Taking Good Care
Taking good care of yourself during pregnancy requires two things: common sense and sound information. In general, you'll want to have a balanced, healthy diet and get regular, moderate exercise. Here are some details:
You need about 300 more calories per day when you're pregnant. General guidelines for your daily food intake include:
- 6 to 11 servings of bread and other whole grains
- 2 to 3 servings of protein
- 3 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 2 to 4 servings of fruits
- 4 to 6 servings of milk and milk products or other calcium-rich foods (if you have trouble digesting calcium, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about how much calcium you should have and how to get it)
- 3 to 4 servings of meat, fish, dried beans
- 6 to 8 glasses of water
Protein: Protein helps form the baby's tissues and your expanding uterus, blood volume and placenta. You should have at least 60 grams of protein per day. If you're having twins, you'll need 100 grams. For triplets, you need 135. Some nutritionists recommend that even women carrying just one child should have 100 grams from the fifth month on. Here's an idea of the foods that can help you meet this requirement:
- One pint of milk = 15 grams of protein
- A deck-of-cards-sized piece of meat, fish or poultry = 15
1 cup of cooked beans, peas or lentils = 15
These give you energy, some protein and fiber (from whole grain). Carbohydrates include oatmeal, pasta, rice, bread, popcorn. Whenever possible, stick to whole grain foods.
Fats and oils:
You and your baby do need fats, but just a little. Use olive or canola oil. Vegetables sources include olives, avocadoes and nuts. The average pregnancy requires no more than 70 grams of fat per day.
Fruits and vegetables:
These provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need. Fresh fruits are best.
If your doctor has prescribed prenatal vitamins for you, take them regularly. But don't take any additional supplements.
What to Avoid
Any drugs that your ob/gyn hasn't prescribed for you.
This means herbal products, including teas, over-the-counter medications and any other medication.
Soft drinks (diet or regular).
The sugar and empty calories are no good for you and the baby, and the artificial sweeteners haven't been proven to be safe. Stick with water, even though this may be difficult at first.
Stay away from cured meats (they contain nitrates and nitrites), artificial colors and flavors, preservatives like BHA and HT and MSG. Natural, unprocessed foods are the way to go.
Alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is one of the leading causes of mental retardation. Since there is no known safe limit on the amount of alcohol you should have during pregnancy, the best choice is to avoid it completely. If you're worried about your ability to stop drinking alcohol, your healthcare provider can give you guidance.
Smoking increases the risk of premature birth, injury to your baby, Sudden Infant Death syndrome, low birth weight and problems with the placenta. It's hard to stop smoking. Talking with your doctor about the best way to quit can be a big help.
Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, PCP, etc. all threaten the health of you and your baby. Talk to your doctor if you need help getting off these drugs.
Raw and undercooked meat, fish and eggs and soft cheeses.
These foods can harbor salmonella, listeria and toxoplasma-microorganisms that can make you sick and threaten the health of your baby.
Try to exercise for about a half hour most days of the week. Regular exercise might help with some common pregnancy problems like backache, fatigue, constipation, leg cramps and varicose veins.
Walking and swimming are especially good pregnancy exercises. It's best to avoid activities with higher injury rates, like skiing, diving, contact sports, horseback riding, etc. During pregnancy, your ligaments are looser and your balance changes. The last thing you need is a serious injury when you're pregnant.
First of all, talk with your doctor to make sure that any exercise is safe. Then, follow these guidelines (and any others your doctor provides):
- Stop exercising when you feel tired
- Don't become overheated
- Drink plenty of water before and during exercise
- Don't exercise outside on hot, humid days
- Avoid lying on your back after your fourth month
As your pregnancy progresses, be sure to listen to your body. If you're a jogger, you may begin to feel uncomfortable, so slow it to a walk. You may have to shorten your activity. Don't go to extremes. The baby will be born soon enough, and you'll be able to get back to your normal activity level.
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; A. Lieberman, L. Holt. Nine Months and a Day. The Harvard Common Press, 2000; P. Spencer. Parenting Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. A Ballantine Book. San Francisco, 1998