Early prenatal care is important in promoting a healthy pregnancy. It starts with prenatal visits to the doctors to ensure that we are staying on top in all of the following areas:
1) Avoid smoking, drugs and alcohol: These are the absolute no-no(s) to get out of the way. Smoking or even second-hand smoke, alcohol and drug intake can affect the development of the fetus and affect the infant’s health. During pregnancy, the expecting mother should not have anything to do with these harmful substances.
2) Medications: Most pregnant woman may already be taking some medication, such as for acne or for chronic pain or for any other medical condition. It is important to discuss with the doctor which of these medications are still safe to take.
3) Avoid toxic substances: At all costs, we must stay away from exposure to any harmful chemical solvents or other toxic substances, such as lead or mercury.
4) Minerals/Vitamins: We have to ensure that we are taking adequate amounts of folic acid as supplements throughout the pregnancy to prevent the child developing any neural tube defects. The good news is that most prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Also your healthcare provider may give you supplements of vitamin B12 and assess that your iron levels are adequate.
5) Eat a Healthy Diet: It is important to have balanced meals with variety of fruits and mixed berries, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, proteins and low-fat dairy products to ensure the developing fetus has all the required nutrients. Also during this time one should drink plenty of fluids. Here is an awesome link that helps pregnant women to create a checklist of their daily meal plates:
6) Eat a safe diet: Pregnant women should avoid all kinds of raw fish, processed meat, undercooked meat and unpasteurized cheese. They should also avoid fish with high content of mercury. The FDA guidelines for pregnant women are that 12 ounces a week of fish with low levels of methyl mercury, such as shrimp and salmon, is a safe choice during this time.
7) Limit Caffeine Intake: Excess caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage. Your doctor can dicsuss with you and recommend the total amount of caffeine you can take. They may suggest an upper limit of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.
8) Maintain a healthy weight: The doctor will recommend how much weight you can safely gain during pregnancy based on your current weight or BMI. It is important to follow the weight-gain chart as gaining too much can lead to many other problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure etc.
9) Maintain physical activity: It is very important during this time to maintain a light level of physical activity. Some of the best forms of exercise during this time is walking and swimming with minimum physical strain. Activity improves sleep during pregnancy, helps to maintain healthy weight gain and also makes childbirth easier.
10) De-stress and relax: Last, but not the least, relaxing and de-stressing throughout your pregnancy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and for your bundle of joy. Try to engage in peaceful and relaxing activities even when you feel anxious or stressed out – with a little bit of mindfulness and meditation, you can de-stress instead of distress!