When you are pregnant, your body goes through a plethora of changes some desirable others not. Another issue which arises due to this dynamism is hygiene, affecting your immunity. A low immunity necessarily puts you at a greater risk of contracting infections and diseases, which is a situation to be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. Ill-health during pregnancy may result in an underweight baby, preterm delivery or even miscarriage.
Here are some typical things which occur during pregnancy, and how to take care of them.
What May Happen
The oestrogen and progesterone levels in your body increase and decrease, causing certain imbalances. This may cause the vaginal acidity level to decline, increasing alkaline levels. Resultantly, a vaginal floral imbalance occurs, increasing the risk of contracting vaginal infections such as vaginitis (infections accompanied by typical symptoms of inflammation such as itching, sore red skin, vaginal discharge becomes grey and white, fishy smell) and vaginosis (no evident inflammation, rendering discovery and diagnosis difficult).
Due to increasing oestrogen, there may be an increase in vaginal discharge white and curdled, leading to itching, inflammation and acute discomfort called Candidiasis. This fungal infection, also called Thrush, is very common during pregnancy. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes are more likely to suffer from it. gynaecology
Acidity happens due to the breakdown of stomach acid and its sensitive protective lining (mucosa), which causes irritation and leads to symptoms of indigestion. This in turn leads to acidity, which exhibits symptoms like indigestion or dyspepsia, including heartburn.
Heartburn is not associated with any heart disorder. It is caused by a backflow of acid from the stomach into the oesophagus. The muscles that close off the upper stomach become lax, allowing stomach juices to enter the oesophagus and irritate its lining.
Intestinal upsets these occur when bowel movements slow down due to an increased level of progesterone in the body, leading to constipation may cause stagnation, fermentation and spread of bacteria which may infect the urinary tract and the vaginal environment.
Absence of appropriate Gum Care may result in periodontal disease which can contribute to many health complications such as pre-term birth or low weight baby, future health and disabilities for your child (including cerebral palsy and mental retardation).
Certain bacteria in food such as listeria and salmonella can wreak havoc on your pregnancy. You may contract these bacteria from certain types of food, and if the food consumed by you are not clean/ thoroughly washed etc.
Increased perspiration due to increase in body temperature and resultant body odour.
How To Avoid the Above & Stay Hygienic
Your overall hygiene will be taken care of by paying more attention to broadly your personal and dietary hygiene.
Bathing twice a day is recommended, with intimate cleansing to be done each time. If you feel the need to take more baths in the day, avoid using soaps, body wash etc. and simply take a water-shower.
It is best to use cleansers specifically recommended for use during pregnancy. A cleanser with an acid pH, antibacterial and soothing properties, without paraben and toxics and containing natural ingredients is suggested. Wear lightweight and comfortable clothes, and only natural fibre underwear to allow the skin to breathe. Undergarments may be changed often, if required and washed with non-fragrant gentle detergents. Tight clothes should be avoided as they will hamper blood circulation.
Footwear must be comfortable and easy to slip on, especially during the last trimester. Avoid slim heeled shoes.
To avoid periodontal disease and maintain good oral hygiene, brush twice a day; replace your toothbrush every three months; floss daily; avoid candy and sugary foods; avoid smoking and other forms of tobacco. If you notice gum which are red, tender or swollen, bleeding gums or loose teeth, contact your dentist. Avoid major dental fixes as they may require introduction of anaesthesia, which is a no-no during pregnancy.
To prevent the problems related to constipation, eat a well balanced diet high in fibre. Ensure that your fluid intake is adequate and that you carry out permitted forms and levels of exercise daily.
Personal hygiene of your partner is equally important, as contact with them may transmit unwanted bacteria/ microbes. Never use the same towel.
Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap before and during food preparation. Ensure that you wash the front and back of your hands, beneath your fingernails and between your fingers.
Dry your hands after washing. Dampness generates more bacteria. Ensure that you dry them on a clean hand towel or tissue/ kitchen paper.
Try to have piping hot meals, as heat destroys bacteria and other germs. When re-heating, ensure that the meal is very hot and not so-so. Do not re-heat more than once. Chilled or frozen foods must be kept frozen till right before cooking. Lukewarm or moist conditions are best for festering germs so avoid them.
Avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands after handling raw foods, wiping up spillages immediately, cleaning kitchen surfaces with soapy, hot water etc.
Storage of raw foods and cooked foods should be compartmentalised in the fridge. Food must be covered at all times.
Try to avoid food from outside as much as possible as the conditions under which it was prepared are unknown to you, as is the cleanliness of the cutlery, crockery and glassware etc.
Avoid like plague, the following:
Cheeses such as brie, camembert, soft blue-veined cheeses etc., as well as unpasteurised cheeses and milk.
Consuming raw or runny eggs (ensure they are hard boiled and the white and yolk are solid);
Avoid spicy, greasy and salty foods
Avoid ginger (dry and fresh) as well as pepper (black and white) if you suffer from recurring incidences of acidity.
Avoid eating citrus fruits such as orange, lemon, tomatoes, sweet lime, etc. These are rich sources of Vitamin C but can worsen acidity, especially eaten on an empty stomach
Mousse, fresh homemade ice cream and mayonnaise from delis or restaurants as they may contain raw egg; liver and high sources of Vitamin A.
Pink or ‘medium rare’ meats, and cured meats; raw fish or raw shellfish such as oysters, and any fish (shark, swordfish, marlin, tuna contain mercury!) other than ‘oily fish’ (but under no circumstance should you have even permitted fish more than twice a week).
Alcohol reaches your baby through the bloodstream and placenta. It leads to serious birth defects. Ignore all-together, during pregnancy and while nursing.
Your daily intake of caffeine (via coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks) may cause a low birth weight or miscarriage. Limit your intake to 200 mg a day. Avoid altogether if you can.
Smoking is an absolute no-no. It may cause miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, cot death, and loss of baby at birth, nausea and vomiting and placental abruption.
It may seem like a lot to process, but some of the recommendations may be inculcated in your everyday routine and shall benefit you if you continue them even after pregnancy. Stay clean, eat clean, stay fit!
Disclaimer: Please consult your medical practitioner before following any diet/ hygiene recommendations.
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