Eat Right and Maintain a Healthy Weight
You’ll feel better and start your pregnancy off right if you eat a variety of nutritious foods every day. The best way to do this is to follow Canada’s Food Guide. Take a multivitamin supplement that includes 0.4mg.of folic acid every day. Folic Acid is a B vitamin that helps a baby’s neural tube – the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord – develop properly. It must be taken before and during early pregnancy when the neural tube is developing. Eating a healthy diet with foods rich in folic acid (fortified breakfast cereals, orange juice and leafy green vegetables) is also important. Maintaining a healthy weight for a minimum of three months before conceiving is important. Women who are underweight before they get pregnant are at risk of having a low birth weight baby. Overweight women are more at risk of developing complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy.
Smoking may make it harder for you to get pregnant, and it’s definitely bad for your baby once you are pregnant. If you smoke while you are pregnant, you increase your risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Your baby will be at greater risk of being born prematurely or too small. Later in life your child may have an increased risk of asthma, developmental delays and learning disabilities. If you smoke the best time to stop is before you get pregnant. And now is the time to begin avoiding secondhand smoke as well. If you want information on quitting call Haldimand-Norfolk Addictions Division 519.428.1805.
Drinking alcohol can make it harder for you to get pregnant. If you do get pregnant and still drink, you put your baby at risk for miscarriage, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Babies with FAS have serious physical and mental problems that are permanent. Babies with FAE have these problems to a lesser degree. No one knows exactly how much alcohol a woman has to drink to cause FAS or FAE, so the safest thing to do if you’re thinking about having a baby is to stop drinking entirely.
Stop Using Illegal Drugs
Taking illegal or “street” drugs during pregnancy is risky for mother and baby. Women who use cocaine are at higher risk of miscarriage and preterm labour. Babies exposed to heroin are likely to be born addicted. Babies exposed to illegal drugs also are more likely to have learning problems later in life. Stop using any illegal drugs before you try to get pregnant, and stay clean throughout your pregnancy.
Exercise is a good way to help maintain or lose weight, build fitness and reduce stress. If you aren’t already exercising, now is a good time to start. Try to exercise for 20 minutes or more at least three times a week. Good exercise choices before and during pregnancy are: walking, swimming, water aerobics, stretching, cycling, housework and gardening.
Some infections can harm a developing baby. Make sure you have all your immunizations or are immune to infectious diseases. Catching a disease like chickenpox, rubella or measles during pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for a developing baby.
- Wash hands well with soap and water after: using the bathroom; blowing your nose or that of your children; touching soil, cats and their litter boxes; or touching uncooked meats.
- Avoid potentially unsafe foods such as raw meat and fish and unpasteurized milk products.
- If you have a cat, ask someone else to change the litter or wear gloves when you do it. Do not allow your cat to eat raw meat or rodents. The infection, Toxoplasmosis, can be found in cats feces and in raw meats. If a pregnant woman contacts the infection there can be serious harm to the fetus.
- Only have sex with one person who doesn’t have any other sex partners and/or use a condom when having sex. Sexually transmitted diseases can seriously effect your ability to have children and cause harm to a baby.
Avoid Hazardous Chemicals at Work and Home
It’s important to stay away from toxic chemicals or other hazardous substances that could be dangerous to yourself or a baby. Chemicals, such as lead and mercury and those in garden pesticides, can create problems for men and women trying to get pregnant. And they can cause miscarriages or stillbirths. To find out more about chemicals and your pregnancy, contact Motherisk (416.813.6780), local environmental groups, and read the WHMIS hazardous material guidelines at your workplace.
Stress isn’t good for you or your baby, before during or after pregnancy. Too much stress may reduce your chances of getting pregnant and increase the risk of preterm labour, low birthweight and possibly miscarriage. Start reducing stress now:
- Identify causes of stress, then try to eliminate them. Cut back on unnecessary activities that contribute to your stress level. Ask partners, family and friends for emotional support or get professional counseling. Get regular exercise and use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
- Call a hotline or ask your health care provider or another trusted person for help if you are in a relationship where you are in danger of being harmed. Verbal abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse.