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The Forbidden Foods of Pregnancy

By: Andrea Howe

Pregnancy is such a strange time for a lot of us women. No matter if it’s our first or our fifth pregnancy, there’s always new ground to cover, uncharted territory to cross, new fears and new delights to be discovered. As I write this out, it sounds silly even to me, but the subject I always have the hardest time navigating through with each pregnancy is the ever dreaded and evolving list of foods to eat and stay away from. At each doctor’s appointment, when the nurse asks if I have any questions for the doctor, I inevitably always have a question about food. Here are some of the foods I eat with wild abandon, and the ones that I suspiciously stay away from.

Now this list in no way should be considered medical advice and a proven safe diet for a pregnant woman. Essentially, this is the list of foods that over the course of the years I have developed and feel comfortable with (for my own strange reasons) eating and avoiding. It’s interesting that as the years have passed, there are certain categories where I’ve relaxed, and certain categories where I have drawn the line in the sand and vowed to not touch.

Deli Meats and Hot Dogs

With my first pregnancy, I avoided these items as much as possible, but by the second and now the third, days have gone by where the only thing I have survived on were deli meats and hot dogs, no joke. During week 13-20, I had a ham, cheese and egg bagel every single morning. And at least 5 nights a week I had to have a hot dog, as if my life depended on it. I posted a picture of a hot dog on Instagram one night saying “Again with the nitrates.” I made sure to have a conversation with my doctor about my obscene consumption of deli meats and dogs and she assured me I’d be okay, and so would Baby. But the first time around I would have never eaten these items so much.

Soft Cheeses 

I could eat brie and crackers with salami and consider it dinner, so when I heard that you were supposed to stay away from soft cheeses when pregnant I felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me. By the time I found out that it was really only unpasteurized soft cheeses you should avoid, I felt like I had been jipped out of months of avoiding one of my favorite foods. I now eat feta, goat cheese, gorgonzola and brie as usual, but always confirm it’s pasteurized, especially at restaurants.

Caffeine 

I’ve always felt it was okay for me to drink one caffeinated beverage per day, on the okay from my doctor. I had one friend that was so paranoid of caffeine she didn’t even eat chocolate during her pregnancy. I was never this way, but I do admit that I have strange ideas about caffeine that I’m sure hold no factual evidence. For instance, I think dark roast coffee must have more caffeine than your standard hazelnut, so I always avoid dark roast. Or that certain teas have less caffeine than coffee beans, so I order a chai tea latte rather than a regular latte. I think it’s just my way of feeling okay with drinking some caffeine each day.

Fish

So this category is where I’m the most strict. Don’t ask me why, as I’m sure some will say that drinking caffeine almost daily is worse than eating fish, but there’s just something about avoiding fish that helps me feel like I’m doing the right thing for me and Baby. Even items that are on the safe list like salmon and tuna every once in a while are foods I avoid. I looked it up and found that oysters were safe to eat, so I ordered a few the other night and felt such guilt after eating them that it wasn’t even worth it. Someone questioned me on this the other night as I was avoiding a smoked swordfish appetizer like it was the plague, and they said “Do you really think there’s enough mercury in this tiny appetizer to harm the baby?” And I said, “Probably not, but I just feel better not chancing it.” It’s where I draw the line in the sand and don’t cross it.

I’m sure my food list doesn’t make the most sense, but for me it helps me feel a bit more in control during a time where you feel like so much is out of your control. So are you super strict with your diet and avoid certain foods when pregnant, or do you hold a relaxed view and eat almost anything?

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Pregnancy Weight Gain: What's Healthy?

From Mayo Clinic

Like it or not, pregnancy weight gain is inevitable. Your baby's growth and development depend on it. Eating for two isn't a license to eat twice as much as usual, however. Use healthy lifestyle habits to control your pregnancy weight gain, support your baby's health and make it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery.

Pregnancy weight gain guidelines

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy weight gain. How much weight you need to gain depends on various factors, including your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). Your health and your baby's health also play a role. Work with your health care provider to determine what's right for you.

