It is undeniable that pregnancy is one of the toughest periods women go through in their lives. Pregnancy is characterized by hormonal imbalances, which not only affects the moods of women also their appetite and cravings. It also affects the way women live, what they do, and how they do it. However, as Wolfe & AL Davies, G. (2003) explains, eating appropriately and keeping one’s body physically fit is among the most important strategies with which to keep safe and healthy pregnancies. Essentially, good nutrition or rather eating healthy during pregnancy does contribute enormously in the development of healthy babies. Eating healthy during pregnancy entails the consumption of foods that are rich in a wide range of valuable nutrients including iodine, iron, vitamins, and folate among others.
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On the other hand, keeping fit and maintaining appropriate body weights, particularly by engaging in recommendable physical exercises is an important strategy with which to make women feel better during pregnancies. Doing (and not overdoing) exercises during pregnancy has numerous benefits to both the expectant mother and the child among them reduced labor periods, easier child delivery, faster recovery after child delivery, and better development of the fetus.
Hence, this paper will use legitimate article reviews to extensively analyze healthy eating as well as appropriate exercising for pregnant women. The paper will address the various nutrients and their sources (required foods), and their benefits to pregnant women and the unborn children. It will equally analyze some of the foods that pregnant women should avoid in order to keep their pregnancies healthy. The paper will as well discuss the types of exercises that pregnant women should engage in as well as avoid on the verge to keep them and their unborn children healthy and safe.
Healthy Eating For Pregnant Women
Many at times, pregnant women, especially during the first trimester of their pregnancy, suffer from anorexia or lack of appetite. However, it is a given that women ought to choose a wide variety of foods in order to meet their nutritional needs and those of their unborn children during pregnancy. They are recommended to eat foods that contain the right amounts and varieties of nutrients on each day of their pregnancy. Because they often experience decreased appetite levels, pregnant women may at times need supplements for specific minerals and vitamins in order to keep them and their babies safe and healthy (Devine, Olson & Bove, 2000). Certainly, nutrients are necessary for the sustainability of pregnant women and effective development of the unborn children and that is why easting healthy is a mandatory requirement for all pregnant women. The consumption of a wide variety of highly nutritious foods also helps to keep pregnant women and their children healthy, more so during a period when their (pregnant women’s) bodies need more nutrients to sustain two or more lives.
Referring to Franko, Herzog, Becker, Flores, Greenwood, Delinsky & Blais, (2014), pregnant women are recommended by dieticians to eat healthy by consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to acquire adequate amounts of vitamins for enhance immunity. They are as well recommended to increase their intake of grains and/or cereals to at least eight meals each day, especially wholegrain and foods with high fibre content. Pregnant women should as well increase their consumption of foods that are rich in iron such as red meat, which helps to increase the level of red blood cells and that consequently reduces the prevalence of anemia among pregnant women. In addition, pregnant women needs to eat foods that are rich calcium such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese, which helps in the development of stronger bones for both the mother and unborn children. It is as well recommended that pregnant women take plenty of water of between 750 and 1000 ml on each day.
Pregnant women should as well avoid eating foods and drinks that have high levels of fats and saturated sugars. Pregnant women should as well avoid eating raw foods, especially red meet seafood; as such food increases their vulnerability to being contaminated with such bacteria as salmonella, coliform, and toxoplasmosis which causes infections that are not only harmful to mothers but also the unborn children. Moreover, pregnant women should avoid taking deli meat, which is known for having listeria, a component responsible for increased probability of miscarriages.
During pregnancy, women and the unborn children undergo various physiological changes and developments, which make them, have an exponentially growing demand for extra nutrients. Therefore, eating healthy from all the major food categories, which are carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, and fats, is vital. However, throughout the first trimester of pregnancy, the energy requirement of women remains the same as before they conceived, and that makes the consumption of extra food at this stage of pregnancy unnecessary. Nonetheless, the energy requirement of pregnant women increases as the pregnancy develops into the second and the third trimesters. As a result, pregnant women are fortified to increase their intake of carbohydrates or grain foods so that they meet their energy requirements at these two stages of pregnancy development. Basically, they are recommended to eat about two and a half extra serves of grain foods during their second and third trimesters. Pregnant women should equally increase their intake for other nutrients such as vitamins and proteins appropriately on the verge to meet the changing demands of nutrients in entirety in their bodies during the last two trimesters of their pregnancy (Thornton, Kieffer, Salabarría-Peña, Odoms-Young, Willis, Kim & Salinas, 2006).
