how to stay healthy during pregnancy

How to stay healthy during pregnancy

Give your developing baby the best start by doing your best to avoid infection and illness.

It can be scary if you catch an infection or bug while you’re pregnant, as you are likely to worry about your developing baby’s health as well as your own. It’s comforting to know that most babies are not affected if their mother gets an infection during pregnancy. There are some infections however that can be transmitted to babies via the placenta or during birth.

It’s impossible to avoid all sources of infection during pregnancy but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. The best way to protect yourself during pregnancy is to avoid people you know are suffering from an infection, follow a healthy diet and be careful about what you eat.

Here are some healthy lifestyle habits plus precautions to take in pregnancy to prevent picking up infections:

Get some shut eye

You’ll need six to eight hours of sleep a night when you’re pregnant. Your body is working really hard to produce a new person, so give yourself the chance to rest. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, then try to grab a cat nap – even a 15 minute nap at lunchtime or when you get home from work can help.

Take your vitamins

It’s recommended that pregnant women get their vitamins and minerals from their diet. However you may need to take some supplements recommended by your GP or midwife to ensure that you’re getting everything that you need. Pregnant women require extra folic acid, calcium and iron during pregnancy.

Hydrate yourself

Drinking plenty of fluids during pregnancy can help to flush out toxins, relieve indigestion, ease constipation, plump up your skin, reduce swelling and decrease the risk of urinary infections and pre-term labour. Try to drink around eight glasses of water a day – this can include caffeine-free tea/coffee and fruit juices.

Prioritise some R & R

Relaxation during pregnancy has many benefits. It can take many forms from taking the time to take a 15 minute nap or sitting down with a magazine and a cup of tea. A 10-minute walk around the block can also really help to reduce stress. Yoga is another good tension reliever as it helps you to learn how to breathe deeply and relax, which can be really helpful when you go into labour.

Get your five-a-day

A healthy diet is important for everyone but even more so when you’re pregnant. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will ensure that you and your baby will get a variety of nutrients. You will also be setting your baby up with a preference for fruits and veggies, as your baby can taste the foods you eat through the amniotic fluid during the later stages of pregnancy. Child development experts in Canada found that women who eat fruit during their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to more intelligent children than those who do not, or those who eat very little fruit.

how to stay healthy during pregnancy

Get moving

Studies have shown that the more physically active you are the less likely you are to suffer from colds during the winter months. It’s important to work out safely but know your limitations. Listen to your body and adapt to what you are able to do – never exercise to the point of exhaustion. A gentle walk every day can be beneficial throughout pregnancy.

Wash your hands often

Wash your hand frequently, especially when you’re preparing foods, eating and after using the bathroom. Washing your hands helps to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

Food safety

Some foods should be avoided due to the risk of being contaminated with food borne germs. Avoid:

• Foods that are undercooked like raw fish, rare steaks, eggs with a runny yolk and chicken that is even a little pink in the middle.

• Unpasteurised milk and any cheese or yoghurt made with unpasteurised milk. All foods that are unpasteurised must carry a warning saying that it has not been pasteurised and may contain harmful bacteria.

• Mould-ripened cheese, e.g. Danish Blue, Brie, Camembert. These types of cheese can contain high levels of listeria, which is a bacteria that can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.

Avoiding animal born illnesses

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite that infects warm-blooded animals, primarily cats. According to the HSE, women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy should avoid contact with all rodents and their droppings, including avoiding changing cat litter. If no one else can perform the task, disposable gloves should be worn and hands washed with soap and warm water afterwards. Adopting or handling stray cats, especially kittens, should be avoided.

Pregnant women and the flu

According to the HSE, pregnant women are more likely to become very ill from flu, due to changes in their heart and lung function. Contracting the flu in pregnancy could also lead to premature birth and low birth weight.

How to tell the difference between a cold and the flu? According to the HSE, a cold is a much less severe illness than the flu. The flu symptoms come on suddenly with fevers and muscle aches. A cold will normally start gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.

How does the flu vaccine work? Seasonal flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. When someone who has been vaccinated comes into contact with the virus, these antibodies attack the virus. Pregnant women are advised to get the flu vaccine as early as possible in their pregnancy. The flu season is normally between September and April.

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“The Flu vaccine can be given at any stage in pregnancy. The flu virus infection during pregnancy is more likely to cause severe illness than in healthy women who are not pregnant. This is due to changes in the immune system and respiratory system which happen during pregnancy. Infection in later stages of pregnancy can cause premature labour and delivery, and the newborn is protected from the flu virus for up to six months after delivery if the mother is vaccinated during pregnancy. Extensive studies have shown that the flu vaccine is completely safe in pregnancy.” – Dr. Rachel Mackey

More like this:

Dental health in pregnancy
Boost your immunity during pregnancy
Supplements in pregnancy

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


Sole with sage butter

This simple but fantastic recipe for sole with sage and butter comes direct from chef JP McMahon.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.