Consider these general guidelines for pregnancy weight gain:

Pre-pregnancy weight Recommended weight gain
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) 28 to 40 pounds (about 13 to 18 kilograms)
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) 25 to 35 pounds (about 11 to 16 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) 15 to 25 pounds (about 7 to 11 kilograms)
Obese (BMI 30 or more) 11 to 20 pounds (about 5 to 9 kilograms)

When you're carrying twins or other multiples

If you're carrying twins or other multiples, you'll likely need to gain more weight. Again, work with your health care provider to determine what's right for you.

Consider these general guidelines for pregnancy weight gain if you're carrying twins:

Pre-pregnancy weight Recommended weight gain
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) 37 to 54 pounds (about 17 to 25 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) 31 to 50 pounds (about 14 to 23 kilograms)
Obese (BMI 30 or more) 25 to 42 pounds (about 11 to 19 kilograms)

When you're overweight

Being overweight before pregnancy increases the risk of various pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Although a certain amount of pregnancy weight gain is recommended for women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy, some research suggests that women who are obese can safely gain less weight than the guidelines recommend. Work with your health care provider to determine what's best in your case and to manage your weight throughout pregnancy.

In addition, remember that if you gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy and you don't lose the weight after the baby is born, the excess pounds increase your lifelong health risks. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can also increase your baby's risk of health problems at birth and childhood obesity.

When you're underweight

If you're underweight, it's essential to gain a reasonable amount of weight while you're pregnant. Without the extra weight, your baby might be born earlier or smaller than expected.

Where does pregnancy weight gain go?

Let's say your baby weighs in at 7 or 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms). That accounts for some of your pregnancy weight gain. What about the rest? Here's a sample breakdown:

  • Baby: 7 to 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms)
  • Larger breasts: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Larger uterus: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Placenta: 1 1/2 pounds (about 0.7 kilogram)
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Increased blood volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Increased fluid volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Fat stores: 6 to 8 pounds (about 2.7 to 3.6 kilograms)

Putting on the pounds

In the first trimester, most women don't need to gain much weight - which is good news if you're struggling with morning sickness.

If you start out at a healthy or normal weight, you need to gain only a few pounds (less than 2 kilograms) in the first few months of pregnancy. You can do this with an extra 150 to 200 calories a day, about the amount in 6 ounces (170 grams) of low-fat fruit yogurt.

Steady weight gain is more important in the second and third trimesters - especially if you start out at a healthy weight or you're underweight. This often means gaining 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms) a month until delivery. An extra 300 calories a day - half of a sandwich and a glass of skim milk - might be enough to help you meet this goal. If you began your pregnancy underweight, your health care provider might review your diet and physical activity level and suggest boosting your calories more.

The menu

It would be easy to add calories to your diet with junk food, but this won't give your baby the nutrients he or she needs. It's more important to avoid overeating and make nutrient-rich choices. Consider these suggestions:

  • Trade white bread and pasta for the whole-grain variety.
  • Choose a salad with low-fat dressing or black beans instead of a burger and fries.
  • Eat sliced fruit instead of a cookie.
  • Choose juices fortified with calcium and other nutrients.

Working with your health care provider

Your health care provider will keep a close eye on your weight. Do your part by eating a healthy diet and keeping your prenatal appointments. To keep your pregnancy weight gain on target, your health care provider might offer suggestions for boosting calories or scaling back as needed.


1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use.


Image: Getty Images


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Doula: Do You Need a Doula?

Holding senior hand in the hospital

What are the benefits of having a doula?

A doula, or a professional labor assistant, provides physical and emotional support to a woman and her partner during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

For instance, a doula might offer:

  • Suggestions on pain relief techniques, such as breathing, labor positioning and massage
  • Emotional reassurance, comfort and encouragement
  • Information about what's happening during labor and the postpartum period
  • Assistance with breast-feeding
  • Guidance and support for loved ones

Often, however, a doula's most important role is to provide continuous support during labor and delivery. Although research is limited, some studies have shown that continuous support from doulas during childbirth might be associated with:

  • A decreased use of pain relief medication during labor
  • A decreased incidence of C-sections and forceps deliveries
  • A less difficult childbirth experience

Keep in mind that while a doula might add another opinion to the mix when decisions need to be made about labor and delivery — a doula doesn't provide medical advice as a midwife or health care provider would do or replace the role of your health care team. Also, most insurance plans don't cover doula fees.

