With Mother’s Day swiftly approaching we wanted to write an article for the expectant mothers that are often forgotten on this special day.
Pregnancy is a beautiful time when your body goes through many natural changes. It can also be a scary time where you may find yourself worrying about the impact of your every move on your unborn child. A lot of mothers may worry about day to day things that they previously did not have to think twice about. In our jobs we regularly get asked questions about the dos and don’ts of pregnancy. We hope this article will answer some of those questions.
I am pregnant. Can I….
You may hear a lot conflicting advice during your pregnancy about how much alcohol is safe to drink. Is the occasional glass of wine okay? Does it matter if you were drinking before you became aware that you were pregnant? Well, experts still aren’t sure about what level of alcohol, if any, is considered safe to drink during pregnancy. As there is no known ‘safe’ level, why risk it? The safest approach is to avoid alcohol altogether, including whilst trying to get pregnant.
The reason pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol consumption is because when a woman drinks during pregnancy, alcohol is passed to the fetus from the woman’s blood through the placenta. Too much exposure of alcohol to the fetus can lead to poor growth, premature labor, physical and mental disabilities and carries an increased risk of miscarriage. Drinking heavy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome which is a condition where the baby is born with several physical abnormalities and learning problems.
If you consumed alcohol before you found out that you are pregnant, there is no need to worry unnecessarily if you were drinking small amounts, as the risk of any harm to your baby is likely to be low.
Giving up alcohol for 9 months might sound difficult, but many women don’t actually feel like drinking alcohol in pregnancy– especially if the ‘morning sickness’ feels like a constant hangover anyway.
Some women might find limiting their caffeine intake to be one of the hardest sacrifices they make during pregnancy, especially as you may feel like you ‘need’ caffeine because you are constantly exhausted as a part of being pregnant. Fortunately, you don’t need to cut-out caffeine altogether, just limit your intake to no more than 200 mg a day. This is because high levels of caffeine can cause miscarriages and low birth weight in babies.
Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and ‘high energy drinks.’ This 200 mg daily limit would equate to two cups of instant coffee, five cans of cola or eight bars of plain chocolate. This may sound like a lot, but having just one of each soon puts you close to your daily limit.
If you are needing a warm drink and want to stay away from caffeine why not try a Rooibos, ginger or peppermint tea as an alternative.
During pregnancy it is best to take as few medications as possible and even then, only if the benefits outweigh the risks. Some medications are known to usually be safe in pregnancy, Tylenol (acetaminophen) being an example, but for many medicines we just don’t know how safe they are. Before taking any medicine when you’re pregnant, be it either prescribed or available over the counter, it is important to check with your GP, midwife or pharmacist that it is suitable.
If you are already taking prescribed medication, it is important that you do not stop taking these drugs without first discussing with your doctor, as doing so could be harmful to you or your baby. You should seek advice about the safety of continuing any medications immediately if you are already pregnant but ideally before you even start trying for a baby. It therefore follows that you must always tell your doctor or dentist that you are pregnant before starting a new medication.
Pregnant women regularly come into the pharmacy looking for herbal medicines and remedies often with the mistaken belief that they are more safe and natural for themselves and their unborn baby. Not all natural or ‘complimentary’ therapies are safe in pregnancy and should be discussed with your doctor before starting.
….start eating for two?
You may have an increased appetite but it is not necessary to ‘eat for two’, even if you are having twins or triplets. Too much weight gain increases your risk of developing problems later in the pregnancy. Also, extra weight is difficult to lose after the birth. It is said that pregnant women only need an extra 200 calories per day in the last three months of pregnancy. To put that into context, one banana contains 105 calories.
A healthy balanced diet, as for any individual is recommended. Include foods with iron (red meat, pulses, dried fruit, green vegetables and fortified cereals), calcium (dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt ) and folic acid (green vegetables, brown rice, and fortified cereals).
There are several foods to avoid eating whilst pregnant, as if it wasn’t difficult enough already having to avoid alcohol and limit caffeine intake. The reason being is that some foods may contain bacteria that can cause infections in babies, miscarriage or even death to your unborn child. Below are examples of foods to AVOID:
Unpasteurized dairy products such as goat’s milk, some soft cheeses, blue cheese. Pasteurization is the process by where dairy products have been exposed to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to destroy bacteria without radically altering the taste and quality of food.
Raw and undercooked meats, eggs, raw shellfish and ready meals due to the risk of food poisoning.
Avoid eating liver and liver products, e.g pate. These contain too much vitamin A which is harmful to your baby’s development. Avoid supplements with vitamin A and fish liver oils.
Avoid shark, swordfish, marlin. Limit tuna to a two steaks or four cans weekly. These fish may contain mercury which can harm the baby’s nervous system. You should have no more than two portions a week of oily fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout and fresh tuna.
It is sensible to include daily exercise into your normal routine during pregnancy and as a part of healthy living. Moderate exercise is safe and healthy and can benefit you and your baby. This should include a mixture of aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening. Women with underlying medical problems, such as heart or lung problems or a complicated pregnancy should speak to their doctor first before doing any physical activity during pregnancy. Avoid contact sports and high impact sports. It is not advisable to scuba dive when you are pregnant.
If you are smoking and pregnant is it strongly advised for you to stop. Smoking not only affects your lungs but impacts your baby’s growth, development and their future health. If you wish to stop smoking please see you doctor to help you with this. Passive or second hand smoke is also dangerous for your health and your baby’s so try to avoid being around smokers too.
…… take supplements?
You should take folic acid supplements, ideally for a month before you get pregnant until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. This advice is standard for all expectant mothers regardless of their general health. Whilst folic acid is found naturally in food such as spinach, broccoli and potatoes you will need a good supply to support the normal development of your baby. The intake of folic acid from these food varies between persons so it is advised to take extra supplements to be sure you are getting an adequate amount. You can buy folic acid tablets from pharmacies and is usually found in most prenatal multivitamins. For most women the dose is 400 micrograms a day. Your doctor will advise you if you should have a prescription instead for a higher dose.
Vitamin D is needed for growth and is recommended for all pregnant women and also those who are breastfeeding. This can also be taken in tablet form available from the pharmacy and is again, usually included in most prenatal multivitamins.
Iron supplements may be necessary during your pregnancy as you can become anaemic i.e low in red blood cells. Your doctor or midwife will test for anaemia a couple of times throughout your pregnancy and advise you if you do need extra supplementation. If you are experiencing extreme fatigue, feeling dizzy these could be signs that you are anaemic and need to see your doctor.
Every mother and baby is different so you should always speak to your doctor, midwife or appropriate healthcare professional with any concerns of questions you may have about your pregnancy.
We wish you all a very happy Mothers’ day and a safe and joyous pregnancy experience.