Why you must not drink while pregnant

Why you must never drink while pregnant
By Chukwuma Muanya

*Alcohol blocks blood vessel growth in placenta even at conception
Babies whose mothers drank alcohol during their pregnancies – even as early as at conception – are at greater risk of being born with low birth weights, a new study suggests.
The new research, from scientists in at the University of Oxford and the University of Queensland found that alcohol blocks the development of all-important blood vessels in the placenta in rats. And these effects become apparent from the very earliest stages of pregnancy.

They also discovered that the female animals were much more dramatically affected by alcohol exposure, which was linked to 17 percent lower birth weights and 32 percent less blood vessel development in the placenta. A developing fetus is sensitive to every change in the mother’s body, and vital statistics like birth weight can have lifelong consequences.

Babies are considered to have a low birth weight if they are under eight lbs and five ounces. Being small at birth puts a child at greater risk of breathing disorders, brain bleeds, heart defects, eye diseases, infection and an under-developed liver early in life.

As they grow into adolescence and adulthood, these children are more likely to develop life-threatening conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

They are also at higher risk of obesity and intellectual disabilities. Among the most common causes of low birth weight – aside from premature birth – is fetal growth restriction (FGR).

FGR simply means that a developing fetus doesn’t gain enough weight in the womb. Genetic factors – like parental size – can keep the baby from gaining this weight, but so can lifestyle factors, like drinking, smoking and using drugs. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink at any time during pregnancy – including before a woman knows she is pregnant.

While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) echoes this advice, it also reassures women that ‘serious harm from this kind of [alcohol] use is unlikely.

“The important thing is not to drink any alcohol for the rest of the pregnancy.” But the new study, published in the journal Development, suggests that there may be risks to even the earliest sips of wine, beer or booze. Scientists at the University of Queensland and the University of Oxford studied female rats beginning four days before their eggs were fertilized.

They continued to monitor the animals and the development of their embryos until after the babies were born, and considered ‘early pregnancy’ to span to four days after fertilization.

Even alcohol exposure in these earliest days of the animals’ pregnancies had clear and damaging effects on their fetuses. In the earliest days of pregnancy, the placenta is developing around the foetus.

Proper development of the organ and its vasculature is critical to the fetus because this system of blood vessels will deliver nutrients and oxygen from mother to baby.

But in the rats, the scientists saw that even alcohol exposure in the earliest days of pregnancy cut the growth of blood vessels in the placenta.

For unclear reasons, the effects of this shortcoming were felt much more by female fetuses, whose placentas showed a 32 percent reduction in blood vessel growth, and whose birth weights were an average of 17 percent lower.

“This has implications for human health by helping to explain, in part, why babies exposed to alcohol in the womb are often born small,” said study co-author Dr Jacinta Kalisch-Smith, a placental researcher at the University of Oxford.

Source: The Guardian

How to stay healthy during pregnancy — Expert

How to stay healthy during pregnancy — Expert

By Usman A. Bello, Benin

It is important for women to do some things and also avoid certain habits and practices in order to stay healthy during pregnancy as experts have said doing so also helps protect the health of the foetus up to birth and thereafter.

A Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Dr. Victor Ohenhen, said certain peculiarities of pregnancy, including lifestyle and socio-cultural factors, predisposed pregnant women to illnesses and diseases.

Dr. Ohenhen explained that human pregnancy began from the point of fertilisation of the female gamete (ovum) by the male spermatozoa to form a zygote.

“It is important to stress that pregnancy is not a disease, but a normal process in the female reproductive cycle,” he said.

A mother of four, Mrs. Ifueko Omonigho, said observing health dos and don’ts during her pregnancy made her have “stress and disease-free pregnancies”.

Mrs. Omonigho said it also contributed in ensuring her children were healthy even after birth.

Dr. Ohenhen, who is also the Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Central Hospital, Benin, Edo State, gave the following tips for staying healthy when pregnant:

Plan every pregnancy: Adequate planning improves outcome for both mother and baby. Also, because every pregnancy takes its toll on the health of the mother, it is important to avoid getting pregnant frequently. It is recommended that women give at least a two-year gap between pregnancies.

