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How to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy

What to eat, what not to eat, and what expect while pregnant

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July 2012

Every mom wants her baby to have the best start possible in life. It's no surprise, then, that many moms worry about getting just the right nutrition for their baby to grow healthy and happy. When you go from eating for one to eating for two, the transition can be stressful and confusing. Here, we will give you some advice on how to stay healthy during pregnancy to make that transition a little less stressful.

A Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet

The most important thing you can do for your baby and for yourself is to eat a well-balanced diet.

Dr. Kelly Kasper, Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis, recommends a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. "Establishing healthy eating habits during pregnancy will carry over after the baby is born and help to raise a healthy child with good eating habits," says Dr. Kasper.

Dr. Sarah Amos, an OB/GYN at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, recommends eating multiple small meals a day and drinking lots of water to help maintain a healthy diet, reduce cravings, and feel better in general!

If you are eating a balanced diet prior to pregnancy, the only change during pregnancy is adding just a bit more to that diet. Most women can expect to consume roughly 300 calories more each day to help their growing baby.

Necessary Nutrients

A growing baby requires certain nutrients. Calcium, folic acid, and iron are the three must-have nutrients during pregnancy, especially during the time of conception.

For proper bone development, it is important for a pregnant woman to consume adequate amounts of calcium. Good sources of calcium include dairy products and green leafy vegetables.

Many pregnant women struggle to consume adequate amounts of iron in their diet. While iron can be found in many foods such as lean protein, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, and dairy, it still may be necessary for pregnant to take an iron supplement.

Like iron, folic acid may need to be consumed in the form of a supplement in order to get an adequate supply. "Folic acid is important to have at the beginning of the pregnancy, as it helps decrease neural tube defects," says Dr. Kasper.

Foods to Avoid

Juice—Juice is often thought to be healthy by pregnant women, but it is rich in calories so it can lead to excessive weight gain. Many carbonated beverages are similarly high in calories and simple sugars that make them poor choices in pregnancy.

Undercooked meat—Undercooked meat can lead to a variety of complications during pregnancy, most importantly food sickness. Food borne illnesses effect pregnant women more severely than women who are not pregnant, so making sure your food is cooked properly is critical.

Mercury-contaminated fish—Certain kinds of seafood are high in mercury and can be harmful to your growing baby. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Unpasteurized foods—Foods that contain unpasteurized milk, such as soft cheeses and eggs, can lead to food borne illness. Be sure to check the labels on your foods to see that they are pasteurized.

Alcohol—Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause many pregnancy complications and/or birth defects. It is best to avoid alcohol completely!

Caffeine—Moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy are okay, but drinking 10 cups of coffee while pregnant is not!

Managing Your Weight

According to Dr. Amos, the average woman should expect to gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. For a woman who is overweight prior to pregnancy, they should gain less—about 15 pounds. For a woman who is underweight prior to pregnancy, they should gain more—35 pounds or more. And of course, a woman carrying more than one baby should expect to gain even more than that.

To maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, Dr. Kasper advises women to plan meals in advance to avoid stopping at fast food restaurants for a quick meal. Keeping healthy snacks around the house is another easy weigh to stay healthy!

Regular exercise is important prior to, during, and after pregnancy. During pregnancy, exercises such as yoga, walking, and swimming are ideal for staying fit and keeping your baby safe at the same time.

For many women, returning to their pre-pregnancy weight after the baby is born is a real challenge. Breast feeding is one of the easiest ways to help return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Women burn roughly 500-800 calories each day breast-feeding. Other ways to help return to your pre-pregnancy weight include eating a healthy diet and exercising!

"Ideally, women return to their pre-pregnancy weight, but it does take time and effort," says Dr. Amos.

The first step to providing for your growing baby is getting informed. Knowing what to eat, what not eat, how to stay healthy, and what to expect during pregnancy is critical for every mom-to-be. Hopefully, these tips and advice will help you to be the best mom you can be!

Tags: In This Issue, Health, Infant & Baby, Maternity

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