A –Z of Pregnancy Health
A is for Aromatherapy Many essential oils are considered safe, and indeed beneficial, either for relaxation during pregnancy, or calming during labour. Lavender and camomile are relaxing, as are many others, but consult your doctor as he may recommend you avoid certain oils that may be dangerous during pregnancy.
B is for Backache This is very common, affecting half of all pregnant women in the later stages of pregnancy. Gentle exercise and yoga, improved posture, and resting in a comfortable position can relieve pain.
C is for Constipation You are more likely to be constipated in pregnancy due to hormonal changes making the intestine less efficient. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, fibre and wholegrains, and drink as much water as you can. If you are still constipated, your doctor can prescribe a bulking agent.
D is for Drugs Tobacco and illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens must be avoided at all costs during your pregnancy, as they cause irreversible harm to your baby’s development. Alcohol must be restricted, although most doctors agree that a few units a week is safe during pregnancy. Consult your GP before taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies or homeopathy, and inform him if you were already taking drugs before your pregnancy.
E is for Exercise Exercise is important during pregnancy, to keep you fit, healthy, and ready for labour. Yoga is popular, but some positions should be avoided. Swimming is fantastic exercise, as it is low impact and works all the muscles in the body.
F is for Folic Acid If you are planning to be pregnant, or have recently discovered you are pregnant, you should already be taking folic acid daily. Folic acid is crucial in the development of the brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy cuts the risk of spina bifida or other neural tube defects by up to 70 percent.
H is for Haemorrhoids Uncomfortable, unpleasant and embarrassing, but can be common in pregnancy, and if untreated can cause extreme pain. Avoid straining at the lavatory, and ask your doctor about a relieving cream such as Anusol.
I is for Iron Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, and if you are low on iron or anaemic, you will find yourself lacking in energy. Eat dark green, leafy vegetables, peas, beans and nuts for a good source of iron.
L is for Legs You may find that your legs will swell on a hot day, or if standing for a long period of time. Drink plenty of water, cut down your salt intake and rest with your feet up.
M is for Magnesium Pregnant women are often deficient in magnesium. The RDA of magnesium can help prevent muscle cramp and may also reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia. Good sources are cereals, nuts, soya, milk, fish and meat.
N is for Nutrition A healthy, well-balanced diet is even more important during pregnancy. Cut down on fatty food and refined sugars, and steer clear of soft cheeses, shellfish, raw eggs and unpasteurised foods.
O is for Oxygen and gas 50 percent oxygen and 50 percent nitrous oxygen is one of the more natural methods of pain relief in labour. It may not provide enough pain relief so for a more natural method, consider using a TENS machine, or ask your doctor about an epidural.
R is for Relaxation Whether it’s a stroll in the countryside, lying down with some music on or laughing at your favourite film, it is important to take time out to relax. This will lower your blood pressure, and help you to deal with feelings of fatigue in your pregnancy.
S is for Sex Sex is both safe and natural throughout your pregnancy, but in later stages women may find that they are uncomfortable or self conscious. Choose a position that you find comfortable and remember that many women find sex more enjoyable during pregnancy, as they are more receptive to their body and its functions.
T is for Teeth Increased levels of progesterone soften the gums, so many women experience bleeding gums and dental problems during pregnancy. Take extra care of your dental hygiene and visit your dentist for regular check-ups, making sure to let him know you are pregnant before any procedures take place.
U is for Ultrasound Ultrasound scans are considered reasonably safe, and necessary to monitor your baby’s health and development. However, it should be limited, and midwives will only use them to monitor your baby’s development, not for you to have a look at your baby.
V is for Vomiting Vomiting and nausea are normal in the first three months of pregnancy, and caused by a drop in blood sugar levels, normally in the morning. Small snacks such as a banana, cracker or dry toast can help boost sugar levels or ginger tea or ginger biscuits can often help.
W is for Weight It is normal to put on 20-30lb during your pregnancy, but it doesn’t mean you can work your way through a tube of Pringles a night. Eat healthily, enjoy your food, but try not to adopt the myth of “eating for two” and try not to increase your calorie intake by more than 200-300 calories per day.
X is for X-rays Sometimes X-rays are unavoidable during your pregnancy, but it is best to avoid them. Make sure your doctor or dentist knows you are pregnant and seek advice before an x-ray.
Y is for Yeast Infections Pregnant women are between two and ten times more likely to suffer from thrush, due to hormonal changes affecting the acid-alkali balance of the vagina, but it is easily treated and not dangerous.
Z is for Zinc Deficiency in zinc may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or growth defects. High-fibre foods, hard cheeses and meat contain zinc, but iron supplements may interfere with zinc absorption.