Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying away from bad habits is important for everyone. But when you’re pregnant, it’s not just about your health, it’s also about your baby’s health, and your bad habits can put your baby’s health at risk.
Many women continue to make unhealthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy, despite guidelines that recommend healthy behaviors, according to a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Midwifery.
It is a challenge for health professionals to encourage healthy behavior modification in women who are planning to conceive or who are pregnant, particularly young women and those with an unplanned pregnancy (1).
Bad habits, no matter how small they may seem, can harm the baby inside your womb. Your behavior and choices influence your baby’s development over the next nine months. A mother’s bad habits can result in disease, growth issues, and brain damage in babies.
Surely, you do not want to risk your baby’s health. Making good lifestyle choices will directly impact the health of the growing fetus, and you will be more likely to give birth to a healthy and beautiful baby.
Plus, following a healthy lifestyle helps reduce the discomforts and complications associated with pregnancy.
It is better to be safe than sorry, so it is time to quit your bad habits.
Here are some bad habits that pregnant women should avoid.
1. Drinking Alcohol
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, stop drinking any kind of alcoholic beverages.
Any amount of alcohol you drink reaches your baby in the womb through your bloodstream and the placenta.
Alcohol can affect your baby’s development and growth in the womb as well as your baby’s health at birth.
Drinking wine during pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
According to a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, researchers report that any amount of alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause extreme lasting effects on a child. It can produce significant amounts of anxiety in offspring, lasting through adolescence and into adulthood (2).
In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Among the many problems alcohol can cause, the most severe is fetal alcohol syndrome (3).
Smoking is a big “NO” for pregnant women.
Nicotine, carbon monoxide and other chemicals in cigarette smoke can affect the development of your baby’s lungs and cause various health complications during birth, and physically and mentally later in their life.
A study published in the Journal of Human Capital in 2011 reports that smoking has large adverse effects on neurodevelopment, with larger effects in the low socioeconomic status sample. The study highlights the importance of early interventions before and during pregnancy for enhancing child development (4).
A 2013 study published in PLOS ONE reports that maternal smoking is associated with reduced growth of the fetus’ brain, lungs, and kidneys. This effect persists even when the volumes are corrected for maternal education, gestational age and fetal gender. Also, the fetuses exposed to maternal smoking are smaller in size. Similarly, placental volumes are smaller in smoking versus nonsmoking pregnant women (5).
Smoking is also linked to a wide variety of pregnancy complications, including vaginal bleeding, ectopic pregnancy, premature placental detachment, and premature labor and delivery.
You should not smoke before, during, or after your pregnancy. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as well.
3. Eating Junk Food
While you may have weird food cravings during pregnancy, it is important to stick to a healthy diet. The food you eat has a direct influence on your unborn baby’s health.
A healthy and well-balanced diet supports normal birth weight, improves fetal brain development, and lowers the risk of many birth defects.
If you eat junk food that has high levels of fats and sugar, it has a negative impact on your baby’s health. Also, it can cause you to have blood pressure issues, elevated cholesterol levels, and high sugar levels.
A study published in the FASEB Journal in 2013 suggests that pregnant mothers who consume junk food actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signaling pathway in the brains of their unborn children.
This change results in the babies being less sensitive to opioids, which are released upon consumption of food that is high in fat and sugar. In turn, these children are born with a higher “tolerance” to junk food and need to eat more of it to achieve a “feel-good” response (6).
Another 2013 study published in Birth reports that eating a junk food diet high in calories but low in nutrition during pregnancy, as well as being overweight or obese before pregnancy, were independent predictors of high infant birth weight. Early childhood obesity interventions should consider addressing these factors (7).
Do your best to resist cravings for unhealthy food and focus on eating healthy. While you’re pregnant, your diet should include plenty of nuts, vegetables, fruits and fresh fish to help your body get protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and adequate fat.