by Julie Snyder
We've all heard that our choices during pregnancy can affect our growing babies.
Did you know that your lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy impacts your baby's health way beyond birth?
Poor nutrition and exposure to harmful substances increase your risk of pregnancy problems. These same prenatal factors increase your newborn's risk of future diseases, learning disabilities and behavior disorders.
Some days it might feel like you have a lump or basketball in your tummy or that you're hatching the Loch Ness monster. Head on over to the baby development pages to see stunning images of babies the same age as your little one. Those babes might be sucking a thumb already, or showing off a perfectly-formed foot with five tiny toes.
Your little girl might have waved at you during an ultrasound. Your little guy may have wriggled excitedly when he heard your voice. In another few months, you'll meet face-to-face. Right now you have an opportunity to give your precious child the best possible start in life. Your changes today can make your baby's tomorrow a lot more pleasant.
You may want to quit smoking before you try conceiving. Smoking contributes to several fertility problems as well as being the cause of some pregnancy-related and newborn complications. Babies born to moms who smoke are more apt to:
• Be born with a low birth weight.
• Have more breathing and heart problems.
• Have colic.
• Be a SIDS victim.
• Possibly die within the first year of life.
Studies have found that adults whose moms smoked are more likely to be obese and have triple the chance of developing diabetes.
Some experts say even one drink might damage your baby's health; others say that light drinking during pregnancy is "okay." All agree that chronic alcohol abuse can lead to a fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.
• A mother's drinking habits might increase their child's risk of developing an alcohol addiction as a young adult.
• Babies whose moms binged during pregnancy or drank heavily are more apt to have a developmental problem.
When you confirmed your positive pregnancy test, you probably started worrying about everything that went into your body -- food, medicine and otherwise. That's probably a very healthy attitude. Talk with your doctor about your prescriptions and the over-the-counter meds you take.
• Babies whose moms took Paxil® had twice the rate of heart defects.
• Babies whose moms took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the first trimester had almost twice the rate of certain heart defects. Common NSAIDs are naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin.
• Street drugs can cause known developmental problems.
Your smart food choices during pregnancy affect the physical and mental development of your child for years to come.
• Eating lots of foods high in unhealthy fats and sugars can make your baby more likely to have diabetes.
• If you eat a diet of junk food, your child will be born with a taste for it.
• Not gaining enough weight can program your baby's body to store food in a way that leads to obesity later in life.
• Gaining too much can permanently alter your baby's appetite regulation system and set the stage for obesity in childhood and beyond.
Harmful substances can get into your body through your skin or when you breathe, eat or drink. Environmental experts advise that you avoid common household solvents, such as turpentine, hazardous cleaning supplies and indoor and outdoor pesticides.
Your home environment affects your baby before birth and beyond.