Will I have a normal and healthy baby? Will the baby be born with some kind of physical or mental problem? Will it be a difficult birth? These are a few questions you may have during your pregnancy.
Certain factors related to your health could classify you as high risk. Some risk factors are alcoholism, drug addiction, excessive smoking, and poor dietary habits.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects many organs in your body. Many of us do not even think of alcohol as a drug. When alcohol is used excessively during pregnancy, it can affect the delicate body of your unborn baby.
Research studies have shown that alcohol passes through the placenta to the baby so that when you have a drink the baby has one equal in strength. Because of the size and developing system of the fetus, this can be harder on the baby than on you. Researchers have reported that babies born to mothers who drink excessively develop irreversible brain damage and mental retardation. Babies with “fetal alcohol syndrome” are smaller and lighter in weight than normal babies. They also have severe facial malformations, heart defects, and are poorly coordinated. At present, no one knows just how much alcohol is too much. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is a definite risk to birth defects when a pregnant woman drinks 3 ounces or more of alcohol a day.
Based on these research findings and until all facts are known, exercise caution in using alcohol during pregnancy.
If you are planning a pregnancy or as soon as you suspect you are pregnant, consult your physician about drugs that are safe to use during the pregnancy. Previous prescriptions may have to be discontinued or modified to prevent birth defects.
Since most drugs pass through the placenta to your baby, take only those prescribed by your doctor. Avoid over-the-counter medicines such as laxatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, reducing pills, pain relievers, aspirin, and baking soda. Check with your physician before taking any drug or medication. The best advice is – don’t take a chance.
When a pregnant woman smokes excessively, the nicotine and carbon monoxide from cigarettes can restrict the blood supply to the growing fetus. This restriction in turn limits the transport of nutrients and removal of body waste. Heavy smoking suppresses the appetite, so pregnant women who smoke do not gain the weight recommended during pregnancy. Excessive smoking increases your chances of having a baby with low birth weight. Low birth weight babies are those who weigh less than 5 1/2 pounds at birth. Low-birth weight is considered an unfavorable outcome of pregnancy because of the documented risks associated with small-for-date babies.
Fad Approaches to Food
Fad diets are not nutritionally sound for the pregnant woman. Some examples are the low carbohydrate diet, high protein diet, starvation diet, and liquid protein diet. If you are obese at the time of conception, don’t attempt to lose weight during the pregnancy. Pregnancy is also not the time to try new exotic diets. Fad diets often produce harmful changes in the body including kidney disorders, gout, and scurvy. When your total kilocalorie intake is severely reduced, your baby may be smaller and lighter in weight than normal babies. Dieting during pregnancy, even for short periods of time, is very dangerous.
If you are a vegetarian, you may need additional help in planning a balanced intake of protein. Be sure to include milk, other dairy products, and eggs in your diet. You may also need a vitamin B12 supplement because this vitamin is only found in foods from animal sources. In any case, discuss your diet with your physician or nutritionist.
Your doctor may prescribe nutrient supplements during your pregnancy. He or she may prescribe an iron and folic acid supplement, routinely recommended for pregnant women. Your doctor may also prescribe additional calcium if he or she considers food sources of calcium are lacking in your diet. However, foods from the basic four food groups contain many vitamins and minerals essential for the baby’s growth and development. Don’t depend on vitamin and mineral supplements to provide all the essentials of an adequate diet.
Too much caffeine consumption, such as more than 8 cups of coffee a day, may cause complications in delivery. Stay away from drinking excessive amounts of coffee and cola drinks. Sugar consumption, if very excessive, may predispose the baby to obesity and cause complications during delivery.
There is so much to stay away from, avoid and suspect while you are pregnant. Make intelligent choices about what you eat and drink during pregnancy to increase your chance of having a healthy normal baby.
A good beginning makes the difference.