Deciding to become a parent is no easy decision. Whether you are contemplating parenthood or are already pregnant, you know the responsibility is enormous so you want to take all appropriate steps to ensure your child is happy and healthy. The exciting news is, your influence begins the moment your little bundle of joy is conceived.
Moms want to be on their "A+ game" while pregnant as this is the most rapid growth rate period in the human life cycle. Your little tot depends on your good habits, so while it may seem like being a good mom doesn't happen till after birth, your habits directly impact your baby while pregnant in a grand way.
The first, and probably most obvious, way moms influence the health of their baby is by way of diet. There is tons of information floating around concerning diet, so it is easy to get confused about what you should or shouldn't be ingesting, generally speaking, much less during pregnancy. It might be a good idea to consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist who specialize in prenatal nutrition. Another really great practice is to check out current books on optimal food choices while pregnant. One very important consideration when making dietary choices is to consider that the caloric guidelines differ depending on how many babies you are expecting. For instance, a mother who is pregnant with twins is expected to ingest more daily calories than that of a singleton pregnancy.
Additionally, beyond considering caloric allowance, you don't want to be filling up on highly processed, unhealthy foods. You will ideally get adequate amounts of healthy fats, fibers, proteins, etc. Now, more than ever, new moms should play close attention to their diet to ensure she is providing the best nutrients for her little one.
Reason number two (my most favorite) is exercise. Not only is exercise great for mom, it also positively impacts baby too. There is a lot of fear around exercising while pregnant, but ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends pregnant women engage in regular exercise, even if they have never participated in an exercise program before; it is safe and recommended as long as you have clearance from your doctor.
Exercise helps with varicose veins, swelling, morning sickness, and helps mom maintain good posture throughout pregnancy. Additionally, exercising women have larger placentas than non-exercising women; bigger placentas are more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Babies born from exercising women are also calmer. These are only a few of the effects exercise during pregnancy has on mom and baby.
Research done on pre/postnatal women shows us how clearly beneficial engaging in regular activity is on mom and baby. It is a very exciting time not only to influence the health of your baby but also because pregnancy is truly an opportunity to start a new health practice that can and probably will carry on beyond delivery, which may be life altering for your entire family.
Last but not least is stress management and meditation practice. Arguably, this might be the most challenging if you are not used to looking inward, but perhaps considering the effects this practice might have on you and your mini-me will help motivate you. Chronic stress has health implications on you and your baby and because you are directly connected, stress can impact the development of your baby. Begin by practicing a simple, deep, relaxed breathing routine, especially during stressful events. It might be fun to make it into a game by wearing a heart rate monitor to watch your heart rate slowly decline. Even if you don't experience chronic stress it is a good idea to practice meditation while pregnant and beyond.
Happy, healthy moms make a strong and lasting impression on their babies. A healthy mom impacts her baby's health during pregnancy, throughout childhood, all the way into adulthood. Yes, there is no one way to be a good parent but general healthy practices are a great way to guide some decisions you must make. Always remember, when choosing a health professional to work with, whether it be a physician, dietician, personal trainer, coach/therapist, etc, be sure you feel comfortable, safe and align with their philosophy to insure maximum comfort and care throughout your journey.
Julia Broome is passionate about health, nutrition and exercise. She is most excited about educating women on the short and long term impact of exercise and proper nutrition on pregnant women and their baby.