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Are you gonna eat that? That's a bag of Cheetos and an apple fritter. My God, girl, what are you thinking? That's what you brought to your labor room for nourishing sustenance during one of the biggest physical endurance events of your life? You're joking, right? You're not actually going to wash it back with diet orange soda. Heh heh. That's funny.
OK, not all that funny. That's what I see over and over again. Women come in to the maternity unit armed with stuff we can't really call food and plan on eating it all day. Once the baby's born, somebody from the clan heads straight out to Mickey D's or KFC and brings back mountains of other stuff we can't really call food. And this is the foundation of baby's nutritional education. Right from the start, baby's learning that food comes deep fried, neon colored, in logo-covered greasy sacks, preferably with a tiny plastic toy. Come on, ladies. Can't we do better than that? The answer—oh yeah, baby, we can. It starts with what you're putting in your mouth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 65% of Americans are currently either overweight or obese. Between 17% and 34% of children are overweight. Obesity is at the top of the list of all disease causing contributors from diabetes and heart disease to cancer. Obese women are far more likely to develop complications during pregnancy and have a much higher than average cesarean section rate. Nutrition and exercise are the most effective preventative measures against disease and yet, we're not taking this anywhere near seriously enough. Parents who will be vigilant about car seats, quality day care and gun safety won't be doing nearly enough to protect their children and will actually be doing intentional harm. Intentional? Yes! Who out there doesn't know that fast food and junk food are bad for children? Nobody has any excuse for that kind of ignorance anymore. Especially if you're raising the next generation of American citizens.
I'm no fanatic. I'm happy to buy my kids the occasional donut or ice cream sandwich but not often. Fast food? Processed foods? Rarely. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts and low fat dairy? Every single day. This is important. Their nutritional education and lifetime health is at stake. OK, I admit to a serious filet-o-fish craving that I absolutely indulged occasionally with one of my pregnancies. And then there was the Haagen Dazs vanilla and almonds ice cream bar fix that had to be tended, but I also ate my broccoli. I drank water, not soft drinks. My point? Maybe a squeaky clean diet isn't something you're reaching for, but you've got to try. For your children's sake. You only need 300 extra calories while pregnant. Choose healthy ones.
Here's what to eat while in labor: Not much. Juice, fruit, broth, yogurt, crackers. Light foods with a solid nutritional base. Nothing heavy. Labor's no time to pig out. Women get queasy when their abdomens contract along with their uterus every couple of minutes all day long. Once you're in big serious labor, your appetite goes bye-bye. You might even throw up and get the runs—Mother Nature's way of cleaning house. If you've got an epidural, it's ice chips only for you. The digestive process slows way down and anesthetists frown on patients filling their tummies with lots of yummies then throwing all that up. It's not the vomit that bothers us—we're used to it. It's the potential for aspiration pneumonia (inhaling food particles into the lungs).
Once you've delivered, assuming it's vaginally, you can eat whatever you want. If you've had a cesarean section you'll get clear liquids (Jell-O, juice, broth) several hours after delivery. We'll move you on up to "full liquids" (soup, custard, sherbet) several hours later and once your tummy gives us evidence it's working again, we'll start feeding you regular food. How can we tell you're ready? We listen to your stomach with a stethoscope hoping to hear gas rumbling around. Then we'll ask if you're passing any of that rumbling gas. It's a glamorous job, isn't it?
Eat well, ladies. You know what you're supposed to eat and if you don't—start reading. Ask your doctor/midwife. Drive past the fast food. Get to know your produce market. Walk, do yoga and drink water. It's not that hard and it's the best thing you can do for your baby—keep their Mama healthy. Teach them to prevent disease right from the start. Sure, have a cookie. Just don't eat the whole bag. It's up to you to bring the obesity rate down by raising the next generation of healthy children.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.