14.4 Living a healthy lifestyle
As well as eating well and keeping clean, pregnant women need to get enough sleep and rest every day. This will help her to avoid developing high blood pressure (discussed in detail in Study Session 19 later in this Module), and oedema (swelling of the feet and ankles due to fluid collecting in the tissues). Good rest also helps her to stay strong and gives the fetus a better chance of being born healthy.
Many women have to work throughout their pregnancy in the fileds, factories or shops, as well as in their own homes. This can be especially hard for women during pregnancy, because they get more tired than usual — especially in the last few weeks. Explain to them and their families that the woman should try to rest for a few minutes every 1 to 2 hours (Figure 14.7). This will also help her to enjoy her pregnancy.
Make sure that women know that whatever they put into their body will pass across the placenta and into the baby (Figure 14.8). Cigarette smoke, alcohol and illegal drugs such as opium, heroin, cocaine and barbiturates are dangerous for anyone, but especially harmful to the developing fetus. Even one or two alcoholic drinks a day during pregnancy can result in the baby being born too small, or with birth defects or disabilities that affect the brain.
She should also be advised to avoid:
- Lifting heavy things
- People who are sick, especially if they have vomiting, diarrhoea or rashes
- Strong chemicals or their fumes (e.g. chemicals used to kill pests in the fields)
- Non-essential medicines
- Medicines such as cough syrups, laxatives and pain relievers that have not been prescribed for her by a health worker (Figure 14.9).