After a rough monsoon and the scorching October heat, it’s time to usher in cooler climes. Say hello to winter! The season surely brings in a breath of fresh air, but expecting mothers need to be even more cautious in the colder months. M&B brings you expert advise on how to have a safe winter pregnancy
In the winter months, expecting mothers need to be extra careful in protecting their body and skin. Your ballooning belly increases the surface area of your body, which may leave you more susceptible to the cold. Keep yourself protected at all times.
Dr Gayathri Kamath, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, says, “There is no need to change one’s shampoo when pregnant. It is better to avoid chemicals for permanent colouring and hair straightening as it contains formaldehyde.” Adding further, Dr Bandita Sinha, gynaecologist, World of Women and Fortis Hopital, Mumbai, says, “Oil your hair at least three to four times a week. Using natural hair oil is a great way to add some nourishment to your hair, help strengthen the roots and prevent hair fall. You can wrap a warm towel around the head to add some extra benefi ts.”
Dr Kamath says, “Common skin problems pertinent to pregnant women are acne, dryness, itching and stretch marks. There is no perfect solution for stretch marks or pigmentation. However, cracked nipples need to be addressed in the third trimester to ensure breastfeeding is not hampered. Lanolin-based creams help keep the skin soft and supple to a certain extent.”
Dry skin can get itchy and flaky during winters. Hence, moisturisers should be applied twice daily after using a gentle face wash. Dr Kamath, says, “Itching of the skin over the stretching abdomen and breasts are worsened during extreme climates. Moisturising creams are welcome to soothe the skin on account of dryness. It is also important to check the active ingredients in cosmetics.” Dr Sinha, further adds, “It is essential to note that your skin may react differently to fragrances and other products during your pregnancy. Therefore, using a gentle cleanser for your body is ideal.”
● Immediately moisturise your skin after a bath as the moist skin will quickly absorb the moisturiser, leaving your skin supple. Apply ample amounts of moisturiser on your belly, hands, elbows and even your chest.
● Combat dry skin with mild soaps.
● Always carry lotions and balms when travelling outdoors.
● Take care of your lips. Apply lip balm liberally to avoid cracking and bleeding.
● Dermatologists recommend using a sun block cream that has at least SPF30++. problems pertinent to pregnant women are acne, dryness, itching and stretch marks. There is no perfect solution for stretch marks or pigmentation. However, cracked nipples need to be addressed in the third trimester to ensure breastfeeding is not hampered. Lanolin-based creams help keep the skin soft and supple to a certain extent.”
● When moisturising, Dr Kamath advises to avoid ingredients like tretinoin and hydroquinone as their absorption can have a negative impact on the baby during pregnancy and afterwards during lactation.
● Hot water baths can be tempting but avoid it. Instead use lukewarm water.
● Soaking your skin for longer hours can dry it even more.
● It is a must to stop styling your hair with various hair products.
As the old adage goes, ‘Eating for two’, will only make you put on extra weight, which will later be diffi cult for you to shed. The basic tenet is to have a balanced diet without over-indulging in food. Consumption of healthy meals is important for you and baby’s well-being.
Dr Kamath advises, “Being healthy when you are pregnant depends on both the quantity and type of food you eat. It is advisable to have at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables every day, rather than foods that are higher in fats and calories. Consume whole fruits rather than juices, as one will be missing out on the fibre content which is important to overcome constipation.” Eat a wellbalanced, wide-ranging diet. Dr Sinha says, “Eating certain vitamins and nutrients during pregnancy has been shown to build a better brain and nervous system in a developing foetus.”
Don’t hesitate to use a salt shaker on freshly-prepared foods while you are pregnant. Dr Sinha recommends, “High glucose levels in your bloodstream will mean a baby with high birth weight at risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases later in life.”
Dehydration during pregnancy can cause host of problems ranging from light-headedness to pre-term labour. In winters, you might avoid drinking water due to chilly weather. The body needs to be extra hydrated during winters because of the dry winter air. Stressing on adequate consumption of water, Dr Kamath emphasis, “Pregnant women should consume at least two litres of water per day. Winter and pregnancy is likely to increase washroom visits to void urine. Adequate care needs to be taken to ensure prevention of slipping and falling in the bathroom.” While fresh fruit juices and coconut water provide plenty of nutrition, substituting water with beverages won’t be conducive to the baby or the mother.
● Hunger pangs in winter can be satiated by oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds as well as whole grain bread or brown rice.
● The necessary protein can come from lean meats such as fish or for vegans from lentils and beans.
● Choose low fat varieties for consuming dairy food or products such as skimmed milk and low fat yoghurt.
● Wash all fruits and vegetables before consuming.
● Dr Sinha advises, “Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, enhances your baby’s neurological development and promotes mental health.”
● Avoid fried food and drinks which are high in added sugars.
● Dr Kamath says, “Typhoid can be prevented by avoiding consumption of raw or partially-cooked eggs, poultry, shellfish and mayonnaise.”
● Avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese, juice or honey.