Folic Acid and Pregnancy
Folic Acid, also known as folate, comprises of B-group vitamins is an important food component for pregnant women. Folate helps in protecting the development of unborn-children against neutral tube defects, and that makes it important that all women take enough of this component during pregnancy. As Polley, Wing & Sims (2002) points out, medical practitioners and nationalists recommend that pregnant women, more so during their first trimester, ought to take supplements of folic acid that contains a minimum of 400 micrograms of folate on daily basis. Additionally, pregnant women are recommended to constantly consume foods that are naturally rich in folic acid and/or those that are fortified with folate. Some the foods that are naturally rich in Folic Acid are chick peas, lentils, spinach, dried beans, cabbage, cauliflower, oranges, parsley, wheat germ, potatoes, tomatoes, unsalted peanuts, and salmon among others. It is equally important to note that in as much as liver has high content of folic acid, it equally has high content of vitamin A, and that makes it inappropriate for pregnant women.
Iron and Pregnancy
Pregnant women require increased iron content in their bodies for their sustainability as well as healthy development of their unborn children. Essentially, children draw enough iron to sustain them for upto five to six months after delivery from their mothers during pregnancy (Lobel, Cannella, Graham, DeVincent, Schneider & Meyer, 2008). Although pregnant women have minimum loss of iron from their bodies as they do not menstruate during pregnancy, the level of iron in their bodies is often not enough to sustain them and their unborn children. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that pregnant women consume foods that are rich in iron on daily basis. Among the iron-enriched foods that are recommended for pregnant women are well cooked red meat, dried beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, seafood, and chicken. Furthermore, nutritionists have found that iron from animal sources are often readily absorbed by the body, hence are recommended over iron from plants. However, some women are vegetarians; thus, they should eat plant sources of iron alongside other foods that contain vitamin C such as oranges as this vitamin enhances the absorption of iron from plant sources by the body. Lack of iron in a woman’s body, especially during pregnancy leads to anemia; hence, pregnant women are recommended to take at least 27 mg of iron per day. In case a pregnant woman may not be able to take the recommended amount of iron daily, she should take iron supplements in order to boost the level of this important nutrient in their bodies.
Iodine and Pregnancy
Mottola, Giroux, Gratton, Hammond, Hanley, Harris & Sopper, (2010) states that iodine is one of the most important minerals for pregnant women because it helps in the production of thyroid hormone, which is fundamental for growth and development of the fetus/unborn children. Inadequate intake of iodine during pregnancy does increase the vulnerability to mental disorders and cretinism among the newborns (Mottola et al., 2010). Foods that are iodine-enriched include seaweed and seafood, eggs, dairy products, and meat. Iodized salts are also good sources of iodine, though they should not be consumed uncooked. Because of the importance of iodine for a pregnant woman and her child, it is recommended that they take a minimum of 150 micrograms of iodine each day throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Exercises for Pregnant Women
Referring to Wolfe & AL Davies (2003), exercises are important for pregnant women because they not only helps them to adapt faster with their changing body weights and shape during and after pregnancy but also help them cope with labor pains. Pregnant women are recommended o keep their bodies physically active on daily basis by engaging in such exercises as running, dancing, yoga, and even walking. Exercises during pregnancy are often not harmful; rather, they help in minimizing complications that usually arise in the later stages of pregnancy.
In as much as exercising is important during pregnancy, women who were not physically active before they became pregnant should not suddenly engage in strenuous exercises as that may affect them and their children. Pregnant women considered physically active before are encourages to engage in at least a half an hour walk on daily basis. Pregnant women are also cautioned against lying flat on their backs during pregnancy, especially after the 16th week of their pregnancy, as the weight of their bump does press on their main blood vessels to bring blood back to their heart, and that increases their vulnerability to fainting. Pregnant women are also discouraged to participate in contact sports that have increased risk of being hit such as kickboxing and squash. Omen are also cautioned against exercising on grounds that are over 2,500 meters above the sea level as they together with their unborn babies are at increased risk of contracting altitude sicknesses (Devine et al., 2000).
