The early stages of pregnancy can be tricky as your body adjusts to its new role as not only an incubator, but preserver, nourisher and protector of your new baby. This journey is fraught with changes as your body undergoes unprecedented spikes in hormone levels along with an exponential rise in blood volume. These changes make it necessary to take some basic precautions during pregnancy.
1. Give up harmful habits
Consuming alcohol and cigarette smoking must be avoided during pregnancy even if it is only second hand smoke that you are exposed to. This may be a great excuse to get your husband to quit by explaining the harmful effects it can have on the baby even at this early stage! Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and smoking can cause sudden infant death syndrome. If that isn’t enough, premature delivery or even a miscarriage is a distinct possibility with either.
2. Take Prenatal Vitamins
At least 400mg of folic acid must be included in a pregnant woman’s day as folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the developing fetus. A multi-vitamin that has calcium and iron must be taken in addition to a diet that is rich in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
3. Limit your Caffeine Intake
While your mother-in-law may insist that her generation or the ones before never cut down on coffee or tea during pregnancy, keeping your trips to Coffee Day to a minimum can greatly minimize your risk for miscarriage. Take consolation in that chocolate is considered safe although it has caffeine. So there!
4. Stay well-hydrated
In the coming months, your blood volume will increase by a whopping 33% to accommodate your baby’s needs. Drinking plenty of fluids will not only help with this but also enable your body to acclimate to your increasing hormone levels gradually.
5. Choose your fish carefully
While seafood is certainly a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and protein; there is a growing concern about the mercury levels in fish. This is especially true of fish whose flesh is not white. So anything in the tuna, swordfish and salmon family should be kept to a minimum.
6. Avoid artificial food additives
Artificial food colorings often used in Indian sweets and curries are a no-no during pregnancy. Mono-sodium glumate (MSG) or ajinomoto used in Chinese restaurants and Knorr soups must be avoided too. The early developmental stages of a foetus are sensitive to mutagenic agents such as artificial food additives and flavor enhancers.
7. Take medications only with your doctor’s advice
Unless a medication has been specifically prescribed to you, discontinue the use of any medications that you may take for aches, pains and nausea. Acetaminophen is mostly considered safe while ibuprofen’s anti-inflammatory properties are best avoided. Resist the urge to consume grandma’s well-meaning concoctions that promise a fair-skinned baby. The jury is still out on how some herbs impact the developing foetus.
8. Avoid hot baths
An occasional long hot shower is okay but long baths on a regular basis can cause overheating of your belly and hinder essential processes in your baby’s growth. You can go back to your leisurely baths, the moment the baby is born – if you have the time then, that is!
Other precautions to avoid during early pregnancy are avoiding raw foods that may carry the risk of contamination (toxoplasmosis) and keeping an eye on your blood pressure (preeclampsia) and blood sugar (gestational diabetes) levels. While this is an exciting time for you and your family, every precaution to make the pregnancy safe and joyous should be taken. It will all be well worth the sacrifice in the end!