FIVE TIPS FOR HEALTHIER PREGNANCIES AND CHILDREN: REVEALED IN RECENT STUDIES

Pregnancy can be a very tough time both physically and emotionally, especially in view of the toxin and stress bombardment of modern society and the fact that our bodies are generally weaker today than those of our ancestors. A few recent studies have surfaced some areas for expectant mothers-to-be to take note of. These tips and suggestions will help toward having a smoother pregnancy, as well as toward healthier mothers and newborns.

1. Do Not Smoke

Do we even need to mention this? The fetus gets its nutrient and oxygen supply from the mother. When a pregnant women smokes, it then logically follows that all that nicotine, tar and oxygen deprivation are also going to affect the little one.
And it is not just short-term detrimental effects we are talking about - the adverse impact can surface years later. A study commissioned by the newspaper "The Australian" and carried out by the Cancer Institute in New South Wales, for example, found that pregnant woman who smoke are elevating the risk of their children getting serious cancer later in life. Heightened risk included 70% increase for leukemia and 80% increase for brain and central nervous system cancers, among others.


"There is more and more evidence accumulating that pregnancy and smoking don't go together. But it is clear that we can do something about those complications - that is not to smoke during pregnancy," said Professor Jim Bishop, who is the chief executive of the institute.

Another recent study published in the journal Development and Psychotherapy had also reported that women who smoked during pregnancy had a higher chance of giving birth to aggressive children.

2. Consume Enough Fiber

A study which had analyzed food questionnaires filled in by about 1,500 women found that those who consumed the recommended doses of fiber - 20 to 30g per day - had 70% lower risk of getting preeclampsia, as compared to those who had less fiber. And the research team said that adding an extra 5g of fiber could further reduce the risk of the condition by 14%.

Preeclampsia is a dangerous ailment which 3% to 7% of pregnant ladies may encounter. According to maternal fetal medicine specialist, Dr Tanya Sorensen, "it consists of high blood pressure developing, and then often the baby will be affected, be growth restricted, and then the mother actually can get very ill from the disease and need early delivery".


3. Try Aquarobics

A Brazilian study which was published in the journal Reproductive Health found that doing aquarobics during pregnancy helped reduced the amount of pain-killing drugs requested by the women during labor.

The study had looked at 71 pregnant women - half of them went through three sessions of aquarobics each week during pregnancy, with each session lasting 50 minutes. "We found no statistically significant differences in the duration of labor or the type of delivery between the two groups. However, only 27 percent of women in the aquarobics group requested analgesia, compared to 65 percent in the control group. This represents a 58 percent reduction in requests," said Rosa Pereira from the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, the leader of the study.

This study cast some light on the issue of safety of exercise during pregnancy, with the main worry being exercise having adverse effects on fetal / placental demands, thereby compromising the development of the fetus or increasing the risk of abnormalities. The study team, however, concluded that the wellbeing of both mother and children were not adversely affected.

"We've shown that the regular practice of moderate water aerobics during pregnancy is not detrimental to the health of the mother or the child. In fact, the reduction in analgesia requests suggests that it can get women into better psycho-physical condition," added Pereira.

4. Maintain Healthy Levels of Weight Gain

A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School found that children borne of women who put on too much weight during pregnancy may not only be heavier babies, but bigger teenagers, too.

The study found that those whose mothers had put on more than the recommended pregnancy weight gain had a 42% higher likelihood of being obese, an increased risk which was independent of other factors, for example the mothers' weight prior to pregnancy.

The Institute of Medicine in the United States recommends that women in the normal-weight range put on about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. The corresponding increases for women who were overweight before pregnancy was about 15 to 25 pounds, and those who were underweight before pregnancy was 28 to 40 pounds.


5. Avoid Exposure to Hairspray

A groundbreaking study which was jointly conducted by the Imperial College in London, University College Cork and the Centre for Research in Environment Epidemiology in Barcelona found that ladies who were exposed to hairspray while at work during the first trimester of their pregnancies had two to three times the likelihood of giving birth to a son with hypospadias.

The study was funded by several UK and European governmental organizations and was recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It has been suggested that this association could be down to the presence of chemicals found in hairspray called phthalates, which are mainly used as plasticizers to improve the flexibility of plastics.

Hypospadias is a condition whereby there is displacement of the urinary opening to the underside of the penis. It is one of the most common birth defects to affect the male genitals.



The author
Reuben Chow

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