The weather in the autumn and winter seasons can be quite unbalanced with sudden temperature changes, which can be challenging for the immune system, and especially for expectant mothers. In addition to that, there is also the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adding some “spice to the dish.”
Acıbadem Altunizade Hospital Gynecology and Obstetrics Specialist Dr. Salih Yılmaz highlighted that pregnant women should be more careful during the autumn and winter seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been affecting Turkey as well as the whole world for the last two years.
Emphasizing that because of the cold weather and extra time spent indoors in autumn and winter, microbes that cause both COVID-19 and other upper respiratory tract diseases are encountered more frequently, Yılmaz explained the necessary precautions for pregnant women to spend the autumn healthy and comfortable and offered important warnings and suggestions.
According to data, pregnant women are not more likely to get COVID-19 than non-pregnant women, but COVID-19 can be more severe during pregnancy. Studies have shown that pregnant women might need to receive oxygen support if they catch COVID-19 or stay in intensive care units (ICU). Studies have shown that women with COVID-19 have a higher rate of preterm birth.
“For this reason, pregnant women should take extra care to avoid catching COVID-19,” he said. They should not go out without wearing a mask, pay attention to hygiene, maintain distance – even from their closest relatives, and stay away from crowded and closed environments, he added.
It is very important for expectant mothers to have a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals not only in autumn but also in all periods of pregnancy. It is a little more crucial during the autumn and winter periods, as it will be a great support for the immune system.
“During their pregnancy women should include vegetables, meat, fish and carbohydrates in a balanced way to their meals, and also have healthy snacks like nuts, fruits and yogurt, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, in between meals,” he said.
Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit in the autumn and winter offers many advantages for pregnant women. Expectant mothers with low vitamin intake should take the necessary vitamin and mineral supplements if recommended by a physician, Yılmaz added.
While sufficient fluid intake is important for everyone, it is more even more important for pregnant women.
“When there is not enough fluid intake during pregnancy, the risk of premature birth, urinary tract infection, constipation and headache increases. During pregnancy, an average of 2.5-3 liters of fluid should be consumed daily. This fluid intake should be mostly water-based, but it can also be supplemented with light tea or mineral water,” Yılmaz said.
Since the immune system of pregnant women is a little weaker than other people, they are more affected by sudden temperature changes in autumn. To best tolerate sudden temperature changes, clothing choices should be made accordingly. It is very important for expectant mothers to wear suitable clothing, especially when they spend time outdoors, he noted.
In many countries, vaccination programs are gaining momentum, and experts say mothers-to-be usually tend to avoid the vaccination based on the false belief that it could cause harm to their health or the health of their babies.
“There have been published studies on this subject in which there are many expectant mothers. These studies have shown that there is no increased risk during pregnancy after vaccination, such as preterm birth, miscarriage, stillbirth or growth retardation,” Yılmaz said.
Furthermore, in these studies, no problems were observed in follow-up checkups of the babies of the pregnant women who gave birth. Along with the results of these studies, important associations in the world and in Turkey also recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated.
“After the first trimester (the first 14 weeks), all pregnant women can be vaccinated to protect themselves against COVID-19,” Yılmaz said.
Adequate sleep helps to keep the immune system strong, maintains energy throughout the day and reduces stress. Pregnant women need to get enough sleep to be protected from diseases, Yılmaz said. Although sleep quality decreases due to frequent urination, muscle pain and acid reflux, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy, it is important for all expectant mothers to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night by finding suitable sleeping positions.
As a result of the restrictions and widespread use of masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of common illnesses in the fall, such as the flu, decreased last year.
"However, we predict that upper respiratory tract infections such as influenza will be seen more frequently this year due to the opening of schools and the lifting of restrictions. For this reason, it is very important for pregnant women to stay away from enclosed spaces to protect them from such infections," Yılmaz said.
“Due to the weak immune systems of pregnant women, influenza is more severe in expectant mothers. Therefore, it is important not to catch the flu during pregnancy. For this, a balanced diet, adequate sleep and fluid intake, and avoidance of closed environments are required. To avoid falling ill, we recommend that you get the flu vaccine, no matter what week of pregnancy you are in. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends that all pregnant women receive a single dose of flu vaccine between October and May," he said.
Everyone should know by now that regular exercise strengthens the immune system and is very beneficial for our health.
"We recommend all pregnant women exercise for about one hour every day as long as their physician hasn't limited physical activity. These exercises can be performed with the body's own weight, such as walking, swimming or pilates," Yılmaz said.
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