Whether it is a shock or a happy surprise, finding out that you are pregnant is a life-changing event, even when it is not your first baby. From that moment on, habits good or bad have to change.
But those changes don’t have to be difficult just so long as you know what you need to do to give your new unborn child the best shot at life possible.
According to Dr. Marie Claude Berlie, a family physician in Waskaganish, the first thing to do is visit the clinic because all expectant mothers need to start taking folic acid for the healthy spinal-cord development to prevent neural tube defects. This should be taken for the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, followed by a prenatal vitamin to ensure that the baby is getting enough nutrients.
It’s also time to give up the vices: “Pregnant women need to know that alcohol, drugs and cigarettes are very harmful to the baby and so one of the first things to do is stop all alcohol and drugs,” said Berlie.
Visiting with a local nutritionist is also a good idea.
According public health Awash nutritionist Lucie Leclerc, what you eat when pregnant is important because your diet contributes to the formation of a new life. Still, the concept of eating for two isn’t quite what it sounds like.
“Eating for two does not mean eating two times more but more like eating two times better. For the baby to grow and develop well and for the mother to maintain her own good health, it is important that she chooses healthy foods. By that I mean choosing foods containing lots of nutrients, like vitamins and minerals,” said Leclerc.
While it isn’t uncommon for some women to gain a fair bit of weight during pregnancy, the reality is that the average woman only needs to gain about 15 pounds. And, if the mom is still a teen then she only needs to gain about 20 to 25 pounds to meet the demands as her own body is still growing too.
According to Berlie, how much weight a woman should gain while pregnant varies from person to person.
“This always depends on what your pre-pregnancy weight is. If you are over the healthy recommended weight for your height, you really don’t need to gain much weight or any at all,” said Berlie.
“As the younger girls tend to be of a healthy weight but the older population tends to be heavier, if your pre-pregnancy weight is over your recommended weight then you shouldn’t be gaining much at all.”
During the first 12-week trimester, a pregnant woman only needs to eat about 100 extra calories per day, equivalent to an extra slice and a half of bread or a small bowl of cereal.
When planning your diet, however, favour quality over quantity, healthier food options over junk food. If you are unsure, never be afraid to ask.
Leclerc tells pregnant women that a nutritious meal should always include a good source of protein such as game meat, fish, birds, eggs or dried beans; a starch such as potatoes, rice or pasta or bread; plenty of colourful vegetables, some milk, fish broth or water to drink and a fruit or yogurt as a dessert.
There are also things to avoid during pregnancy that may not be so obvious.
According to Leclerc, liver is actually something to avoid if you are pregnant because excess vitamin A is stored in the liver and cannot be excreted.
With that said, just about any other type of meat is game!
There are also certain species of fish that are not recommended for pregnant women. These include many predatory fish with high mercury counts such as pike, walleye, lake trout and burbot. Many kinds of fish are perfectly safe for pregnant women, however. Follow this guide:
How food is prepared also requires close attention. Pregnant women should be careful with raw or uncooked meat, game or fish and all unpasteurized foods like some raw milk cheeses.
“Food hygiene is extremely important at this time and so it is important to ensure that the food that they are eating were well prepared and kept at the right temperature. Raw meat, fish or poultry should never come into contact with cooked meat, fish or bird because it can contaminate it and an unborn child is simply not equipped to fight food intoxication at this time,” said Leclerc.
To learn on this subject, go to: http://hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/index-eng.php
“If they can stick to traditional foods, this is also fabulous. They need to stay away from processed foods (think cheese wiz and pop tarts), candy and sweets and especially all of the pop, juice and drinks. I always tell my patients that ‘Waska water’ (tap water instead of bottled Eska) and milk is what they should be drinking,” said Berlie.
As for the rest of the body, Berlie said that it is very important for women to get up, get out and get active because pregnancy isn’t an illness and it should never be treated that way.
“Exercise is both important and necessary for all of us whether you are pregnant or not and in pregnancy it is very important to move. What is dangerous is if you do exercise where you can get injured or have a high risk of trauma to the baby. So no football or hockey because you don’t want to have an injury where you need an X-ray or surgery to fix a broken bone,” said Berlie.
While any kind of contact sport is definitely off the list for the gestational period (sorry ladies, no MMA!), there are all kinds of activities that can be incorporated into a pregnant life.
It is all relative to the individual, however. Berlie gave the example of a marathon runner getting pregnant; naturally she could go on running because it is something she is well trained to do. But, someone who has never been into running may not want to pick it up as it may be too strenuous.
Instead, opt for activities like walks, swimming (where accessible) or certain kinds of traditional activities like snowshoeing.
Even heading out to the bush with the family can be fine, but it is the kind of thing that the mother-to-be should check out with her physician first. If she is having a high-risk pregnancy, it may be better to stay closer to where help is available in the event of an emergency.
Overall, Berlie said that it is important to stay active while pregnant for its overall effects.
“Exercise could provide some stress relief, it keeps you strong, it reduces the risk of diabetes and if you have diabetes it can help normalize your sugars. It can also be important for your mood and your mind if you go for walks with your partner because this is an important time to think about what kind of a parent you want to be. You can look around to your role models and think about what kind of a parent you want to be and so it is important to try and strengthen your relationships with your partner,” said Berlie.
For more information on what to do when expecting, visit your local clinic.