Heart Health During Pregnancy
In order to remain healthy throughout pregnancy, good prenatal care is a must. Heart health is especially important for expectant mothers, as pregnancy puts added stress on the heart and circulatory system. Since many women are at risk for developing high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, heart health should be a major focus of expecting mothers.
Heart health is directly related to the foods we eat. Unfortunately, many expectant moms think that pregnancy is a free pass to eat whatever they want. This is simply not the case. Pregnancy, more than any other time, should be when women are most conscious of the food they put into their bodies. Expectant mommies should eat three balanced meals a day, have healthy snacks and drink plenty of water. Foods that should be consumed in large quantities are whole grains, lean proteins and fruits and vegetables; fried, fatty foods and excess sugar and sodium should be avoided whenever possible.
Exercise is also extremely important for the health of expectant mothers. Regular workouts keep the heart healthy, which lowers the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and toxemia. In addition, exercise will give expectant mommies an extra boost of energy, which will fight off the lethargy and fatigue that often accompany pregnancy. Exercise also reduces stress and anxiety and lends to better quality of sleep.
Many women are afraid of overexerting themselves during pregnancy, and therefore don’t exercise at all. However, there are many healthy ways for pregnant women to stay in shape without causing injury to either themselves or baby. Active women with low-risk pregnancies can likely continue their usual workouts throughout pregnancy. Women who are inactive or have concerns about high-impact workouts can choose a low-impact workout such as walking, swimming or yoga. Thirty-minute low-impact workout sessions, three times a week will keep the expecting mother’s heart healthy without the jarring impact of more intense exercise routines.
For a healthy heart, women should avoid stress as much as possible during pregnancy. Pregnancy can often cause stress, so avoiding it can be difficult. However, evading stress during pregnancy greatly reduces a woman’s risk for miscarriage, premature birth and high blood pressure. If stressful situations and thoughts simply can’t be avoided, breathing techniques, such as those learned in yoga or Lamaze classes can be extremely helpful.
Preparing for childbirth mentally can also help reduce stress during pregnancy. Many pregnant women find it helpful to take parenting and Lamaze classes in order to relieve pre-childbirth anxiety. Creating a birth plan can also alleviate stress and worry. A birth plan consists of your preferred method of childbirth, i.e., whether you want a natural birth or epidural, whether you plan on using Lamaze, if you want a water birth, etc. Many moms today opt to have the remaining blood in their baby’s umbilical cord collected for cord blood banking; this choice is also noted in their birth plan. Umbilical cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, that can be collected and stored at a private facility for potential use in a future medical treatment.
During a woman’s pregnancy, heart and overall health should be her top priority. Taking the proper health measures and remaining heart-conscious will help ensure a healthy pregnancy and, ultimately, a healthy baby.