Are you thinking about plunging into parenthood? Congrats! There’s nothing more satisfying than having a healthy baby. What you might not know is that your health, long before conception, determines the health of your future baby. For that reason, it’s important to take good care of yourself physically and emotionally before and during pregnancy. Here’s what you should do now to become healthy and enhance your chances of having a trouble-free pregnancy and healthy baby.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends all women of childbearing age to take 400 micrograms of folic acid (a B-vitamin) daily. That can be from a folic acid supplement or multivitamin. So why is this B-vitamin important? During pregnancy, the need for folic acid rises between five and ten times. That’s because it’s transferred to the developing fetus.
Folic acid protects your baby from developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It also protects against preterm birth, miscarriage, and high blood pressure. It can also prevent autism.
When buying a folic acid supplement, it’s important to check the label carefully to ensure it contains enough folic acid (400mcg) to meet your nutritional needs. It’s an excellent idea also to take vitamin D3 (1,000-2,000 units a day) and fish oil, which also promote an optimal pregnancy.
Get to a Healthy Weight
It may be easier to conceive if you’re at an optimal weight. Having a low or high body mass index (BMI) can make it harder to get pregnant. The ideal BMI for getting pregnant is 19-24.
Women who have a high BMI are more likely to get prenatal and delivery complications as well as the need to undergo a C-section. The babies are more likely to get health problems like obesity, allergies, and asthma in their childhood and heart disease and diabetes later in their lives. Women who have a low BMI and don’t gain sufficient weight during their pregnancy journey are more likely to get underweight babies.
You can get to your ideal weight through exercise, yoga, consuming whole foods, and adopting other healthy eating habits.
Avoid High Mercury Fish
Are you a fan of fish? You need to watch your intake. While fish is a great source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and protein, some contain mercury that can be harmful. Some of the fish you should avoid because of the high mercury levels they may carry include swordfish, shark, marlin, tilefish, king mackerel, orange roughy, and tuna steak. Mercury can damage hormonal and neurologic systems.
It’s also advisable to limit intake of fish not high in mercury to 12 ounces (or two servings) per week. Some good choices include herring, salmon, sardines, and farm-raised rainbow trout.
High consumption of caffeine can trigger miscarriage. Caffeine also makes it more challenging for the body to absorb iron, a nutrient that pregnant women are usually low on. Due to its stimulant properties, caffeine can make finding a good night’s sleep much harder and cause heartburn.
While the jury is still out on the exact amount of caffeine that’s safe for a healthy pregnancy, all experts agree that women trying to conceive as well as those that are pregnant shouldn’t take large quantities. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200mg per day.
Stress is an inevitable part of your life. However, too much stress can affect your hormones and fertility. Constant and chronic stress can result in an inflammatory response that affects your pregnancy. This may cause complications such as low birth weight and premature birth.
Pregnancy can ramp up your stress, so it’s important to know the activities that act as stress relievers for you. Don’t have surefire stress remedies? Writing a journal can make you feel less worried and more optimistic. Other activities that can help reduce stress include exercise, watching TV, talking to a good friend, and relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, visualization, stretching, and massage.
According to studies, pesticide exposure can lower children’s IQ. To promote neurological functioning and mental health in your kids, consider trying your best to avoid foods with the highest pesticide contamination levels. These include apples, celery, grapes, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, peaches, spinach, potatoes, imported snap peas, and cherry tomatoes. Alternatively, you could go organic on them. People who consume organic produce take in fewer pesticides. Also, during pregnancy, you should consider consuming the organic produce via juice which should be made with a juicer machine that can help retain most of the nutrients for you and the baby.
You could also stick to foods with the least pesticides. These include avocados, cabbage, sweet corn, pineapples, sweet peas, onions, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, asparagus, grapefruit, eggplant, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
Improve Your Gut Health
Did you know that you could protect your future kid from gut problems long before getting pregnant? Replenishing your gut flora helps promote the intestinal health of the next generation.
Some of the things you can do to supercharge your gut are eating a variety of foods including fermented foods and leafy greens, taking a high-quality probiotic, and avoiding antibiotics unless they’re extremely necessary.
Make these changes to become healthier, and you’ll boost your future child’s health significantly.