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 pregnancy
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 and amphetamines
Growth retardation and premature birth are associated with many illegal drugs. There is also evidence of long-term mood problems and learning disorders.

Avoid smoking
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.

Visit our forum on Mental Health Through the Lifespan

    Back to Articles on Mental Health Through the Lifespan

    Return to Home Page