By Laura Bolinger, RDN
Pregnancy is such an exciting time for families big and small. For first-time parents it is a time of new experiences, emotions, and preparation. For larger families, some experiences will still be new while others may bring back sweet memories of previous pregnancies.
As thrilling as pregnancy can be, it is also a huge responsibility. God has blessed and entrusted you with this child to impact His kingdom. Now, not only is He calling us to care for the temple of our own bodies, but He is also trusting us to care for the temple of this new child He is creating.
Pregnancy is a time to care for your health and your family in an extra special way. While some things are out of our control and only God knows this child right now, there are things within our ability to impact.
Prenatal Infection Prevention is one of February’s national health observances. It may be unpleasant to think about, but preventing infections during pregnancy is one of the ways we can do our best to care for our growing child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend protecting yourself from cytomegalovirus, group B strep, listeriosis, and Zika virus before pregnancy as well as during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
These names may sound scary, but learning more about them by talking to your healthcare provider can reduce fears and equip you to have the safest and healthiest pregnancy possible.
Top Tips to Prevent Harmful Infections During Pregnancy:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often
- Avoid insect bites
- Avoid contact with infant and toddler saliva or urine
- Do not come into contact with dirty cat litter
- Steer clear of rodents and their excrement
- Avoid being around people with infections
- Talk to your doctor about testing and vaccinations
We can do things in our everyday lives to reduce our risk of infections as well. Nutritionally, we can support our immune system by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Aim to eat as many colors of fruits and vegetables as you can each week. Each of these colors represents different antioxidants and phytochemicals that keep our immune system strong.
In addition, it is recommended that pregnant women consume whole grains such as oats or quinoa, lean protein including plant sources like beans, peas, nuts, or seeds, and healthy sources of fat such as avocado, nuts, seeds, or olives.
Also, when preparing meat products, get in the habit of cooking them well. No matter what type of meat product you prefer, cook it until there is no pink inside when cut. For processed meats like hotdogs and deli meats, always heat or reheat until steaming. Do not use unpasteurized (raw) milk or products made from it, including soft cheeses such as feta or brie. Even if you have enjoyed unpasteurized dairy in the past, pregnancy is a time to avoid it.
Many women take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. While this is recommended by many, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine what doses are best for you. Always inform your doctor of any vitamin, mineral, supplement, or dietary changes you plan to make before or during pregnancy, or during lactation. Along with supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor about any herbal remedies you are considering. While herbs and spices are natural substances, some may not be recommended during pregnancy.
Light to moderate exercise can also boost our immune systems. Pregnancy is not a time to begin an exercise program, but women can often continue their pre-pregnancy exercise routine through most of their pregnancy. Again, it’s important to discuss your exercise ambitions with your doctor prior to starting a regimen.
Not only are alcohol and tobacco products unhealthy for baby, they also decrease our immune function. It’s important to avoid all alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy for your health as well as your baby’s.
Remember, pregnancy is a memorable period of life that we are meant to enjoy. Unnecessary stress and anxiety will not benefit you or your baby; instead, use this information to take practical steps to protect yourself and your child during your pregnancy.
Honor God by taking extra special care of yourself and His growing child with bodily stewardship. Then pray and trust Him to care and provide for you and your little one.