● Keep away from drinking alcohol as it can cause developmental delays in baby
In your second or third trimester, definitely get a flu shot. Dr Sinha explains, “The hormonal changes coupled with a weak immune system, make you more prone to allergies like sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat and wheezing. Since not all medicines are safe during pregnancy, identifying the triggers of these allergies and avoiding them is the best solution.” Certain allergies can also be treated with a regimen of allergy shots. Your doctor will monitor the dosage before prescribing any medications to you.
Dr Kamath says, “Pregnant women have decreased immunity to fight certain viral infections. Influenza is a viral infection causing serious respiratory complications. If left untreated, it poses risks for the expectant mother and the baby. Recommendations are clear to vaccinate all pregnant women against influenza. The influenza season in India varies in each region.” Adding further, she says, “Cases of fl u are reported between October to February. Women who have tendencies for seasonal allergy and asthma, should consult a health care provider who can suggest nasal sprays which do not harm the baby within.” There are chances that winters can pose some discomfort during pregnancy, and you may find it hard to cope with the seasonal changes. However, a little care and precautions can help you cherish the most beautiful phase of a woman’s life.
● Wash your hands and face whenever you come in contact with dust.
● As advised by Dr Sinha, consult a doctor and get an allergy test done if you cannot pinpoint what triggers the allergy.
● Use a dehumidifier. Indoor air can get quite dry and opening a window is good to balance the temperature.
● Fresh fruits and vegetables can help build immunity.
● To prevent throat infections, rinse your mouth regularly with lukewarm salt water.
● Tulsi tea helps in clearing congestion and is also a great immunity booster.
● Stay away from those who are smoking.
Smoke makes allergies worse, especially passive smoking.
● Avoid going outdoors as much as possible on days when the pollen count or humidity is high.
● Don’t hang clothes and sheets outside to dry as there are chances that pollen and dust might get collected on them.
● Do not take over-the-counter medications without consulting your doctor.
Fight those winter blues and pregnancy mood swings by channelling your energy in some form of physical activity. Staying healthy during pregnancy not only helps you lose those extra pounds, but also lessens many pregnancy complications. Therefore, battle the wintertime laziness and adopt permissible activities in accordance with your doctor’s advice.
Stay in shape:
Extreme winter is likely to make you home bound. Dr Kamath suggests, “It is recommended that pregnant women can work on moderate physical activity throughout the week for at least about 150 minutes. These activities make women breathe faster, thus preparing them to get accustomed to the stress of labour.”
Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy as long as you do it with caution and not over do it. Dr Sinha says, “The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines and low-impact aerobics. These exercises help ease aches and pains experienced during pregnancy, and it also benefi ts the baby.” Yoga can help alleviate back pain and also helps to control one’s breathing, a helpful plus at the time of delivery.
● Go for short walks in the morning and evening.
● Join a prenatal fitness programme and learn breathing techniques.
● Practise meditation to relax your mind and ease tensions.
● Women remaining indoors during winter, and who have limited exposure to sunlight should ensure they take vitamin D supplements.
● Dr Kamath advises, “Avoid activities which involves risk with falls and lying on the back after the second trimester as the cardiac output reduces and blood pressure can drop.”
● Physical activities like skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, horse riding, boxing, football or basketball are a big no.
Buy clothes of comfortable size so that they fit without clinging to your skin. Make sure the garments are not too tight around your waist. Dr Sinha says, “Loading up on layers is always a smart strategy for cool winter temperatures, but layering is especially helpful in the fluctuating Indian weather.” For newborns, Dr Kamath advises, “Keeping a maternity bag ready with warm clothes for the newborn can come handy. Babies have less fat and they quickly lose their body temperature when exposed to cold. Hence, wrapping the baby with a soft flannel cloth is suggested.” Winters in India do not require heavy jackets but it is essential to remain warm and dress according to the weather.
Although women love wearing high-heeled shoes or boots, for expecting mothers, safety comes first. Invest in a good pair of rubber-soled shoes or boots with good traction to avoid any slips or falls. During pregnancy, the balance is affected and they are more prone to slipping or falling. Always opt for flats and not heels.
● In order to avoid itching from woollens, wear cotton camisoles or under shirts.
● Put on gloves, hat and scarf when stepping out of the house to protect yourself from cool dry air.
● Woollen socks and closed shoes are essentials to keep your feet warm.
● Tight inner wear and fitting clothes are not recommended as advised by Dr Kamath.
● Do not wear fancy lingerie and heavy jewellery. Anything that makes your uncomfortable should be avoided.
Tips to have a safe winter pregnancy:
● Make sure you wash your hands regularly, despite the cold weather. Keeping yourself clean is the first step towards protecting yourself from illness and diseases.
● Keep a sanitiser handy and keep safe distance from people who are unwell.
● Get plenty of rest and sleep. This helps the mother to be fresh all the time.
● Vitamin C helps your body fight infections and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage. Amla is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C.
● Replace sugar with gur (jaggery) for an healthier alternative. It also warms up your body from the inside.
● Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration. Hence, avoid tea or coffee with regular milk. Instead, try sipping on herbal teas.
● Get frequent head, foot and back massages. It will not only help you relax, but
also improve circulation.
● When you are too tired to do anything, pick your favourite book and read or listen to calming music.
● Snuggle with your husband on a cosy winter afternoon. It will relax both you and your partner. | MB