Pregnancy is a joyous time in our lives that is filled with anticipation, and perhaps a bit of anxiety of what’s to come. While there are no foolproof plans to ensure that both mom and baby are happy and healthy in pregnancy, delivery and the years to come, there are certainly things that you can do in order to help your chances of having a healthy bundle of joy.
Here are five tips to increase your chances of a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Diet and Exercise
While pregnancy was often seen as more of a disability in years past, current moms-to-be are dusting off their sneakers, and hitting the gym, the trails, or embarking on new journeys of pregnancy related fitness that haven’t really been discovered in generations past. Medical professionals now tell us that not only can we exercise while pregnant, we should, in fact, get out there and stay active. Of course, moderation is the key, and intense workouts are best left to getting our post-pregnancy bodies back in shape, but we can safely exercise well into the third trimester as long as our workouts remain low impact, and provide low levels of stress for the baby. Exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga are great ways to stay active and avoid the pregnancy blues.
Diet is equally important. We’ve known for years that we should avoid certain foods, and to eat others in moderation, but research is now showing that what we take in while our baby is developing can play a key role in health while not only in the womb, but can impact dietary decisions years down the road. Skip the processed junk food, and start loading your body with leafy greens, fruits and vegetables of all colors, and plenty of lean protein.
Provide a Healthy Prenatal Environment
When you’re stressed, your baby is stressed. While we know that certain behaviors – such as drinking, drug use, or smoking – are key contributors to birth defects, what we aren’t told is that our stress levels often affect our unborn child in detrimental ways. Some scientists now believe that certain mental health conditions such as high levels of stress and anxiety, or even depression can be traced back to the same conditions experienced in utero. That’s not to say that stress is always dangerous to your unborn child, but much like anything, moderation is key.
Do Your Homework
Knowing what to expect goes a long way in reducing stress, as well as preparing a safe and happy home for your newborn. Reading, studying, and learning all that you can helps you to gather a sense of calm as you know just what your body is going through during the pregnancy, as well as what normal developmental stages your baby will experience after birth. Knowing what is normal as well as what requires you to keep a close eye on – or even seek medical help for – helps you rest at ease when your newborn does something that would normally send you into a panic (it happens to all of us).
Plan, Adjust and then Plan Again
Pregnancy is a great time to have a series of discussions with your spouse or significant other about everything from whether or not to circumcise, names, parenting style, and even where you’d like him or her to attend pre-school. Having a plan in place for the short term, as well as a long term plan that is written tentatively (in pencil) to attempt to outline future hopes and goals allows you to get all of this out in the open and begin to compromise or adjust based on new evidence or contradictory opinions. After you formulate these plans, have an eraser handy, as you’ll no doubt head back to the drawing board dozens of times as you or your spouse change your mind.
Keep an Open Line of Communication With Your Doctor
Inform him or her of any familial history of medical conditions or genetic defects. Your healthcare professional may also request additional testing if you display increased risk criteria such as, a familial history of genetic conditions, a positive serum screen and ultrasound finding, or advanced age (35 years and older). Pregnancy at advanced ages, or family history of health issues or genetic defects both lead to increased instances of Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome). While these genetic conditions aren’t treatable, the doctor can order a prenatal DNA test in order to inform you if the presence of any of these three trisomies is found. This cell free test requires a small amount of blood to be sent to an outside lab, and the test results are often available to your physician or healthcare professional within five days after the lab receives the original sample.
Once again, there are no foolproof methods to ensure that your pregnancy is a healthy one, and complications come in many shapes and sizes. That said, those that take the time to educate themselves, and adapt in order to live a healthier life certainly aren’t doing anything to harm their unborn child, or themselves during the pregnancy or delivery process. To your continued health!
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