Pregnancy: what to know

The South African Department of Health has declared 7 to 14 February Pregnancy Awareness Week. The aim of this week is to equip expectant mothers with the knowledge that will help them make the right health decisions for themselves and their babies.

1. Get tested
There are a number of tests that should be taken early on in your pregnancy. Pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or anaemia can affect your pregnancy.

It is therefore vital that you get tested for these, as often additional steps need to be taken to manage pregnancy.    Other illnesses such as German measles, toxoplasmosis and syphilis could also be highly dangerous for mother and baby.

2. Antenatal classes
Attending antenatal classes will help you to manage your pregnancy and birth experience. You will learn things you did not know and meet other parents-to-be. You can also discuss different birthing options.

Antenatal classes provides a unique opportunity to bond with partners, making it easier to share this special experience and gain the support that they so often need.

3. Nutrition
It is essential for your health and that of the baby to receive the correct nutrients during pregnancy.

A healthy eating plan should include plenty of fruit, vegetables, protein, whole-grains and lots of water.

You will also require supplements, such as folic acid, preferably from before conception, and then throughout the pregnancy to help prevent spinal defects in the baby. Speak to your doctor. You also need to avoid certain foods, such as raw fish, rare and cured meat, soft cheese and raw or soft egg yolk to protect you and your baby from any harmful parasites or bacteria. Many pregnant women battle to strike a balance between gaining enough weight to support themselves and their babies, and gaining too much. Your doctor will advise you about your weight gain and help you manage it effectively.

4. Exercise
Unless you have a condition that prevents you from doing exercise, physical activity helps you to stay fit and toned during pregnancy. It can also produce endorphins, which is good for your overall wellbeing. Mild activities such as walking, water aerobics and gentle forms of yoga are recommended.

5. Avoid unhealthy substances
In this time your choices do not only affect your life, but that of your baby as well. Cigarettes, alcohol and drugs can be extremely damaging to the baby’s health and can result in premature and underweight babies. Even certain medications can be dangerous. The high toxin levels in many drugs, such as strong painkillers, can result in birth defects. Avoid the use of medication altogether unless absolutely necessary. Always check with your doctor before taking anything.

6. The role of your partner and family
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience, but it can also be  overwhelming. Some emotional tension between you and your partner is normal during this time. If you are going to be a single mother your family may play a bigger role in your pregnancy and birth. Ask a relative or a close friend to go with you to antenatal classes and to share this experience with.

7. Be positive and enjoy the pregnancy
Try not to worry too much. Remember that pregnancy is natural and beautiful. Talk to someone If your worries get you down. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed. Listen to music that you enjoy, read an uplifting book or do something a little special for yourself at this important time.

(Adapted from www.healthstaff.co.za)

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