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 Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


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Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….