Checklist: Getting Ready to Get Pregnant

If you want to get pregnant, there are a number of things you must do before you start trying. Item number one: Go skydiving. Because there’s no way they’ll let you jump out of that plane once you’ve got a baby on board!  Do you think I’m kidding? Well, skydiving is not my thing, personally, but really any high-action activity you want to do or trip you’ve been meaning to take should be considered before you become pregnant. Whether it’s scuba diving, mountain climbing, or riding all the roller coasters at Six Flags, do it now!

But aside from that, here are some important things you’ve got to tackle in order to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to get pregnant.

image: Saida Online Magazine

Consider genetic testing: Some genetic diseases affect certain ethnic groups, such as Tay-Sachs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and sickle cell disease, among African-Americans.  If a disease runs in your family, you may want to get tested to, for your own peace of mind.

Face up to the Scale: Aim for a healthy weight, as being underweight can affect ovulation, and being overweight contributes to problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Take a look at your diet: The healthier your body, the better chances you give your baby to start life healthy, too. Cut back on white flour, sugar, and processed food. Add more lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, veges, and whole grains.  Yummy home-made soups and smoothies are great ways to sneak in good nutrition!

Exercise: If you already have an exercise routine, don’t slack off during pregnancy! And if not, well it’s never too late to start, but talk to your doctor about easing into it.  Some benefits of a good workout (or even a nice walk around the neighborhood) include preparing your body for childbirth, higher energy levels, better sleep, stress reduction, and reduction of pregnancy-related discomfort. Plus, if you stay fit during pregnancy, you will regain your figure quicker after the birth.

Take Folic Acid: This all-important B vitamin helps lower the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. These defects form very early in baby’s development, before many women even realize they’re pregnant, so ask your doctor about taking a supplement as soon as you think about wanting to get pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about your medications: Some are best to stop taking during pregnancy, while some are OK– or necessary– to continue with.  You should not make this judgement on your own!

Visit the dentist: Good oral hygiene is one of those things we encourage during pregnancy.  Getting a bacterial infection can lead to premature birth and preeclampsia. Plus, better not to get x-rayed while you’re pregnant.

Cut back on Caffeine: A little bit is OK but too much is no good for a growing baby. The caffeine also affects fertility, so cutting back may increase your chances of conceiving.

Cork up that bottle, and throw the cigarettes in the trash where they belong. A healthy baby needs a healthy environment to grow in!  He should follow your lead and not just for moral support:  Excessive drinking and smoking can lower sperm count, too.

Paint the nursery: And the dining room, pantry, and bedroom too, if you want! But don’t do it while you’re pregnant or have a newborn in the house.  Toxins such as pesticides, oven cleaners, paint, and paint stripper contain chemicals that have been linked to birth defects.

Hand over the kitty litter sifter: Sure, it might just be a good excuse to get out of an unpleasant job. But it is true that litter boxes contain parasites that can make you sick (it’s called toxoplasmosis). So let hubby do the job, or wear gloves and wash up carefully when you’re done.

Work that budget: Finances shouldn’t have to stand in the way of having a family!  Sit down with a financial planner if you  need to, and figure out how you can put some money away for prenatal care and raising your baby.  Also find out about your company’s maternity leave policies,  your health insurance’s prenatal care and childbirth policies, and look into life and disability insurance.

Be emotionally prepared: Women who have given a great deal of thought to what pregnancy and parenting entail are better adjusted later on, compared with those who did not consider the demands their new role will place upon their lives. As a couple you need to think about how a pregnancy and new baby will  impact your family, work, and psyche.

Don’t Eat These Foods if you’re Pregnant!

Everything you eat and drink while you’re expecting influences your baby’s health.  Good choices are whole grains, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veges, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. As for the rest… well some foods are questionable, some are OK in moderation, and some are all-out no-no’s.

Here’s some “food for thought:” consider these guidelines before indulging in every pregnancy craving:

Raw or Undercooked Animal Products

These foods may contain an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  When cooking meat, chicken, and fish, it’s recommended to test the doneness with a food thermometer, cook eggs until they are no longer runny, and don’t eat raw dough. Here are some other things to watch out for:

  • rare meat
  • raw oysters
  • clams
  • sushi
  • unpasteurized eggs
  • raw cookie or cake dough
  • homemade eggnog

Hot Dogs, Cold Cuts, & Unpasteurized Dairy Foods

These foods are prone to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems. These include food such as:

  • hot dogs and
  • luncheon meats (deli ham or turkey, bologna, salami, etc)
  • refrigerated pates or meat spreads
  • refrigerated smoked seafood (such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel)– may be labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.”
  • raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and queso Panela.

