Deck the halls and hark the herald! Well ladies, the holiday season is upon us again. Time for family and friends, shopping and travel, New Year’s resolutions and my personal favorite—cooking and eating. So let’s discuss a few things, from a medical perspective, that will keep you and your precious cargo well and whole for the holiday season.
Travel: Recommendations for travel will vary depending on your destination, mode of transportation and the length of time spent traveling. Basic rules: being pregnant increases your risk of blood clots in the legs; long hours of sedentary travel further increases that risk—it’s important during your excursions to wear comfortable clothes, support stockings and to get up and stretch at least every two hours to get that blood pumping. If you are going to an exotic destination, try to avoid those locales where vaccinations are needed; if you must go, consult your physician to verify which vaccinations are safe during pregnancy. Be extra cautious about consuming the water in foreign countries to avoid stomach upset/traveler’s diarrhea—err on the side of drinking bottled water in these circumstances.
Flying during pregnancy, pending your medical status, is considered safe in the first and second trimesters. Prior to making your reservation, it would be prudent to contact your airline carrier for their travel policies concerning pregnant women as restrictions may vary. Due to a lack of oxygen, it may be wise to avoid flying in small, unpressurized planes while pregnant.
Food: Food is the mainstay of any holiday celebration — however, there are some foods pregnant women should avoid due to the bacteria, viruses or parasites which may be present. These critters can cross the placenta and not only affect mom, but baby as well. Listeria, a bacteria, is top on the list of germs that can cause severe food borne illness, miscarriage, and stillbirth. Foods such as unpasteurized cheese/milk, and poorly cooked hot dogs may contain this bacteria, so be vigilant in their consumption. Foods with raw eggs, (like eggnog), or uncooked vegetables (particularly sprouts), or under-cooked poultry may contain E.coli and Salmonella, both of which can cause sickness for mom. Undercooked pork products may contain a parasite which can cause trichinosis — this one can also cross the placenta and affect the fetus, causing stillbirth, so be sure that all pork is thoroughly cooked. Proper refrigeration of cooked food also is important. The USDA recommends pregnant women avoid foods which have been left out for more than 2 hours.
New Years’ Resolutions
When you’re pregnant, there are a few resolutions that are certainly worth thinking about, and that are attainable and maintainable.
- Cut the mama drama – decrease the stress in your life. Stress for anyone, but particularly pregnant women, affects both mother and fetus—presents with an increased risk of preterm labor/delivery, low birth weight infants. Stress also contributes to the development of hypertension. Anecdotally, mothers who are under immense stress tend to have crankier babies. Stress busters—meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, professional counseling and therapy—all are safe, natural ways to de-stress.
- Open wide and say AAH! – pay attention to your dental health. Infection is thought to play a major role, among other things, in the genesis of preterm labor and heart disease. Periodontal disease, is, in effect, a lingering oral infection. A trip to the dentist for cleaning of plaque/attention to any gum disease decreases your incidence of preterm labor and delivery. Make sure to schedule routine visits for maintenance of your oral health throughout the year.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away– the old adage is true; nutrition contributes to great health. Pay attention to your nutritional choices with the new year—focus on increasing your fruit, vegetable, beans, and whole grains intake—cut down on fatty high cholesterol containing foods/processed foods. Lean meats like chicken and turkey are great. Increase your water consumption and eliminate drinks containing high fructose corn syrup. Good nutrition contributes to a healthy growing fetus, and post delivery, helps with good milk production and keeping mom in a positive nutritional balance.
With those thoughts in mind, enjoy your holiday season, ladies!