Pregnancy should be the most loving and lovely period of a woman’s life. But it can be exhausting and worrying. Every mother wants her baby to arrive in perfect condition. That so many babies do is almost miraculous, because the nine months before birth are the most important and hazardous in the life of your child.
You should give as much attention to your baby’s welfare before birth as afterwards. It has been found that only a minute percentage of births – about two percent – have any serious abnormalities, and 80 percent of these have no hereditary basis. So most of these defects might be avoided.
A few are Nature’s mistakes and you can’t blame yourself for them. But many defects are man-made so can be prevented.
- DO think of your pregnancy as a natural state and not an illness. Live life as normally as possible.
- DO make love as often as you feel like it throughout your pregnancy. Intercourse actually aids your baby’s development.
- DO attend every ante-natal clinic. Feeling well is no excuse for missing one of these regular health checks. The one you miss may be the one that could have saved your baby some distress.
- DO have a daily rest, even if it’s just sitting with your feet up while you go on working. This will keep you more active longer each day.
- DO see that you eat a balanced diet. For example a hamburger and chips will give you some protein but a lot more calories. If you substitute a fresh mixed salad for the starchy chips and the hamburger bun, you’ll have a much more nourishing meal.
- DO have other topics to talk about besides babies. Your pregnancy may be a fascinating and unique experience to you. But it’s just another ordinary birth so far as your friends are concerned.
- DO keep up your usual amount of exercise. Don’t sink into a chair every chance you get. But also don’t go on 10 km hikes before breakfast. Aim for the happy medium during pregnancy.
- DO act on any advice the doctors at the ante-natal clinic give you. If they think you should do something like eating more or less, do it! Too many women promise doctors to do as they suggest then do only what suits them. Your doctors have good reasons for their recommendations. If these are not clear ask for an explanation.
- DO be sensible about long, unnecessary journeys. Now is not the time to take an exhausting tour.
- DO go to your doctor immediately if any of the following danger signs appear: unusual swelling of the face, ankles and feet or hands and fingers; any pain in the abdominal area; continuous headache and blurring of vision; a rush of water from the vagina or any bleeding. If you have a bad fall see him at once, but don’t worry about the baby – it is better protected than you think.
- DO check that your underwear isn’t too tight, especially bras. Choose knickers which don’t have elastic that’s constricting.
- DO stay in charge of your own pregnancy. At every stage ask questions and make the major decisions yourself. If you are worried about anything at any time, speak up. An interested, aware mother gets better attention.
- DON’T stop working too soon unless your doctor advises it. Being away from your regular life and friends can be very depressing at the end of a pregnancy and may make the waiting seem endless.
- DON’T throw the home you’ve got into total upheaval to make room for the expected baby. That small person will take up a tiny amount of space. So fit the baby into your home. Don’t fit the home around the baby. Wait until the baby is a few months old before finally deciding how to rearrange the furnishings.
- DON’T compare pregnancy notes with friends. Each expectant mother is different and probably needs different treatment.
- DON’T use the traditional pregnancy food cravings as an excuse to over-eat. Telling people you can’t live without chocolate bars or cheesecake may fool them – but not your bathroom scales
- DON’T get constipated. There’s no need for this if your diet contains the necessary roughage like fresh fruit and vegetables, muesli, bran and whole-wheat bread.
- DON’T put on much more than 14 kg (28 lb) during your pregnancy. An overweight mum is far more likely to have a difficult birth and other complications.
- NEVER smoke during the whole 40 weeks of your pregnancy (or afterwards, if you can). Women who do smoke have twice the miscarriage rate, almost a third more still-born babies and over a quarter more babies die soon after birth. Smoker’s babies are smaller at birth and in later life are more likely to suffer with respiratory troubles. At school, they’ll still be smaller than their friends, and may also have learning difficulties, because smoking reduces the oxygen supplied to the baby in the womb. Smoking by the mother also affects the baby’s blood supply.
- NEVER drink heavily during pregnancy. Alcohol has now been linked with malformed babies and also with retarded mental development in babies whose mothers regularly drink to excess.
- NEVER use a douche, which forces water into the vagina, during pregnancy (or at any other time). If you develop an itch, don’t try to treat yourself. Report it to your doctor at your next ante-natal clinic (or before, if it’s worrying you). The forced douche can make infections worse rather than cure them.
- NEVER fail to tell the doctor immediately if you come into contact with any infectious disease like Rubella (German measles).
- NEVER vary from the course the doctor sets you if you suffer from diabetes. It is vital for the survival of your baby to maintain exact blood sugar levels.
- NEVER lose your cool if you can possibly help it. Stress raises the blood pressure during pregnancy and may lead to toxemia which literally starves your baby of oxygen. A mother-to-be who is going through a bad time in her marriage, or any traumatic experience, will need more rest than usual. (However, doctors note that unmarried moms who must be subject to higher than average stress, usually produce perfectly normal babies.) Pregnancy puts an enormous strain on your body, so don’t add to this by overworking unnecessarily; and don’t become anxious about any aspect of your pregnancy. This is why we think you should ask as many questions as you want so that you understand what’s happening to your body – and the baby – at all times.
- NEVER over-extend your energy if you suffer from high blood pressure. This is called hypertension. You can reduce its dangerous effects on your baby by sticking to a salt-free diet. Also, get plenty of rest and relaxation.
- NEVER, NEVER take drugs of any kind during pregnancy unless specifically prescribed by your own doctor, even pills and potions you’ve relied on for years like sleeping pills, tranquilizers, cough mixtures or headache cures. Regularly taking headache powders or tablets containing aspirin, phenacetin, codeine or paracetamol may damage a developing baby in various ways. These could cause anemia in the newborn, while the mother could tend to lose more blood and have a longer labor.
Does it really matter if you take an aspirin or some other painkiller while pregnant?
Yes, it does. Recent research shows that some people may be more vulnerable than others when it comes to drugs. A slight impairment of their body’s makeup puts them just below the danger threshold. When they take a drug it may have more effect on their body and the baby they are carrying, than on dozens of people.
The trouble is, there is no way yet known to detect the mothers at risk from everybody else.
One UK survey showed that during pregnancy, over 97 percent of 1,369 women took medically prescribed drugs and 65 percent took self-prescribed drugs. Significantly more of the mothers who took self-prescribed drugs had malformed babies. So if you’re ever tempted to take some remedy without checking with your doctor first, bear in mind this terrible fact: most malformations in the newborn are the result of outside influences on the mother, almost always preventable.
NOTE: avoid everything that contains drugs of every type unless your doctor – aware of your condition – prescribes them. Even your regular anti-flu vaccine.