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How to Secure Health tor the Unborn Child
Upon the health of the prospective mother depends the actual existence and the physical wellbeing throughout life of the Future child. Cardinal rules of conduct for expectant mothers are here laid down, with invaluable advice upon diet, dress and exercise during this all-important period. Further information is given under the heading Pregnancy.
It cannot be too much emphasiaed that a woman should consult her own doctor, or attend at an ante-natal clinic if she does not have a doctor, as soon as she thinks she may be pregnant, the first indication in the majority being a sudden cessation of the menstrual periods.
A normal woman should never be happier or healthier in body or mind than during pregnancy. Her habits should be simple, regular and active. If she takes ordinary care of herself, while avoiding a state of semi-invalidism, nature can be relied upon to do her part in bringing about a satisfactory termination to the happy event. The baby growing in the womb is entirely dependent for its life and development on its mother; thus it follows that the state of health of the mother is in reality the state of health of the baby; in other words, unless she is well the baby will suffer accordingly. Having consulted her doctor, who by examination will ascertain the presence of pregnancy, and in addition, by taking certain measurements, will satisfy himself as to the absence of any deformity of the pelvis likely to interfere with delivery, at the same time excluding the presence of any other trouble, there will be no necessity for her to see her doctor again until about the seventh month of her pregnancy, provided no abnormal symptoms develop. In the meantime, and up to the time of her confinement, she should pay particular attention to keeping herself strong and fit so as to ensure a satisfactory circulation and purification of her blood, upon which the growth of her child depends.
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Moderate outdoor exercise is of great benefit for toning up the circulation and keeping the abdominal and pelvic muscles in good condition. Women who are idle and lie about all day in a state of semi-invalidism are the most likely to have a prolonged and severe confinement. A regular brisk walk of an hour or so should be indulged in every day: the walk should not be of such a length as to cause extrema tiredness or exhaustion, but just what is felt to be comfortably sufficient. Weather conditions should not be allowed to stand in the way of this essential.
Common Mistakes in Baths and Diet
Really hot baths should never be indulged in during pregnancy; they may cause a miscarriage during the early montha. A warm bath at a temperature of about one hundred degrees Fahrenheit can be taken at night. In the morning a tepid or, to those who are used to it, a cold sponging down, followed by brisk drying of the body with a rough towel, will be found of great assistance in toning up the circulatory and muscular systems. Two or three times a week in the later months the anointing of the abdominal wall with a little pure olive oil will be found of use in preventing over-stretching of the skin, which leads to the appearance of striae or whits marks on the abdominal wall, which, if allowed to occur, are permanent.
The commonest mistakes made during pregnancy are over-eating and too little exercise. Food should be plain, digestible and nourishing. It should not be taken in excessive amounts with the idea of benefiting the baby, for it does not do so as a rule, however, the mother's appetite distinctly improves during pregnancy, and, of course should be satisfied. Foods rich in the fresh elements called vitamins are essential for the growth of the baby. The best are wholemeal bread, fresh green vegetables, such as lettuce spinach and green peas, and ripe fresh fruits. Plenty of fresh milk, butter, cream and eggs should be taken. At least an extra pint of water should be drunk daily. Meat should be taken sparingly, one really good meat meal a day being sufficient. Sweet foods, such as jam and sugar, for which a longing may be felt, should be taken in moderation only. The meals are to be taken at regular intervals, the last not within thnen hours of going to bed. All fluids should be taken at the completion of, and not during, the meal. In the later months the expectant mother should recline on a couch with her feet up after each meal, and in fact whenever she feels tired, thus preventing varicose veins, haemorrhoids and swelling of the ankles.
With regard to clothing, it is essential that in no circumstances must there be any constriction around the waist or abdomen. All garments covering the body should be directly supported from the shoulders the stockings being held up by aide suspenders; no suspender belt or garters should be worn, the latter in particular being liable to cause swelling of the ankles or varicose veins.
Heavy clothing must be avoided. Light corsets may be worn loosely during the early months if support is found necessary.
Constipation must be Avoided
There are certain other matters which require special attention. Constipation is very liable to occur during pregnancy, but must be overcome at all costs, as it is one of the chief causes of impurity of the blood. A good daily action of the bowels is essential. This should be obtained by careful attention to the daily walks, exercises and modification of the diet previously described. No call should be neglected, and so far as possible this matter should be attended to at the same time every day whether the desire is present or not. Purgatives should be avoided if possible. Liquid extract of cascara sagrada, half a teaspoonful; or senna pods eight in number, steeped in water overnight, the latter being taken first thing in the morning, are the best to use if essential. Aloes, aloin, and patent pills which may contain aloes should be avoided, as they have a tendency to cause miscarriage in the early months.
The breasts, especially the nipples, require particular attention during pregnancy in order to enable them to carry out their important function following the birth of the baby.
During the first two or three months of pregnancy, especially in a first pregnancy, a feeling of sickness, or in some cases actual vomiting, may occur first thing in the morning. It usually commences about the sixth week and disappears by the fourth month. So far as possible it should he ignored, but if troublesome it can usually be overcome by drinking a cup of weak tea and eating a piece of toast in bed the first thing, and lying still for an hour afterwards before getting up for the day. Cutting dnwn the amount of fat in the food and increasing starches will often help. It can be considered a normal accompaniment of early pregnancy if it is never really distressing in severity. In some cases it may, bowever become unduly severe and call for skilled examination and treatment should it be due to disorder of a grave character in the chemistry of the body.
It is of the utmost, importance to remember that during pregnancy the amount of urine passed every day should be at least as much as at other times: any falling off in the amount passed is of serious import, usually indicating a failure on the part of the kidneys to carry out their work efficiently. The amount passed should be between two and a half and three pints daily.
In the early months of pregnancy the minute embryo is very loosely attached to the interior of the womb, and it is at this time miscarriage is most likely to take place. This is particularly liable to occur about the time the monthly period would be expected but for the presence of pregnancy. In some there is a particular tendency to miscarry, and it is better during the first three months to rest, or actually stay in bed, for a day or two during the time the period would be expected. Purgatives at these times must be particularly avoided.
Generally speaking there is no physiological reason for abstaining from moderate intercourse during pregnancy. Of course, if the mother is threatened with a miscarriage or if she is otherwise in bad health, it may be necessary to advise against intercourse for a time; but the doctor will not do this unnecessarily, especially because it is only during pregnancy that many young married couples may have relations unharassed by the fear of undesired conception. The objection to marital relations during pregnancy, which is still often heard, is derived from a Semitic belief, and is not borne out by modern physiological knowledge.
Between the sixth and the seventh month a second visit to the doctor is necessary. It will also require from this time onwards a fresh sample of the urine, passed first thing in the morning, to be sent to him every three weeks for examination. The specimen sent should be tightly corked in a clean bottle. This is very important, as an examination of the water often gives the first indication of the onset of very grave complications. A further visit to the doctor will become necessary about three weeks before the expected date of the confinement, in order that he may ascertain that the child is lying in a correct position and is of normal size. See Eclampsia.