Eight ways you can stay healthy during pregnancy
Want to enjoy as healthy a pregnancy as possible? Dr Ellie Rayner shares eight tips to help keep you and your baby in good health.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Whether this is your first, or a subsequent baby you probably have lots of questions about how best to take care your yourself and your baby during this exciting time. Here I have covered my top eight ways to support and take care of yourself during pregnancy, and why you should.
1) Reduce or stop smoking
Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your long-term health and it one of the most important things you can do to improve your future baby’s health, growth and development.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of premature birth, low birthweight, miscarriage and stillbirth. It is never too late to reduce or stop smoking and your GP can support you, or alternatively you can self-refer to the NHS smoking cessation services.
2) Stop drinking alcohol
Doctors are still unsure how much alcohol is safe to consume so the general advice is to stop drinking. Alcohol passes through your blood to your baby via the placenta and can cause developmental problems, so the safest thing to do is to avoid alcohol where possible.
3) Reduce your caffeine intake
High levels of caffeine intake during pregnancy are linked to low birth weight, miscarriage and stillbirth, so all pregnant women are advised to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg daily as the risks increases with the more caffeine you consume. 200mg is around two cups of instant coffee or two and a half mugs of tea. You can find out how much caffeine is in different food and drinks on the NHS websites.
4) Keep well hydrated
Drinking enough can help you feel well in pregnancy and will also help reduce the chance of some common pregnancy problems such as tiredness and constipation. You are recommended to drink between 6-8 medium (200ml) glasses of water or fluid daily and should avoid energy or fizzy drinks where possible.
Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of developing a blood clot and keeping well hydrated and keeping as mobile as you can also helps reduce your risk.
5) Exercise regularly
Keeping active and eating well are both important aspects of any pregnancy. Regular exercise is important for both yours and your baby’s wellbeing. It can give you more energy, improve your mood and sleep and can help reduce your risk of developing raised blood pressure or pregnancy diabetes (gestational diabetes). It also helps you cope with labour and can make labour easier.
6) Get your recommended vaccines
The flu vaccine is completely safe throughout pregnancy and your GP, midwife or Obstetrician can arrange this for you free of charge. Both the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives strongly recommend the flu vaccine to all pregnant women.
Similarly, the whooping cough vaccine is recommended to all pregnant women as it is highly effective in protecting your baby from developing whooping cough in the first few weeks of their life and will be offered to you from around 16 weeks onwards.
7) Understand your body and choices
Lots of incredible changes occur during pregnancy and birth and it is important that you understand these and prepare for what to expect at the birth and afterwards. You will be offered lots of different options during your pregnancy, such as where you would like to have your baby and would you like ultrasound scans or screening tests for your baby.
As an antenatal teacher, I know the benefit of undertaking antenatal and hypnobirthing classes for expectant parents during their pregnancy, particularly if it is your first baby to help you feel confident as you approach birth. Make sure you take the time to access evidence-based resources from recognised organisations or qualified healthcare professionals to help you make informed decisions right for you and your baby.
8) Surround yourself with positive pregnancy and birth imagery
As a society we have become conditioned that labour and birth are painful, dramatic, stressful events, when in fact for many women, pregnancy is part of the normal life cycle. Labour and birth can be an incredibly joyful and empowering experiences and is rarely like it is displayed on TV or in the movies!
Whether you are having a low or higher risk pregnancy, are planning a vaginal or Caesarean Birth, search for some positive birth stories, images and videos to help reassure you and continue to seek these throughout your conception and pregnancy journey.
Speak to your doctor if you have any health worries during pregnancy
Finally, speak to your midwife or doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Pregnancy can be a wonderfully exciting time, but also filled with uncertainty, particularly if it is your first baby. Your healthcare team is here to support you on your journey so do have the confidence to ask them if you have any question about keeping well or anything else that is worrying you.
Dr Ellie Rayner is a practicing Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and founder of The Maternity Collective. She is the only Obstetrician to offer private and group, expert-led Antenatal and Hypnobirthing Classes both Online and face-to-face.
She is passionate about providing parent-centred, evidence-based care for all pregnancies and supports all methods of birth. Follow Dr Ellie Rayner @maternitymedic for the latest evidence-based information on pregnancy, birth and women’s health issues.
Photo by Camylla Battani