The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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1. DON’T “EAT FOR TWO.”
Half of all women gain too much weight during pregnancy, according to recent studies; that’s up from 37 percent in 1993. Research suggests that when moms-to-be gain excess weight, “the babies have a higher risk of obesity later in life,” Ricciotti says. Plus, the mothers tend to retain extra poundage after giving birth.
It’s crucial to base your pregnancy weight-gain goal on your height and prepregnancy weight. (To find out what’s appropriate for you, go to fitpregnancy.com/weightgain.) If you’re expecting twins and your prepregnancy body-mass index (BMI) was normal (18.5 to 24.9), experts now recommend gaining 37 to 54 pounds: 20 to 30 pounds by 20 weeks; 30 to 46 pounds by 28 weeks; and the rest in the last trimester.
If you’re carrying a single baby, you need approximately 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and 450 extra in the third trimester. Doctors disagree on whether you need more calories in the first trimester—if you’re overweight, you likely don’t. But rather than count calories, simply eat until you feel satisfied, and not more. If you have a problem with portion control, seek the guidance of a registered dietitian.
2. DON’T OVERDOSE ON REFINED CARBS
White bread, white rice, sweets and sodas rush into your bloodstream, spiking your blood glucose levels. These spikes may result in fatter newborns, who are at greater risk of being overweight as they grow up. “If you consume the same number of calories but just change what you eat, your baby may have less body fat at birth and a lower risk of future obesity,” Ricciotti says. Limit the white stuff and choose unrefined grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat tortillas and bread.
3. DON’T OVERLOOK FOOD SAFETY
To protect yourself and your baby from harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, “don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, and don’t eat leftover food that has been sitting out for more than two hours,” says Gidus. Also, stick a thermometer in your refrigerator to make sure the temperature is below 40 degrees, cold enough to stop bacteria from growing. Heat deli meats until steaming hot. With Brie, blue cheese and other soft cheeses, check the label to make sure they are made with pasteurized milk; unpasteurized soft cheese can harbor Listeria, which can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage or stillbirth. If there’s no label, don’t take the chance. Stay away from sushi made with raw fish, but you’re welcome to enjoy California rolls containing imitation crabmeat or sushi made with cooked eel.
4. DON’T GO MORE THAN TWO TO THREE HOURS WITHOUT EATING
Grazing not only pumps a steady stream of nutrients to your baby, it also keeps your blood sugar levels steady so you don’t “crash” or become lightheaded. “If you don’t fill the tank frequently, you can bottom out,” says Ricciotti. Smaller meals also minimize heartburn, a common and painful problem as pregnancy progresses and your stomach gets squeezed.
5. DON’T FORGET TO DRINK AT LEAST 12 8-OUNCE GLASSES OF FLUID A DAY
“It’s hard to stay hydrated when you’re pregnant because a lot of the fluid you drink leaks from your blood vessels into your tissues,” Ricciotti explains. Yet hydration is essential for preventing preterm labor; when you’re short on fluids, the body makes a hormone that simulates contractions. Staying hydrated also helps prevent headaches, kidney stones, dizziness and common pregnancy complaints such as constipation and hemorrhoids. You know you’re well hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear.