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Pregnancy Nutrition

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an OBGYN group from Columbia, Missouri, who was interested in writing a guest post for my blog about nutrition and exercise during pregnancy. I took them up on their offer to provide my readers with some expert advice. Nutrition and exercise during pregnancy are so important. The healthier you are during pregnancy the easier (in most cases) your labor and delivery are as well as your postpartum recovery. Below are some great tips from an actual OBGYN regarding food and exercise you should avoid or continue during your pregnancy. I hope you find their tips and suggestions helpful.

When women are pregnant, they usually take more interest and put more research into what they should eat and how they should exercise, and for good reason…everyone wants mom as healthy as possible over the next nine months. But there are a lot of rumors out there on what a pregnant woman should eat or avoid. Even more rumors persist on the issue of what types of exercise women can do while pregnant, or if they should even exercise at all.

These guidelines from  WHA  an OBGYN group in Columbia MO, should help dispel some of the notions about exercise and diet during pregnancy, and can hopefully give pregnant women a framework of exercise rules to work with.

Nutrition rules to remember:

Fish is OK to eat, but no more than twice a week. Also, the American Pregnancy Association advises avoiding fish that contain high levels of mercury including shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Fish from contaminated lakes and rivers may be exposed to industrial pollutants and should also be avoided, the American Pregnancy Association advises.

Caffeine is actually OK too, but limit that intake to no more than twice daily.

The list of foods to avoid includes unpasteurized cheese, smoked seafood, raw shellfish and raw eggs and Pate.

Exercise guidelines include:

First of all, women should continue exercising while pregnant, as long as they feel up to it. Exercise can keep mother healthy during the pregnancy and can help make the labor and delivery process easier.

While continuing exercise is good, women are not likely to have the same energy level and should pay attention to what their body is telling them. You should make sure to drink plenty of water – more than you would have before you were pregnant.

Also, take some breaks during the exercise routine. Some women use a general rule of thumb while running or walking that they should not maintain a speed that is so intense they could not hold a conversation while doing it.

For women exercising for the first time, low impact cardiovascular routines are encouraged. Many yoga clinics or instructors offer yoga specifically for pregnant women.

Water aerobics are another healthy form of exercise for women.

In terms of exercise to avoid, pregnant moms should avoid activities that are more likely to make them fall down. Contact sports should be included in that list. Also, avoid exercising to the point where you lose your breath. (This is where the rule about being able to talk while exercising can help you.)

Heavy weightlifting that could strain your back should also be avoided.

It is tempting in early pregnancy to just give into temptation and eat whatever you are craving (especially if you aren’t able to keep much of anything else down) and to give in to the urge to lay around and do nothing because you are just so darn tired all the time.  However, a recent study conducted by the health management company, Kaiser Permanente, discovered that women who put on 7 or more pounds during their first trimester had an 80% higher risk of developing gestational diabetes later in pregnancy.

The more weight you gain early in your pregnancy the more weight you will gain through your whole pregnancy.  Weight gain increases the further into the pregnancy you go, so if you pack on the pounds in those first 3 months you could find yourself in trouble later in your pregnancy.  It is important to talk to your doctor or midwife about what your weight gain expectations should be, they vary from woman to woman and depend in large part on whether you started out your pregnancy below average, average or above average in weight.

There are a few things you can start early in your pregnancy that will not only help you avoid packing on too much weight early in your pregnancy but will also help you throughout your pregnancy if you keep them up:

  • Exercise. Even if it is a just a brisk walk in the evening it will help keep you active during your pregnancy which will in turn help feel better, gain less weight and have more energy throughout your pregnancy.  Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
  • Keep a food journal.  This can also be helpful if you are suffering from morning sickness to help identify those foods which help and those that make you ill.  Keeping track of the food you take in will help you make better choices, especially if you weren’t a very healthy eater before you became pregnant.
  • Eat small meals and supplement with small snacks.  Eating throughout the day will help curb your nausea and will also, if you make healthy choices, help you control your weight gain.
  • Make healthy choices.  Avoid high fat, high calorie, high sugar foods.  Choosing lots of fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats will be good for your growing baby and will help you control your weight gain.

You should never diet during pregnancy or overdo it when it comes to exercise.  Weight gain is a part of pregnancy.  The key is to make healthy choices and stay active so that you gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.  Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise you are cleared for.  If you aren’t sure about what constitutes a healthy diet for a pregnant woman ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist so you can have a guide in making the right choices.

