A healthy pregnancy: why it’s important
When you’re pregnant, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and attending antenatal appointments are important for you and your baby. This keeps you both well. And it reduces your risk of pregnancy health problems like iron deficiency anaemia, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, premature birth and low baby birthweight.
Your doctor or midwife will talk with you about how to stay healthy in pregnancy by eating well, staying active, and quitting risky activities like smoking, vaping and drinking alcohol. It’s also very important to look after your mental health.
There are services that can support you and help you have a healthy pregnancy. Some of these services include Brave Foundation, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby , Core of Life, Parenting helplines and hotlines and Healthdirect Australia.
Healthy food and eating habits for pregnant teenagers
Healthy food is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Good food keeps you healthy and well. It’s also important for your baby’s growth and development.
You can maintain a healthy diet by eating a wide variety of foods from the 5 healthy food groups – vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy and protein. It’s also best to avoid foods that are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar, and low in fibre. These foods include fast food, takeaway and junk food like hot chips, potato chips, dim sims, pies, burgers and takeaway pizza.
It can be easier to eat healthy food if you make it yourself. If you aren’t used to making your own meals:
- Ask your parents or carers for some of their favourite healthy recipes or watch some YouTube cooking videos.
- Plan meals and go shopping with your parents or carers, which can also help you with budgeting.
- Spend some time cooking with your parents or carers or friends.
- Ask your doctor or midwife to refer you to a dietitian, who can give you advice about healthy eating and recipes.
Some community programs for young parents focus on healthy eating and run cooking classes. You can ask your doctor, midwife or young parents group about these programs. You can also search online to find a program close to you.
Healthy eating habits
Healthy eating habits are also important for you and your baby in pregnancy. Healthy eating habits include eating small, healthy meals regularly, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding giving into cravings for unhealthy treats.
Even if you’re uncomfortable with the way your body feels or looks during pregnancy, it’s important to avoid dieting and other unhealthy habits like skipping meals and taking diet or weight-loss supplements or natural remedies.
Healthy food and healthy eating habits can help you avoid common pregnancy health problems. They also help you with healthy weight gain in pregnancy. If you’re overweight or have a history of eating disorders, it’s best to talk about these issues with your doctor or midwife. They might refer you to a dietitian or psychologist for extra advice and support.
Staying active during a teenage pregnancy
Staying active can improve mood, fitness and sleep, boost energy and ease back pain. Along with healthy eating, physical activity during pregnancy might also help you manage weight gain and reduce your risk of diabetes. And it can help you cope better during birth.
It’s good for you to check with your doctor or midwife early in pregnancy about how much physical activity is OK. It’s recommended that you continue your current exercise routine, avoid contact sports, and avoid starting an intense exercise routine. You might need to modify your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses.
You could go on regular walks with a friend or your partner to keep up your physical fitness together.
Quitting smoking, vaping, alcohol and other drugs for a healthy teenage pregnancy
If you smoke or vape, drink alcohol and/or take non-prescribed drugs like marijuana, speed, ice, heroin and cocaine, it’s important to stop. These substances will pass through your placenta to your baby. They’re all bad for your baby’s growth and development and for your own health.
If you need help to quit cigarettes, vapes, alcohol or other drugs, you can talk to your pregnancy care team. They can help you access the right services and support. You can also visit the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website for counselling services in your state or territory. And if you need help to stop smoking or vaping, you can call Quitline on 137 848.
You should also check with your doctor or midwife that any medicines you’re taking are safe during pregnancy. This includes prescribed medicines, herbal medicines, natural supplements and medicines from chemists and supermarkets.
Getting to know your baby’s movements during pregnancy
You’ll start to feel baby movements when you’re around 20 weeks pregnant. And your baby’s movements will usually get stronger and more frequent as your baby grows bigger.
It’s important to recognise and monitor your baby’s movements during pregnancy. Regular baby movements mean your baby is probably healthy and safe.
Contact your doctor or midwife as soon as possible if you:
- are concerned that your baby’s movements have changed
- haven’t felt your baby’s regular movements as you’d expect to
- just feel that something isn’t right.
Mental health for pregnant teenagers
Good mental health is important for you and your baby. It reduces your risk of antenatal and postnatal anxiety and antenatal and postnatal depression. And if you’re mentally and emotionally well, your baby is more likely to grow and develop well too.
Looking after your mental health
Here are ways to look after your mental health during pregnancy:
- Share your experiences with trusted adults, friends or other pregnant teenagers in trusted online communities, support groups or antenatal classes. Getting support is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health.
- Write down your experiences in a journal. This can help you think about and understand your emotions.
- Make sure that you have a balanced diet, stay physically active and get enough quality sleep. There’s a strong link between physical health and mental health.
- Take time out to do things that make you happy, like spending time with friends who care about you, going for walks, listening to music and so on.
- Show self-compassion by being kind to yourself and praising yourself when you work through difficult times.
- Remove yourself from uncomfortable situations. For example, if you feel judged or out of place in a social situation, you could take a break and do something else.
Understanding pregnancy changes from week to week can help you manage the emotions and physical changes that you’re experiencing. And it can be exciting to know how your baby is developing. It can also help you bond with your baby.
Mental health support during teenage pregnancy
It’s a good idea to see your GP or midwife if you’re finding it difficult to cope or are experiencing any of the following:
- low mood or energy
- mood swings
- difficulty doing your usual daily activities
- difficulty sleeping
Mental health professionals can:
- give you a safe and confidential space for talking about your experiences
- help you learn strategies to manage your mental health and wellbeing
- treat antenatal anxiety and depression
- help you get involved with young parenting support programs
- give you ongoing support and monitor your wellbeing.
You could also try online mental health support services like the following:
- BRAVE Foundation helps expecting and parenting teenagers build their parenting skills with resources, referrals and education.
- Headspace provides mental health information and support for young people aged 12-25 years.
- PANDA supports people affected by postnatal and antenatal depression and anxiety.