If you're interested in hiring a doula, ask your health care provider, childbirth instructor, family or friends for recommendations. You might also contact your local hospital or health department for a referral.

When interviewing a potential doula, ask about his or her training, how many births he or she has attended, his or her philosophy about childbirth, what services he or she provides and the cost. Also, discuss your preferences and concerns about pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Once you hire a doula, typically you'll meet with him or her during your third trimester to plan for childbirth.


This article was from Mayo Clinic and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Image: Getty

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Ready, set, register!

Step one: Make a list

You’re itching to wield the registry wand. But before you hit the shelves you should start with a checklist. There are lots of reputable baby gear book or web sites that can help you list out what and how many of everything you’ll need. Always be a little skeptical of any registry list supplied by a store itself.

Step two: Do your research

An alarming number of baby products, including cribs, crib bumpers, quilts, infant slings and bath seats have been associated with serious baby accidents but are still sold anyway. You want to make sure your list is only safe stuff that you really need. The Web site for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov) is a good place to become familiar with baby product risks.

Step three: Field test

Don’t be shy about doing some hands-on field-testing for big-ticket items like your baby’s crib, stroller, high chair and car seat. Go to a store that lets you get hands-on and “test drive” models, buckling the buckles, taking high chair trays off or folding and unfolding the strollers. Remember, if a buckle is annoying or difficult in the store, you’re going to face that same problem a thousand times when you’re using it with your baby.

Step three: Edit down to your essentials

Here’s another money and space-saving tip: don’t register for too much of the fun stuff. Sure, the dress-up outfits, toys and novelty pacifiers are adorable, and if there’s something you’re absolutely dying for, put it on the list. But it’s also fun to let your friends and family surprise you with that cute-and-yet-totally-impractical stuff. Keeping a short and simple list will help your friends and family focused on what you truly need to keep your bases covered when the baby is born.

Step four: Exchange

If you do get a dozen baby monitors, save those gift slips and don’t hesitate to exchange extras for what you’re lacking. You can also get gift cards to use later — they will come in handy as your baby grows older to buy bigger sized baby clothes or even diapers and wipes.

Sandy and Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Best Baby Gear. Order your copy from Barnes & Noble

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Pregnant Women and Nesting

You know the feeling—the nesting instinct that strikes mid-pregnancy when you suddenly feel compelled to alphabetize the pantry or dust every closet crevice before baby’s grand entrance. It’s totally normal, and you’ll feel even more so when you see how overboard some women go.

Deck (and deck and deck) the halls: "During my second trimester, I went over the top doing up the house for Christmas…before Thanksgiving even happened. I seriously had the house fully decorated and all of the Christmas gifts bought and wrapped. I then made it my mission to host every single Christmas party possible—mainly so I could use all of my newly-purchased Christmas dishes. My friends still laugh when they recall that Christmas season!"
—Sarah Beakes, mom of one, Wilmington, North Carolina

Too much TP: "When I was pregnant, I purchased toilet paper every trip to the grocery store—lots and lots of toilet paper. In my head I was preparing for the snowstorms, until April rolled around…and I was still purchasing toilet paper! One day, a woman looked at my grocery cart loaded down with paper products and said, ‘You’re nesting!’
—Jody Stacoffe, mom of one, Elkridge, Maryland

Special delivery: "A few weeks before my first baby was due, I developed a desperate need to bake as many cookies as possible. I’d bake dozen after dozen each day, then I’d walk outdoors and give them to neighbors. After I had the baby, I cut back but still baked. I needed the calories—at least that’s what I told myself."
Melissa Diskin, mom of three, Decatur, Georgia

A door for two: "When I was pregnant with our first, I convinced my husband that the door on baby’s bedroom needed to be a Dutch door—the kind where the top part opens, so I could hear her breathing, and the bottom part closes, so our dogs couldn’t get in (mind you, we had the gentlest pets on the planet). My husband quietly obliged my crazy request. He cut the door in half and re-engineered it. I think I actually used it as a Dutch door at most three times."
—Joyce Krom, mom of two,Huntington Woods, Michigan

Home makeover, extreme edition: "When I was pregnant with twins, I transformed from a frugal, sensible woman into a shopaholic. I wanted new flooring and new furniture in the entire house, not just the nursery. In the end, my non-hormonal husband convinced me to save our money and keep the flooring. But I got him to paint the house…and I still have my eyes open for new furniture!"
—Brandi Wallace, mom of two,San Diego, California

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Pregnancy Worries To Relax About

Concerned about the new things happening to your body? Read these reassurances so you can better enjoy pregnancy, from point A to point Baby.