Seek care early: Seek ante-natal care early. It is advised that the pregnancy is booked at the second missed period to allow for early identification and treatment of possible problems.

Get plenty of sleep: Getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per day keeps the pregnant woman refreshed and mentally alert. Also, midday naps are an excellent choice during pregnancy.

Reduce stress: Stress wears the body out. It is, therefore, wise to limit activities when pregnant. Get help for certain things beyond your reach whenever possible.

Eat right: Eating the right meals in adequate proportions ensures that you and your baby stay healthy throughout the entire pregnancy period.

Get a support system: This is one aspect of staying healthy that is too frequently ignored. The pregnant woman needs assurance and guidance from her social network. It is not a time to live in isolation but a period to build support systems. This is important for her mental health.

What to eat and do when pregnant

Dr. Ohenhen also advised that women should eat or do the following:

Water: Simple things mean a whole lot during pregnancy. Pregnancy increases your need for water due to a drop in plasma volume that occurs. Water helps to prevent constipation, haemorrhoids and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). It is recommended that a pregnant woman takes at least eight cups of water daily.

Fruits and vegetables: The importance of fruits cannot be overemphasised. Fruits like avocado are an excellent source of Vitamins C, E and K. They are also rich in fibre. Spinach and orange are rich in folic acid, an important nutrient that helps to prevent neural tube defects during the early phase of pregnancy.

Legumes: Legumes are a superb store of protein, iron, folate and calcium. Examples of legumes are beans, soybeans and groundnuts.

Sweet potato: They are rich in beta carotene that is converted to Vitamin A which is important for a healthy diet.

Eggs: Eggs are the ideal health food because they contain a little bit of almost all nutrients. They are a great addition to your meals during pregnancy.

Lean meat: Moderate amounts of beef, pork and chicken are excellent sources of high quality protein.

Exercise: Reasonable degree of physical activity that suits your tolerability is helpful when pregnant.

The medical expert also advised that women should not eat or do the following when pregnant:

Alcohol: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a harmful habit that has well documented effects on the developing child. Examples of these are birth defects and slow growth of the baby referred to in medicine as Intrauterine Growth Restrictions (IUGR). Alcohol consumption, especially when heavy during pregnancy, causes Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Herbs and plants: Pregnancy period is not a time to use herbal products or supplements as this may result in very serious conditions in the baby, especially congenital defects at birth.

Caffeine: Several studies have shown a link between high amounts of caffeine intake and miscarriage.

Junk food and refined sugar: These are not advised during pregnancy due to their effects on the child. It is important to limit the consumption also of carbonated drinks during pregnancy.

Cigarette: Cigarette smoking generates a number of free radicals which immensely affect the health of the baby.

Dr. Ohenhen added that pregnancy period was an exciting time and should be regarded as such.

“With proper health behaviour and adequate diet, a healthy baby and mother is the outcome of the nine-month ‘journey’”, he said.

Credit : Daily Trust

Excess ginger consumption can cause miscarriage

‘Excess ginger consumption can cause miscarriage’

Dayo Ojerinde

A Paediatric nurse at the Life Line Children Hospital, Lekki, Lagos, Mrs Alexis Essien, has cautioned pregnant women against consuming excess ginger.

Essien, in an interview with our correspondent, said that ginger could cause heartburn for those with an ulcer.

She said, “Ginger has many benefits for pregnant women if consumed in moderation. However, if you consume excess amounts of it during pregnancy, it may lead to miscarriage.

“It is not considered dangerous if what is consumed is less than 1500mg, but a pregnant woman should check with her doctor before consumption. Ginger may affect the blood sugar levels of pregnant women. For those with gestational diabetes, it is best they consult their doctor if they wish to consume ginger during pregnancy.”

She also advised pregnant women to avoid ginger if they had a history of vaginal bleeding, dizziness, clotting disorder or miscarriage.

