Staying Healthy During Pregnancy (Part 4)
Some Things to Avoid
When you're pregnant, what you don't put into your body (or expose your body to) is almost as important as what you do. Here are some things to avoid:
One of the most common known causes of mental and physical birth defects, alcohol can cause severe abnormalities in a developing fetus.
Alcohol is easily passed along to the baby, who is less equipped to eliminate alcohol than the mother. That means an unborn baby tends to develop a high concentration of alcohol, which stays in the baby's system for longer periods than it would in the mother's. And moderate alcohol intake, as well as periodic binge drinking, can damage a baby's developing nervous system.
Pregnant women who use drugs may be placing their unborn babies at risk for premature birth, poor growth, birth defects, and behavior and learning problems. And their babies could also be born addicted to those drugs themselves.
If you've used any drugs at any time during your pregnancy, it's important to inform your health care provider. Even if you've quit, your unborn child could still be at risk for health problems.
You wouldn't light a cigarette, put it in your baby's mouth, and encourage your little one to puff away. As ridiculous as this scenario seems, pregnant women who continue to smoke are allowing their fetus to smoke, too. The smoking mother passes nicotine and carbon monoxide to her growing baby.
The risks of smoking to the fetus include:
• low birth weight
• sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
• asthma and other respiratory problems
If you smoke, having a baby may be the motivation you need to quit. Talk to your health care provider about options for stopping your smoking habit.
High caffeine consumption has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, so it's probably wise to limit or even avoid caffeine altogether if you can.
If you're having a hard time cutting out coffee cold turkey, here's how you can start:
• Cut your consumption down to one or two cups a day.
• Gradually reduce the amount by combining decaffeinated coffee with regular coffee.
• Eventually try to cut out the regular coffee altogether.
And remember that caffeine is not limited to coffee. Many teas, colas, and other soft drinks contain caffeine. Try switching to decaffeinated products (which may still have some caffeine, but in much smaller amounts) or caffeine-free alternatives.
If you're wondering whether chocolate, which also contains caffeine, is a concern, the good news is that you can have it in moderation. Whereas the average chocolate bar has anywhere from 5 to 30 milligrams of caffeine, there's 95 to 135 milligrams in a cup of brewed coffee. So, small amounts of chocolate are fine.
Changing the Litter Box
Pregnancy is the prime time to get out of cleaning kitty's litter box. Why? Because toxoplasmosis can be spread through soiled cat litter boxes and can cause serious problems, including prematurity, poor growth, and severe eye and brain damage. A pregnant woman who becomes infected often has no symptoms but can still pass the infection on to her developing baby.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications
Even common over-the-counter medications that are generally safe may be considered off-limits during pregnancy because of their potential effects on the baby. And certain prescription medications may also cause harm to the developing fetus.
To make sure you don't take anything that could be harmful to your baby:
• Ask your health care provider which medicines — both over-the-counter and prescription — are safe to take during pregnancy.
• Talk to your health care provider about any prescription drugs you're taking.
• Let all of your health care providers know that you're pregnant so that they'll keep that in mind when recommending or prescribing any medications.
• Also remember to discuss natural remedies, supplements, and vitamins.
If you were prescribed a medication before you became pregnant for an illness, disease, or condition you still have, consult with your health care provider, who can help you weigh potential benefits and risks of continuing your prescription.
If you become sick (e.g., with a cold) or have symptoms that are causing you discomfort or pain (like a headache or backache), talk to your health care provider about medications you can take and alternative ways to help you feel better without medication.
Healthy Pregnancy Habits: From Start to Finish
During pregnancy, from the first week to the fortieth, it's important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby. Even though you have to take some precautions and be ever-aware of how what you what you do — and don't do — may affect your baby, many women say they've never felt healthier than when they carried their children.
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