That first-trimester fatigue? It's followed by a second-trimester glow.
The increased blood flow that happens during the second trimester gives you a flattering just-got-off-the-elliptical flush—even if you’ve just been vegging on the couch.

That morning sickness? Not everyone gets it.
Estimates vary widely on the percentage of women who have to deal with a sour stomach, but doctors say they have plenty of pregnant patients who never have nausea.

That bowling ball formerly known as your belly? You'll embrace it.
"At the start of my pregnancy, I was a little worried about how big I'd look—I wasn't slim to start with," says Ilene Epstein, a mom of one in New York City. "But as the months passed, my size didn't matter. I was fascinated by this baby growing inside me, thrilled by her kicks and darn proud of my bump!"

Those whirlwind hormones? They can work to your benefit.
OK, so you might get a little moody at times, but pregnancy hormones often make hair fuller and even shinier.

That weight you gained? You’ll shed it.
"Neither me nor my joints were prepared for the sudden weight gain during pregnancy," says Ellie Agah, a mom of one in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. "I dealt by going swimming. Not only was the feeling of weightlessness wonderful, but it also gave me plenty of energy and kept me in shape. I stuck with it after I had the baby, and the weight came off!"

That nesting instinct? It won't drive you crazy.
"I never really believed in that nesting instinct until it happened to me," says Sara Norris, a mom of three in Scituate, Massachusetts. "Out of nowhere in my third trimester, I had this sudden urge to clean closets and line everything up in the kitchen cabinets. This has not been a bad thing; it’s really helpful to keep stuff in order once you have kids. Otherwise, you’ll spend your life looking for things you’ve lost, including your mind!"

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Pregnancy Stuff that Drives You Nuts

Your belly’s growing—and maybe your list of pregnancy gripes is, too. Shrink those annoyances down to size with these proven fixes.

Ack! Nausea!

"I had an incredibly keen sense of smell and it made me constantly nauseous," says mom of one Annie Jenkins of San Antonio, Texas. "Sucking on lollipops kept the queasiness at bay. I had a stash in my purse and they helped tremendously, even if I did feel like I was 5 years old."

Ack! Back issues!

About 70 percent of women have lower back pain during pregnancy. Try soaking in a warm bath, doing gentle stretches, taking a yoga class (check with your doctor first), or treating yourself to a prenatal massage.

Ack! The comments!

"I was amazed that people commented on my appearance," says Lynn Whitlock, a mom of three from Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Someone actually said she could tell I was having a boy because my backside looked so big! I just had to remind them—and myself from time to time—that being pregnant is not being ‘fat.’"

Ack! Swollen feet!

Bloated feet and stilettos don’t mix, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick up your heels. Pick up a pair of low wedges; they provide more support (and comfort) than a spike.

Ack! Getting babied!

"People at work made such a fuss over me, even holding meetings in my office so I wouldn’t have to walk three feet to the conference room," recalls Doreen Murphy, a mom of one in Chapman, Kansas. "I know they meant well, but I hated feeling so helpless. Finally, I just said my doctor wanted me to get up and walk around. No one could argue with that!"

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5 Key Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding

  1. Hold off on buying the breast pump. They can be pricey, which is why many women choose to register for them. You could also rent a pump from the hospital or a medical supply store and see how things, er, flow before you commit to owning.

  2. Get only one nursing bra. Eventually you’ll need a few, but wait to stock up until about 10 days after the baby’s arrived, when your breast size has stabilized, says Freda Rosenfeld, a certified lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York, and mom of three. Start off with a nursing bra that’s a cup-size larger than your current one; give it a test run before the baby’s born to get used to the hooks.

