A healthy lifestyle consisting of eating the right foods and avoiding certain behaviors is very important before, during, and after your pregnancy. Eating foods that reduce your risk of heart disease and contribute to overall well-being is simple. Berries, citrus, and pomegranate juice have been shown to decrease the inflammatory effect that is associated with the development of arteriosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries. Being active and maintaining a healthy weight gain in pregnancy can help you not only feel good but reduce your risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in pregnancy when the insulin receptors do not function well and result in elevated glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. This condition occurs in pregnancy because of the presence of certain hormones that interfere with these receptors. This can happen to anyone but there are certain women at risk for it.
Risk factors for having gestational diabetes include:
- Being overweight before pregnancy
- Having a close family member with diabetes
- Having a previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes should be carefully monitored. Your health care provider will determine if your sugar levels can be controlled using diet and exercise or whether you will need to take medication. Most women with gestational diabetes will have normal deliveries. However, sometimes high levels of maternal glucose will result in large babies and at times, difficult deliveries. Very large babies may have to be delivered by Cesarean section. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to have complications after birth such as fluctuating sugar levels and difficulty breathing.
Preeclampsia is a condition that develops in pregnancy, usually after the 20th week, that causes an elevation of blood pressure and leakage of protein in the urine. It is caused by many different factors including an excessive inflammatory response to the pregnancy. Careful monitoring of the blood pressure and urine protein can help prevent problems associated with preeclampsia.
What can be done to help promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of these conditions?
Try to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. These foods include berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. These foods contain flavonoids which help reduce the risk of heart disease and plaque formation in the arteries.
Remain active in your pregnancy. This doesn’t mean suddenly start working out in a gym. Instead, take a 15-minute walk every day or swim.
Manage stress. Try to talk to your health care provider about groups you can join to talk to other pregnant women. Make an effort to take time for yourself.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
Drink plenty of water. Water can help keep you feeling good and energized. Being well hydrated in pregnancy prevents cramping. Add fresh fruit to your water to give it a little flavor. Ask your healthcare provider how much water you should drink.
Carry a nutritious snack with you such as dried fruit or nuts. These snacks can help you when you are hungry and prevent you from choosing other unhealthy foods.
Chose healthy grains. Whenever possible substitute whole wheat pasta and brown rice for white pasta and white rice. These choices are healthier and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Keep your prenatal appointments. Screening tests provided during your prenatal care will determine whether you need to worry about conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Prenatal care will ensure you are gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
Having a healthy weight before pregnancy and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is very important. Adequate weight gain during pregnancy varies and depends on your pre-pregnancy weight but in general, it should be less than 30 lbs. Try not to think of it as eating for 2 because this implies that you should be eating twice as much. This is simply not true. In reality, you only need to eat approximately 10% more. This can help you stay healthy and prevent excessive weight gain.
Remember having a healthy pregnancy starts with eating the right foods, maintaining a good weight, and having an active lifestyle.