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Health During Pregnancy

It is important for women to see a health care provider to help them have a healthy pregnancy. Women should make an appointment as soon as they know that they are pregnant.


Things to Avoid

Pregnancy is a time where you and your partner may experience many changes. It is important to be aware of the risks that may impact you and the health of your baby.

  • First, second-hand and third-hand smoking can affect the health of you, your partner and the future of your children.
  • There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women should avoid heavy lifting and contact with cat litter. They can get toxoplasmosis, an infection from contact with cats and their feces.

Smoking and Pregnancy

It's never too late to quit or cut down during pregnancy. Each small step can help make a difference in the health and wellbeing of you, your partner and your baby. We offer programs and services to help support you, your partner and your family.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause babies to:

  • Be born too small
  • Be born too early
  • Have breathing problems
  • Have ear infections
  • Have an increased chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Tips for Smokers

  • Give yourself time to cut down and quit before the pregnancy
  • Call the Smoker's Helpline: 1-877-513-5333
  • Avoid second hand smoke

Do not allow others to smoke in your home


Alcohol and Pregnancy

There isn't enough evidence to know how much harm small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may cause your baby, which is why avoiding all alcohol is the safest choice if you are pregnant.

For the health of your baby, it's never too late to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume or to stop drinking.

Tip for an Alcohol-Free Pregnancy:

  • Experiment with a variety of mocktails to encourage an alcohol free pregnancy

Preterm Labour

Pregnancy normally lasts between 37 and 42 weeks. Preterm labour is labour that starts before 37 weeks. Babies who are born too soon may have health problems.

Signs of Preterm Labour

Go to the hospital right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Cramps similar to period cramps
  • Stomach pains that do not go away
  • Water leaking from your vagina
  • Sudden increase in the amount of discharge from your vagina
  • Sudden change in the type of discharge
  • Pressure that feels like the baby's head is pushing down
  • A low, dull backache below the waist that feels different than usual
  • An urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • Contractions that come often and do not go away
  • Contractions that get stronger and closer together

Emotional Health

Women may experience a wide variety of emotions during their pregnancy. A support system can lead to a relaxed birth experience and a healthy baby. It can also reduce the stress of pregnancy and parenting.

Perinatal Mood Disorders

Between 15 and 20 per cent of women experience some form of pregnancy related anxiety or depression. Prenatal depression affects between 10 and 20 per cent of women.

Women should talk to a health care provider if every day for two weeks, they:

  • Find themselves crying
  • Have problems sleeping
  • Are always tired
  • Lose their appetite
  • Lose their enjoyment in activates
  • Feel anxious
  • Withdraw from their partner, friends, family or co-workers

Oral Health

A woman's body undergoes many changes during pregnancy; some of these changes can affect the health of teeth and gums. Good oral care is important.

Pregnancy Gingivitis (gum disease)

Changes in hormone levels can cause swollen gums that bleed during brushing and flossing.

Premature Birth or Low Birth-Weight

Having healthy teeth and gums may reduce the chance of having a premature birth or a low birth-weight baby.

Vomiting and Tooth Decay

Vomiting can leave stomach acids in the mouth. These acids can damage the surface of the teeth and lead to tooth decay (cavities).

Tips for Preventing Oral Health Problems

The most important thing a pregnant woman can do for good oral health is to have a good oral care routine. Pregnant woman should:

  • Floss at least once a day, before brushing  teeth
  • Brush at least two times a day, especially before bedtime
    • Rinse with water after meals and snacks to reduce acid and remove food particles
    • Wait 30 minutes after eating/drinking before brushing
  • Brush gently along the gum line to help swollen, bleeding gums.
    • Gum problems usually go away after childbirth; if they don’t, see an oral health care professional.
  • Use a toothpaste with fluoride in it
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and replace it every three to four months (or sooner if worn or after any illness, such as cold or flu)
  • Eat healthy meals and snacks
  • Take steps to prevent tooth decay
    • Rinse with water after vomiting to prevent acids from damaging  teeth
    • Rinse well, but wait 30 minutes after vomiting to brush teeth
  • Visit an oral health care professional regularly, including a visit during the first trimester
    • Regular dental checkups and cleanings are the best ways to detect and prevent dental problems
  • This is also a good time to discuss oral health care for babies and speak about making baby’s first dental appointment, which should be by age one.

