Pregnancy watch

  • Health
  • Sunday, 16 Mar 2003

KATHY SENA lists out some of the important things to watch out for when you’re pregnant 

WHEN a woman is pregnant, her risk of developing food-borne illness increases, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA). And even a mild case of food poisoning can have potentially serious effects on both Mom and baby.  

“Pregnant women should not eat meats, poultry, seafood or eggs that are raw or undercooked,” says registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Jackie Berning. “Also, unpasteurised dairy products, like raw milk and some imported cheeses, can pose safety threats to pregnant women.” To help reduce your risk:  

  •       Wash your hands often during cooking. This step alone will reportedly wipe out more than half of all potential cases of food poisoning.  

  •        Keep kitchen surfaces clean. Bacteria can grow on counter tops, tables and refrigerator surfaces.  

  •      Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate. Use two cutting boards; one strictly for raw meat, poultry and seafood; and the other for breads and vegetables. Wash cutting boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water after each use, or place in dishwasher.  

  •        Cook meat to the proper temperature.  

  •        Refrigerate foods promptly. Store leftovers in small, shallow containers to allow for faster cooling.  


    Gestational diabetes screening 

    Every mother-to-be should be screened for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But more testing is needed to determine which screening method – taking a patient’s medical history, looking at her clinical risk factors or testing her blood-glucose levels – is most effective.  

    Gestational diabetes mellitus is defined as carbohydrate intolerance first recognised during pregnancy. The condition can occur when hormones produced by the placenta affect the way insulin works in a woman’s body. In some cases, diabetes that existed before pregnancy may become more difficult to control.  

    Related risks to the woman and foetus can include preeclampsia or high blood pressure; urinary-tract infections; and macrosomia, a very large baby, which can make delivery difficult and may lead to Caesarean birth. Risks to the newborn can include birth defects affecting the heart, kidneys and spine, as well as respiratory distress.  

    Risk factors for GDM include age, ethnicity, obesity, a family history of diabetes and past obstetric history. Women with GDM can help control their glucose levels with diet and exercise and, in some cases, by taking insulin.  

    With proper management, most women with GDM deliver healthy babies. But it’s something every pregnant woman should discuss with her doctor.  

    New link to miscarriage found 

    A key component of repeated miscarriage among some women appears to be a genetic flaw located in one of the mother’s two X chromosomes, according to a study of 105 women conducted by physicians and scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  

    “This is exciting news for women who have suffered recurrent miscarriages with no idea why,” says study author W. Allen Hogge, associate professor of human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Until now, even extensive testing has often been unable to pinpoint a cause,” he explains.  

    In fact, he says, up to half of all women who have had miscarriages could discover no medical explanation for their losses.  

    The X-chromosome gene flaw is detectable in the mother’s blood, making testing simple. No health risks for the women themselves have been associated with the abnormality. Though there is no known cure for this genetic flaw, the availability of a blood test offers a significant improvement in risk assessment for future pregnancies, says Hogge.  


    Watch out for folic-acid-busting drugs 

    If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you’re probably already taking a daily folic-acid supplement. But certain common medications can reduce the concentration of folic acid in a woman’s body. If you’re taking oral contraceptives, the antibiotic tetracycline or medication to treat any of the following conditions, you’ll want to talk with your doctor:  

  •       Heartburn or reflux  

  •        Urinary-tract infection  

  •        Seizures or convulsions  

  •        Ulcerative colitis  

  •        High cholesterol  

  •        High blood pressure  

  •        Heart disorders  

    In many cases, your doctor can prescribe a different medication that will not interfere with folic-acid levels. Folic acid is crucial to the prevention of birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural-tube defects (NTDs). So talking with your doctor about possible drug interactions is just one of many good reasons to have a pre-pregnancy check-up.  

    Health experts recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily as part of a healthy diet. This should begin before pregnancy. Each year, approximately 2,500 babies are born with NTDs, and many other pregnancies are affected, resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth. – LAT-WP 

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