A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating the First Trimester of Pregnancy
1. Eat right
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.
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.
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 flax seeds and fish.
5. Be regular with your iron and folic acid pills
Folic acid is 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.
6. Eat frequent, small meals
You must remember that due to various hormonal and physiological changes food gets digested more slowly. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.