Keeping physically fit and active during pregnancy offers many health benefits, such as improving physical and mental wellbeing while helping you to maintain a healthy weight. Healthy pregnant women should participate in some form of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises to a point where they can still carry on a conversation without being breathless. Make sure you warm up, cool down and only exercise within your comfort zone. Depending on your level of fitness, physical activities to enjoy include yoga, swimming, walking, light jogging, aqua aerobics, cycling or specialised pregnancy exercise classes.
During pregnancy your nutritional demands increase to support not only your health, but also that of your developing baby. Eating a wide variety of unprocessed foods is a good place to start with a focus on nutrient density rather than increased volume Some key nutrients that are essential in pregnancy include:
• Folic acid
Folic acid, if taken daily for one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy, helps prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. See Pregnancy Plus 1-2-3.
Iodine requirements are increased during pregnancy as adequate maternal iodine levels support the development of a baby’s brain and central nervous system. See Pregnancy Plus 1-2-3.
• Vitamin D
Inadequate sun exposure, lifestyle and diet are just some of the reasons why a significant number of Australians are deficient in vitamin D. Colecalciferol (vitamin D3) supports healthy foetal development during pregnancy and supports a healthy pregnancy. See Pregnancy Plus 1-2-3.
• Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which assist the health of both mother and baby during pregnancy. The body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids so women can only obtain them from their diet or through supplementation. Sufficient levels during pregnancy are required for normal development of the baby. In particular, DHA is important for the development of a baby’s eyes, brain and central nervous system.
Birth preparation with Raspberry leaf
Within traditional Western herbal medicine (WHM), Raspberry leaf is used during the third trimester of pregnancy to prepare the mother’s body for labour. Traditional WHM uses include enhancing uterine health and preparing the uterus for childbirth. See Raspberry Leaf.