Preparing for the birth of a child can be a busy time and a bit overwhelming, but the health of you and your baby should be your primary focus. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, here are four steps to help you prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
Know what nutrients your body and your baby need
According to TriHealth Women’s Services, during your pregnancy you should eat a variety of foods throughout the day, including three balanced meals and two to three healthy snacks. Your daily intake should include these essential nutrients:
· Protein is the main building block for your baby’s cells and can be found in nuts, soy products, beans, meat, fish and dairy products.
· Carbohydrates provide energy for you and your baby. Focus on complex carbohydrates from foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains which supply more nutrients and fiber and longer-lasting energy.
· Fats should be limited to 25 to 30 percent of your total calories and should come from sources of HDL cholesterol such as olive or canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and fish.
· Folic acid is essential during early pregnancy for your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. Good sources include lentils, chickpeas, oranges, oatmeal, spinach and broccoli.
· Calcium is vital for your baby’s developing bones. Sources include dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice, greens and tofu processed with calcium.
· Iron helps create red blood cells that deliver oxygen to your baby and prevent fatigue. Good sources include lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, lentils and dried fruit. Foods rich in Vitamin C such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries and melons can help with Iron absorption.
Eat healthy, one step at a time
Understanding proper nutrition is one thing but following it is another. Whether your diet needs some tweaks or an overhaul, take it one step at a time and don’t feel overwhelmed. Eating healthy is not only important during pregnancy, maintaining healthy habits after childbirth is beneficial to you and helps to set a good example for your child.
To help you develop healthier eating habits, set realistic goals such as making a few small changes every week. Here are some ideas:
- Keep nutritious snacks such as cut-up vegetables in containers in the fridge to encourage healthy snacking.
- Eat at the table instead of in front of the TV, whether eating with family or alone.
- Serve small portions and wait between helpings or courses, so you’re eating based on hunger.
- Replace soda or juice with water. Add fruit for more flavor.
- To lower your sugar intake, limit sugary treats to one per day, eventually reducing them to one per week.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
Get plenty of exercise
If you already have an exercise program that is not high-impact, don’t worry that you’ll have to give it up, as exercise is generally safe during pregnancy.
“Your baby is surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus, which is surrounded by the organs, muscles and your physical body,” the American Pregnancy Association says. “This actually creates a rather safe environment for your developing baby. However, even with this protection, it is recommended you avoid high-impact exercise.”
If you don’t already get regular exercise, it is important that you prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy by starting now. If you are physically active before getting pregnant, you’re more likely to be able to keep it up during pregnancy. As with eating, ease into exercising and discuss any concerns with your doctor to ensure that what you do is safe for you and your baby.
Choose the right prenatal care and labor and delivery options
Whether you choose care from an obstetrician-gynecologist or a certified nurse midwife, selecting the right provider for your pregnancy and delivery are important. Do your research and ask questions about what’s important to you. Consider whether you want a natural or medicated birth and investigate what options are available for pain relief. For example, TriHealth offers unmedicated labor, massage, hydrotherapy (immersion in warm water), doulas, birthing balls, hot and cold therapy, epidural blocks and local anesthesia.
Your care provider will consider your needs and wants and give you honest advice about what is safe and healthy for you and your baby.