Family Life

Expecting a baby is one of the most exciting and bewildering times of your life. These steps help ensure you – and your unborn baby – stay healthy.

1. Go for prenatal check-ups: If everything is normal, you should see your healthcare provider every month until about the sixth month; every two weeks during the seventh and eighth months, and then weekly until your due date. “During the first visit, your doctor will take a full health history, conduct a full physical exam, check your blood pressure and test your urine,” says Dr Deon van Zyl, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Panorama. Your healthcare provider might also test for any sexually transmitted infections. During every future visit, your blood pressure will be taken, and your urine tested for signs of protein or sugar (which indicate potential complications). Scans at designated times in your pregnancy will also allow you to hear your baby’s heartbeat.

2. Eat right and take supplements: To help stay healthy during pregnancy, eat lots of fruit and veggies, low-fat forms of protein and high-fibre foods. “Beyond the obvious – maintaining enough calories to keep you healthy and ensure the baby keeps growing – in-utero nutrition, including whether you are overweight or have pregnancy-related diabetes, can impact a child’s health throughout their lifetime,” says Dr van Zyl. Ensure your diet contains enough folic acid (found in leafy vegetables, potatoes, grains and liver) to help reduce the risk of malformations in your unborn baby’s spine and spinal marrow. “Your doctor will probably also recommend you take a vitamin compound containing folic acid and other micronutrients to help your baby’s healthy development,” says Dr Ntshengedzeni Mulaudzi, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Limpopo.

3. Exercise: If you don’t have any underlying health issues, moderate physical activity is perfectly safe – but always check with your healthcare provider first. “Exercise is also the best way to reduce the insulin resistance that can lead to gestational diabetes and to maintain normal blood sugar levels if you do develop it,” says Dr van Zyl. “Avoid intensive activities that could lead to falls. If you weren’t exercising before your pregnancy, start slow, gradually working your way up to 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Be careful to drink plenty of water before, during and after you work out, and avoid becoming overheated.”

4. Stop drinking and smoking: If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. “Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of serious complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth,” says Dr Mulaudzi. “Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it’s never too late to stop. Drinking in pregnancy can also cause long-term harm to your baby. As there is no known safe level for drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid it completely.”

5. Be informed: The Mediclinic Baby Programme has articles and videos answering many of the questions that new and expecting parents may have. Other resources include a free, award-winning Baby App, convenient hospital checklist of exactly what to pack, an easy-to-use ovulation calculator for would-be parents and an A-Z info hub for new parents. The information comes from qualified Mediclinic doctors, so you’re getting current, reliable guidance that’s relevant to South Africa. You’ll also enjoy:

  • Free weekly pregnancy and postnatal information via email.
  • Invitations to hospital events, such as pregnancy education workshops.
  • Tailor-made antenatal courses, presented by childbirth professionals.

Click here to sign up for The Mediclinic Baby Programme free of charge!

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