Researchers know a lot about how to build healthy babies, so it makes sense to follow their guidelines. But if you’re making yourself crazy chasing pregnancy perfection, it’s time to rethink your expectations. Some cut-and-dried rules—always wear a seat belt, for example, and never smoke cigarettes—merit 100 percent compliance. But with most others, pretty good is perfectly fine.
“You don’t need to be extreme to have a healthy baby. You just have to use common sense,” says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., founder of The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Mass., and co-author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect (Three Rivers). In fact, all-or-nothing thinking can have downsides for both you and your baby (see “The Perils of Perfectionism”). Pregnant women often strive for perfection because it gives them a sense of control over the often-scary experience of becoming a parent, Domar says. “But even if you follow every recommendation to the smallest detail, you don’t have complete control. You can do everything ‘right’ and still have problems.” So give yourself a break, aim for “good enough” with the following expert advice and enjoy your imperfectly healthy pregnancy.
Do I have to live in a bubble?
THE IDEAL Adopt a 100 percent clean and green lifestyle.
GET REAL Make small changes that have big returns.
»It’s OK to be selective about organics “Don’t lose sleep if you can’t afford organic food,” says Elizabeth Ward, R.D., author of Expect Your Best: Your Guide to Eating Healthy Before, During, and After Pregnancy (Wiley). But do try to buy organic varieties of the fruits and vegetables on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard greens, potatoes and imported grapes.
»Take into account how much of a particular food you eat “If you’re craving strawberries and are eating a quart a day, buy organic strawberries,” Ward says.
» Don’t feel compelled to throw away every chemical in the house But stay away from garden chemicals; pesticides; smoke and fumes; synthetic fragrances; personal-care and cleaning products, paints and solvents that contain harmful chemicals; and plastics that may contain BPA or phthalates. (To learn more about what to avoid, go to fitpregnancy.com/goinggreen.)
» Avoid home improvement projects that may release lead dust This includes sanding of old paint. Lead is known to cause neurological damage and developmental problems in children.
Do I really have to work out so much?
THE IDEAL Get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week.
GET REAL Work out when you can, and squeeze in bits of activity when you can’t.
» Walking around the block will do Don’t worry if you don’t have time to go to the gym or an exercise class. “Anything is better than nothing,” says Karen Nordahl, M.D., co-founder of Fit to Deliver International.
» Spread exercise throughout the day If you’re more likely to do three 10-minute spurts of exercise rather than one 30-minute chunk, that’s OK; just try to break a light sweat each time.
» Make exercise fun Take a prenatal exercise class (you’ll meet other moms-to-be), walk with an exercise buddy (she’ll keep you entertained and motivated) or borrow a dog and go for a hike.
» Set up short-term goals and rewards You’re less likely to skip your workout if you’ve promised to buy yourself flowers when you meet your weekly goal.