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How to care for yourself while pregnant

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Town and Style Magazine ran a wonderful article on maternal care this week. The Saint Louis Obstetrical and Gynecological Society has been serving the city since 1877. What advice do the experts give on women’s health? In order to have a problem-free pregnancy and delivery, women are advised to be at their ideal weight before pregnancy, eat a healthy diet, exercise, reduce stress, and obtain good medical care throughout pregnancy (“Maternal and Fetal Medicine,” Sara Savat). Read on for more details.

• Full-Term Pregnancy, Allied Associates Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Craig Boyd
The medical definition of a full-term pregnancy was recently changed from 37 to 39 weeks by the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. There is more risk of problems in early term deliveries than previously recognized. Induction before the cervix is ready increases the risk of cesarean section. Exceptions occur, however, where the benefit outweighs the risk for mother and/or baby.

• Optimal Gestational Time, Women’s Health Specialists, Dr. Teresa Knight
Planned delivery for an uncomplicated pregnancy should not occur prior to 39 weeks. The baby’s lungs and brain are the two organs that mature last. There is a greater risk that the baby’s lungs will not be fully developed prior to 39 weeks. On the contrary, at 42 weeks, the placenta is no longer able to support the baby’s needs, increasing the risk of still birth. So at that time, induction will be recommended.

• Exercise during Pregnancy and Beyond, Midwest Mind, Body, Health Center, Dr. Diane Sanford
Exercise is helpful in comforting some pregnant women while their bodies are undergoing maternal changes. It also provides a necessary stress release when hormones are in flux. Continue an exercise program that is already in place. Otherwise, start slowly and do not push too far. Walking, stretching, and toning are good places to start. Maternal yoga classes are offered at many gyms. Continuing activity once the baby is born is also helpful in losing any extra weight gained during pregnancy as well as managing stress.

• Prenatal Nutrition, Genesis OB/GYN, Dr. Ashley Ryan
Although always helpful, good nutrition during pregnancy is especially important. A pre-natal vitamin provides the extra iron and folic acid necessary during pregnancy. However, the vitamin does not supplant the need for a nutrient-rich diet. Be sure you take in sufficient amounts of vitamins A, B, C, D as well as calcium. During the first trimester, extra calories are not necessary. However, during the second and third, increase your intake by 300 calories per day. Other general suggestions include limiting the intake of caffeine, eating fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and avoiding unpasteurized milk as well as raw, undercooked, and preserved meats.

Obesity during Pregnancy, Women’s Healthcare Consultants, Inc., Dr. Jodie Rai
More than one-third of pregnant women are obese, increasing complications for mother and baby alike. For mom, such complications include miscarriage, diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, postpartum weight retention, and blood clots. For baby, there is an increased risk of stillbirth, congenital abnormalities (spina bifida and other neural tube defects), and childhood and adolescent obesity. The Institute of Medicine suggests the following weight gain during pregnancy: 25-35 pounds for pregnant women starting at a normal weight, 15-25 pounds for women who are overweight, and 11-20 pounds for obese women.

Gestational Diabetes, St. Louis Associates in OB/GYN, Dr. Kent Snowden
When a pregnant woman develops diabetic symptoms, it is called gestational diabetes. This occurs when the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to control blood glucose levels. Current rates of gestational diabetes are only 10%, but are expected to climb as more obese women get pregnant and the average age of pregnant women rises. Again, maintenance of ideal weight before pregnancy and exercise are the best ways to decrease the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.

Placenta Previa, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. George Macones
When the placenta covers all or part of the cervix during pregnancy, it is called placenta previa. This condition sometimes happens early in pregnancy but often corrects itself over the course of the pregnancy. Close obstetric supervision is essential. If the proper precautions are not taken, severe, unexpected, and life-threatening bleeding might occur.

• What to Expect during Postpartum Recovery, Women’s Health Partners, Dr. Salina Green
A standard hospital stay is two nights for an uncomplicated natural birth. This expands to four nights following a cesarean section. In the case of complications, an extended stay will occur. Likewise, for women in St. Louis who give birth to newborns in the NICU, arrangements can be made to get a hospitality room close to the nursery or stay at the Ronald McDonald House following discharge. During the hospital stay, new moms are coached on caring for her new baby and are offered help with breastfeeding, when necessary. Their blood pressure, temperatures (keeping fever to below 100.4 F), and bleeding levels are also considered. Postpartum depression is ALWAYS an essential thing to watch for.

As is the case during all phases of your life, it is important to take the necessary precautions in caring for yourself during pregnancy. Your health affects that of your child. Make both the child and yourself high priorities this holiday season and throughout the new year. Your entire family will be happier for it!

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