If there is one time in the life of a woman when it is absolutely essential to take the utmost care of overall health, it is during pregnancy. This is because it is not only the pregnant woman’s health in question but also the health and development of the fetus, or the unborn baby in the womb. With all the hormonal changes going on in a woman’s body during the time of pregnancy, it is absolutely important to take care, especially in case of diet and nutrition, weight gain, development and management of health conditions if any, and so on. Here are some of the aspects of pregnancy care one must not overlook.

Safe weight gain during pregnancy: Gaining weight during pregnancy is important but many pregnant women gain additional weight because of the belief that they must eat for two. To understand how much weight you can safely gain during pregnancy, you need to be aware of your BMI (Body Mass Index) before pregnancy The higher your BMI – or ratio of weight in kilograms to height in square meters – the lower the amount of weight you can add while pregnant.

While in the first trimester you need no additional calories; only in the second and third trimesters will you need 100 – 200 calories more than your regular intake. Ensure this with healthier options such as fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts and complex carbohydrates like whole grains.

Right diet during pregnancy: A balanced diet is essential to fitness and good health, and assumes vital importance during pregnancy. Three hundred calories a day, over and above a daily requirement of 1500–2000 calories, is what pregnant women additionally require from the beginning of the second trimester up to delivery. Your diet must include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Protein is essential for the buildup of tissues; folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables, dried beans and peas, and citrus fruits, for example, can prevent preterm delivery, low birth weight and poor fetal growth. Adequate amounts of calcium in your body will meet your unborn baby’s needs for stronger bones and teeth. Right amount of iron is required for hemoglobin production whereas zinc contributes to healthy growth and development of the baby.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy: While you are expected to eat more during pregnancy, you must also leave out certain foods to avoid causing risk to your pregnancy. Fish and sea food, raw meat, raw or uncooked eggs and vegetables, Chinese food, especially because of its MSG content (monosodium glutamate) and caffeinated beverages are some of the foods to be avoided. While raw meat is known to contain toxic elements harmful for both the mother and the unborn baby, high levels of mercury found in sea fish can also pose risks to the fetus. High levels of caffeine may cause miscarriage or low-birth weight. Drinking and smoking by pregnant women are absolute no-s for the serious abnormalities they can cause in the unborn child.

Dealing with pregnancy discomforts: Morning sickness, troubled sleep, frequent urges to urinate are some of the discomforts associated with pregnancy. You can overcome these discomforts through: exercise after taking due advice from your doctor, using pillows to support your lower back, knees and tummy, right nutrition that promotes sleep, trying muscle relaxation techniques and so on.

Gestational diabetes during pregnancy: An increasing number of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, largely due to a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and obesity. It is vital to screen for gestational diabetes in the first trimester and again at around 30 weeks of pregnancy. This is especially important if you’ve had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy – around 50 percent of women who have had gestational diabetes earlier develop this condition in a subsequent pregnancy. Regular monitoring, dietary control and insulin, if advised, form the cornerstone of diabetic management during pregnancy.

Dental care during pregnancy: During pregnancy, your risk of developing gum disease (pregnant women may suffer from pregnancy gingivitis – a condition which leads to bleeding of tender gums) goes up, and this can be detrimental to your developing baby’s health. Things to do: Brush and floss regularly. If you are suffering from morning sickness, switch to a bland toothpaste after consulting your doctor. If you have frequent bouts of vomiting, rinse your mouth frequently with water, or mouthwash advised by your dentist. Eat healthy to invest in your child’s oral health. Regular visits to your dentist can flag any signs of gum disease.

Yoga during pregnancy: Practicing yoga during pregnancy can help you cope with taxing symptoms such as morning sickness and fatigue. Asanas (especially those that strengthen the pelvic muscles) and pranayam can also prepare you – mentally and physically – for labor.

Monitoring baby movements during pregnancy: A pregnant woman is advised to monitor fetal movements from the 28th week by keeping track of the daily fetal movements count (DFMC). She must watch out for any variations in the pattern and average count of movements as these could indicate the need for tests to check fetal health. At the same time, pregnant mothers must keep calm while doing the count as anxiety itself could lead to the production of hormones and in turn cause fetal distress.