Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pregnancy Dos and Don’ts

by James Brock, MD

If you just found out that you’re pregnant, you probably have a lot of questions? Should you at shellfish? What about drinking a cup of coffee, soft drink or glass of wine? Here are a few tips to help you and your baby stay healthy for the next nine months.

Do see your doctor for regular prenatal checkups. Ask about stopping any medications you are currently taking and starting any new ones. Make sure health problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure are treated and kept under control.

Do eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, calcium-rich foods and lean meats. It’s okay to have up to 12 ounces of fish per week, but avoid fish such as swordfish, mackerel or tilefish that are high in mercury and can cause serious nervous system damage for your baby. Instead, opt for canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon or catfish. Also stay away from unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, because they may contain listeria, a bacterium linked to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or fetal illness. Remember to drink plenty of water every day to prevent constipation.

Do get at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day to lower the risk of birth defects. It’s also a good idea to take folic acid before you become pregnant. Also be sure to get enough iron to prevent anemia and reduce the chances of preterm birth and a low-birth weight baby. Your doctor may prescribe prenatal vitamins during your pregnancy.

Don’t smoke, which can raise the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and infant death; drink alcohol, which can cause irreversible birth defects; or use illegal drugs, which are dangerous for you and your baby. Avoid exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, such as cleaning solvents, certain insecticides and paint.

Don’t gain too much weight. Excess body weight can increase the chances of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, stillbirth and preterm birth. In general, a woman who is normal weight should gain about 25 pounds during her pregnancy.

Don’t change or clean out your cat’s litter box and avoid contact with pet rodents, such as guinea pigs and hamsters.

Don’t take very hot baths or use a hot tub or sauna, which can be harmful to the fetus. Also avoid douching or using scented feminine hygiene products, which can increase the risk of infection.

In short, stay healthy and get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Reduce your stress levels and make sure to see your doctor for routine checkups.

James Brock, MD, is an OB/GYN with Brookwood Women’s Care.

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