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Pregnancy is a time of joy, excitement and anticipation. As much as you are excited and waiting to see your baby, you also need to be extra cautious about your lifestyle habits that could affect the foetus during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to know what they should and shouldn't do to minimise risks that could affect their foetuses' health during pregnancy.
Most often pregnant women are bombarded with information and recommendations from their family members and friends, books, and of course, the internet, regarding what they should do and shouldn't do during pregnancy. This leads to confusion and misinformation.
So, we've listed down the do's and don'ts which pregnant women should follow during their pregnancy period.
Dos In Pregnancy
1. Take prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are designed to meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. Some of the prenatal vitamins are calcium, folic acid and iron. A 2017 review study found that micronutrient supplementation can lower the risk of low birth weight and aid in the development of the foetus .
Deficiency of folic acid is linked to foetal neural tube defects, so pregnant women should take folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of neural tube defects .
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important for the long-term health for the mother and baby. The weight gained during pregnancy is linked to your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). According to the recommended guidelines of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, women who are of normal weight before pregnancy with a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 gain between 11.5 and 16 kg weight during pregnancy.
Several studies have shown that being overweight/obese or underweight could have adverse pregnancy outcomes. Being overweight during pregnancy could increase the risk of gestational diabetes and being underweight during pregnancy could increase the risk of preterm birth  .
3. Eat a variety of foods
Pregnant women are advised to consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy during your pregnancy. Pregnant women should also increase their calorie intake by 350 - 450 calories per day in the second and third trimesters, according to a study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology. However the calorie requirements are based on a woman's physical activity, height and weight and metabolism .
4. Get plenty of sleep
Pregnant women need to sleep well and take adequate rest during their pregnancy period. It is common for pregnant women to experience sleep deprivation due to the hormonal changes and anxiety that they go through. And studies have shown that lack of sleep during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery and postpartum depression . So, get plenty of sleep during your pregnancy.
Pregnant women should be encouraged to exercise daily because it lowers the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, aids in weight management, enhances psychological well-being and improves physical fitness.
It is recommended that pregnant women should get 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise four to five times per week .
6. Eat fish
Studies have shown that consuming fish during pregnancy is linked to improved neurodevelopment in children and lowers the risk of preterm birth. Fishes like Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, anchovies, oysters, farmed and wild salmon, sardines and trout are low in mercury and contain a good amount of omega 3 fats which should be consumed and try avoid eating fishes with high mercury content, including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark  .
Pregnant women should try to eat two to three servings of fish per week.
7. Have sexual intercourse
Having sex during pregnancy doesn't increase the risk of pregnancy complications or preterm birth. However, pregnant women who have complicating factors like placenta previa should avoid having sex  .
Talk to your doctor about the safety of sexual intercourse during your pregnancy.
8. Get a flu shot
Influenza (flu) causes severe illness in pregnant women and also it may harm the foetus. So, pregnant women should get a flu shot during pregnancy to protect themselves and their baby from flu .
9. Go for dental check-ups
Pregnant women need to go for routine dental check-ups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant mothers should get a routine oral health assessment done along with regular dental cleanings.
Don’ts In Pregnancy
1. Avoid drinking alcohol
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy damages the developing foetus, causes birth defects and foetal alcohol syndrome. Even drinking alcohol in small quantities is not safe and therefore should be avoided  .
2. Don’t smoke
Smoking is harmful to maternal health. Studies have shown that smoking causes spontaneous pregnancy loss, preterm birth, low birth weight baby, still birth, placental abruption and premature rupture of membranes  .
3. Avoid eating raw and undercooked fish
4. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat
Pregnant women should avoid consuming raw or undercooked meat to lower the risk of toxoplasmosis and listeria infection .
5. Don’t have unpasteurised milk products
Raw milk and raw milk products like ice cream, yogurt and soft cheese should be avoided by pregnant women because they increase the risk of food-borne illnesses .
6. Don’t use hot tubs
Studies have shown that using hot tubs increases maternal body temperature, which is a major risk factor for miscarriage and birth defects .