Essential Tips For Good Health During Your Pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re expecting a little bundle of joy! While it’s an exciting time for the family, there are many things to consider while growing and nurturing both you and baby. Maintaining healthy eating habits is important for ensuring proper levels of vitamins and minerals, and can also help reduce the risk of potential birth defects. To boot, these vital nutrients will help keep your energy levels up, so you can continue doing the things you love! Read on to learn how you can enjoy the healthiest pregnancy possible.


Should I take a multivitamin?

While it’s always ideal to get essential nutrients through your daily diet, certain vitamins and minerals are required for women during pregnancy and can be easily consumed through a multivitamin supplement. This is especially true during the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy. Two of the most important components of a prenatal multivitamin regimen are folic acid and iron.

Folic Acid

Our body needs folic acid (or vitamin B9) when cells are growing and dividing very quickly. This happens during pregnancy as your uterus expands, the placenta develops, your body circulates more blood and the fetus grows.

A deficiency in folic acid can cause heart and limb defects in your baby, as well as urinary tract conditions, narrowing of the lower stomach valve and facial conditions such as cleft lip and cleft palate. It can also cause neural tube birth defects, which affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord.  As neural tube defects generally develop during the first month of pregnancy, it’s important to start taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid before planning your pregnancy. You should also look to include food sources of this essential vitamin into your weekly meal preparation, with leafy green vegetables (for example, broccoli, kale and spinach).

The recommended dose of folic acid for pregnant women is 0.4 mg per day, so be sure to check the label on your multivitamin to confirm that it contains the recommended amount.

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, which are a wide-ranging family of essential nutrients that play a critical role in producing many of the catalyst reactions required for the body’s proper functioning. You can read more about B vitamins and how to ensure you’re getting enough here.

Iron

When you’re pregnant, you need about twice the amount of iron as you did before you became pregnant. That’s because your body uses iron to make extra blood for your baby. Eating iron-rich foods (for example, beef and poultry; kidney beans and lentils; iron-fortified cereals; and spirulina) and taking an iron supplement, can help keep your levels in the right range.

The recommended dose of iron for pregnant women is 16 to 20 mg per day, so be sure to check the label on your multivitamin to confirm that it contains the recommended amount.


Tips for taking your vitamins

A great way to help you remember to take your multivitamin throughout your pregnancy is to build it into your morning routine, just as you would brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. While they’re especially important in the first trimester, multivitamins will help keep you healthy for the entire duration of your pregnancy.

As well, whichever multivitamin you choose, be sure to look for the eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN), which is found on all natural health products (NHPs) legally licensed for sale in Canada. This number means that the product has been assessed by Health Canada and deemed to be safe, effective and of high quality.


Prenatal exercises

Keeping a regular exercise routine helps you stay fit and also helps you maintain a healthy and appropriate weight gain during your pregnancy. Physical activity can also help prepare you for the physical demands of labour and beyond.

Even if you weren’t very active before becoming pregnant, there’s no reason you can’t start now! Begin with low-intensity aerobic exercises, such as yoga and swimming, and gradually move to higher-intensity activities. If you’re already active, think about how you can modify or replace extreme weight-bearing activities (which may cause or aggravate joint and lower back pain) with lower-intensity activities.

Remember to start slowly, stay hydrated and listen to your body. As always, consult with your health-care practitioner before starting a new exercise regimen.

Safe and healthy prenatal exercises include:

  • Kegels (these exercises in particular help strengthen the muscles that support your uterus)
  • Swimming or aquafit
  • Yoga
  • Brisk walking
  • Weight training
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Stretching
  • Tai chi

Healthy eating during pregnancy

Gaining weight is a natural part of pregnancy. How much weight you should gain depends on your body mass index before you became pregnant. Your health-care practitioner can help you determine how much weight gain is healthy for you as your pregnancy progresses.

The following tips may help guide you, as you consider your nutritional intake throughout your pregnancy.

  • Eat small amounts of food spread throughout the day, and avoid long periods without eating — ideally, think about eating three small meals and three snacks per day.
  • You may not need to increase your caloric intake during the first trimester, but should eat to satisfy your appetite.
  • During your second and third trimesters your energy needs will increase. Although you might feel less hungry – because your growing baby is putting pressure on your stomach – you’ll need a few more calories each day to support the growth of your baby.
  • Consume a varied diet that is rich in whole foods for the best possible nourishment for both you and baby.

Lastly, it’s important to breathe and enjoy the journey! There are many things to consider when preparing for your baby’s arrival, along with the new changes in your body and any potential symptoms that can arise – so if you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing morning sickness, know that you’re not alone and allow yourself the time to rest and relax. It’s important to work closely with your health-care practitioner for a health pregnancy; they can be another champion and support for you to count on.

Visit your local Canadian Health Food Association member health food store to find multivitamin supplements and healthy foods that can help keep your body healthy. Find your nearest location at chfa.ca.