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The Importance of Good Health During Pregnancy

How your health can impact your pregnancy—and your child.

September 6, 2019

Pregnancy can be overwhelming, but expecting mothers should take care not to neglect their health—for their own sake, as well as that of their baby. 

New research suggests that viral infections during pregnancy could result in brain changes in the child, leading to abnormal behavior in offspring. 

Continue reading for: 

  • More information about the study
  • Ways to help stay healthy during pregnancy

The Study: Viral Infections and Pregnancy 

Background

In the past, inflammation in the womb has been associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders in offspring. However, these results are largely based on the development of male offspring. So, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada set out to determine how female offspring are affected by the same type of inflammation. 

Pregnant woman sleeps
Autism, schizophrenia, and major depression disorder are among the conditions linked to inflammation during pregnancy. 

The researchers injected pregnant rats with an immunity stimulant to produce a simulated viral infection, thus causing inflammation in the womb. 

Results 

The offspring from the injected rats showed behavioral abnormalities—such as reduced working memory, altered fear responses, and lower rates of sociability—consistent with those found with schizophrenia and autism. 

These results suggest contracting a viral infection during pregnancy, such as the flu, could affect brain development and potentially result in mental health conditions in offspring. 

Tips for Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

To ensure that you don’t put yourself at risk for inflammation or infection during your pregnancy, here are a few simple tips. (You might already follow these pieces of advice—but a little caution could never hurt when it comes to you and your baby’s health.) 

  1. See your doctor regularly. For the first 28 weeks of your pregnancy, your doctor will probably want to see you every four weeks. After that, it’ll be around every two weeks until you reach 36 weeks, and then every week until you deliver. These visits are important for maintaining your own health, as well as the health of your baby. 
  2. Make sure you’re getting the right vitamins and nutrients. This is something you’ll go over with your doctor more in depth about, but it’s important to eat a well-rounded diet and take any recommended supplements while your pregnant. 
Fruit in heart-shaped bowls
Calcium, iron, and folic acid are among the most important nutrients for you and your growing baby. 
  1. Stay hydrated. Drinking water seems simple, but it goes a long way! Your blood volume increases during pregnancy, so make sure you up your fluid-intake accordingly. Pregnant women need around 10 glasses of water a day—but if you find yourself struggling to hydrate, there are plenty of apps that help you log your water intake.
  2. Sleep! Again, this rule is very simple but very important. While you’re pregnant, you’ll probably feel more tired than usual. You might need as many as 10 hours of sleep a night. 
  3. Wash your hands. Make sure you’re washing your hands, especially before you eat. This will help prevent the spread of germs and other bacteria that might get you sick. This is important after you’ve taken the bus home from work, but also when you’ve used your smartphone. Make sure to cleanse both your phone and your hands regularly—a 2011 study found that 1 in 6 touch screens have fecal matter on the surface. Yuck! 
Washing hands with soap

Washing your hands after you’ve been in public is particularly important. Use soap and clean water to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds

Basically, the advice for staying healthy while you’re pregnant is more or less the same as it would be if you weren’t—but that doesn’t mean you should overlook it.

And if you get sick, don’t panic! Just make sure to take the time to rest and get better.  

Healthy for Two 

Maintaining your physical and mental health during pregnancy can be a challenge, but never forget: the little things (like drinking water and getting enough sleep) do count. So try your best to take care of yourself and, by extension, your baby. And don’t be afraid to go to your doctor if you’re not feeling well—that’s what they’re there for! 


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