How to care for your body during pregnancy

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Being pregnant means following a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever.  It's crucial to understand what steps you can take to keep you and your baby in good health.


Proper nutrition is one of the best ways to enjoy a happy pregnancy.  Because you're eating for two, its doubly important to consume healthy foods and stay away from things that may harm your baby as it develops.  When you are pregnant, dieting and cutting calories is not a good thing - you will need to take in about 300 more calories a day to ensure you and your baby are properly nourished, especially as you pregnancy progresses.  Caloric intake, however, can vary from woman to woman.  For thin women, and women carrying twins, you may be required to consume more than 300 extra calories.  Or, if you are currently overweight, you might need less.  No matter what, you'll need to contact your healthcare provider to determine what's best for you.

Of course, pure calorie consumption is not the only goal - you need to make sure that what you eat is nutritionally sound.  Nutrious foods contain the essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to a baby's growth and development.

Although a healthy diet is fundamental to caring for your body during pregnancy, it's actually quite simple to integrate healthy living into your daily life.  Maintain a well-balanced diet by following basic dietary guidelines.  Lean meats, fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads and low-fat dairy products are all essential to maintaining good health.

Real, healthy food will provide your body with much-needed nutrients.  At the same time, during pregnancy certain essential nutrients are required in higher than normal amounts.   For example, calcium, iron and folic acid are especially essential in the diet of a pregnant woman.  Although your doctor may prescribe vitamin supplements, your diet still needs to contain nutritious food to provide your body with most of it's nourishment.

On a normal basis, women need 1000mg of calcium per day, but during pregnancy, calcium consumption should rise in order to keep up with calcium loss in your bones.  You can get calcium from a wide range of foods, including low-fat milk, chees and yoghurt; orange juice, soy milk and cereals that are fortified with calcium; dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli; as well as tofu, dried beans and almonds.

A pregnant woman requires 27 to 30mg of iron per day because iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin, which is what helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.  A lack of iron leads to the death of red blood cells, meaning the body's tissues and organs dont receive enough oxygen.  With a baby on board, women need to pay extra attention to their iron intake.

Iron is found in both plant and animal matter, but the body absorbs it more easily from meat sources.  The following are some foods that contain a good amount of iron:  red meat, dark poultry, salmon, eggs, tofu, enriched grains, dried beans and peas, dried fruit, leafy green vegetables, blackstrap molasses, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.

Many people have already heard about how important folate (folic acid) is for a pregnant woman.  For pregant women, or those planning on becomming pregnant, it is recommended that you take 0.4 millograms of  folic acid every day.  Many woman choose to supplement their diet with vitamins in addition to any folic acid intake they receive from food.

It has been found that consuming folic acid 1 month before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects by 70%, which is why it's considered so critical.   The neural tube is formed during the first 28 days of pregnancy, which is usually before a woman even realises she is pregnant.  Lack of sufficient nutrition, particularly lack of folic acid, may result in a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.

To remain healthy while pregnant, it's also key to drink plenty of fluids.  During pregnancy your blood volume increases, so drinking plenty of water is the best way to avoid dehydration and constipation. 

Exercise is a great way to feel great throughout an entire pregnancy.  There's no reason to stop physical activity once you become pregnant; in fact, dietary guidelines suggest that you take 30 minutes or more each day to work out at a moderate pace.   During prenancy, regular exercise prevents excessive weight gain, reduces problems such as back pain, swelling and constipation.  It improves sleep, increases energy, promotes a positive attitude, prepares your body for labour and lessens recovery time afterwards.

Proper sleep in another factor in maintaining health and comfort during pregnancy.  Pregnancy can take it's toll - and after a long day you will feel more tired than usual.  As the baby grows bigger, it will be more difficult to sleep, but try to sleep as best you can - it will do wonders for how you feel!

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