Pregnancy is tough enough on your body without adding illnesses into the mix. Your body is working overtime to ensure that you and the baby are as healthy as possible. During pregnancy, your immune system is tasked with protecting both you and your baby and therefore is under pressure. Thankfully, our immune systems do an amazing job and most unborn babies are not affected by infections caught by the mother during pregnancy.
With this in mind, we want to lend a helping hand to our immune systems as a thank you for helping us to keep our babies safe. Here are some of the best ways to support your immune system during pregnancy:
1. Stay Hydrated
Ever feel like water is the answer to everything?!
It’s recommended that pregnant women drink about 2.5 litres of water per day. Water is vital for your body to work at its best. Without enough water, toxins build up in your blood which weakens your immune system. Water also plays a big part in the lymphatic system, which carries nutrients and white blood cells around the body. White blood cells attack bacteria and viruses which enter the body so their movement is a very important part of the immune system.
2. Keep your hands clean.
We can’t avoid all germs in life, but we can avoid most of the germs which set up camp on our hands. It’s estimated that 80% of common infections like colds and influenza are spread by hands. Adopting a thorough and frequent hand-washing routine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby.
When should I wash my hands?
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Before eating
- Before and after caring for someone who’s sick
- Before or after treating cuts or wounds
- After using the bathroom
- After changing nappies or helping a child use the bathroom
- After blowing your (or your child’s) nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching a pet, their food or their waste
- After touching bins
How to wash hands correctly?
There’s no need to use antibacterial soaps, gel hand wash is found to be the most effective.
- Wet your hands with running water (temperature doesn’t make much difference) then turn off the tap to conserve water.
- Lather your hands with soap, making sure to get the back of your hands, between fingers and under nails.
- Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Evidence suggests that washing your hands for less than 20 seconds greatly reduces the number of germs removed.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Dry your hands completely. Wet hands collect bacteria easier than dry hands.
Use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol when you can’t access running water. Rub the antibacterial gel into your hands for about 20 seconds, until they feel completely dry. Pay attention to instructions on the bottle as they may vary by manufacturer.
3. Get more sleep.
Sleep is your body’s opportunity to examine how well everything is functioning. Your immune system uses this time to produce cells and proteins which help the immune system to be at its best. Improper sleep can also be a huge source of stress for many people. For tips on getting better sleep during pregnancy, read our blog “Good Sleep During Pregnancy”.
4. Exercise as much as you can.
As long as your GP or midwife says it’s safe, you can continue to get regular exercise during pregnancy. Aim for about 30 minutes of activity on most days. Exercise boosts immunity in a few different ways, including raising your body temperature which slows bacterial growth and releasing antibodies and white blood cells quicker. Exercising to the point of being out of breath is not advised during pregnancy. Always listen to your body.
5. Eat a varied and healthy diet.
The foods we eat have an effect on every part of our body. Boost your immunity by getting plenty of different nutrients into your diet. Take a multivitamin designed for pregnancy to make sure you’re covering all the essentials. You can also incorporate immunity-boosting foods such as garlic, turmeric, broccoli and ginger. Vitamin C is also important for your immune system so include plenty of citrus fruits and bell peppers.
6. Reduce stress.
Stress is proven to decrease your body’s ability to fight infection. Studies show that people who are under stress are more likely to catch viruses and also recover slower from illness. Reduce your stress using techniques like meditation, controlled breathing and sharing your worries with someone you trust.