Whether it’s your first or fifth child, you probably have a mix of emotions coursing through you while you are pregnant. You’re probably joyous at the thought of nurturing another being inside of you, of seeing another version of yourself and/or your spouse, of simply being pregnant! You may be anxious to know the baby’s gender. You wouldn’t want to shop for supplies for a baby girl only to have a baby boy. And you may feel nervous about probable challenges, such as coping with work or study, as well as caring for the older kids.
Amidst this fusion of emotions, it isn’t uncommon to see pregnant women freaking out about their health (and their baby’s); for many believe that being pregnant is synonymous with feeling unwell. This is especially widespread in some cultures and among women who are getting pregnant for the first time or who had a previously difficult pregnancy.
While medical research has shown that the immune system is lowered slightly during pregnancy, so that the body does not eject the foetus, you can (and should) still be pregnant and healthy. You can incorporate some tips to boost your immune system and improve your general well-being throughout your pregnancy and beyond. Here are some tips to help you achieve that:
1. Espouse a healthy diet
Proper nutrition is essential for you and your baby’s health. Thus, it’s imperative that you consume a healthy and balanced diet with a variety of foods to supply the nutrients needed to nourish you and your baby. Eat from each food group- grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and other proteins, including beans. Eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables also helps to improve your energy levels.
Also, you should pay attention to the cleanliness of what you consume. Food hygiene is very important so that you do not ingest bacteria and other parasites. Wash fruits and vegetables well and cook meat and other foods thoroughly.
Research has shown that maternal nutritional status during pregnancy plays a more important role in determining foetal health and predisposition to some diseases than genetic factors. If you’re unsure of what or how much to eat, please talk to your physician.
2. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise has a lot of benefits for everyone including pregnant women. Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy helps you to stay healthy and feel more confident. Also, it can help relieve backaches, improve your posture, relieve stress and build stamina which you will surely need during delivery. It may also give you an energy boost, whenever you’re feeling fatigued.
Exercise helps you not only during your pregnancy but even after delivery, as you may regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly. Also, there’s evidence that exercise may lower the risk of complications such as gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy) and pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension).
Exercises like brisk walking, swimming, dancing, yoga and pelvic floor exercises are especially helpful. However, you should consult your physician before launching into an exercise programme, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before, so as not to put yourself or your baby at risk.
3. Be hygiene conscious
Usually, the body experiences some hormonal changes during pregnancy. Rising levels of oestrogen and progesterone can encourage bacterial growth. You might also experience increased perspiration and vaginal discharge. Therefore, you need to maintain a good level of hygiene to avoid infections and remain refreshed and comfortable all day.
Some dental diseases can occur during pregnancy which can increase your risk of certain pregnancy complications. Brush and floss your teeth at least once daily and avoid sweets, sugary foods and soft drinks.
Take showers regularly and avoid bathing with very hot water. Avoid tight clothing and use antiperspirant deodorant. Keep your house free from clutter, dirt and pests, especially your kitchen. Keep your environment dry to avoid slips and falls, and sanitize your home regularly.
4. Rest adequately
It’s typical to feel fatigued especially in the first trimester of pregnancy, due to the high levels of pregnancy hormones circulating in your body. Try to rest as much as you can to keep up your energy levels. You may find that you need to go to bed earlier than usual. You should try to take quick naps during the day in case you’re unable to have a good night’s rest. You may also try relaxation techniques such as massage and yoga to help you sleep well at night.
5. Pay attention to your mental health
Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, especially in pregnancy. Many people are aware of postpartum depression, but many women also experience mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy.
It may be normal to occasionally worry about the baby, or be concerned about how the pregnancy and later the baby will affect your life. But if you’re feeling sad most of the time; have no interest in activities you used to enjoy, or feel anxious and worried; you may need to talk to your doctor.
Pregnancy can be quite challenging sometimes, but incorporating these tips, putting your trust in Allah (SWT) and praying fervently will go a long way to improving your well-being.
Haleemah Oladamade Ahmad is a computer scientist currently studying journalism at the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja, Nigeria. She is a mother to an energetic twenty- month-old son.