Physical Activity

It is important that women speak to their doctor about how to exercise safely during their pregnancy. Women should always consult their health care provider before starting or changing an exercise routine.

Medical experts recommend that women exercise during their pregnancy. Women should exercise for short periods several times a day. The ideal is to exercise three days a week, up to six times a day for ten minutes each time.

Women who Were Physically Active Before Their Pregnancy

Generally, these women can safely continue to exercise once they are pregnant.

Women who Were not Physically Active Before Their Pregnancy

Generally, these women should wait until their second trimester before starting an exercise routine.

Safety Guidelines for Physical Activity

Pregnant women should:

  • Start by exercising three times a week and increase slowly
  • Avoid being active on humid and hot days
  • Avoid being active when sick
  • Avoid exercises that require them to lay on their back after they are 16 weeks pregnant
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Drink water before, during and after exercising

Nutrition

There are some foods that are considered high risk for pregnant women. These foods are more likely to cause food-borne illnesses.

Pregnant women should not eat:

  • Food that contains raw eggs such as homemade:
    • Ice cream
    • Mayonnaise
    • Salad dressings
    • Eggnog
  • Eggs that are raw or undercooked
  • Raw seafood or smoked fish
  • Uncooked deli meats such as ham, bologna, hot dogs and sausage
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheese, juice or cider
  • Unwashed vegetables or fruit
  • Pâtés or liverwurst

It is important for women who are pregnant to continue taking a multivitamin containing 0.4mg of folic acid.

See Healthy Eating for New and Expecting Mothers for more information.


Physical Changes

There are many physical changes that a woman may experience during pregnancy, especially to her breasts. Normal changes include:

  • Breasts becoming fuller or heavier
  • Fluid leaking from the breasts
  • Nipples becoming larger and darker
  • Stretch marks and veins appearing on the breasts
  • Breasts feeling tender
  • Changes in moods
  • Nausea or vomiting "morning sickness"
  • Fatigue
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Change in sexual interest
  • Tightening and relaxing of your uterus (Braxton Hicks contractions)
  • Pain in your legs (cramps)
  • Feelings of burning in your chest and throat (heartburn)
  • Shortness of breath due to the pressure of your growing baby against your lungs

Around the 16th week of pregnancy a woman's breasts will start making milk called colostrum. Some women may notice some dried up (yellowish) milk on their nipples, this is normal. A few weeks before the baby is due, women can express some of this milk. It will be thick and yellow – and perfect for a new baby. Women should not worry if they are not leaking or cannot express milk. This is normal. Your unborn baby is also preparing for life after birth. Your baby is doing sucking and swallowing exercises to prepare for breathing and breastfeeding

This time of change is a great opportunity for pregnant women to explore and learn about the importance of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding. They can also take the time to learn about supports that are available to pregnant women as they prepare to breastfeed.

A Healthy Start for Baby and Me workbook


Birth Plans

A birth plan is a short one page document that informs your health care provider and hospital staff of what kind of child birth experience you would like to have and how you would like your baby to be cared for once he or she is born.

Common Things to Include in a Birth Plan:

  • Support Person(s): Who will provide continuous support throughout labour.
  • Pain Relief Options:  Learn and discuss the options available ahead of time to help inform your decision.
  • Religious or Cultural Beliefs: Feel free to list your customs, beliefs or traditions for your baby and family.
  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is important for the life-long health of your baby and your recovery. Research shows that the best time to begin breastfeeding is within the first hour after birth. Ensure that your health care and support providers are aware of your decision and provide you with support if needed.  
  • Skin to Skin after Birth: Cuddling skin to skin right after birth benefits both you and your baby. It can help your baby adjust to life outside the womb and help with breastfeeding. For moms, it can promote early attachment and bonding with your child.

Check with your health care provider or hospital where you are delivering if they have a draft birth plan for you to use. It is also a good idea to share your birth plan with anyone who is mentioned or involved in your birth plan.


Disclaimer

Information contained on this website is not intended to be medical advice or to be used for diagnosis. Please consult your physician for diagnosis and advice on medical treatment. 

Links to other sites are provided as a reference to assist you in identifying Internet resources that are available on a particular subject. Internet resources are not substitutes for the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. We do not assume responsibility for the accuracy or appropriateness of the information contained on these sites, nor do we necessarily endorse the viewpoints on these sites.

 



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