Healthy pregnancy for First Nations and Inuit

A guide to help you stay healthy during pregnancy.

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Becoming a mother

Becoming a mom is a lot of responsibility. When you become a parent, you are a parent 24/7.

You can decide when is a good time in your life to become pregnant, though.

Using contraceptives like birth control pills or condoms helps you prevent unwanted pregnancies, and lets you plan ahead for a pregnancy. Using condoms means there is less chance of getting sexually transmitted infections, too. That is a good step towards a healthy pregnancy.

Are you eligible for benefits under the federal government's Non-Insured Health Benefits program? If so, you may be able to get most contraceptives for free with a prescription.

Planning ahead gives you time to make healthy choices before you become pregnant.

It also gives you time to make sure you have the help and information you need to care for your beautiful new baby.

Here are some important things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy.

Your health care provider can also give you information about contraceptives.

Finding help in your community

All community members have an important role to play when you are pregnant and after your baby is born.
Elders can share knowledge gained over the many years they spent raising families.

Your family and friends can give you practical help. Cooking meals, doing laundry or looking after your other children while you rest are all ways they can pitch in.

Your partner can support you by going with you to see your health care provider and asking questions.

And your community may be able to help you through community-based programming that offers education and support for you and your baby's health before, during and after pregnancy.

Other people who may be able to help are midwives and doulas.

Midwives are health professionals who provide primary care to women and their babies during pregnancy, labour, birth and after a baby is born.

Doulas are specially trained birth companions who provide emotional, physical and spiritual support for Aboriginal women and families during pregnancy and labour and after birth.

You can ask your health care provider if midwives and doulas are available in your community.

If you are planning to become pregnant or are pregnant, it is important to visit your health care provider early.

To learn more about healthy pregnancy:

Eating well

It is always important to eat healthy food, but especially when you are pregnant.

Healthy eating will help your baby grow and develop properly, and be healthy. Here are some tips for helping you eat as well as possible.

During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, women need to eat a little more. It is important to include an extra two to three Food Guide servings from any of the four food groups each day.

All women who could become pregnant should be taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid every day. So should women who are pregnant. Unless advised differently, pregnant women also need to make sure that their prenatal vitamin contains iron, because extra iron is needed by both mom and baby. For example, iron is important for a growing baby's brain development.

If you are eligible for benefits under the Non-Insured Health Benefits program, you may be able to get your prenatal vitamins and folic acid, iron or calcium supplements for free with a prescription. If you need information on healthy eating, please talk to your health care provider.

Taking care of your mouth

The changes your body goes through when you are pregnant can increase your risk of developing health problems, like tooth decay, and gum or bone disease.

Taking care of your oral health will help prevent damage to your teeth and gums. Good oral health can actually help reduce the chances of getting other diseases later in life, such as heart disease. Brushing and flossing your teeth, eating well and getting dental check-ups can all lead to healthier teeth and gums.

When pregnant, you should continue to:

Do not brush your teeth for 30 minutes after morning sickness. Stomach acid left on the teeth can damage the surface of your teeth and cause teeth to rot. Instead, rinse your mouth right away with water and wait for 30 minutes before brushing.

Your gums may bleed during pregnancy. This may be due to hormonal changes in your body. Continue the recommended brushing and flossing routine.

Try to visit your oral health professional early in your pregnancy. This is an important part of staying healthy.

If you are eligible for benefits under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, you may be able to get certain oral health care benefits for free. Ask your oral health professional any questions about your teeth and mouth.

Being active

Being active makes you feel good and gives you more energy. It can also benefit your growing baby in many ways. One way is it helps you to be a healthy weight during pregnancy. This can reduce the chances of babies being born too early or developing diabetes later in their life.

Regular exercise during pregnancy can:

Here are some tips to help you be active and safe during your pregnancy.

Most women can walk, dance, swim, snowshoe, ski, go to exercise class and do other activities while they are pregnant.

Talk to your health care provider before starting to exercise, if you have not been active in the past. And ask your health care provider about staying active during your pregnancy.

Living a smoke-free life

Even before your new baby is born, you can help make sure that he or she enjoys a long and healthy life. How? By being smoke-free while you are pregnant and after your child is born, too.

Smoking during pregnancy makes it hard for your baby to get enough oxygen and nutrients. This means your baby will not develop as well and is more likely to have health problems such as ear infections, colds and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Even being exposed to second-hand smoke is bad for your baby and your own health.

When you quit smoking, you lower your blood pressure. You also reduce your chances of developing heart disease and oral cancer, experiencing breathing problems and getting infections. On top of that, you lower the chance that people around you will have health problems from second-hand smoke.

How can you live a smoke-free life during your pregnancy?

Here are some tips to help you quit smoking.

If you would like help to quit smoking, please talk to your health care provider.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs

There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. Even one drink is too many!

This means not drinking any type of alcohol including beer, wine, coolers and hard liquor.

Alcohol affects your baby's developing brain and can cause lifelong problems.

It is best to stop drinking before you become pregnant. Otherwise, stop drinking as soon as you find out you have become pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects called Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

It is easier to stop drinking if people around you drink less - or not at all. Talk to your partner, family and friends about having non-alcoholic choices at parties and community events.

Drug abuse is always a danger to your well-being. Taking drugs - even in small amounts - can be very harmful to pregnant women and their babies.

Women who worry about the effect that drug abuse will have on their baby during pregnancy are right to worry.

Drugs can harm them and their babies. Drugs can also affect the ability of a woman to care for her newborn.
It is really hard to stop using drugs without help. The things that led a woman to do drugs may still be present. Her partner and friends may still be abusing drugs.

It is also really hard for some women to stop drinking during pregnancy. If this is true for you, please speak with your health care provider to find out what help is available. Your health care provider should be able to answer any questions you have or help you find the support you need.

On a different note, you may be taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs. If so, your health care provider can give you advice about the effects of these types of drugs and if you should stop taking any of them during pregnancy.

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