Obviously during pregnancy, the last thing you want to worry or even think about is a miscarriage. I know for me it was almost a feeling that if you don’t think it, it won’t happen, just stay positive, right? Obviously stress is something that you want to lesson to make your pregnancy journey safer and better overall. However, there are times I believe reliable information about what we fear, may actually be helpful and allow us to be more empowered to make better health and lifestyle decisions during our pregnancy. This is why I would like to share some research by scientists in Denmark recently published in International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on miscarriage and how we can avoid it.
In this study it was determined that miscarriages during pregnancy could be lowered by as much as 25% by modifying or avoiding high risk behaviors duing pregnancy. These risk factors included factors including lack of exercise or too vigorous (or risky) exercise, too much alcohol consumption, smoking(at all), drinking coffee, overtime and evening work schedules, regular heavy lifting, weight gain, and advanced maternal age. Of course if you are already pregnant and at an “advanced maternal age” there’s not much you can modify about that factor but there are plenty of other risk factors we can affect in our lifestyle to reduce our risks and improve our pregnancy health and our baby’s health.
Apparently weight was an important factor for pregnancy viability and pregnancy health as well as the baby’s health. If you were overweight before you were pregnant then you do not need to gain the recommended 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. You can gain far less but you will need to be extra vigilant about healthy calories so that your baby (and you) get the nutrients you need. Talk to your doctor about your weight and do not avoid the subject or wait for them to bring it up. New research shows that doctors in the United States are less likely to bring up a pregnant woman’s weight gain if she is gaining too much than they did in previous years. Obviously it is not always a popular subject and one that is often the last thing mentioned before the end of the visit if at all. As a result of less emphasis on our weight gain and pregnancy diet, our pregnancy obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years and this factor is affecting rates of healthy pregnancies overall. These health risks include stillbirth rates, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), gestational diabetes (leading to higher weight babies and childhood obesity), more complications during labor and delivery and a harder time losing the weight after pregnancy. Instaed of feeling guilty, we need to address the problem directly with our doctor and admit if we are having problems with our pregnancy weight and ask for help.
As a mom of three I understand the problems with weight gain during pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness with all three of my babies yet I gained more than the recommended weight with my first two pregnancies, particularly the first. It seemed high carbs and sugars were the only thing my body could keep down or that seemed appealing whenever the sickness would subside. Even though I stayed active during my pregnancies it seems that food choices and quantities would really drive my weight gain more than I could offset those calories with exercise. I also admit that I was guilty of over indulging in sweets as all my forgiving stretchy pregnancy clothes seemed to hide the extra pound or two that was rapidly creeping on. On the other side, you definitely do want to gain enough weight if you are underweight or not gaining enough to support your pregancy and development of your baby. It is a delicate balance and seems unfair that pregnancy is a time we should need to worry about our weight at all. My recommendation is to be proactive in talking to your doctor and even getting a dietician referral if you have any difficulties or questions with your weight. It is never too late to be proactive about your pregnancy health.
Obviously exercise is good for us during pregnancy and promotes a healthy pregnancy, so it is important to keep a regular safe exercise regime that your doctor approves and to be flexible in adjusting your routine during each stage of your pregnancy. Pay attention to your body and make sure you are not over straining it by lifting too heavy of a weight (and this includes childcare routines where children 40 pounds or more are lifted and carried). Also make sure that you hydrate regularly as your body requires more water and you may need to take more frequent breaks, particularly if you feel you are overheating or your heart rate is too high. If an exercise involves more balance, like tennis, be extra careful as your center of gravity is constantly shifting and your ligaments and tendons are looser during pregnancy. This is maybe a time to just "practice" a safe sport and not compete if you are the competitive type!
If you smoke, then pregnancy is an excellent time, reason and motivation to quit.Alcohol and coffee consumption have long been a hot topic in pregnancy circles. Although some doctors say a small amount of alcohol or caffeine is OK during pregnancy, no one seems to know exactly how much is OK. If you want to err on the safe side it is probably best to tee-total on both alcohol and caffeine or at least to strongly limit your intake. You will have plenty of time to enjoy a cocktail or two as well as extra mochas in years to come. There are always other options to choose from for beverage choices such as an alcohol free beer or decaf latte or tea.
Work schedules and stress are not always easy factors to control. One major way to reduce the risk of miscarriage is to pay attention to our physical and emotional stress level and get the sleep we need. The study did find that night and overtime schedules increased women’s health risks during pregnancy as well as heavy lifting jobs. If these factors are a issue for you then you might want to check out your company’s pregnancy, health and maternity leave policies as there may be allowances for you to alter your high risk job demands during pregnancy, especially with your doctor’s permission. Sometimes you can work directly with your manager to work out a flex-time schedule or work at home schedule that allows you to take more rest. Or, you may need a doctor’s note to excuse you from certain tasks, such as heavy lifting on the job, or to get an early maternity leave. If you cannot, then you may need to re-assess if the job and its hours and determine if it is worth the risk of your pregnancy health.
Pregnancy is a time to be selfish about your health and your baby’s health and not a time to be “tough” about taking on undo physical and emotional challenges that could challenge you and your baby's health. Your body is making a baby which takes a huge amount of energy and strength and affects not only your hormone levels but your physical abilities and needs. You will need more sleep as well as better nutrition, and more friendly work hours. Do not be afraid to speak up for what you need at home or at work, even if you feel like a wimp asking for extra time off or permission to get out of a physically demanding job. You can make it up when you are not making a baby. As everyone knows, pregnancy is not for wimps!