First trimester dos and don’ts for you to follow!

Here is a guide to help you during the first trimester.

The first three months of your pregnancy is very crucial. During this phase your baby's major organs develop and your body undergoes a lot of physiological changes to gear up for a healthy pregnancy and a smooth labour, eventually. This is also the time when an expectant mother is vulnerable to a miscarriage and the well-being of the baby is solely dependent on maternal health, behaviours and habits. Here is how you can ensure both fetal and maternal well-being by simply following these essential dos and don'ts during your first trimester.

What you should do

Here is what you need to do during the first three months of your pregnancy:

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1. Eat right

According to Naini Setalvad, a renowned nutritionist, diet and obesity consultant, you need to include variety of foods in your diet like whole grains, pulses, legumes and nuts. If you are a non-vegetarian consume meat, poultry, eggs and fish moderately to increase your protein intake. Incorporate whole fruits and vegetables, whole pulses, grains and cereals that contain plenty of fibre. Make it a point to drink plenty of water. Here are more reasons why drinking water during pregnancy is good for you.

2. Get calcium from food sources

Apart from having your calcium supplement, ensure that you consume foods that are rich in calcium. Calcium is important for nerve and muscle development and also boosts teeth and bone formation in your baby. It also helps prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy. Take 600 ml of milk or milk products every day for the required calcium content. Lactose intolerant mothers can substitute it with jaggery, nachani, etc. says our expert Sonali Shivlani, an Internationally Certified Pregnancy, Lactation and Child Nutrition Counsellor.

3. Don't miss out on Vitamin D

Do this either through food like egg yolks, herring, sardines, tuna, salmon, fortified milk, fish liver oil, or through exposure to sunlight. It helps maintain calcium and phosphorus levels. And a lack of it during pregnancy can not only increase your risk of developing pre-eclampsia but can also cause your baby to lack the vitamin at birth increasing the risk for abnormal bone growth and delayed physical development.

4. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids

They are necessary for the development of your baby's brain, nerve and eye. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds and fish.

5. Be regular with your iron and folic acid pills

Folic acidis important during the pre-conception and early pregnancy phase because this is when the fetus develops spine and nerve cells. Deficiency can lead to neural tube defects or malformation of the spine in the developing baby known as spina bifida it has a life-long impact on the child. For the mother, folic acid is especially important as it is responsible for the development of blood cells which reduces incidents of certain types of anemia. And with the right hemoglobin levels, a pregnant mother can nourish the developing fetus well. All this helps in reducing the chances of IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Retardation) in the baby. Folic acid supplements also help the mother manage pregnancy symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue better. There are foods like green leafy vegetables, dried herbs, sunflower seeds, peanuts, bean sprouts, beans, soybean and liver that are great sources of natural folic acid.

The recommended dietary allowance for iron in normal adult women is 21 mg/day and during pregnancy it is 35 mg/day. Iron is required for making baby s blood as well as for maintaining iron levels in mother. According to a study, taking iron supplements during pregnancy can reduce the risk of anemia and low birth weight. Other sources of iron are green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, legumes, jaggery, meat, fish and egg. Here is why having your iron pills along with a glass of orange juice is a good idea.

6. Eat frequent, small meals

You must remember that due to various hormonal and physiological changes food gets digested more slowly, says Sonali Shivlani. The baby needs to be fed constantly so eat every two to three hours. Small mini-meals can also help prevent common pregnancy complaints like acidity, nausea and that bloated feeling, she adds.

7. Ensure a healthy weight gain

How much weight you should gain during your pregnancy depends on your body mass index or BMI (your body weight divided by the square of your height) before you conceived. For the optimal growth of your baby you should gain around 0.5- 2 kg in the first trimester. Weight gain during pregnancy helps nourish the baby and accumulate calories to produce milk for breast-feeding. You should gain weight at a steady pace.

Inconsistent weight gain, too little or too much, can affect your baby adversely. Gaining very little weight during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery and low birth weight. It may also cause developmental delays and chronic health problems in your baby.

On the contrary, putting on too much weight increases your risk of high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) and gestational diabetes. It may also lead to an overweight or obese baby which may necessitate a caesarean birth. You may also have a tendency to retain too much weight after pregnancy which may cause higher weight and its accompanying problems in subsequent pregnancies. Here is all you need to know about pregnancy weight gain and how to be on the right track.

8. Exercise regularly

Studies say that women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to require a caesarean birth. And the ones undertaking brisk walking in particular, thrice a week, could reduce their risk of having a heavy infant by half. Exercise also lowers the chances of developing a type of diabetes that only affects pregnant women. But avoid strenuous exercises. However, discuss with your doctor before starting any new activity. Here are five tips to beat gestational diabetes.

