Dos and don’ts for a safer pregnancy

Early assessment and antenatal appointments help rule out any preventable complications. / Net photo

Every mother’s dream is to give birth to a healthy child, which is why doctors advise expectant mothers to be very careful of what they eat or do, because any slip might affect the unborn baby.

Dr Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, the chairperson of Heath Development Initiative, says when women, especially first timers, find out that they are pregnant, the first thing should be to make an appointment with a gynaecologist for early assessment and then start the prenatal vitamin intake for a healthy birth.

He notes that this helps rule out any preventable complications or any incompatibilities in the spouse’s DNA that could affect the unborn baby.

“Plan for your medical bills during birth, most especially the post-natal period. You need to save money even if you have health insurance for medical bills (just in case, you never know what could happen). Post-natal is equally important because in case a child experiences any health issues (first week at least), they should be taken to hospital, and if this is planned ahead, there will be no need for panic on how to settle extra bills,” Nkurunziza explains.

According to Michel Baingi, a Kigali-based general practitioner, in the first trimester, take a rest, have enough drinking water, medical consultation and ultrasound, and do moderate Kegel exercises. Eat a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, since it is the best way to provide the body with all of the healthy nutrients it needs to support a growing baby.

He says that lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and low-fat dairy products should be embraced.

Baingi notes that for pregnant women, it is necessary to take prenatal vitamins as they contain higher levels of certain nutrients that expectant mothers require in high doses, like folic acid, calcium and iron.

He adds that women should avoid alcoholic beverages, unpasteurised (raw) milk, or caffeine of more than 200 mg per day and smoking. Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a lower birth weight and are at a greater risk of learning disabilities than children born to non-smoking mothers.

“Alcohol may greatly impact your baby’s development, drinking alcohol while pregnant could lead to delivery of a baby with foetal complications that include low birth weight, learning disabilities and behaviour problems.

Nkurunziza further urges pregnant women to do some exercises and eat well (get a doctor’s advice), as this will keep them fit and the baby active. The well-being of the baby starts in the womb. 

He, however, says that women shouldn’t implement all the advice given. Every mother or father will give advice based on his or her experience, which may not be yours. Follow the doctor’s advice.

Baingi explains that it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, during pregnancy because a woman’s blood volume increases intensely during pregnancy, and drinking enough water each day can help prevent common problems, such as dehydration and constipation.

Exercising during pregnancy can help prevent excess weight gain, reduce pregnancy-related problems— like back pain, swelling, and constipation— improve sleep, increase energy, boost mood, prepare body for labour and reduce recovery time after the birth, he says.

Baingi notes that low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise activities, such as walking and swimming, are great choices. These are low-impact and they work on strength, flexibility, and relaxation.

He also says pregnant women must get enough sleep as they feel more tired than usual, and as the baby gets bigger, it is harder to find a comfortable position when trying to sleep. However, lying on the side with knees bent is said to be the most comfortable position as the pregnancy grows.