Pregnancy Health Tips:
When you drink, so does your baby.
When you are pregnant, every time you drink a glass of beer, wine or spirits, your baby is drinking the alcohol too. All alcohol is carried by your bloodstream, through the placenta, to your baby. There is no safe level of alcohol use in pregnancy. The best advice is to stop drinking if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
How can alcohol affect my baby?
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the chances that your baby will not grow properly, or will be more difficult to look after. For example, they may be hyperactive or have learning problems. Intelligence may be affected and babies born with 'alcohol syndrome' can have specific facial differences. Recent studies show that even a small amount of alcohol in pregnancy can affect a baby's facial features.
Your baby is most vulnerable to the effects of alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy. Later on in pregnancy, alcohol can still have a serious effect on growth and brain development.
Plunket advises that it is best not to drink at all when you are breastfeeding. Alcohol passes to your baby in your breast milk when their brain cells are still forming. When you drink, less milk is produced and the alcohol can also make your baby irritable and unsettled.
It is recommended that you have a diet rich in leafy green vegetables when planning a baby and take a Folic Acid supplement a month prior to becoming pregnant. The folate supplement should be continued until the end of the first trimester. Folate helps prevent abnormalities such as Spina Bifida occurring.
In Australasia an iodine supplement is also recommended by the Ministry of Health due to the low levels of iodine in our volcanic soil. Iodine is important for brain development. This can be taken separately as Neurokare iodine or in Elevit with iodine.
A balanced diet is important. Your energy requirements during pregnancy will increase by about 200 calories a day. The best source of iron is from meat, chicken or fish. Your blood count will be checked at your first visit and again at 27 and 35 weeks gestation to determine whether you require iron supplements (about 15% of women require supplements).
Your calcium needs can be met by having 2-3 servings of dairy products per day (a glass of milk is equivalent to 1 serving).
Your expected weight gain during pregnancy is around 10-12 kgs. The weight gain is accounted for by growth of the baby, uterus and placenta, as well as an increase in breast tissue, extra fluid and energy stores laid down in preparation for breast feeding.
Excess weight gain is to be avoided as there is increasing evidence it can be harmful to you and your baby.
What is Listeria?
Listeria is a common bacterium (bug) which is found in dust, soil, water, plants, sewage and animal droppings.
How are pregnant women infected by Listeria?
Listeria can be transmitted to pregnant women by infected food. The bug has been found in a variety of foods at all stages. Listeria will still grow on food which has been stored in a fridge.
How do I prevent Listeria?
Do not eat the following foods:
- Chilled pre-cooked seafood products, unless eaten hot.
- Pate, pre-cooked chicken, ham and other chilled pre-cooked meat products.
- Uncooked seafood
- Stored salads and coleslaws, especially from delicatessens or supermarket.
- Raw (unpasteurised) milk
The following foods are safe to eat when pregnant:
- Most foods which have been cooked to piping hot and eaten straight away.
- Fruit and vegetables which have been well washed.
- Breads and cereals (without added mock creams or custard)
- Dried food (fruit, nuts, lentils, beans etc)
- Pasteurised milk and milk products, yoghurt, cheese etc
Safe ways to handle food at home:
- Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready to eat foods.
- Wash hands, knives and cutting boards thoroughly with hot water and soap after handling uncooked foods.
- Cook left over food until piping hot.
- Wash all fresh food carefully before eating it.
Pregnancy is not the time to get fit but rather to maintain your usual level of fitness. There is increasing evidence that a moderate level of exercise is beneficial in pregnancy. The following guidelines are recommended by the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
- Regular exercise 3-4 times per week is better than intermittent. Short periods are best.
- Always warm up with slow walking or stationary cycling with low resistance, and warm down at the end.
- Never tolerate pain or discomfort. A change in baby's position can suddenly make exercise uncomfortable.
- Monitor your heartbeat whilst you exercise. 140 beats per minute is the maximum maternal heart rate during pregnancy.
- The baby is deprived of oxygen if you allow your heart rate to exceed this level.
- Breathe evenly while exercising.
- Avoid heavy weights, contact sports, water skiing, scuba and snorkel diving below the surface.
- Food intake must meet the extra energy requirements of pregnancy.
- Avoid overheating whilst exercising - wear loose cotton clothing and avoid spas and saunas.
- Decrease your exercise as your pregnancy progresses into the third trimester because your cardiac reserves decrease.
Stop if you experience any of the following:
- Back or pubic pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tachycardia (abnormal rapid heartbeat)
- Difficulty in walking
We recommend low impact exercise such as walking or swimming while you are pregnant.
Before booking long distance, overseas or air travel ask your doctor about the risks of travelling during pregnancy.
Most airlines allow women to fly until the 30th week of pregnancy short flights (less than 2hours) are preferred to longer flights. Sitting in one position for a long period of time can increase the risk of a clot forming in one of the deep veins of the leg. Dehydration, crossing legs, low humidity and excess alcohol consumption are also contributing factors to developing a DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
A pregnant woman is at increased risk but these risks can be reduced by:
- Requesting an aisle seat so you can move your legs and feet to improve circulation.
- Drink plenty of water but no alcohol, or beverages containing caffeine.
- Wearing well fitting compression stockings.
Limit land travel to 5-6 hours a day. Avoid long tiring journeys. Make frequent stops to exercise your legs. In vehicles always wear your seatbelt which fits across your hips and between your breasts. Make sure you are comfortable by placing a pillow in the small of your back.