Essential in pregnancy

For a healthy pregnancy, you need to achieve a perfect blend of physical fitness, emotional stability and mental strength

happy pregnant womanPregnancy is that beautiful period of a woman's life, where her body goes into a mode of creation of a new being, just like the creator. It is a divine experience. As American author Kahlil Gibran says, our children are an extension of our own in mind and spirit. This thought should be upper most in one's mind when going through this wonderful phase of creation.

Get yourself checked

A lot of attention is paid to the physical fitness of the mother-to-be and rightfully so. Any situation, which digresses from a normal healthy situation may turn into an untoward occurrence during pregnancy. These possibilities need to be identified and therefore prenatal or antenatal check-ups become important. These check-ups are directed towards monitoring maternal as well as foetal wellbeing and prediction of any untoward occurrence.

For example identifying patients at risk of having abortions, pregnancy-related hypertension, anaemia or intrauterine growth restriction of the baby or at least identifying any such risk at the earliest. Diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, anaemia and reduced oxygen carrying capacity of the blood are common in India.

Evaluate before planning

Thus, physical fitness encompasses the basic health status of the mother, which ideally should be evaluated before a pregnancy is planned. In most cases, the woman realises that she is pregnant after 6 – 8 weeks. By this time the neural tube of the baby [from which the brain and the spinal cord develops] is already formed. If the mother has inadvertently consumed any medicines, is on any therapy or has inadequate consumption of folate in her diet, the growing foetus may develop some life-threatening complications.

This also is the period when the placenta [organ which supplies nutrition to the baby from the mother] is formed. If this is improperly developed, it may not function effectively, thus resulting in intrauterine growth restrictions. Therefore, it is imperative for women to seek medical advice before conception to assess their physical fitness levels for pregnancy.

Once the pregnancy is confirmed, the doctor advises certain tests to evaluate the health status of the mother and baby.

Know if you are ready

The most important aspect of antenatal [pre-pregnancy] care is to identify risk category and prevent adverse outcomes as much as possible. Pregnancy is best if it is well planned—knowing whether it is truly your priority now and if you are ready for it.

Just ask yourself some simple questions—am I physically fit for this pregnancy? Are my BMI and haemoglobin levels normal? What is my blood group? Am I anaemic? Do I have regular menstruation? Am I taking any medication, which may need to be changed when planning a baby? Am I taking folic acid supplements and a well-balanced diet? Consult your gynaecologist who will help evaluate yourself better.

Eat right and work it out

Once you are pregnant, you have to be extremely careful about what you eat. During the first three months, many women suffer from nausea and a dislike towards food. But you can overcome this by some simple measures:

  • Eat small frequent meals, which are not fried or spicy.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat fresh fruits, and sprouts.
  • Never fast when you are pregnant as you have to eat regularly throughout the day to supply energy to the fast-multiplying cells in your body. Fasting causes release of ketones, which form as a result of muscle breakdown and is not the right energy source for the metabolism of the baby's cells.

Once nausea wanes [mostly after the fourth month], the tolerance towards food increases. The caloric content of food has to be approximately 2400 kcal of which 30 – 40 per cent should be proteins. Eat complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat and unpolished rice, avoid refined carbohydrates. Make milk, milk products and other protein sources such as pulses, eggs, meat a regular part of your diet. You will require about 1200mg of calcium and roughly about 500g of roughage per day.

In spite of an adequate diet intake you still need to take iron, calcium and folate supplements as these have been proved to be highly beneficial for a healthy pregnancy.

Physical exercise is equally important during pregnancy. It helps enhance general well-being, increase the flexibility of the mother's body and improve blood circulation. It also helps tone the body and regularise appetite. Adequate exercise also can act as a great mood elevator and this helps in a positive pregnancy. Continue with the regular activities that you were doing before pregnancy, but avoid extreme levels of physical exertions.

Get friendly with the hormones

Pregnancy is associated with a lot of hormonal upheaval in your body. There are a lot of physiological adaptations that the body undergoes during pregnancy, which prepare your body for child birth and lactation thereafter.

Just accept all the changes and relax as these are temporary changes and easily reversible at a later stage. These hormonal changes are responsible for the emotional ups and downs—feelings of elation to extreme sense of insecurity and depression. These are to be expected and therefore dealt with by not indulging into these thoughts. Pregnancy is a passing phase and these emotional upheavals also pass. There has to be a constant effort to create a positive attitude, and this is completely self-dependent.

Make it special

Pregnancy is not a result of a moment of lust. It has to be a much wanted result of culmination of love and should be understood as such. Every baby should be wanted by the mother and the mother should go out of her way to make the pregnancy feel precious. It entirely is her emotions, physical fitness and her psyche that finally will help result in a healthy outcome. The realisation and understanding that through motherhood, you are a part of a much larger destiny is important.

A healthy mind within a healthy body, which is stable and intertwined to deliver the best for the birth of the baby is what you need to strive for.

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Girija Wagh
Girija Wagh, MD, FICOG, diploma [Endoscopy], is a practising gynaecologist for the past 17 years in Pune. She is also the Joint Secretary of FOGSI 2010 and a professor at Bharati Vidyapeeth University Hospital in Pune. Her other interests include playing basket ball, sitar and katthak.

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