Pregnancy: Top tips on how to stay healthy


Becoming pregnant can be one of the most wonderful and exciting times in a woman’s life. However, there are a number of problems that can arise during the different trimesters that can make the journey quite challenging.


Because so few medications can be taken safely during these nine months, many women are looking to find natural ways to address their pregnancy symptoms.


First trimester


Nausea and vomiting


This can affect up to 90 percent of pregnant women in their first trimester.


Causes: Researchers believe that nausea and vomiting is a result of the many physical changes that occur in early pregnancy, including higher levels of hormones.


Treatment/Prevention:


-- Several studies have shown that the use of a vitamin B6 or ginger supplement may decrease the intensity of both nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.


-- Acupressure wrist bands or acupuncture may also help, though the evidence is less clear.


Yeast infections


Also known as vaginal candidiasis, yeast infections tend to be more prevalent in pregnant women. It is not uncommon to have a certain amount of yeast or candida in the vaginal canal; however, it can become a problem when it grows so fast that it overwhelms other competing beneficial micro-organisms.


Causes: It is believed that the high estrogen levels and high glycogen content in vaginal secretions during pregnancy provide an excellent environment for the yeast to grow rapidly.


Treatment/Prevention:


-- Take a probiotic supplement high in L. acidophilus, which provides beneficial bacteria that help prevent overgrowth of the yeast. Probiotic capsules can be taken orally or even inserted vaginally during an active infection, but it is important to talk to your health care practitioner first.


-- Some people believe that eliminating sugar from the diet may also be beneficial.


Second trimester


Headaches


Although they may occur at any time during pregnancy, headaches tend to be most common during the first and second trimesters.


Causes: Headaches may be caused by a surge in hormones along with an increase in blood volume and circulation that occur during the early stages. Other possible causes may involve lack of sleep, dehydration, low blood sugar, and stress.


Treatment/Prevention:


-- Studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for tension-related headaches as well as migraines. Acupuncture points are chosen based on the particular headache pattern experienced.


-- Massage therapy can be very helpful in relieving muscle tension as well as stress, common causes of headaches.


Varicose veins


Appearing most often on the legs, varicose veins are swollen, bluish veins that may bulge near the surface of the skin. Many women may first develop varicose veins or find that they get worse during pregnancy.


Causes: A combination of added pressure from the growing uterus, a surge in hormones, and increased blood volume all result in relaxation of the blood vessel walls as well as increased blood pressure in the leg veins. This can contribute to the development of varicose veins.


Treatment/Prevention:


-- Elevate your legs whenever possible.


-- Use a stool to rest your legs on when you are sitting.


-- Exercise daily to improve circulation.


-- Eat a diet rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C, which may help strengthen blood vessel walls to prevent bulging.


Third trimester


Constipation


This is a common problem during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimester.


Causes: As the baby increases in size, it puts pressure on digestive organs. Food also passes through the intestines more slowly due to an increase in progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract.


Treatment/Prevention:


-- Eat high-fibre foods such as whole grains, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.


-- Drink plenty of water—at least six to eight glasses per day.


-- Exercise regularly; yoga, walking, and swimming are safe choices.


Heartburn


Many women can experience heartburn during pregnancy even if they have never experienced it before.


Causes: Increased levels of hormones can soften the ligaments that normally keep the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between your stomach and esophagus tightly closed. Also, the growing baby puts pressure on the stomach, pushing up its food contents through the LES into the esophagus.


Treatment/Prevention


-- Eat smaller meals frequently throughout the day.


-- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they cause relaxation of the LES.


-- Avoid lying down after meals.


-- Avoid greasy and highly seasoned foods.


-- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, except while eating.


-- Studies also suggest that acupuncture can help alleviate heartburn symptoms during pregnancy.


Supplements for healthy pregnancy


-- prenatal vitamin to ensure adequate supplementation of vitamins and minerals


-- probiotic supplement to replenish healthy bacteria in the gut and vaginal canal


-- omega-3 fatty acids (DHA) for optimal brain and eye development in the baby


-- calcium-magnesium if you are not getting enough through diet.


About the wrier:


Lesley D’Souza, ND, practises at Your Health Wellness Centre in Oakville, Ontario.

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