Our body goes through so much during pregnancy. There are hormonal changes, weight gain, cravings, and of course, changes in our immune system. Here are some great ways to protect your immune system and keep it healthy throughout your pregnancy, and especially during a pandemic.
Staying hydrated is the easiest and simplest way to boost your immune system and keep it strong. It’s extra important for pregnant women because your body needs water to produce amniotic fluid, carry essential nutrients to your child through the placenta, produce extra blood volume, and flush out toxins, among many other things1. Drinking water can also prevent uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms such as UTI, constipation, swelling, fatigue, and headaches 2.
STAY UP TO DATE ON VACCINATIONS
It’s important to keep your immune system strong during pregnancy. Be sure to get the flu and Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccines so you can pass the immunity to your little one3. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The best defense against any outbreak is a strong health system”4. Don’t forget to wear a mask during visits to the doctor, too. Because of the current pandemic, talk to your doctor about frequency of hospital visits to lessen your risk of exposure to the virus.
GET EXTRA NOURISHMENT WITH MATERNAL MILK
Maternal milk is important to consume during pregnancy because it contains so many important nutrients needed for pregnant women. Here are a few important ones to take note of:
- Folic acid is important for you and your little one for proper brain and spine development, as well as to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The CDC recommends getting 0.4mg of folic acid every day.
- Pregnant women should take about 30mg of iron every day. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of red blood cells. It’s important for you to take extra iron for proper blood and oxygen circulation for you and your little one.5
- It’s important to get more calcium during pregnancy because your body uses your stored calcium to develop your child’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles, and nerves. You need 1000mg of calcium during pregnancy, and maternal milk is a great source for it. It’s important to replenish your source of calcium to prevent osteoporosis.
- Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is the most important Omega-3 fatty acid in pregnancy. DHA supports healthy development of the fetal brain, eyes, nervous system, immune system development and many other vital organs. It also helps in maintaining healthy birth weight, and boosts your positive mood and well-being. 6
While taking prenatal vitamins is good to keep you and your little one healthy, it’s always better to find these vitamins and nutrients in food. According to the Department of Health’s Pinggang Pinoy guide, here are the energy giving, body building, and body regulating foods that pregnant women should include in their diet:
For energy giving food, look for whole grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal since these contain less refined grains. These whole grain foods are linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
For body building food, fatty fish like tuna and sardines are recommended because they provide essential fatty acids for the child’s brain development. Shellfish, lean meat, and poultry are good for building up your muscles and developing your child’s tissues. Milk, milk products, and other calcium rich food are good for strong bones and teeth for both you and your little one.
For body regulating food, include green leafy vegetables like spinach and malunggay that are high in iron and folate content so that you can meet the increased requirement of these nutrients because of your pregnancy7.
Don’t forget to drink lots of water and limit your intake of food containing refined sugar to reduce the risk of obesity.
Staying active is good for overall health and can help reduce stress. But during this pandemic, opt for exercises you can do in your own home such as yoga and pilates workouts that are tailored to pregnant women. Exercising even for just 30 minutes can be beneficial to your pregnancy and can help your mood, reduce backaches, constipation, and swelling, and may help in preventing gestational diabetes8.
GET GOOD SLEEP
Sleep is so important during pregnancy, because you will feel more tired than usual. Some doctors recommend sleeping on your left side with your knees bent, because one of your big blood vessels is on your right, and you want to keep your uterus off it. Sleeping on your left side also helps blood flow through the placenta and to your little one. For a more comfortable position, try propping pillows between your legs or under your belly5. You can also try to meditate 10-15 minutes before sleeping to calm your mind and body.
While these are great ways to keep your body protected and your immunity boosted, every pregnancy is different. Remember to always consult your OB-GYN about any special concerns and needs you may have during your pregnancy. Practice social distancing, always wear a mask when you’re out in public, wash your hands with soap and water for twenty to thirty seconds (or sanitize them with hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol), disinfect commonly-touched surfaces and of course, avoid touching your mouth, face, and eyes to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
For more information about COVID-19, you may visit www.covid-19facts.com.
- The Bump. April 2017. How to stay hydrated during pregnancy.
- Parents. Accessed 27 April 2020. 23 tips for a healthy pregnancy.
- Family Education. Accessed 22 April 2020. The immune system and pregnancy: a step-by-step guide.
- World Health Organization. 30 March 2020. WHO releases guidelines to help countries maintain essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- KidsHealth From Nemours. June 2018. Staying healthy during pregnancy.
- Hello Motherhood. 22 July 2019. The advantages of drinking milk during pregnancy.
- Republic of the Philippines Food and Nutrition Research Institute. Accessed 08 May 2020.
- American Pregnancy Association. Accessed 24 April 2020. Exercise during pregnancy.