During pregnancy there are, of course, the obvious things you need to avoid, like drugs and alcohol.  For the most part though, things in your life can stay fairly normal.  You can carry on like usual eating the foods you love, exercising, etc.  That being said, there are a few other things that are big no-no’s for pregnant women.  Things that need to be avoiding during pregnancy for your safety as well as the safety of the little person growing inside of you.

Things to avoid when pregnant:

  • Contact Sports –  You can continue exercising during pregnancy (unless advised not to by your doctor) but that doesn’t mean you can still do everything you could before you got pregnant.  If you partake in contact sports like kickboxing, martial arts, skiing, football, soccer, etc you should stop during you pregnancy.  The risk of injury to yourself and your fetus is too great with these activities.  Talk to your doctor about what sports are considered safe for you during pregnancy.
  • Hot tubs and Saunas – Water activities are great for pregnant women.  Swimming and water aerobics are great ways to get your exercise without feeling the extra weight and pressure from the pregnancy.  However, it is not safe to use the hot tub and sauna at your local pool (or any where for that matter).  The high temperatures are unsafe.  A rise in your core body temperature can lead to fetal abnormalities.
  • Raw Seafood, Sushi – Seafood, if cook and eaten in moderation, is considered safe during pregnancy.  However, sushi is not.  Raw seafood can carry parasites which could cause you to become ill or affect the fetus.  So if you have a hankering for seafood go for the cooked variety and skip the sushi.

For the most part the list of things you need to avoid is usually short.  There are more things you can continue doing versus those you need to avoid.  Be sure to talk at length with your doctor early in your pregnancy to determine what is considered safe and what you should avoid.  Be prepared for things to change during your pregnancy.  If complications arise your doctor may add a few things to that list of things to avoid.

coffee

For many people, women and men alike, caffeine is absolutely essential to their day.  Going without their usual cups of coffee or tea or soda throughout the day is out of the question.  However, for pregnant women, or women trying to conceive, caffeine may not be safe.  You should talk to your doctor about your caffeine consumption early in your pregnancy and determine if you need to make changes.

Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic.  As a stimulant it elevates your heart rate and your blood pressure, both of which can have a negative effect on your pregnancy.  Also, as a diuretic caffeine causes your to urinate more frequently, affects your bodies ability to absorb calcium and iron and decreases your bodies fluid levels which can lead to dehydration.  Several studies suggest a link between caffeine consumption and an increase risk of miscarriage and preterm births.  Although there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to caffeine consumption during pregnancy most doctors recommend that you stay away from caffeine if you can, and if you must consume some caffeine you should limit your intake to less than 200mg (or about 2 regular cups of coffee) per day.

Many people forget all the things that caffeine can be found in and think mostly about coffee when thinking about caffeine.  However, caffeine is found in all sorts of products including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, lots of sodas, chocolate, ice cream and some pain relievers like Excedrin.  So when you are trying to avoid caffeine be sure to remember it is in a lot more than you think.

If you are a big coffee drinker be sure to talk to your doctor about his or her recommendations regarding caffeine consumption during pregnancy.  When we are caring for this tiny life growing inside of us we want to do everything we can to give it the best start to life.  Sometimes we have to give up the things we love during pregnancy, but it is all worth it.

artificial sweetners

What you consume becomes very important during your pregnancy. Since what you eat can have an impact on the little life growing inside of you it is even more important to make sure what you eat is healthy and safe.  During pregnancy it is recommended that women eat a balanced diet high in fiber rich foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lots of calcium, plenty of protein and lots of water.  That being said, there are also fairly strict recommendationsg regarding healthy weight gain during pregnancy.  To help avoid putting on more weight than they should many women turn to artificial sweetners to help keep their sugar intake down.  But are they safe?

Due to a lack in research into the effects of the artificial sweetners, aspartame (marketed as Nutrasweet and Equal) and saccharin , on a developing fetus most doctors recommend that you avoid these artificial sweetners during pregnancy if you can or at the very least limit how much you consume.  The other common artificial sweetner, sucralose, marketed under the brand name Splenda, is at this time considered safe for consumption during pregnancy.

For the most part natural foods such as unprocessed meats, diary, fresh fruits and vegetables, natural sweetners like sugar and honey, and whole grain breads and cereals are your best bets for a safe, healthy pregnancy diet. If you are concerned about any of the foods you are eating, or have questions about what is safe to eat during pregnancy and what is not, talk to your doctor or midwife.  If you are worried that you are not eating healthy enough consider asking your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist for a consultation on healthy pregnancy eating habits.