Maintaining mental health during pregnancy is vital to your wellbeing. One of the biggest emotional stressors pregnant women face is uncertainty about the health of their developing babies. Thankfully, expectant mothers can undergo prenatal screenings that identify potential medical conditions during the first and second trimesters so that they can be prepared and put uncertainty to rest.
Noninvasive prenatal testing, or NIPT, allows medical professionals to screen for Down Syndrome, other genetic abnormalities, and several more conditions that can impact the health of your baby. Combined with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and routine check-ups with your doctor – NIPT supports an informed and happy pregnancy.
The foods you consume form the main source of nutrients for your developing baby. During pregnancy, it is important to choose sensible, balanced meals consisting of nutritionally dense foods. The following tips can help you ensure you achieve this goal:
- Eat dairy products and dark green vegetables for calcium, necessary for building strong bones. Calcium also promotes the function of nerve and muscle cells, helps blood clot, and activates the molecules that convert the food you consume into energy.
- Red meat, eggs, beans, and leafy greens are a reliable source of iron. This nutrient is required to support a healthy hemoglobin count, responsible for transferring oxygen from your baby’s lungs to the rest of the body and for helping their muscles use and store oxygen.
- Fortified foods like pasta, bread, cereal, and rice contain folate, a B vitamin needed to form and strengthen the neural tube, which develops into the brain and spinal cord. Consult with your doctor to begin taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure your baby receives all the other nutrients they need, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
- Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood or meat spreads, fish species high in mercury, hotdogs and deli meat, store-prepared salads, raw sprouts, and unpasteurized milk, juice, or cheese.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and beverages. Research has found that excess sugar consumption during pregnancy is associated with cognitive problems during childhood.
- Stay hydrated by drinking approximately 10 cups of fluids daily during pregnancy. Water is necessary to support your baby’s growth by helping to form the placenta and amniotic sac. It also keeps you healthy by preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and infections of the urinary tract or bladder. Dehydration can cause a variety of issues, including premature labor.
Regular exercise promotes the health of the heart, bones, and brain. Pregnant women should engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercises for a minimum of two hours and thirty minutes every week. Consult with your doctor before exercising so you can develop a fitness routine that is both safe and healthy for you and your baby.
Low-impact activities like walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, yoga, and Pilates are also good for pregnant women. Kegel exercises can support your pelvic floor muscles, helping you push during delivery and recover with fewer issues. Be careful to avoid scuba-diving and any activities that involve the risk of being struck in the abdomen (soccer or hockey) or could result in falling from a height (gymnastics and horseback riding).
Good Mental Health
Pregnancy can cause emotional stressors, and involves frequent fluctuations in hormones. Mental health conditions can make it much more difficult to deal with the constantly fluctuating challenges of pregnancy and can significantly increase the risk of developing future health problems.
To maintain positive mental health during pregnancy, you must consistently and closely monitor your emotional wellbeing, remain alert for signs that you need help, and be prepared to act if you find yourself experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Consider the following tips for addressing mental health during pregnancy:
- Avoid making any major changes unless necessary, such as switching careers to moving into a different home.
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and do not set unattainable goals.
- Pay attention to your body and take a break when you need it
- Maintain a strong support network of family members and friends.
- Connect with other expectant parents.
- Ask for help if you find yourself struggling, and accept help when offered, whether it’s emotional support or assistance with household tasks.
Contact a health professional if you experience any of the following:
- Feeling constantly sad or worried for more than two weeks at a time
- Negative thoughts and feelings that impact your ability to function
- Signs of depression, including feeling hopeless or incapable of coping
- Feeling anxious for extended periods of time
- Developing panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behavior
Pregnancy is a unique time in any family’s life. It is full of joys, challenges, and everything in between. Following these helpful tips can help ensure a pregnancy that is both physically and mentally healthy for you and for your developing baby.