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Folic acid has been shown to lower the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida and is essential for the growth and development of your baby. According to Motherisk, a research program providing information to pregnant women and new moms on staying safe, these defects occur within 25 to 29 days after you become pregnant. For optimal prevention, it’s wise to start taking folic acid while planning for and in the early stages of your pregnancy.
Motherisk says that if you are generally healthy, a diet rich in folic acid and a multivitamin that contains 0.4 to 1mg of folic acid should suffice. For the former, try eating more grains, dark green vegetables, liver and beans. For the latter, take a prenatal multivitamin two to three months before conception, during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding. However, if you have health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or a family history of neural tube defects, your daily intake should be 5mg of folic acid at least three months before conception and for up to 12 weeks post conception. After that, you can take the regular multivitamin with folic acid or a prenatal vitamin.
If painting the nursery is on your to-do list, Motherisk suggests looking for water-based paints (also known as acrylic emulsions) and avoiding oil-based paints that contain organic solvents, which have been shown to increase the risk of birth defects. Although short-term exposure to solvent-based paints is unlikely to cause harm, it’s better to err on the safe side. If you are painting the nursery, make sure the room is well ventilated; wear work clothes, gloves, goggles; and, avoid eating and drinking near the open paint containers.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the risk associated with pregnancy and X-rays. It all depends on what type of X-ray you are having and exactly how much radiation you will be exposed to. A chest X-ray exposes you in one moment to the same amount of radiation you would absorb over the course of 10 days while going about your regular activities. (Radiation is all around us.) It’s wise to avoid X-rays if you can, and always let your doctor know you’re pregnant.
Motherisk says that generally the safest medications are the ones that will work best for you, have the least number of side effects and have not been shown to cause harm to unborn babies. Also consider that the benefit of taking certain medications should always outweigh the potential risk. If you have a urinary tract infection, for example, leaving this untreated can lead to complications like increased risk of preterm delivery. There are antibiotics that can be taken during pregnancy and you should talk to your doctor for more information. No matter what ails you, always speak with your doctor when feeling ill and before taking any medications during pregnancy.
The best way to steer clear of bacteria carried in foods is to heat up or cook your meals and snacks. That being said, improved standards and surveillance have reduced the amount of contaminated foods in grocery stores. This means you don’t necessarily have to avoid foods associated with Listeria, like deli meats and soft cheeses, or soft-cooked eggs, which have been linked to Salmonella. Even sushi and sashimi can be safe depending on the source. When it comes to seafood, you should choose options that are low-mercury, like salmon, canned light tuna, and shrimp, as opposed to high-mercury fish like fresh tuna. Above all, it’s best to make sure your food is obtained from a reputable retailer; stored, handled and cooked properly; and eaten within a couple of days after purchasing.
It’s recommended that your caloric intake during pregnancy increase by 100 calories per day in the first trimester, and 300 calories per day thereafter. This allows you to achieve the normal weight gain associated with pregnancy. On average, you will most likely gain 1 lb a week with an overall increase of 25 to 30 lbs.
Staying active during pregnancy can help you prepare for childbirth, but it’s important to find exercises that won’t cause harm to you or your baby. Running and weight training, for example, are fine in the beginning, but may have to be modified or cut out of your routine as your body changes. It’s also wise to avoid exercises that can result in slips or falls, such as cycling or rollerblading, and opt for more low-resistance options like walking, light jogging, swimming, yoga and low-impact aerobics. You should speak to your doctor before starting an exercise routine, as intensity and frequency will depend on several individual factors including your level of fitness pre-pregnancy or any complications you’ve been experiencing throughout.
Pregnancy certainly does affect your body in many ways. When it comes to nausea, you need to pinpoint triggers, which can be anything from certain smells to getting overheated, and avoid them. An empty stomach can also aggravate nausea, so eat as soon as you feel hungry and try high-carbohydrate, low-fat meals. Get around another common digestive issue—heartburn—by eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding fried foods, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits or juices and spicy foods. To help manage leg cramps try stretching your calf muscles and taking a magnesium supplement before bed, staying active and hydrated as well as wearing comfortable, supportive footwear. Lastly, hemorrhoids are a common pregnancy complaint. Treat your discomfort by soaking in warm water, applying ice to relieve swelling and avoiding sitting for long periods of time. Talk to your Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacist to find an over-the-counter hemorrhoid remedy that’s safe to use during pregnancy.
The advantages of breastfeeding your baby versus bottle-feeding are well-documented and proven. According to Motherisk, a research program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids that provides information on the safety of drugs and exposures during pregnancy and lactation, breastfeeding is the best way to provide all the necessary nutrients for your baby, especially in the first six months.
Although a lot of new moms avoid certain foods while nursing, this is not really necessary as food is rarely the root cause of a baby’s problem. That being said, it is important to monitor your baby’s reactions. If she’s fussy at the breast when you eat a certain dish, then that should be removed from your diet until your baby is fully weaned. The odd time when your milk is causing your baby gassiness or upset stomach, it could potentially be a problem with dairy protein. If you see a rash, your baby is fussy or gassy, has a runny nose, cough or congestion, you might want to try cutting out dairy for a few weeks and see if these symptoms improve or cease.
In terms of what you drink, try to minimize caffeine intake to 150mg per day (about three cups of black tea) or less as small traces can end up in your breast milk. How much alcohol ends up in your milk depends on the amount you drink and when. It takes about two to three hours for alcohol to leave your system, so if you want to indulge a little, have one drink then wait before feeding. Moreover, because of the lack of information and research on the effect herbal teas have on breast milk, you should take caution. Steer clear of golden seal (often found alongside Echinacea) because it can be toxic in moderate doses and research has yet to confirm the effects on nursing babies.
Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before you take medications while you are breastfeeding. For an upset stomach, they are likely to recommend calcium carbonate (Tums®, Rolaids®) or alginic compound (Gaviscon®) for heartburn and acid reflux, or an aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide (Maalox®) for sour stomach, which according to Motherisk are all deemed safe to take while nursing.
Prenatal vitamins are safe and many mothers continue to take them while nursing. Your body needs an increased amount of folic acid when breastfeeding, which there is more of in the prenatal multivitamins. For this reason, Motherisk recommends that you continue taking a prenatal supplement with folic acid for as long as you are breastfeeding.
Most women will produce enough milk to feed their little one. If you aren’t, don’t worry. Motherisk says that there are safe medications your doctor can prescribe to help boost your milk production. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about how to make sure your baby is latching properly and getting everything she needs.
Not necessarily. This should be at the very top of your list of things to discuss with your doctor. Ask her about alternative high blood pressure medications that you can take while nursing. Motherisk says that your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker, calcium channel blocker or ACE inhibitor, many of which are completely safe. Remember, taking certain medications may also mean that your doctor will want to monitor your baby for beta-blocking side effects.
According to Motherisk, a common side effect of taking prenatal vitamins is constipation. Whatever the cause of your discomfort, this symptom can be managed with stool softeners such as docusate calcium (Surfak®) or docusate sodium (Colace®), which are both safe for breastfeeding moms.
Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. Motherisk warns contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease breast milk production and should be avoided if you’ve just started breastfeeding your newborn or are struggling with milk production.