Life with a baby on the way is full of so much excitement and joy, but it can also be full of questions! And at the heart of many of these questions lies the same concern: wanting to know you’re doing what’s best for your baby and your body. Read on for my top five rules for the best pregnancy possible.1. Watch what you eat and drink
I know there’s a lot of confusion around alcohol in pregnancy, but Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council still says not drinking when you’re expecting is the safest bet for you and your baby. It’s nine months – think of it as a big detox! While we’re refraining, foods that are a favourite breeding ground for the bacteria listeria should be avoided as well. That’s your raw fish, pre-made salads, soft cheeses, cold cuts and the like.
Check with your doctor or midwife for a full list. As for what you should be eating, think fresh, non-processed foods including a range of fruit, vegies, dairy, fish and meat to provide a good spread of nutrients. Also drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated (aim for 2.3 litres of fluid daily).2. Keep exercising
I know you’re tired. I know you’re maybe feeling like a whale. But rather than hanging up your gym shoes, now’s the time to entrench exercise into your daily routine. Apart from helping manage excess weight gain in pregnancy, exercise can aid in keeping problems including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and depression at bay. Keeping fit is also important when it comes to labour and recovering after bub’s birth.
Brisk walking is great, as is swimming, yoga and pilates. Steer clear of rough contact sports such as rugby (don’t laugh – I’ve met lots of pregnant women who wanted to play!) and sports with a high risk of falls such as skiing. Scuba diving isn’t a great idea either, but other than that, go for it!
Ensure you have the right information on what to take and when, as misinformation about how to take even the humble folic acid is common. Taking a folic acid supplement of 400mcg a day on top of a diet high in green leafy vegies (rich in the supplement’s natural form, folate) reduces the risk of bub developing a neural-tube defect, where the spine doesn’t close properly causing spine and/or brain disease. Evidence suggests that continuing folic acid supplements after the 12-week mark of pregnancy, though, can increase bub’s risk of developing asthma. So after the first trimester, cut them out.
There is growing evidence of a high rate of iodine deficiency among Australian mums-to-be, which can mean thyroid problems for babies. For this reason an iodine supplement of between 100 and 200mcg per day for the entire pregnancy is recommended.
Some women will also need extra supplements. If your vitamin D level is low, for example, this can put you at higher risk of complications including gestational diabetes, preterm birth and infection. Chat to your doctor about this – most recommend supplement of 1000iu daily, but you may have higher needs depending on the degree of deficiency. Keep in mind most pregnancy multivitamin formulations only provide around 400iu of vitamin D.
Last but not least, if your early routine blood work shows iron deficiency, you may need an iron supplement as well. Your doctor will help you find the right dose. If you feel tired later in your pregnancy, it’s worth rechecking your iron levels because they can drop later on and a supplement will help.4. Get enough rest
Growing a whole other human being takes work, so be sure to let your body rest! And while right now you’re focused on the pregnancy and birth, think about what life will be like once bub arrives – though beautiful, those first few months can be taxing! Sure, many babies are easy and good sleepers, but others can be very unsettled. You can’t predict the experience you’ll have, but what I can tell you is that if you burn the candle at both ends while you’re pregnant and then your little one wants to pull all-nighters regularly, you may end up wanting to fall flat on your face! My advice, then, is to get as much rest as you can while pregnant. Head into the newborn phase without a pre-existing sleep debt and you’re more likely to survive and enjoy the experience.5. Remember why you’re having this baby!
If you’re in a committed relationship, one of the best things you can do for your child is to keep it a rock-solid one. Remember that the guy who’s contributed 50 per cent of bub’s DNA is your partner – not just nominally, but in every way. Yes, with hormones running high it can be easy to snap and moan at him, and with so much going on (particularly if there are other kids in the mix) sometimes your partner can be shifted to the bottom of the pack. But remember to reconnect and share this special journey together, offering support to each along the way.