According to parenting.firstcry.com, moderate consumption of ginger by pregnant women helps regulate cholesterol levels and boosts the blood supply to the foetus as well.

By consuming ginger, the blood circulation in your body gets spiked up. This boosts the blood supply to the foetus as well.

Ginger is effective in providing relief from nausea and morning sickness. It may help the body to absorb nutrients from the food consumed.

Taking ginger before bedtime helps to ease pregnancy-related indigestion, gas and bloating. It also helps to ease muscle pains and aches during pregnancy.

Moderate consumption of ginger during pregnancy improves the supply of iron and Vitamin C in the body and helps in boosting the baby’s immune system.

Source: The Punch

Exercising and coping with increased body heat in pregnancy

Exercising and coping with increased body heat in pregnancy

By Eziaha Bolaji-Olojo,

If you think the weather is hot, you should get some perspectives from a pregnant woman, especially in the latter half of pregnancy. In addition to the other niggles and relative inconveniences it may bring, pregnancy also increases the amount of heat a woman feels internally and emits externally especially via her sweat glands. Simply put, a woman sweats more when she is pregnant especially if second and third trimester meets her in the hot seasons.
As pregnancy progresses, the rate of metabolism and fat burning in the body even without exercising also increases, manifesting in faster heat emission externally. Metabolic changes, how the body breaks down food to create energy for the growing and developing fetus, plays a role in increased sweating. Also in the extra blood volume and body fat which is needed to provide extra insulation for the woman’s changing body. The placenta which helps in the exchange of oxygen, blood, and nutrients between the mother and fetus generates heat as it carries out its vital functions. All of these, and more makes a pregnant woman even hotter.

And the sweating, is necessary because it provides a conduit for all that internally generated heat to find outward expression, guarding against internal body stress and possible shock. It is important to note that all these happen even when a pregnant woman is at rest. For a pregnant woman who exercises, the sweating is even more.

While there may not be much to be done against these biological processes within the body, a pregnant woman who is also exercising can help manage her body heat by putting a few measures in place both for her convenience and safety. The most important tip is to stay hydrated at all times, especially when working out.

An expectant mum needs to drink more water than a non-pregnant one. Always have a bottle of water with you and don’t stop drinking. The chore of having to pee is far less disturbing than dealing with increased internal body heat. Water, even at room temperature, cools the body from within. You probably understand why it is safe for a pregnant woman to drink cold water.

There is nothing wrong with cold water so long as there are no conditions that contraindicate it, and you can actually keep it down without feelings of nausea. On a personal note, I had no issues drinking cold water because that was what I preferred especially as I consistently worked out and felt hot most of the time.

Take frequent water breaks while working out. When not actively expending energy via physical activity and at rest, keep hydrating. When you wake up at night to use the bathroom, have a glass of water too. Another important way to manage body heat when working out is your location. Taking a walk outdoors in favourable weather is a great way to cool down as you sweat. Some pregnant women even love to work out in the rain. Take advantage of the cool breeze of the early mornings or late evenings.

If working out indoors, ensure the place is well aerated whether naturally by opening windows, or artificially with cooling devices like fans and air conditioners. If you use a gym, you can ask for a fan be stationed in a way that favors you primarily for the time you spend there.

Also, your workout clothing is very important. Except the weather is cold, avoid hoods and slacks made from thick cotton material. Shorts. A firm sports bra and a light and loose-fitting top will keep you comfortable through a workout. If at home and have some privacy, it is ok to dress as minimally as possible.

Finally, a couple of fruits help keep you feeling hydrated as their water content is very high. Fruits like watermelon, oranges (also a perfect post-workout snack), cucumbers, pineapples, and more. Most of them are low in sugar and calories and so make a great snack at any time of the day. Be generous in consumption while junk and sugary drinks should be minimal.Notwithstanding, the best source of information for a pregnant woman is her doctor who has her medical history, and should always be carried along before any extra information is implemented by her.

Credit: The Guardian