The pregnant working woman's guide
As women have become an integral part of the workforce, even pregnancy must be taken in their stride with the increasing pressures of an urban life. As a result, most expectant mothers work till their due date. The Guide makes things easier for this band of superwomen, with a complete lowdown on precautions, exercises and dietary measures that women should follow during this crucial period in their lives
There was a time when women had the luxury of taking time offduring the nine months when they nurture a child in their wombs. Since most were stay-at-home mothers or even the ones who worked, were earlier saved from the perils of a stressful job.
But, with altering lifestyles, mindsets and stress due to competitive professional pursuits, women are attending office till the last month of their pregnancy. If you see yourself in the same scenario, pursue the following recommendations by experts for a smooth sailing during this important period.
Pregnancy is a physiological state and not a disease, asserts Dr Ashwini Bhalerao-Gandhi, gynaecologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, adding that if there are no complications then there is no harm in working till term. However, one needs to be prepared for minor problems like swelling of feet, backache and fatigue.
“Travelling long distances may be troublesome. All these are due to a changed posture owing to distension of abdomen with the growing foetus and uterus. Enlarged uterus exerts pressure on the inferior vena cava; thus, reducing venous blood flow from legs to the heart. This leads to swelling of feet. One should keep feet on a low stool or platform while sitting in the office; this elevation of legs helps in proper blood circulation. If possible, one should lie down for some time during lunch hour to reduce strain on the back,” shares Dr Bhalerao-Gandhi.
The gynaecologist stresses that one should not remain hungry for a long time in order to avoid fatigue and dizziness. Eating every three to four hours is a must and intake of nutritious homemade food plus fruits, juices and protein biscuits are ideal. Hectic schedules and long hours of working should be avoided. Also, clothes should be comfortable and high heels are a no-no.
Dr Gunu Mansukhani, Director Gynaecology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, informs that sometimes it actually helps if a woman works till the last month of pregnancy. “Most women who have been active until the last few days before delivery have had a normal delivery with minimal complications as they have followed guidelines,” she confirms.
“Exercise has been a healthy tool for all ages and phases, but its significance during pregnancy increases fourfold,” advises fitness expert Mickey Mehta. He suggests that light exercises throughout the months of pregnancy is healthy and aids in toning the muscles, helps to overcome fatigue, improves posture and makes sure that the baby is healthy.
Mehta suggests five tips to follow during the nine-month period:
>> A 10 or 20-minute walk around your office corridor will surely help release fatigue. Simple hand stretching exercises for your biceps, triceps and shoulders, etc, could be done.
>> Stretch your legs straight and flap your ankles up and down for complete circulation.
>> Standing in one place and stretching your legs outward on your sides helps. Do them one by one with five repetitions on
>> If you have an hour or half an hour, indulge in light walking; it is safe, and prevents pressure on your knees and ankles. A light walk for 30 minutes every day will relieve the stiffness in your muscles.
>> Do not indulge in heavy physical activities such as tennis, heavy weight training and gym workouts, etc.
“Most importantly, avoid eating large meals, or else the protruding abdomen will put pressure on the stomach and causes acidity and breathlessness. Eat small meals at regular intervals. Your overall need for calories during pregnancy increases. Over the course of your pregnancy you will be consuming 70,000 extra calories -- 150 extra calories daily in the first trimester and 300 extra calories during 2nd and 3rd trimester,” maintains nutritionist Suman Agarwal.
She adds that as requirement of calories increases similarly requirement of protein also increases to additional 15 gms to your daily protein requirement. Protein rich food includes chicken, eggs, milk and milk products, soya, dals and legumes.
Agarwal continues that calcium requirement also increases during pregnancy. Eat and drink at least three to four servings of milk and milk products and calcium-rich foods like tofu, soya, rajma, moth beans, sesame seed, almonds, turnip greens, broccoli, ragi (finger millet), sardine and salmon. Daily requirement of calcium during pregnancy is at least 1,000-1,300 mgs.
She stresses that one eats at least three servings of iron-rich food per day to ensure that one gets 27 mgs of iron, daily. Iron rich food includes dates, pomegranate, soya, rajma, moth beans, poha, puffed rice (kurmura) and niger seed (black til).
Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C a day. Agarwal is of the opinion that one can opt for least one good source of Vitamin C each day, from oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, papaya, broccoli sprouts or mustard greens. Along with those 8 to 10 glasses of water is a must.
First- hand experience
When I got to know that I was pregnant, apart from being extremely elated, there was this subconscious thought about being away from work for a long gap. But, after consulting my gynaecologist, I was assured that since I don’t have any complications, I could work till as long as I liked, even till the last few days of my pregnancy. While I was happy with this thought, my family wasn’t too comfortable, as this was my first time, and my office was an hour and a half away from work. Still, I decided to juggle. The first couple of months were a breeze, but it was in the last couple of months that I did face few problems. Travelling in the local train was a big task. While I cannot generalise, some women in the ladies compartment were insensitive, and wouldn’t even offer me a seat. Even sitting at my desk for long hours became tough. However, with a good diet and few exercises, I was able to continue work till the last month of my pregnancy. I preferred this option than having to stay at home during this phase.
-- Soubhika Bose, IT professional, Mumbai
>> Toned milk (3.5% Fat) or curd -- It is a rich source of Vitamin K2 and E. Whether you prefer yogurt, milk, or cheese, dairy products are an important part of diet.
>> Whole-Grain Cereal -- One of the best foods to boost energy for new moms in the morning. It is a healthy breakfast.
>> Fish -- Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines.
>> Legumes -- Iron-rich beans, particularly dark-coloured ones like black beans and kidney beans, are great, especially for vegetarians. They’re a budget-friendly source of high quality, non-animal protein.
>> Leafy Greens -- Leafy green veggies are filled with Vitamin A and are also filled with heart-healthy antioxidants.
>> Egg Yolk -- Cholesterol from the egg helps with the brain development of the child. Yolks are also rich in a nutrient known as Colen, which helps to protect the foetus from neural tube defects.
Pilates helps too
Stott Pilates Instructor Namrata Purohit recommends pilates for a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. “Pilates is great as it is customised to each person’s needs. The principles used in pilates are very important and include breathing and always having the correct form. The beauty of Pilates is that it has more than 1,000 exercises, so you never get bored and there is always something new and safe to learn,” she shares.