One of the pieces of advice new moms always give new brides is to take care of their bodies, even while they're still only planning to conceive. As actress Bettina Carlos told SmartParenting.com.ph during her birthing experience interview, "If you're preparing for a baby, it's really important that you get the right nutrition even before conceiving. Take care of yourself. That's a very good foundation for your body as a vessel to carry that baby. The first 1,000 days of a child's life, including the nine months, is important to their growth. So what you eat, you feed your child."
And while all expectant women pray for a smooth pregnancy journey and hope for the best during the nine-month period health-wise, it isn't always the case. Sometimes, a health condition may complicate your pregnancy, and when that happens, it is not to be taken lightly because it might endanger you, it could be a threat to your unborn child, and it could be a red flag for illnesses that could possibly develop in the future.
According to CardioSmart, a website by the American College of Cardiology, there are three conditions pregnant women should watch out for — pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and premature birth — because these could progress to heart disease later in life.
When a woman is pregnant, her heart works double time for the following reasons:
- The heart has to pump 50% more blood to the uterus to support the growing fetus
- As a result, the heart rate speeds up from 70 to about 80 or 90 at rest
If there are underlying health issues during pregnancy, these could put the mom's heart at risk even more.
These pregnancy complications may lead to heart disease in the future
Pre-eclampsia is a condition where a pregnant woman's blood pressure becomes elevated (usually 140/90 or higher). It may also be characterized by the presence of protein in the urine, and swollen legs and feet.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week. Signs you may have it include frequent urination and fatigue although it's easy to confuse these with pregnancy symptoms. The best way to determine if your blood sugar is elevated is with an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), commonly given between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.
A birth is considered premature when a baby is born earlier than 37 weeks of its gestational age. According to CardioSmart, moms who have had a preterm birth have "up to a 2-fold higher chance of developing or dying from heart disease or stroke later in life," and the risk increases when a woman has had more than one preterm birth.
Although gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia often disappear after birth, the website says the risk that these may resurface in the next 10 years remains.
What you can do to have a healthy body after pregnancy
1. Get enough rest.
We know it sounds impossible to get rest when you have a newborn, especially if you're breastfeeding and need to wake up every few hours to nurse, but your body needs to recover. Talk to your partner and make arrangements for him to tend to the baby so you can catch up on sleep.
2. Mind what you eat.
If you already know that you are at risk of heart disease, aim to go for a diet that is low in fat and salt.
3. Get into even a simple exercise routine.
There is no need to sign up for a gym membership at this point, but do get a few minutes a day to get moving. Not only will it keep your heart healthy; it will also be helpful in improving your mood.
4. Give up smoking.
...if you haven't already kicked the habit while you were pregnant. Smoking increases your chances of developing heart disease, and second-hand smoke passed on to your child could also trigger asthma, respiratory problems, and other health problems in your baby.
5. Seek help from family and professionals.
If you had gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, or a preterm birth, make sure to discuss these conditions and their consequences with your doctor, so that she could monitor your health. Similarly, if you feel bogged down and overwhelmed by the changes in your daily life, do reach out to family members and trusted friends at once. Stress contributes to health problems, and managing it is key to a healthier you.