The amount of health information available to pregnant women today can be overwhelming. We chat to Dr George Bogiatzis, leading gynaecologist, obstetrician and fertility specialist on the Sunshine Coast, to get his answers to the most common pregnancy questions.
Listeria is a bacteria commonly found in foods and can be very dangerous in pregnancy. Listeria can be found in foods such as soft cheeses, pâté, raw meats and fish, oysters, pre-packed salads, raw or partly cooked eggs and soft serve ice cream. Patients often ask about seafood, these are all fine in moderation if you know they are well cooked and fresh. Fish with high mercury levels such as shark (flake), billfish (swordfish), catfish and orange roughie must be limited. One myth is that peanuts and diary should be avoided in pregnancy due to risk of allergies for babies. This is untrue and not based on available medical evidence. Patients should aim for a healthy balanced diet and completely avoid alcohol during and after pregnancy if they are breastfeeding.
Generally, a woman with a healthy weight range (BMI 18.5–24.9) can expect to gain between 10–16kg. Weight gain is distributed to different parts of a women’s changing body. For example, at full term (40 weeks), the weight of the baby may be 3.5–4kg, placenta 0.5–1kg, breast 0.5–1kg, and extra body fluid 2kg. Excess weight gain is something I do monitor during pregnancy because it can increase the risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy, high blood pressure and complications during birth. I encourage patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise. Pregnant women can exercise for the duration of their pregnancy and can help reduce some common symptoms of pregnancy such as backache and bloating/swelling. Also, it will often help maintain a healthy appetite and sleep patterns. Putting your feet up and having a ‘Nana Nap’ is also recommended in my healthy lifestyle recommendations.
Medicine and science are changing rapidly. There are numerous tests available to enable the diagnosis of genetic diseases. Many of these are now non-invasive-meaning they can be confirmed with a single blood test, rather than the invasive tests previously used. As well, there is now a major push towards screening all women, and their partners, for diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Fragile X syndrome and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (three of the most common inheritable disorders), prior to conception. I suggest, when and what should be tested is an individual discussion with your obstetrician.
Patients can sometimes underestimate mental health changes during and after pregnancy. I always advise women not to be too hard on themselves and that things may not always go according to plan. Often, it’s about adapting to unexpected circumstances. Women can be very critical of themselves. Setting realistic expectations and asking for help is very important. Managing stress levels and reducing work commitments may be the answer to ensuring a healthy and fulfilling pregnancy and birth.