Pregnancy Lifestyle Choices

Pregnancy Lifestyle Choices

Having a baby is probably the most important experience in a woman’s life, and is one which most women approach with joy and anticipation.

The changes in the body which take place during pregnancy are quite drastic, and in some women, can lead to discomfort, or to emotional disturbances, which could mar the otherwise happy experience of producing a child. But pregnancy is not an illness. Many women feel fitter during their pregnancy than at any other time, and indeed, some chronic illnesses like arthritis may clear up temporarily in pregnancy. Most problems of pregnancy can be overcome with a combination of commonsense and good antenatal care. As soon as a woman thinks she is pregnant, she should seek her GP’s advice on antenatal procedure.

FOOD

One of the best ways to cope with nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy is to have frequent small snacks. Milk and sweet biscuits are usually the best for between meals. Meals should be small and simple. Eat a small supper before retiring and leave a glass of milk and biscuits alongside the bed to have on waking during the night or in the morning. Get up slowly and do not rush your breakfast if you are going out to work.

If you get heartburn in late pregnancy, only have a small evening meal and not much after that, except small drinks of milk and antacid powders prescribed by your doctor.

Overeating and getting fat can be a problem for some women. It may be caused by frequent nibbling to overcome nausea or heartburn or to satisfy a craving. Sometimes it is because of boredom, loneliness, anxiety or just simply being at home more than usual. If you desperately want something to eat, between meals, try raw carrot, celery or an apple.

When you are having a meal try to relax. Eat slowly and chew the food thoroughly. If you sit down to meals at regular times, it is easier to eat less than if you snatch a meal here and there. Cutting out meals does not help — it normally means you eat more later.

CONSTIPATION

Constipation, the infrequent passing of rather hard bowel motions, is an unpleasant ailment which is quite common. The straining sometimes involved can aggravate piles and the hard motion can cause a split in the anus, resulting in bleeding and sharp pain. Although some women blame iron tablets for causing constipation, this is most unlikely. Even if they were responsible they are so important in the prevention of anaemia that any consti-

pation should be offset by modifying the diet rather than by stopping the iron. Suitable changes to the diet can be made once nausea ceases to be a problem.

Relying too much on laxatives tends to reduce normal bowel activity. It is easy to become dependent on them. Try to develop regular bowel action.

A cup of tea on waking will often stir the bowel into action. Eating vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, wholemeal bread, stewed prunes and rhubarb all help to keep the bowels active and the motions soft and easy to pass. Sprinkle natural bran on food or mix it with custard or yogurt.

NO SMOKING

Giving up smoking can be fairly easy for some women who only have a few cigarettes a day, or for those who develop an aversion to smoking when they become pregnant. Other women are unlucky enough to be dependent on the nicotine in cigarette smoke. The nervous system has adapted to the presence of this drug in such a way that nervousness, anxiety and headaches develop when smoking is stopped. It requires a great effort of will to break the habit.

Smoking mothers risk having babies of lower birth weight and associated problems: respiratory disorders and mental retardation. In a very small proportion of women, giving up smoking early in pregnancy can mean improvement in the blood supply to a failing placenta. The baby who might have died in the uterus is therefore born healthy. The fact that no one knows just whose baby will be saved in this way is sufficient reason for all women to give up smoking. Even being in a room with smokers increases the risk. Consequently husbands and friends should offer encouragement and give up smoking themselves if necessary.

DRINKING

Small amounts of alcohol do not have any harmful effects on pregnancy, although they do exaggerate flushing, sweating and faintness which bother some pregnant women. However, it is often after having a drink that a woman gives in to temptation when cigarettes are handed round, Do not forget about the combination of drink and drugs. Anti-sickness tablets taken in early pregnancy can also exaggerate the effects of alcohol.

DRUGS

Pills and medicines must be avoided unless they have been prescribed by your doctor. If you have difficulty in sleeping, try simple measures like taking a warm drink or practising complete relaxation and concentrating on controlled breathing. This helps to divert your mind from other things.

TRAVEL

Providing the journey is not too far or strenuous, travelling is alright. But pregnant women tend to tire more easily and particularly in late pregnancy are often reluctant to go far from home. Perhaps this has something to do with the nesting instinct, or merely that they want to stay close to a hospital.

Women should not drive if they are taking anti-sickness tablets because they create drowsiness and reduce reaction time. Even without these, women in late pregnancy tend to be more dreamy, so they must exercise more care and be extra cautious about speed and anticipating the unexpected from other drivers. At all times seat belts should be worn.

Air travel is safe in modern pressurized cabins but, as with cars and trains, it involves sitting sometimes in a cramped position. This tends to slow the flow of blood back from the legs, which could cause dangerous clotting in the veins. It is essential for women to get up and walk about a little at least hourly and not to have any restricting garments around the legs. On a long car journey it means stopping hourly.

WHEN TO STOP WORK

When to stop work is an individual decision. It depends on how well you feel, how busy and demanding your job is, how much you need the money and how much you have to do at home. If you can, it is a good idea to stop early rather than late — late pregnancy is a time to take things easy and to have extra rest. Lie down for an hour in the afternoons and avoid late nights. Always put your feet up when you are sitting and never move heavy furniture by yourself.

Women can feel isolated, bored and cut-off at this time. It is a good idea to call in at your work a couple of times a week to keep involved and in contact with your friends. It is also a good time to take an interest in your friends’ babies and young children.

ANTE-NATAL CLASSES

Try to learn as much as you can at the ante-natal childbirth preparation classes. And talk to the other women and possibly make friends with those who live nearby. You will find you have a lot in common and can benefit from exchanging ideas, anxieties and experiences. Do not make the mistake of attending two or more different sets of classes. You may think you will be able to pick and choose from the methods each teaches, but often the result is confusion when you find yourself in labour. You need simple, clear concepts to cling to. Practise your relaxation and breathing exercises and get your husband to do this with you.

Make sure you attend the ante-natal clinic regularly. It might seem unnecessary when you are feeling fit and well, but remember that it is only frequent examination which will detect problems at an early stage. If you are advised to have extra rest because blood pressure is slightly up, take the advice seriously. Quite a few women are unexpectedly admitted to the ante-natal ward at short notice because a clinic visit detects high blood pressure. Often the rise proves to be a false alarm and you are allowed home again in a. day or two. At other times women stay in hospital until delivery.

If your husband seems disinterested and bored, try and get him involved as much as possible. He may just be feeling a bit left out. However attending the fathers’ class usually works wonders. Once your husband feels involved you may find as a result that you both start communicating freely on the subject for the first time. Some men at first think that it is not quite manly to be too involved in pregnancies and babies, and in all probability will have had some ragging at work. Leave your books around so that he can have quiet glances which might stimulate his interest.