correlated to the food that you put into your mouth. If you eat well it will understandably have a direct positive influence on the nutrient supply to the bub. This can be challenging for some women as they find the first trimester quite nauseating. For the bulk of the women that I see, the first trimester consists of a regular diet of cheese, toast, crackers, the odd potato chip and not much else. If you put a bowl of beautiful steamed vegetables in front of her, she is often too queasy to eat it. As such, planning dietary intake is crucial as is appropriate supplementation.
Key dietary considerations
Encourage regular small meals:
- At least every 2-3 hours in the first trimester
- Every 3-4 hours in the 2nd trimester
- Every 2-3 hours in the 3rd trimester (size of bub and pressure on stomach depending)
- Aim to eat an organic diet as much as possible to ensure that the nutrients received from the diet and that the quality of the food is at their highest
- Monitor hydration as the pregnancy continues. Water intake should be calculated based on weight (30ml per kg body weight)
- Avoid preservatives, colourings, additives, refined carbohydrates and sugar, processed foods
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol completely
Avoid listeria risk foods:
- Soft cheeses (brie, camembert)
- White cheeses (unless packaged and processed cottage cheese or similar)
- Cold or smoked meats, fish or cheese
- Raw egg – including tiramisu, custard, mousse, mayonnaise
- Sushi in any form (even vegetarian) unless homemade or from a vegetarian restaurant due to mats not being washed in between handling fish/seafood
- Avoid foods that are unhygienic such as salad bars
- Avoid foods that are not properly heated such as leftovers or microwaved foods. For example if you make a pot of soup – ensure that you refrigerate it hot and let it cool in the fridge and then reheat completely. Consider using a thermos when taking food to work so as not to travel unrefrigerated.
Essentially when you consider lifestyle aspects, it is important to remember that there are plenty of people who conceive and dance all night in a club. This scenario is obviously not the ideal, but try to avoid wrapping yourself in proverbial cotton gloves. Causing unnecessary anxiety is really not ideal.
In light of this, below are a few key strategies to consider. They are more important in the first trimester due to miscarriage risk, however, they are beneficial to consider throughout.
Key lifestyle considerations
- Sleep and adequate rest can never be underestimated. Often nausea in pregnancy is fatigue related – the more tired you are, the more nausea you experience. Most women ideally sleep for >12 hours in the first trimester as this allows the body to continue its miraculous work. Remember, the body is building a baby, placenta and doing everything for you as it normally would – no mean feat!
- Exercise should be encouraged and continued as you did prior to conceiving. For example if you were a runner before you conceived, light jogging can be continued easily. However, if you were a couch potato before you conceived pregnancy is not the time to start a new exercise habit however well intention you are! It is important to try to keep your heart rate below 130bpm throughout the pregnancy and certain sports such as skydiving, horse riding, bike riding and swimming in public pools should not be encouraged. If you are a yoga or pilates devotee – make sure you speak to your instructor as certain poses are not advisable.
- Avoid spas, saunas and very hot baths
- Avoid massages in the first trimester
- Avoid changing the cat litter and don’t let your cat sleep with you in your bed
- A number of essential oils are to be avoided especially in the first trimester. Speak to a qualified professional for more details.
Supplementation is crucial during the pregnancy; however, it is best to see a professional to ascertain exactly what you need. Some supplements are contraindicated and some essential but all can be accurately ascertained from a consultation with a Naturopath. Pregnancy is not the time to rely on self-medication, information from a magazine or chemist/health food shop assistant.
Key nutrients are specific for each person but may include B vitamins, Zinc, Calcium, Essential Fatty Acids, Iron, Iodine, Vitamin D3, and others.
Health checks and investigations
It is important to regularly review your health as you progress through your pregnancy. Check ups with both your GP, Midwife/Obstetrician and Naturopath are all necessary. Each person in your health care team contributes unique and relevant information to support you on this journey. Your health care management will need adjustments as the pregnancy continues.
Ultimately this is a wonderful time for you and your partner (if you have one). Your body is literally creating your child’s life so supporting your health and subsequent development of the little one is especially beneficial. Take care of yourself, rest, eat well and surround yourself with supportive and loving people. This is an experience but the best gift is the little one that follows!