The importance of self-care during pregnancy


During and after childbirth, getting into a good routine can help ensure both mother and baby are safe and healthy. Your overall wellbeing is important during pregnancy—for your benefit, and for your baby.

In order to achieve this, Dr Emmanuel Semwaga, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediheal Diagnostic and Fertility Centre in Kigali, says expectant women should establish pregnancy routines as early as possible, and most importantly, keep up with them throughout the pregnancy.

He says that it is essential for any woman to have an active pregnancy, and that a self-care routine in hand helps them stay grounded and nourished from within.

The medic explains that it’s essential to put into consideration that every woman experiences pregnancy differently, however, creating a sustainable pregnancy self-care routine is vital, especially if one sticks to it.

Private Kamanzi, a dietician and nutritionist, says normally, the unborn baby requires a range of vitamins and minerals as it grows and develops, and that one way to ensure that the baby is getting a good variety of nutrients is for the mother to stick to the right diet.

This, he says, can be achieved by setting a goal to eat a variety of nutritious food on a daily basis.

“Including plenty of vegetables is important; also, your diet should be high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, sugars, and trans-fats. However, it’s also recommended that one seeks a nutritionist’s advice before commencing with the diet,” he says.

Kamanzi says there are certain foods to avoid while pregnant. For instance, raw seafood, pre-prepared foods, or anything that contains raw eggs should be avoided as they may harbour strains of bacteria that can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature labour.

“In other words, while pregnant, one should always avoid food that they think bacteria could have thrived on,” he advises.

Nelson Mukasa, a renowned fitness coach, who also organises sports for pregnant women, says before starting any form of exercise, it’s essential to talk to an obstetrician about it as they can advise accordingly on what’s best for an individual.

Mukasa says that women with no health complications should try to be physically active on most days of the week, which means incorporating half an hour to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise (like walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bike) into one’s daily routine.

“How you can keep active during pregnancy will depend on your pre-pregnancy fitness and how far along you are. Most types of exercise are feasible in your first trimester, there are some preferable exercises that work better,” he says.

Mukasa adds that it has been proven that being active during pregnancy helps improve one’s energy levels, alleviates pain and discomfort, and lowers the risk of pregnancy complications.

In addition to this, he says staying fit during pregnancy also prepares one’s body for birth.

Dr Iba Mayale, a gynaecologist in Kigali, says as part of one’s pregnancy routine, it’s important to stay hydrated.

Generally, he says, this means one should always aim at drinking at least two litres of water each day.

He explains that dehydration can have serious consequences for the baby. Therefore, one should ensure they stay hydrated throughout their pregnancy.

Apart from water being beneficial to general health, Dr Mayale says drinking plenty of water also helps with constipation and tiredness, and reduces the risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is common among pregnant women.

“It is advisable for one to sip on water throughout the day, especially those who are not used to drinking plenty of water,” he says, adding that one shouldn’t wait until they feel thirsty, as this means they’re already dehydrated.

Dr Mayale also says it’s important to stay hydrated when exercising, or if it’s hot outside.

Considering how physically and emotionally demanding pregnancy can be, Dr Semwaga says adequate sleep is also necessary. 

He notes that although having difficulty sleeping is a common problem during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, pain and discomfort, there is still need to prioritise having a good night’s rest.

 “Come up with a pre-bed routine that gives you the best chance of falling asleep and getting good-quality sleep,” he says.

Meanwhile, Dr Semwaga says it’s also ideal and safe for a pregnant woman to sleep in whatever position they find comfortable until 26–28 weeks of pregnancy.

After 28 weeks, he explains that there’s an increased risk of complications if one sleeps flat on their back.

“With the growing bump, sleeping on your side is the best option. Sleeping on either side is safe, so one can opt for either of the sides (left or right) that helps them have the best sleep,” he adds.

Source: The new times