The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Do I have to give up my fave foods?
THE IDEAL Eat all good things and no bad ones.
GET REAL Realize that you have more eating options than you might think.
» Eat a variety of healthy foods If you do this, you’ll likely get the nutrients you and your baby need without having to obsess about the fine points. Most important are fresh fruits and vegetables (especially brightly colored ones), whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meats and fish with omega-3 fatty acids.
» Let yourself enjoy occasional treats Just keep portion sizes small.
» Don’t like fish? Get omega-3s elsewhere “The fetus needs DHA to build healthy brain and nerve tissue and eyes,” says Melinda Johnson, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Most women simply do not get enough of it in their typical diets.” Nonseafood sources include high-omega-3 eggs, flax seed oil, supplements (they’re safe) and some prenatal vitamins. (For more information, see “Something Fishy?”.)
» Don’t like milk? Get calcium from other sources These include low-fat yogurt, cheese, fortified soymilk and fortified orange juice. Or discuss taking calcium supplements with your care provider.
» Don’t eat meat? You can have a healthy vegetarian or even vegan pregnancy Just be careful to get enough protein, iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D3 and omega-3s from nonanimal sources. You may need to consult with a dietitian.
» Go ahead and have some coffee Up to 200 milligrams of caffeine daily is fine—that’s about one 12-ounce cup of joe. Keep these other caffeine counts in mind: tea (40 to 120 milligrams per 8-ounce cup); cola (35 to 47 milli- grams per 12-ounce can); chocolate (9 to 31 milligrams per 1.55-ounce bar); and energy drinks (100 to 500 milligrams, depending on size).
Not stressing is stressing me out!
THE IDEAL Eliminate every source of tension from your life.
GET REAL Avoid aggravation when you can, and use smart coping skills when you can’t.
» Make a list of what causes you stress Brainstorm changes you can make to reduce it. You may not be able to eliminate your long, aggravating commute, but you may be able to lower your stress by one-fifth by working from home one day a week.
» Practice appreciating the present “We spend a lot of time focusing on the future and the past,” says Gina Hassan, Ph.D., a perinatal psychotherapist in Berkeley, Calif. The antidote is to cultivate mindfulness—“paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgment,” she explains.
» Do mini-relaxations when you’re particularly stressed Close your eyes, take a deep breath for a count of four, hold for a moment, then exhale deeply for a count of four. Repeat two or three times.
» Ask for help Most people are happy to chip in if you’re going through a tough time, especially when you’re pregnant or have a new baby.
» Make sleep a top priority Do so even if it means letting other things go. Being exhausted makes you less capable of coping with stress.
» Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t relax “Trying to force yourself to relax is like trying to force yourself to fall asleep—the more you try, the harder it is,” says Hassan.
» Build a support system You’ll need a network of family, friends, neighbors and others who can sustain you through pregnancy and beyond, especially if you don’t have a partner.
» Get professional help for emotional problems This is crucial if you’re feeling especially anxious, depressed, angry or uninterested in activities you usually enjoy.