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Preparing Your Body for a Baby

By: Sangeet Khanna - Updated: 20 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pregnancy Changes Dietary Modifications

Deciding to have a baby is one of the most important decisions in a person’s life. Ideally it should be made with proper preparation and planning. Pregnancy is a tremendous undertaking both physically and mentally. Some of the physical challenges include dietary modifications, and lifestyle changes. Understanding the mental challenges are also extremely important, hormonal changes in pregnancy can send a person’s emotional balance into a tailspin. Knowing what to expect and establishing a game plan can help make the nine months that lay ahead a lot easier and even more special.

Dietary Modifications

Preparation begins months before even conception, with the daily practice of taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Evidenced based medicine suggests that supplementing diet with folic acid 6 weeks before conception can help reduce neural tube defects within the developing foetus. The nervous system begins to develop early in pregnancy, usually within the 3rd or 4th week. The neural tube serves as the precursor for the central nervous system. Central nervous system abnormalities cannot be cured with surgery, or any other means, they can only be prevented.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is also crucial to a successful pregnancy. A research study conducted in the UK and published in BJOG (an international journal of obstetrics and gynecology), showed that underweight women had 72% greater risk of suffering a miscarriage. These results underscore the importance of maintaining an adequate BMI (Body Mass Index) during pregnancy. On the flipside obesity can also be detrimental to pregnancy and lead to complications such as diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a common complication during pregnancy and is increased in pregnant women who are overweight.

Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle modifications remain the single most important factor in determining the success of pregnancy. Alcohol, smoking and drug use are high risk factors for pregnancy complications, and birth defects. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can severely impact the development of vital organs; these effects are neither reversible nor correctable by medical science. In today’s modern society, alcohol has become the cornerstone for social engagements, business dinners and after work relaxation. Many find it hard to go 9 days without a drink, going 9 months without one is truly an arduous task. Even before getting pregnant it may be helpful to develop coping mechanisms specific to each situation where alcohol may be involved.

Establishing a strong support system can also help relieve some of the social burden. It is always important to keep in mind that no amount of alcohol is considered safe. Smoking is also harmful during pregnancy, and due to its highly addictive properties, will be more difficult to abstain from then drinking. Smoking can lead to premature births, and low birth weight babies, it can also complicate pregnancy by causing miscarriage as well. Quitting smoking should be first on the list before contemplating pregnancy. Use of drugs such as cocaine can endanger the developing foetus as well as the would-be-mother. Cocaine use can severely complicate pregnancy by causing the placenta to rupture within the womb. This rupture can lead to heavy bleeding and grave complications. Maintaining a substance free lifestyle is good practice for all individuals, but to those contemplating pregnancy it remains the hallmark for a successful pregnancy, and a healthy happy baby.

Pregnancy and Mental Health

The emotional burden of pregnancy can have a deep impact on the well being of the expecting mother. During pregnancy the body undergoes a rapid flux which imparts physiological and mental stress. Hormonal changes can lead to rapid shifts in mood, leading to anxiety, irritability and even depression. The physiological changes such as weight gain, edema due to water retention, physical discomfort, and even morning sickness can itself impact mental health. Low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy are not uncommon in pregnancy, thus it is important to remain aware of this and the changes, which may be the root its cause.

Good Luck

Pregnancy is the nine month long journey which ends as a new beginning. The miracle of life could not be possible without this journey, so embrace these months with great pride and joy. Good Luck!

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