It’s safe to eat smoked seafood, lunch meants, and franks, when it’s part of a cooked dish (like in a casserole) or if you reheat them until they are steaming hot. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cooking surfaces after handling raw meats, deli meats, etc.

Certain Seafood and Fish

Some large fish harbor high concentrations of mercury, a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a child’s brain and nervous system.

  • Fish to avoid: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
  • Fish to eat in moderation (up to 12 ounces weekly, according to the FDA):  salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish.
  • albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. Limit to 6 ounces a week.
  • Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system. Check the safety with your local health departments.

Raw Vegetable Sprouts

The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat raw sprouts — including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.   Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can get into sprout seeds, posing a danger for a weaker immune system. Cooked sprouts are perfectly fine.

Drinks to Limit or Avoid

  • Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent. While some assume the motto “Everything in moderation,” there is no known “safe level” of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • Unpasteurized juices, such as cider from neighborhood farms. These products may contain germs including E. coli.
  • Lead in tap water is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with lead pipes, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.
  • Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams a day. That’s about the amount found in 12 ounces of coffee.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is an industrial chemical used to make many hard plastics and the liners of many canned foods. It’s an endocrine disruptor that could disturb normal fetal development.

The FDA has not yet recommended that pregnant women avoid BPA, but they did express concern about “the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.”

If you wish to be safe, a wide range of BPA-free plastics and glass containers are available.

Herbal Teas, Vitamins, & Supplements

There are herbs and other supplements that can be used safely to support a healthy pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor or midwife about any supplement use during pregnancy.  Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but there are definite studies on the safety of herbal preparations during pregnancy.

Duffy MacKay, ND, is the vice president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, suggests the following guidelines during pregnancy:

  • Herbs that contain stimulants or caffeine-containing supplements, especially those that are intended to promote weight loss: guarana, kola nut, betel (Piper betle), Citrum aurantium, yohimbe, theobromine (cocoa extract), Garcinai cambogia.
  • Other botanicals to avoid include golden seal, Cascara sagrada, black walnut, wormwood, tansy, pennyroyal, senna, saw palmetto, pao d’arco.
  • Do not exceed 10,000 or more IU per day of vitamin A because of the risk of birth defects.  MacKay adds that “many newer and specialty nutrients have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy and should be avoided.”

Foods That May Cause Food Allergy

Your baby is more lifely to develop food allergies if you, your child’s father, or one of your other children has allergies.  The American Academy of Pediatrics  says that avoiding certain food allergens (such as peanuts) during pregnancy and nursing may reduce allergy in susceptible children.

If you don’t have any family history of allergies, there is little, if any, benefit to avoiding allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Before changing your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergies.

Excess Calories

Eating for two does not mean that you need twice the calories! Gaining too much weight is not just bad for your health, it may actually increase the risk of your future child being overweight.

It is important to chose healthy foods that will provide good nutrition for you and your developing baby. If you are overweight at conception or if your physical activity level declines, you may not need as many extra calories.

  • First trimester: no need to add extra calories yet.
  • Second trimester: add 340 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
  • Third trimester: add 450 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.

It’s usually not that important to count calories, as long as you are eating a balanced diet and feel energized. If you are unsure about how many calories to consume, ask your doctor or dietitian.

Source: Web MD

feature image: mom logic

Caffeine during pregnancy: How much is too much?

Gotta have your morning pick-me-up? Go ahead and enjoy that steaming cup of coffee, but be careful! A small cafe latte in Starbucks contains 240mg of caffeine, meaning a pregnant woman would exceed the recommended daily caffeine intake (200 mg) in one drink.

Pregnant women will be warned this week to limit their caffeine consumption to 200mg, the equivalent of two average-sized mugs of coffee a day, or risk giving birth to underweight babies. The amount has been lowered from the previous recommended caffeine limit of 300mg.

Remember that caffeine comes in other forms too! The 200mg limit is equivalent to four cups of tea, five cans of cola, three energy drinks or five bars of chocolate.

The advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) comes a week after scientists found that a weekly glass of wine during pregnancy could help boost a baby’s behavior and vocabulary. Caffeine, however, is linked to low birth weight and miscarriages. The research, to be published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, found that women with a caffeine intake of more than 200mg a day were more likely to give birth to smaller babies.

“If you’re small for gestational age, you’re more likely to have intellectual impairment and hyperactivity in later life.” Other research has found that drinking more than 200mg of coffee a day also doubled the risk of miscarriage.

The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is the most crucial time for the baby, when most miscarriages occur. Therefor Pat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommends that women abstain from caffeine during the first trimester.

Source: The Times Online

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