13:27 03 June 2009
There are lots of half-truths about what you can and can't eat during pregnancy. Whether you fancy eating coal or choc-ice and chips, try not to let worries about eating safely spoil your pregnancy. This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
Some of the potential hazards we outline here only very rarely lead to anything that could affect your baby.
Your employer is legally obliged to move you if your health is at risk because you work with poisonous chemicals or risky procedures such as x-rays.
Nevertheless, eating well can help you stay fit and in good condition for the birth, and maintain your energy levels, too. If you are the sort of person who only feels comfortable when you're following the 'rules', you can find them here.
Eat regularly, depending on your hunger, and choose from a varied range of foods to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.
Eggs, beans, pulses and lentils are also part of a healthy diet, though you don't have to eat these every day.
Q. Can I follow a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy?
A. All the nutrients you need for health during pregnancy or at any other time are available in foods other than meat. However, if you are vegan, and eating no food from an animal source, you are probably already aware of the need for extra Vitamin B12, found in manufactured products that have already had it added (like some soya products) or in supplements. Vitamin D supplements may also be required. Check with a midwife or a dietitian if you need to.
Keep up fluid levels, with regular glasses of water or diluted fruit or vegetable juices through the day. This will help keep you well-hydrated, which can prevent tiredness and headaches, and helps bladder and kidney health by ensuring regular visits to the loo.
Pregnancy can make expectant mums relatively 'immunosuppressed' which means 'minor' infections can be more severe.
Q. I was trying to lose weight and then I became pregnant " can I continue with my diet? I don't want to see all the weight I lost come back on again!
A. Talk about this with your midwife, and possibly a dietitian. If you stick to a healthy eating plan, you should be OK. If you are slimming with a 'brand name' organisation, they should have a plan especially for you.
Q. What about coffee and other caffeine-containing products?
A. There is some research to show high intakes of caffeine may be linked to miscarriage and the Food Standards Agency suggests pregnant women limit their intake of coffee to no more than four cups a day. Remember cola drinks also contain caffeine. Switch to non-caffeine alternatives where possible.
Some women go off the taste of alcohol while pregnant, and this can make it easier to cut down if you normally drink regularly. The occasional glass of alcohol (or mild consumption) is not considered to be harmful for your baby.
Continuous, heavy drinking is a different matter " it's potentially very harmful to your baby, and can cause permanent brain and developmental damage. Do get help if you feel you have a drinking problem. See Support for you, for a list of support organisations.
If you smoke, get help to give up. Smoking raises the carbon monoxide levels in your blood, and reduces the amount of oxygen available to your baby. This means your baby's growth is affected, and he's at a higher risk of pre-term birth, and stillbirth. Your baby's smaller size makes him vulnerable to infection, and after the birth, there is an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or cot death). Your partner should stop smoking as well, and you should avoid smoky atmospheres.
Street drugs " including cannabis and ecstasy " have been shown to be risky during pregnancy because they reach the baby's bloodstream as well as yours. Heroin and cocaine can create serious problems of dependency in babies. Ask your midwife or doctor for specialist help if you need it.
Infectious diseases can be risky during pregnancy. Most women in the UK are already vaccinated against rubella, so this is no longer a major issue, but you should avoid catching chickenpox which can cause developmental problems or stillbirth (in utero) and can lead to chicken pox, pneumonia or encephalitis " both of which can be fatal " for mum.
Research indicates that eating fish once a week makes a difference " mothers who did this were less likely to give birth prematurely.
Oily fish eaten in pregnancy also helps with children's eyesight. See Related links below for a news story with more details.
Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin found in a number of foods, or else added to some manufactured foods. There's research that shows a poor level of folate in your diet can increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida or anencephaly. This means the development of the baby's spine, or the brain, is incomplete.
Current advice is that if you're planning a pregnancy, or are already pregnant, you should increase your intake of folate up to the time when you are 12 weeks pregnant. You can continue with this afterwards, if you like, but you should check with your health professional on recommended doses.
You can also take a daily supplement of a 400 mcg folic acid tablet, which your doctor can prescribe.
There's no two ways about it " if you're pregnant you will gain weight. Generally, women gain anything between 22-28lbs (10-13 kilos) during pregnancy, but it is linked to your weight, health and metabolism pre-pregnancy.
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