The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Doing all the right things
"Am I exercising too hard? Am I eating the right (or wrong) foods? What if I eat three servings of fish a week, rather than the recommended two?"
— Stacy Whitman, Ketchum, Idaho, mother of Whit, 2, and pregnant with twins
We live in an information society—or, as some people believe, a too-much-information society. The result can be anxiety. "There's a certain fear that comes from reading and hearing reports of medical studies that are not put into proper context," says OB-GYN Michael S. Broder, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of The Panic-Free Pregnancy (Perigee Trade). "It's important that pregnant women put this information in perspective."
Yes, you should follow a few common-sense rules to help keep yourself and your baby healthy: Get regular prenatal care; eat a healthy, balanced diet; exercise regularly; avoid dangerous chemicals, cigarette smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs. But you don't need to make yourself crazy. "The same healthy guidelines that people should be following for a lifetime is what they should do while pregnant," Broder says. "If all women did this, they would have a much greater impact on the outcome of their pregnancy than by avoiding nail polish and limiting their fish intake."
Reality check: Still not convinced that your feta fetish isn't harming your baby? Consider Broder's words: "Reproduction is the most important function from an evolutionary standpoint, and pregnancy is extremely well protected."
Not feeling connected to the baby
"Between morning sickness and disappointment over gender, I just couldn't bond with my baby. I didn't care that I was pregnant, I didn't want to be pregnant (and it was planned!), and I worried that I'd never get over it and really love my child."
— Emily Steele, Columbia, Md.,
mother of Noah, 31/2, and Daniel, 5 months
Thoughts like these are often tied to physical discomforts (it's hard to feel the love when you're hanging over the toilet), fears (a self-protective mechanism can kick in if you're worried about miscarriage) or, sometimes, disappointment (such as over gender). Yet in most cases, there is no cause for concern. "Bonding isn't instant; it happens in degrees," says Gayle Peterson, M.S.S.W., Ph.D., a family therapist in Grass Valley and Oakland, Calif., and the founder of makinghealthyfamilies.com.
Peterson, who is also the author of Making Healthy Families (Shadow & Light Publishing), adds that if a woman isn't feeling a connection with her budding babe early on, the maternal juices usually start flowing as the pregnancy progresses. "When she has her first ultrasound or begins to feel her baby move, a woman typically feels more reassured that the baby is real, that the baby is safe," she explains. "At that point, the bonding process usually begins."
Peterson adds that if a woman is feeling extremely ambivalent or unattached to her baby at any point in her pregnancy, she should seek professional help.
Reality check: Some women tend to be more emotionally cautious than others. Even if you're not convinced that you're bonding properly with your baby throughout pregnancy, as you get to know your child, the love will grow over time.