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Beating the winter blues for two
Being pregnant in winter is a mixed blessing. The South African summer heat can be exhausting for moms-to-be whose body temperatures are a tad higher due to their little “hatchlings”. But winter also means a prevalence of dreaded cold and flu bugs. Because your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, you are likely to catch whatever is going around more easily.
The good news is that cold and flu viruses are extremely unlikely to affect your pregnancy as your baby can’t catch them from you. And the bad news? You might feel twice as miserable because you cannot simply take the tried and trusted medicines – or even herbal remedies – that you usually rely on.
Top tips to stay healthy:
- Prevention is better than a cure. Keep up your resistance by taking care of yourself. Remember, your lifestyle determines how well your immune system functions.
- Get enough sleep. How much is enough? Listen to your body. Most pregnant women need 7 to 9 hours per night. When possible, have a short powernap in the afternoon. Remember to sleep on your side (preferably your left one) and not on your back. Use plenty of pillows to get comfortable. Many pregnant women complain of insomnia, especially in the second and third trimesters. Despite feeling exhausted they battle to fall asleep or they wake up frequently for trips to the loo and cannot drift off again. Try a relaxing bedtime ritual like taking a warm candlelit bath and drinking a cup of chamomile tea. Ask your partner for a back rub or foot massage. Listen to soothing music or even a guided meditation recording for relaxation. Many women find Rescue Remedy pills (which do not contain alcohol) extremely helpful in combating sleeplessness.
- Moderate, regular exercise helps your body produce more white blood cells to fight off infections. It also relieves tension and builds fitness and stamina for labour.
Stress lowers your immune system, so find ways to unwind. Preggy yoga is a safe, enjoyable and beneficial way to exercise, relax and meet other moms-to-be. Scientific studies have proven that meditation significantly enhances the immune system.
- A chuckle a day keeps the doctor away, as does a cuddle. Researchers found that people who laugh more are healthier. The same is true for those with warm, intimate relationships. So keep connected to the ones you love and rent a romantic comedy to watch with your partner this weekend.
The other side of the coin, unfortunately, is that tense relationships and angry quarrels lower your resistance. If you and your partner are having problems, seek counselling.
- Massages stimulate your immune system. Treat yourself to a professional preggy massage or exchange regular back rubs with your partner. Some aromatherapy oils are unsafe during pregnancy, so use unscented massage oil or consult an expert.
- Discuss the flu injection with your doctor. The injection is safe and highly recommended during pregnancy. Expectant moms are more prone to developing serious flu complications, as the recent swine flu epidemic proved. Although not 100% effective, immunisation will reduce the severity of the illness should you contract it. Research even shows that baby will enjoy some protection from it during his first 6 months. Get your injection in the beginning of the season for maximum benefit.
- Avoid cramped, crowded indoor spaces and sick people where possible. Explain politely yet firmly that you would rather not visit with someone who has the sniffles.
- Of course, you cannot avoid your older kids, and they are the ones most likely to bring home the bugs. Teach them good hygiene. Every family member should practice regular hand washing with soap and warm water, especially before meals. If your child does get ill, show him how to cough and sneeze into a tissue to prevent spreading airborne germs. Don’t share food, drinks and utensils with a sick child and wash your dishes in very hot water with an antibacterial dishwashing soap.
- Keep hand sanitiser in your bag and use it regularly when you are out and about. Make a habit of spraying your hands every time you have paid at a cashier or toll gate. Use a credit card instead of cash, and regularly disinfect it along with objects that are handled often like cell phones, doorknobs, light switches and your car’s steering wheel.
Get well soon!
What if you do come down with a winter virus? Doctor Lilla Friend, mother and emergency room physician, says rest is the very best medicine. She warns against exercising when you are unwell, as complications like myocarditis (infection of the heart muscle) may arise.
Helpful hints for miserable moms-to-be:
- Bring your fever down promptly. Take paracetemol and a lukewarm bath and call your doctor if these measures do not work.
- Eat vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, kiwi fruit and berries.
- Drink lots of fluids, both hot and cold. Studies have shown that chicken soup is more than comfort food, it actually does help you recover faster!
- For nasal congestion sleep with your head slightly elevated. Use a saline nasal spray and a humidifier in your room.
- Sore throat? Gargle hourly with a quarter teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of hot water. Ginger tea with honey and lemon soothes a scratchy throat and a cough.
Call the doctor when:
- You have a fever above 38° C
- You have a cough with chest pain and/or wheezing
- You expel yellow or greenish mucus
- You have sinusitis pain
- Your illness lasts more than a week
Medication dos and don’ts
Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking medication and remind them that you are pregnant. Many over-the-counter flu remedies contain drugs that are contra-indicated, like aspirin or ibuprofen. If your doctor writes you a prescription ask them to read it out loud. Double-check the medication you receive from the pharmacist making sure it is the right product and that the name on the label is yours. Accidents and mix-ups do happen.
Don’t be a martyr
If your doctor or pharmacist has confirmed a medicine as safe, take it. Growing a baby is an important job and pregnancy an extra-special time. You want to be well enough to enjoy it!