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Expert tips for a healthy pregnancy

If the pitter patter of tiny feet is in your future, you can help give your baby the best possible start in life with these top tips for a healthy pregnancy from two leading obstetrician gynaecologists.

“Pregnancy and the period leading up to conception sets the foundation for your child’s life, and there are some very important factors that parents-to-be should be aware of,” says Dr Sunkaran Pillay, a gynaecologist and obstetrician practising at Netcare Parklands Hospital.

Preparing for pregnancy

“Ideally, from at least three months before the pregnancy, equip your body for bringing a child into the world by following a healthy lifestyle and avoiding risky behaviour. It is recommended you visit your gynaecologist well before you plan to conceive to discuss any medication adjustments and lifestyle changes that may be needed, as well as folic acid supplements to prepare for pregnancy,” Dr Pillay says.

“It is also especially important to screen the mother for any chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, as well as anaemia or vitamin deficiencies, so that these can be diagnosed and controlled prior to pregnancy. If you are concerned you may have depression, talk to your doctor and seek help early,” adds Dr Marise Subrayan, a gynaecologist and obstetrician practising at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital.

What to avoid in pregnancy:

Excessive weight gain. Monitor your weight with your obstetrician throughout pregnancy.

Fumes, such as generator smoke or car exhaust fumes, and vapours, including from some strong cleaning detergents.

Lifting heavy items.

Cat litter boxes. Contact with cat faeces can lead to toxoplasmosis, which can be very serious for mother and baby during pregnancy.

Sushi, rare, smoked or cured meats or fish. Animal-based foods must be thoroughly cooked.

Runny, undercooked eggs.

Alcohol, cigarettes, cannabis, and drugs. These substances are not safe, even in tiny amounts, and could lead to profound long-term consequences for your baby.

Excessive stress. Get plenty of rest and if needed, talk to your doctor about ways to help you cope.

What you should do in pregnancy:

Continue to exercise in consultation with your obstetrician. Light to moderate exercise is now recommended three to four times a week, as well as pelvic floor-strengthening kegel exercises.

Develop a birth plan. Decide where you want to have your baby and who will be there to support you. Check what maternity cover your medical aid plan provides and make an informed choice with your doctor on whether you will have a c-section or natural birth.

Talk to your co-parent or support person openly about any concerns, cultural or religious norms or beliefs, and childcare expectations after the birth.

Attend antenatal classes. Spending time with others who are also experiencing this special time, and building friendships can support you during pregnancy.

Have regular scans to check the progress of your pregnancy and stay in close contact with your obstetrician gynaecologist and birthing team.

Stay hydrated. Reduce caffeinated drinks and be sure to drink plenty of water.

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What you can do in pregnancy:

Drive. Most women can drive throughout their pregnancy. Wear the seatbelt over your hips and thighs to avoid pressure on your belly.

Travel in the second trimester. This is safer than travelling in the first and third trimesters. Airlines require a letter from your doctor if you are 28 weeks pregnant or more and remember to wear compression stockings and walk the aisle every half hour if you are travelling by plane.

Talk to other mothers. Although no two pregnancies are the same, there is often valuable insight about what to possibly expect in pregnancy and valuable support from other women who have experience.

“Make a pledge to do everything you can to create and continue a healthy pregnancy, and discuss priority areas regularly with your gynae,” Dr Subrayan adds.

“Pregnancy is a remarkable time that you will remember for the rest of your life and will set the scene for your child’s future. Take the best possible care of yourself, and try to relax and enjoy the experience,” Dr Pillay concludes.

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