The first addition
The first addition
December 15-21, 1996
Preparing for a baby begins much before the pregnancy,
A check-list of dos and don’ts for the parents-to-be
MANY pregnancies are unplanned. However, there are a fair number that may be planned. If a couple decides to plan a baby, the first thing they must do is switch to healthy living. That is, they must give up smoking and alcohol: nicotine and alcohol being the two most common drugs abused.
They must also try and avoid lead exhaust from vehicles. A nutritious and healthy diet of fruits and vegetables must be had. Porridge is excellent for breakfast. Have fresh foods as far as possible. Avoid tinned food, food from packets, food with flavors, colours and preservatives added.
Nutrition is also extremely important once a woman becomes pregnant. In pregnancy, protein should be an important part of the diet. Non vegetarian food is an excellent source of protein since all the different kinds of proteins (amino acids) are together present in animal sources. However, a large percentage of Indian being vegetarian, it is important to know that the variety in vegetarian food can provide adequate protein. Since each pulse (dal) gives a different kind of protein, mixing a variety of dals and cooking, makes a good source of protein. Also, mixing cereals and pulses (that is, roti and dal or rice and dal) provides a better source of protein, since the two complement each other protein wise.
Soya bean is an excellent source of protein. So are sprouts, be they green gram (sabut moong dal) or chick pea (channa) sprouts. Soya bean nuggets or granules are available in the market in packets. On the other hand soya bean can be soaked overnight and cooked like other lentils (rajma ..etc.). Another way is to have soya bean flour added to the wheat flour when making chappatis in the proportion of one is to three.
Milk in any palatable form can be had, be it curds, custard, paneer, buttermilk or lassie, cheese, chenna burfi, rasgulla. Plain milk is the best way to have milk. A spoon of honey mixed in a glass of milk, can be chilled in the freezer in a steel vessel for about half an house and had by a woman who dislikes the smell of milk. It is better than adding coffee. Strong tea and coffee, chocolates and cola drinks should be avoided because of caffeine content. Caffeine blocks absorption of iron and calcium by the body.
Common complaints of women who are pregnant are puffy feet, backache, tiredness, breathlessness. Feet may puff with the hot weather, or if the pregnant mother exerts herself too much physically. Such puffiness will disappear by the morning. However, if feet are also puffy in the morning after the mother has had rest in the night, it could be a sign of oedema or water retention. A woman can control this by making some alterations in her food intake. She needs to cut out foods with a high concentration of salt like cheese, salami, bacon, pickles, dried fish. Salt encourages the body to retain water. She also needs to cut down on carbohydrates like bread, rice, chappatis, potatoes, sherbets and othwe sweet drinks. Sugar based foods like cakes, ice-creams, jalebis too. The mother-to-be needs to eat more of proteins that is, pulses and lentils, eggs, milk, curds, beans, chicken, fish or meat.
Oedema, plus high blood pressure, plus albumin in the urine would mean a medical indication to hurry the birth of the baby. So, controlling oedema when it occurs is important.
Backaches are common and especially aggravated in instances when the mother has a bad posture, or has to bend forward for her work or wears high heels. A pregnant woman should not wear high heels. She should see that she takes her stomach in and does not allow the middle of her back in hollow or arch too much.
If her work involves bending forward often she must experiment to find the most comfortable way of bending forward and working. Using an appropriate cushion may help when sitting on a chair. If bending forward, when standing, bending one leg at the knee and resting it on something might help. If she needs to go at floor level, it is better that she bends her knees and goes down into a squat, rather than bending forward from the waist. Going into a squat will also prepare her body for the impending birth and is not harmful as family members often fear.
To relieve backache, a woman should lie on a carpet or durrie on the floor. Bend both legs at knees and place both feet flat on floor. Exhale, that is, let out the air and try and flatten the arch of the back flat against the floor. Hold for the count of six, then relax and let the arch lift off the floor. Exhale again and again.
Breathlessness is common in pregnancy. The blood actually thins out in pregnancy, when more fluid volume is added to it. The heart enlarges slightly to cope with this change. A mother breathes not only for herself but also for her baby. As the mother’s blood courses through the uterus and placenta, it reaches the baby through the umbilical cord.
If a mother feels faint, it could be that she is anemic and needs to avoid crowded and smoky places. If she feels faint when standing in the kitchen, she needs to alternatively shift her weight from one leg to the other. She should eat iron rich foods to avoid anemia. Raisins, radish leaves and cauliflower leaves are rich in iron. So are dhania patta or coriander leaves, pudina or mint leaves, lotus stems etc.
One can buy one of those iron kadhais and heat one’s dals in it to add to the iron content of the food. This is especially important for women who find iron tablets do not suit them
How much exertion a woman can withstand in pregnancy would vary from woman to woman. Women have to learn to listen to their bodies and have faith in it. Does your body not tell you not to eat when you have lose motions? Similarly if you can work comfortably until late in pregnancy, it is alright. However, if by the sixth, seventh or eighth month you start to feel the strain, you need to take it easy. Tell your employer your plight. Ask if you can come in late when peak hour traffic eases so that your strain is reduced. Ask if you can do part of the work at home and come on fixed days of the week. Ask if you can do fewer hours per day. Or else, do some freelance work from the house. Alternatively start embroidery or knitting, putting scattered pictures in a photo album chronologically.
In pregnancy, after birth and for the rest of your life, it is important that you exercise the pelvic region. These muscles are like a hammock at the base of the pelvic floor. They get strained with the pregnancy and later by child birth. Contracting and relaxing these muscles goes a long way in keeping them in shape and preventing them from sagging. Their sagging could result in a loss of urine control or prolapse of the uterus or the sliding down of the uterus into the vagina, requiring surgical correction.
To avoid this happening, a woman must do her pelvic floor exercise. First exhale, then relax the pelvic floor like when passing urine. Then hold your breath and contract the pelvic floor like you want very badly to pass urine, but you are in a long queue and have to control yourself! Hold for the count of 10, then let out your breath gently and at the same time, gently relax the pelvic floor. Repeat as often as you can.
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