Lifestyle advice during pregnancy

Follow a healthy balanced diet

During pregnancy it is important to continue to eat a healthy balanced diet. In the initial three months it may be difficult to eat adequately due to nausea vomiting of pregnancy. For women with a normal pre-pregnancy weight, a weight gain of 11-16 kg over the pregnancy is normal which is usually divided as 1kg, 5 kg and 5 kg in respective trimesters. Too much weight gain increases risk of developing problems later in the pregnancy. Briefly, a third of most meals should be starch-based foods (such as bread, cereals, potatoes, rice, and pasta), with fruit and vegetables. One must eat plenty of fibre, protein foods such as meat, fish, pulses, chicken, etc, every day.
Include foods with plenty of iron, calcium and folic acid– a growing baby needs these nutrients right from the start of the pregnancy:

  • Iron: red meat, jagerry,  pulses, dried fruit, green vegetables and fortified cereals.
  • Calcium: dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt. (Low-fat milk, cheeses and yoghurts usually contain just as much calcium as the full-fat varieties.)
  • Folic acid:  green vegetables, brown rice, and fortified cereals.

Foods and drinks to avoid

  • Anything with a lot of vitamin A.
    • Liver and liver products and cod liver oil supplements
    • Vitamin tablets or supplements which contain vitamin A
  • Undercooked meats and eggs: Make sure all meat foods are cooked until piping hot. Eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are solid. Avoid foods that may contain raw eggs.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine to no more than 300 mg per day (One mug of instant coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine).


Vitamins and supplements

Folic acid
Folic acid should ideally be taken from 1 month before conception till 3 months to reduce risk of any neural defect in baby. Spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans and potatoes are rich source of it. Some bread and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is needed for growth and supplements are recommended for all pregnant women, breast-feeding women. The dose in pregnancy or breast-feeding is 400 units (10 micrograms) daily. And women who are have minimal or no sun exposure would need a higher dose 800 units (20 micrograms) daily. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with hypertension and premature birth in recent studies. But over dosage too would be detrimental.

Later such children may develop- Cheast infections, Glue ear, Sudden infant death syndrome, behavioral problems, low IQ, Attention deficit Hyperkinetic disorder

Alcohol

Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. It can pass to the baby wherein baby and leads to fetal alcohol syndrome- Multiple abnormalities in fetus. In others, it may cause miscarriage, poor baby growth, premature labour and physical and mental disability.

Exercise

During pregnancy some form of regular physical activity is important and safe as part of living a healthy lifestyle. Moderate physical activity including both aerobic physical activity and  muscle strengthening exercise when performed for at least 30 minutes is helpful for both mother and baby’s growth. Women should choose activities that will minimize the risk of loss of balance and fetal trauma.

Sex

Sex is generally safe for most couples during pregnancy. It needs to be avoided in cases with low lying placenta or where bag of waters is broken. However as the pregnancy progresses with a big bump certain positions may be uncomfortable.

Working during pregnancy
Working in an environment that doesn’t pose risk of infection, trauma, injury is permissible during pregnancy. One must discuss possible occupational hazards with their obstetrician.