Engaging in appropriate forms of physical exercises during pregnancies helps women to strengthen their muscles to enable them carry their increasing body weigh due to pregnancy. Appropriate exercises equally make pregnant women to have stronger joints, improved blood flow or circulations, eased backaches, and generally make them feel better during pregnancies.
The Stomach-Strengthening Exercises
As the unborn child develops, the hollow in the lower back of pregnant women increases, a factor that gives them backaches. In order to reduce the prevalence of backaches among pregnant women, the abdominal exercises or exercises that strengthen the stomach muscles are recommended. Pregnant women who need to strengthen their stomach muscles should sit with their knees under their hips and hands beneath their shoulders, and with their fingers facing forward and abdomen lifted high to keep their backs upright. They should then pull their stomach muscles while simultaneously raising their backs towards the ceiling in order to curl their trunk and allow their heads to relax forward. They should then hold in that position for few seconds before returning to their original position. They should repeat this procedure five to seven times per exercising session (Franko et al., 2014).
The Pelvic Tilt Exercises
Pelvic exercises are as well important for pregnant women because they help strengthen the pelvic muscles, which serve as the door for the delivery of children. While conducting a pelvic tilt exercise, a pregnant woman should stand with her shoulder and bottom against the wall and with her knees soft, she should pull her tummy towards the spine to make her back flatten against the wall. She should maintain that position for at about five seconds and the repeat the procedure approximately ten times.
The Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor exercises are important for pregnant women because it helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which undergo massive strains during pregnancy and child delivery. Weak pelvic floors during pregnancy make women uncomfortable as they often leak urine when coughing, sneezing, or experiencing any strains (also called stress incontinence). Strengthening pelvic floor muscles reduces stress incontinence during and after pregnancy.
In conclusion of the above, eating healthy and engaging in physical exercises is important for pregnant women. Eating healthy involves consuming foods that are rich in a variety of nutrients such as vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins. Among the most important nutrients needed during pregnancy are iodine, iron, and folic acid. Exercises are equally important in keeping pregnant women fit and consequently able to cope with the changing body shape and weight while pregnant. Pregnant women should also engage in stomach-strengthening exercises, the pelvic tilt exercises, and the pelvic floor exercises.
Devine, C. M., Olson, C. M., & Bove, C. F. (2000). The continuity and change in weight orientations of women and their lifestyle practices through pregnancy as well as the postpartum period: the influence of life course trajectories as well as transitional events. Social Science & Medicine, 50(4), 567-582.
Franko, D. L., Herzog, D. B., Becker, A. E., Flores, A. T., Greenwood, D. N., Delinsky, S. S., & Blais, M. A. (2014). The pregnancy complications as well as neonatal outcomes among women with eating disorders.
Lobel, M., Cannella, D. L., Graham, J. E., DeVincent, C., Schneider, J., & Meyer, B. A. (2008). Pregnancy-specific, prenatal health behaviors, and birth outcomes. Health Psychology, 27(5), 604.
Mottola, Giroux, Gratton, R., Hammond,., Hanley, A., Harris, S., … & Sopper, M. M. (2010). Nutrition & exercise prevent excess weight gain in overweight pregnant women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 42(2), 265.
Polley, B. A., Wing, R. R., & Sims, C. J. (2002). Randomized controlled prevent excessive weight gain in pregnant women. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 26(11), 1494-1502.
Thornton, P. L., Kieffer, E. C., Salabarría-Peña, Y., Odoms-Young, A., Willis, S. K., Kim, H., & Salinas, M. A. (2006). Weight, diet, & physical activity-related beliefs and practices among pregnant and postpartum Latino women: the role of social support. Maternal and child health journal, 95-104.
Wolfe, L. A., & AL Davies, G. (2003). Canadian guidelines for exercise in pregnancy. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 46(2), 488-495.
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