Bad habits are hard to break. But, if you're thinking about having a baby, it's time to place the baby's health above any of your residual harmful habits, such as smoking and drinking. And if you've always wanted a reason to implement a new, healthy lifestyle, you'd be hard pressed to find a better motivation.
The upside is that not only will your baby thank you by having a better chance at normal fetal development, but your own body will feel and look better, too. (And who knows you may even save a little money by skipping the cigarettes and mojitos for a while.)
So whether you're trying to get pregnant, or if you're already expecting, remember your baby's health depends on you. Read on to learn about five important habits to break before your family (and your belly) begins to expand.
Cigarettes are bad for many reasons. Not only are they packed with carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that reduces blood's ability to circulate oxygen throughout the body, they're also filled with addictive nicotine, sticky tars that coat the lungs, and they're precursors to emphysema and lung cancer [sources: Wise Geek; UPMC]. Over time, as people inhale smoke from a cigarette and tar builds up in the lungs, the number of functioning cilia in the lungs is reduced. This can be extremely harmful for a fetus. It can prevent the necessary amount of oxygen from reaching the baby, speed up an already rapid heartbeat, raise the risk of miscarriage, premature and still births, and future lung problems [source: WebMD]. Alternative nicotine sources aren't necessarily any better for a baby's health. So when it comes to smoking and pregnancy, the wisest and healthiest option is to simply kick the habit.
Drinking during pregnancy is a controversial topic, especially when it comes to types of alcohol and the amount. Since health professionals have never agreed on the safe limits of alcohol consumption, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Also, according to the American Pregnancy Association, alcohol can easily cross a woman's placenta and travel directly into the baby's body. It basically means that you're serving your unborn child an alcoholic beverage. When this happens, alcohol has the ability to cause fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, early birth or stillbirth, low birth weight or developmental problems [source: Medical News Today].
You are what you eat, so the saying goes. And now that you're going to be growing a tiny person inside of you, they're also "consuming" what you eat. Therefore, it's wise that you consume a healthy, well-rounded diet before, during and after pregnancy. The easiest way to do this is by following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest food guidelines. The pyramid was recently replaced with a healthy plate that more clearly depicts the portions and types of food to be eaten each day. The foods to focus on include vegetables, grains, protein, fruits and dairy -- in that order. Foods to avoid include high-sodium or sugary foods and drinks, seafood that stores high amounts of mercury, unpasteurized dairy, too much caffeine (200 mg or more), certain herbal teas, certain vitamins (including too much vitamin A) and unwashed food [source: Mayo Clinic].
Don't get us wrong here. Exercise is a healthy and important part of one's daily life no matter whether you're considering getting pregnant, are pregnant or have already given birth [source: WebMD]. It helps fight fatigue, staves off diabetes, boosts energy and strength, and can even help prevent backache. But, too much or too little exercise can be harmful. Excessive exercise can cause the body to burn too much body fat, which in turn can thwart regular ovulation and menstruation.
On the other hand, too little exercise can lead to obesity and diabetes, which also negatively affect a woman's ability to conceive. Instead, try doing approximately 30 minutes of regular exercise every day throughout the week [source: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists]. If high impact exercise like jogging or P90X simply isn't your idea of fun, try walking, swimming, cycling or yoga.
Ask any pregnant woman and she'll tell you the same thing: Growing a baby is tiring. Therefore, sleep is essential for a woman's general outlook on life, health and hormonal balance [source: National Sleep Foundation]. Even if you weren't a napper before getting pregnant, chances are you'll become one during that first trimester. There's nothing wrong with listening to your body and laying down for a 20-minute power nap when you need one. You don't even have to fall asleep. Resting can have similar benefits to sleep. This way, you'll have plenty of energy when it comes to spending time with your partner, decorating the nursery, getting exercise and going to work [source: Haiken].
When trying to get pregnant, a woman should consider eating a healthier diet. See what types of foods and vitamins are best when trying to get pregnant.
- American Pregnancy Association. "Alcohol and Pregnancy: What You Should Know." May 2011. (Aug. 11, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/alcohol.html
- American Pregnancy Association. "Smoking and your Baby: Need Help Putting Down That Cigarette?" 2000-2011. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/smoking.html
- Haiken, Melanie. "Importance of Sleep." Blue Cross Ma. 2011. (Aug. 8, 2011) http://www.bluecrossma.com/living-healthy-babies/pregnancy/about-mom/sleep.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy." May 28, 2011. (Aug. 10, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-nutrition/PR00109
- Medical News Today. "Pregnancy and Alcohol -- How Much is Safe?" Oct. 27, 2007. (Aug. 8, 2011) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/86887.php
- National Sleep Foundation. "Pregnancy and Sleep." (Aug. 8, 2011) http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/pregnancy-and-sleep
- Science Daily. "Poor Diet During Pregnancy May Have Long Term Impact on Child's Health." July 1, 2008. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630200951.htm
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Exercise During Pregnancy." 2003. (Aug. 10, 2011) http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp119.cfm
- United States Department of Agriculture. "Choose My Plate." Aug. 9, 2011. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). "Smoking and Your Lungs." 2003. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.upmc.com/HealthAtoZ/patienteducation/Documents/SmokingLungs.pdf
- WebMD. "Exercise During Pregnancy." 2005-2011. (Aug. 10, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy
- WebMD. "Smoking During Pregnancy." 2005-2011. (Aug. 10, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/smoking-during-pregnancy
- WiseGeek. "How does Smoking Affect the Cilia?" 2003. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.wisegeek.com/how-does-smoking-affect-the-cilia.htm