  3. Moisturize. Rosenfeld tells moms to rub a little olive oil—which is super-moisturizing—onto their nipples starting a week before they give birth. OK, so you might smell like a salad, but it’ll prevent soreness from the baby sucking on too-dry skin.

  4. Get yourself good support (and not just the bra kind). Consider taking a breastfeeding class, which will cover the basics; many hospitals offer one-time classes. You could also attend a breastfeeding group once or twice. “Even before you give birth, you’ll be tapped into a network of committed breastfeeders,” says Sharon Panzica, a mother of one in Willamette, Illinois, who started going to La Leche League meetings and liked them so much, she became a leader.

  5. Try not to worry. “Before my first child was born, I was stressed out about how breastfeeding would work," says Jessica Schwerd, a mother of three from Gansevoort, New York. “Worrying did me no good. Does it ever? Once I started, it took a little time to get into a good rhythm—but it took!”

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5 Key Ways to Be a Happier Breastfeeder

  1. Be a breast woman. "In the first few weeks of your baby's life, try to focus on feeding your baby—everything else can wait," says Freda Rosenfeld, a certified lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York, and a mom of three. "Women are so used to multi-tasking, but when you've got a newborn, getting yourself dressed and getting him fed are accomplishment enough!"

  2. Sit up straight. Yep, just like mom told you. Good posture can make the difference between a relaxing nursing session and one that ends with an achy back, neck, and shoulders. A nursing pillow can help, but bedroom pillows work, too: one behind you and the other on your lap so that you're not slouched over.

  3. Save your nipples! "It took me until kid number three to figure out that if you use the lanolin cream before a nursing session, you can actually prevent blisters," says Kim Beekman, of Saratoga Springs, New York, "With my first two, I had always used it as a post-treatment."

  4. Try nursing horizontally. "My milk comes out faster and my baby nurses longer if I do it lying down," says Jennifer Lane, of Lebanon, Oregon, a mother of three. "It also forces me to stop what I'm doing, lay down and snuggle my baby. It's a great way to feel refreshed throughout the day.”

  5. Go public (or don’t). Totally up to you. If you’re nervous about nursing in public, find an out-of-the-way bench or chair, like that corner booth in the food court. Or try that trés-chic mom look: A lightweight scarf or receiving blanket draped over your shoulder and your baby’s head. Not into breastfeeding at the mall? No worries. "Some women don’t feel comfortable nursing in public,” notes Rosenfeld, “and there's nothing wrong with that. Do what works for you.”

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3 Things Pregnant Women Should Do, But Most Don't

By: Michelle Horton

Now that my sister is pregnant (see below), it’s given me a chance to reflect on what I discovered during pregnancy that no one told me. Things that my sister never would have thought of without a little well-meaning advice.

Here are three things that pregnant women should consider doing, but many don’t:

1. Take a prenatal breastfeeding class. You already know about Lamaze or The Bradley Method or any other kind of labor prep class, but I’d suggest taking a specific prenatal breastfeeding class — preferably taught by a certified lactation consultant. The amount of information you need to breastfeed — the physiological facts, baby positioning, feeding frequencies, complication troubleshooting — is much more involved than labor. And it’s also nice to have a lactation consultant on hand that you’re already comfortable with. Your body instinctually takes care of the labor (although a labor prep class can help ease anxiety of the unknown, and also help you to know your options and rights), but the breastfeeding? That doesn’t quite feel instinctual.

2. Prenatal yoga. I found yoga to be one of the most important preparations for my non-medicated labor, but I imagine it to be beneficial for any kind of labor: learning how to center yourself, to meditate, to get in tune with your body. And, let’s not forget, the breathing. See more about how prenatal yoga translates to labor.

3. Get properly fitted for a bra. Of course all women should probably get fitted for a bra by an actual expert — because apparently most of us wear the wrong bra size — but it’s especially important during pregnancy. Your heavier ever-growing breasts need proper support (pregnancy is a danger-zone for future sagging) and some relief from the incessant soreness. I swear: getting properly fitted will change your life. In fact, I’m taking my sister to get fitted for a new bra this weekend.

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