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August 8, 2016

We know that dietary and lifestyle factors can affect a healthy pregnancy, so we asked the experts to share their advice on the best ways to look after yourself at this important time. 

Lifestyle 

Quit smoking Smoking may affect blood flow to the uterus. Women that smoke, or even non-smoking women that are exposed to second-hand smoke from their partners have a greater chance of miscarrying. Nicotine patches and electronic cigarettes are not advised as they also contain some of the harmful chemicals in tobacco.

Alcohol Small amounts of alcohol are probably not detrimental but excessive alcohol can reduce your chances of pregnancy by up to 60% and drinking during pregnancy causes fetal abnormalities. We recommend not drinking while trying to conceive or during pregnancy.

Drugs Marijuana and other illicit drugs reduce your chances of pregnancy, increase your risk of miscarriage and can be highly damaging to the unborn child.

Medications

Some medications may cause fetal abnormalities such as immunosuppressants, warfarin and some anticonvulsants. You should see your GP for advice.

Folic acid and vitamins Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida by over 90% when 0.8mg is taken daily, starting one month pre-conceptually and until 12 weeks gestational age. Particular groups of women require the higher 5mg daily dose of folate such as diabetics, those on anti-convulsants or a previous history of a baby with a neural tube defect. A pregnancy multi-vitamin may be needed if you feel your diet has deficiencies, Vitamin A is a known teratogen, causing fetal abnormalities and should not be taken in women trying to conceive or during pregnancy. We recommend Elevit as it is the only multivitamin that contains all the recommended vitamins in pregnancy in a single tablet and can be purchased from chemists or our clinics.

Diet and cooking

Listeria infection is a rare but serious illness that can cause miscarriage. It’s transmitted by food contaminated by the Listeria bacteria. To reduce the risk of Listeriosis, it is recommended that everyone in the household follows these basic guidelines when preparing food:

Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, poultry and eggs).

Thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating.

Keep uncooked meats separate from cooked foods, vegetables, and ready-to-eat foods.

Avoid raw (unpasteurised) milk or foods made from raw milk.

Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked food to avoid cross contamination of cooked and ready-to-eat food.

For details on specific foods to avoid during pregnancy visit healthed.govt.nz

Health

Catching the flu can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy so a flu vaccine is strongly recommended by the Ministry of Health and is usually administered free of charge. In some parts of the country the number of cases of newborns with whooping cough has been on the rise so it is also recommended that pregnant women get a booster shot against this disease and ensure other kids in the family are up to date with their vaccines.


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