Optimizing Development of Your Baby
We all want a happy, healthy baby and. although the uterus is an exceptionally
safe and comfortable environment for your growing baby, there are additional
precautions that all expectant mothers can undertake to ensure that
their baby receives the best start in life.
Eat an adequate and balanced diet before and during pregnancy
The nutritional needs of your developing baby as well as your own depend
on a sound diet. Serious malnutrition, not only from lack of food but
lack of nutritious food, can interfere with normal prenatal growth and
may limit your baby’s intelligence.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Studies of heavy alcohol users are complicated by other factors such
as poor diet and poor health. However it is well known that alcohol
crosses the placenta to the fetus, and children of alcoholic mothers
have been shown to have lowered intelligence as compared to children
of non-alcoholic mothers. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a congenital
effect associated with alcohol abuse and results in a characteristic
set of facial deformities, a low IQ and marked irritability. Even moderate
levels of drinking (1-3 standard drinks per day) can lead to milder
forms of FAS, known as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).
Avoid drugs not prescribed by a doctor who is aware of your
Although this may seem obvious, not everyone is obviously pregnant and
certain medications do pass through the placenta and affect the developing
fetus. Always tell your prescribing doctor that you are pregnant. Among
many drugs, some antibiotics, high doses of aspirin and many antidepressants
are harmful to your baby.
Avoid illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methadone
Growth retardation and premature birth are associated with many illegal
drugs. There is also evidence of long-term mood problems and learning
Infants of mothers who smoke are more likely to be underweight, have
slow development, and be more likely to suffer from viral and respiratory
illnesses. There is also evidence of inhibited brain development which
is illustrated by learning disorders and reading problems in later life.
Take a folic acid supplement during the early months of pregnancy
Spina bifida and other neural tube defects are more common in mothers
whose diets were low in folic acid during gestation.
Avoid extreme emotional distress
Stress hormones also can cross the placenta and affect the developing
infant. Babies born to highly stressed mothers are often restless, difficult
to settle and find it harder to develop a daily routine than babies
born to calmer mothers. Take time during your pregnancy to develop coping
techniques, such as meditation, and seek counseling for ongoing problems
that are causing stress.
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