Health During Pregnancy

If staying healthy can be a precarious balance of diet, activity, and luck at the best of times, it is even more challenging while pregnant — especially as a teenager. Teen mothers are statistically more likely to endanger themselves or their unborn children through unwise health choices, but with the information provided here, you don’t have to be part of that particular statistic.

Eating Right

Naturally, the most basic idea about how to eat during pregnancy is also the most basic idea about how to eat in general: choose healthy foods. But it gets a little more complicated. Things that might seem healthy at normal times — let’s use tuna as an example — can be discouraged during pregnancy. (In the case of tuna, it’s because of the mercury — a harmful chemical — in that type of fish.) Here’s a helpful guide to what not to eat and why.

Lunch/Deli Meats

Actually, you can eat lunch meat, but heat it until it is steaming first. Why? Listeria, a type of bacteria, can grow in it. While Listeria is super rare, it can also be fatal to unborn babies.

Raw or Undercooked Meats and Eggs — Sushi Included!

As we all know, bacteria likes to grow in raw meat. If you don’t cook your steak enough, some germs may still be lurking in it!

Fish High In Mercury

You can eat some fish, but keep it to a minimum. The worst offenders, which should be avoided completely during pregnancy, are:

  • Swordfish
  • Ahi Tuna
  • Tilefish
  • Shark
  • Orange Roughy
  • Marlin
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Sea Bass
  • Canned Albacore or Yellowfin Tuna

Even aside from that list, limit the amount of seafood you eat. Moderation is key. Use this web site to look up fish advisories where you live.

Exercising

If you like to exercise, the good news is that you can continue to some extent during pregnancy. The key is to exercise enough to provide all the health benefits without over-exerting yourself. We all know exercise can result in injury now and then, and that’s the last thing you need while pregnant. Exercising too vigorously could also contribute to miscarriage. In order to figure out what you should and shouldn’t do, you should talk to your doctor.

It’s worth finding out what you can still do because, in addition to providing all the normal health benefits, proper exercise during pregnancy promotes an easier labor and faster recovery after labor.

Here are some general guidelines for exercise while pregnant:

  • Don’t participate in contact sports.
  • If you were a runner before becoming pregnant, it’s probably safe for you to continue running at an easy pace.

Managing Stress

Stress can adversely affect your and your baby’s health, but please don’t let that information stress you out even further! Pregnancy is stressful on its own, and being a teenager makes it even moreso.

Make time for yourself. Meditate. Take a warm (but not hot — it can be dangerous to the fetus and dehydrating to you) bath. Listen to music. Read a good book. Remind yourself that everything will be okay. Breathe.

Medicine

You know how a lot of medications says in the directions that they shouldn’t be given to kids under a certain age? Well, many medices could also harm your fetus.

Ask your doctor for a list of medications that are still safe for you to take. If you want to look up a specific medication, Safe Fetus is an amazing web site where you can search any medicine and find out its guidelines concerning pregnant women.

In order to understand some of the guidelines, you’ll need to know the categories the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has set up concerning drug safety levels for pregnant women.

Category A:

Controlled studies in women fail to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester (and there is no evidence of a risk in later trimesters), and the possibility of fetal harm appears remote.

Translation: You can almost certainly take it, but check with your doctor just to be safe.

Category B:

Either animal-reproduction studies have not demonstrated a fetal risk but there are no controlled studies in pregnant women, or animal-reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect (other than a decrease in fertility) that was not confirmed in controlled studies in women in the first trimester (and there is no evidence of a risk in later trimesters).

Translation: It’s probably okay to take this, but check with your doctor just to be sure.

Category C:

Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal or other) and there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Translation: Only take this if strongly advised by your doctor.

Category D:

There is positive evidence of human fetal risk, but the benefits from use in pregnant women may be acceptable despite the risk (e.g., if the drug is needed in a life-threatening situation or for a serious disease for which safer drugs cannot be used or are ineffective).

Translation: Don’t take this unless your doctor insists that it is absolutely necessary. You may even want to seek a second opinion. It may be necessary for you to take it in order to save your life, but it will very likely hurt your baby.

Category X:

Studies in animals or human beings have demonstrated fetal abnormalities, or there is evidence of fetal risk based on human experience or both, and the risk of the use of the drug in pregnant women clearly outweighs any possible benefit. The drug is contraindicated in women who are or may become pregnant.

Translation: Do. Not. Take. There are no situations in which medication in this category would be life-saving or necessary, but such medications can be extremely harmful to your baby.

Pregnancy Dangers

There are certain dangerous conditions that pregnancy can cause. They can be very serious, causing death to you, your baby, or even both of you. Here are the most common ones along with the symptoms to watch out for.

Gestational Diabetes

This is a temporary case of pregnancy-induced diabetes. Those with gestational diabetes need to cut down on sugar and follow other more detailed instructions given to them by their doctors.

Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

These are similar and possibly fatal conditions. Common symptoms include:

  • Increase in bodily fluid
  • Swollen ankles
  • Abdominal (stomach area) pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting and nausea.

The Big DON’TS

There are a lot of things that, in an effort to be helpful, people will tell you not to do while pregnant. Many of them may be good guidelines, and some may be silly old superstitions, but a few of them will be so important that you absolutely cannot ignore them. And here they are:

Don’t Smoke

Here’s Why: Smoking deprives your baby of oxygen and nutrients while he or she is growing inside you. Smoking thins the placenta, making certain possibly fatal complications such as placenta previa and placental abruption more likely. In your baby, smoking can contribute to low birth weight, poor lung function, and preterm (premature) birth. There is increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth (when the baby is born already dead). Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to die from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Don’t Drink Alcohol

Here’s Why: If you drink while pregnant, your baby is more likely to be born with mental retardation, learning disabilities, behavioural issues, and physical birth defects. Alcohol during pregnancy can also contribute to miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth.

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