9. Be regular with prenatal appointments

Your prenatal check-ups are your window into the womb and they help detect any issues early and can be corrected in most cases. Blood tests and ultrasonography are routinely done during pregnancy. Blood tests can determine your blood type and also help rule out anemia, infections etc. If you are in a high-risk category you may get blood tests done for genetic disorders screening. Ultrasonography may be used to visualize the fetus in your womb at around four and a half weeks after your last menstrual period (LMP). It can tell you how many weeks you are into pregnancy and how healthy your baby is. You may be able to see your baby s heartbeat by seven weeks after LMP. Ultrasonography can also help detect certain birth defects. Here are five things you should ask your doctor during your antenatal check-ups.

10. Increase your fluid intake

Blood volume needs to increase during pregnancy to facilitate oxygen and nutrient delivery to both you and your baby. So drink plenty of fluids. It can also prevent dehydration and constipation. Sipping iced water could offer some relief from nausea and vomiting too.

11. Sleep well

Most pregnant women experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heartburn and a constant need to pee during this time of pregnancy. Hormonal changes also make you feel worn out. So make it a point to get few naps whenever possible. Try to go to bed early. Know about six practical ways to induce sleep during pregnancy.

12. Limit caffeine intake

It is best to cut down or skip caffeinated drinks altogether. Large amounts of caffeine consumption and an increased risk of miscarriage have been linked in some studies. High levels of caffeine have also been linked to lower birth weight and stillbirth. But caffeine intake in moderation is unlikely to harm your baby. Or you can switch to decaffeinated drinks instead. Here are eight more drinks you should avoid during pregnancy.

What you should not do during first trimester

Here are things you should stay away from during your first trimester:

1. Avoid over-the-counter medications

Medicines taken by you can cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of your baby. Hence it s best to know the safety of any medications you re taking during pregnancy - especially in the first trimester. There are certain medications like anti-epileptic drugs which can cause genetic defects in the baby. If you are already on medication for a previous health condition talk to your doctor regarding its safety or alternatives. Your doctor will replace more toxic drugs with milder ones so that the baby is affected as little as possible.

2. Be cautious with food intake

Foods to be avoided during pregnancy include raw/undercooked meat, soft cheese, seafood and raw eggs. They could be possible sources of harmful bacteria and parasite. Bacterial infection may cause severe food poisoning. If you get infected for the first time with toxoplasmosis parasite during your first trimester of pregnancy, it can cross the placenta and harm your baby. Keep away from seafood that is high in mercury which can damage the developing nervous system of your baby and cause developmental delays and brain damage. Here are seven things that you should avoid during pregnancy.

3. Reduce exposure to environmental pollutants

We are exposed to lots of potentially toxic pollutants every day. Try and avoid the obvious ones as far as you can. Limit your exposure to household cleaning products and paints which contain harmful toxins that may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and put your baby s health at risk. Clean your vegetables thoroughly to rid them of the pesticides which have been linked to neural tube defects, limb deformities, etc.

According to a study, women exposed to elevated levels of air pollution (smog) in the first three months of pregnancy may be at increased risk for complications such as pre-eclampsia and premature birth. Another study claims that pregnant women who drink water with traces of arsenic may give birth to babies who have increased odds of respiratory infections. Here are eight things in the environment that can harm your unborn child.

4. Quit smoking

When you smoke your unborn baby gets affected by the chemicals from the cigarette. There is an increased risk for premature rupture of the amniotic sac, placenta previa (a condition where the placenta is placed in an unusual position in the uterus), miscarriage, and neonatal death. It has also been found that newborns whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have the same nicotine levels in their bloodstream as adults who smoke. The child goes through withdrawal symptoms from the first day of its life, just like an adult would.

Passive and active smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health and behavioural problems in the baby and is linked to infant mortality. According to a British research, pregnant women who puff can triple their baby s chance of developing meningitis. Chewing tobacco during pregnancy decreases the gestational age at birth and decreases birth weight. Here are five ways in which smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby.

5. Avoid alcohol

Excessive drinking impairs the mental and physical development of your baby, in what is known as fetal alcohol syndrome. It is known to cause a range of health problems from behavioural disorders and impaired IQ to facial disfigurement in unborn babies. It may also be a contributing factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Alcohol could give rise to fetal alcohol syndrome in your baby.

6. Manage stress effectively

High levels of stress can affect the unborn baby's health and increase your chances of miscarriage. Stress and depression stimulate the production of certain chemicals and hormones in your body that can constrict blood vessels and decrease oxygen supply to the uterus and affect your baby s growth. Here is how to avoid stress during the nine months of pregnancy.

7. Stop dieting

You may end up with deficiency of iron, folic acid, vitamins and minerals which can potentially harm you and your baby. If you are morbidly obese when you get pregnant your doctor may advise you to lose weight. But it should be done only under his/her supervision.

8. Avoid hot tubs and sauna

Stay out of saunas and hot tubs. They have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. They can raise your core body temperature which can cause dehydration and threaten the developing baby.

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