The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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REALITY CHECK Most experts recommend avoiding raw fish while pregnant because of the risk of being exposed to bacteria and parasites (these infections are often difficult to treat during pregnancy because some medications can be unsafe). But your actual risk may be quite low. “If sushi chefs are well trained and freeze fish adequately before serving it raw, the risk should be extremely low,” says Jeffrey Jones, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other concern, though, is the mercury in some fish: Tuna can be high in this toxin.
WHAT YOU CAN DO Rest assured that if you desperately need to quell a sushi craving or you had some sushi before you knew you were pregnant, chances are you’re fine. To keep mercury consumption down but still benefit from the healthy omega-3 fatty acids in certain seafood, do not eat more than 6 ounces of fresh tuna a week, but do eat up on things to 12 ounces of canned light tuna or other low-mercury seafood, such as shrimp, wild salmon, catfish, sardines and anchovies.
REALITY CHECK You may have heard reality TV star Bethenny Frankel (or even one of your friends or family members) say that breastfeeding was “the hardest thing in the world.” The truth is, 90 percent or more of women can successfully breastfeed, given patience, realistic expectations and support. Most women think they will click with the baby right away and breastfeed effortlessly. If they don’t, many new moms worry that they have an unsolvable problem. “It takes two to three weeks before the mother and baby really know each other and the milk production matches the baby’s needs,” says Laura Viehmann, M.D., a pediatrician in Pawtucket, R.I.
WHAT YOU CAN DO Before you give birth, imagine yourself happily nursing your baby, and have a lactation counselor or doula lined up to provide expert advice if you need it. Also consider visiting a breastfeeding support group before your baby is born. “Women who have seen other women breastfeed are much more able to do so successfully,” Viehmann says.
Nipple pain is one of the most common reasons women give up on nursing, but this can be avoided with a good latch-on technique (watch our step-by-step video here). If you experience even a little pain when nursing, seek help immediately.
Another concern new moms have is that the baby is not getting enough milk, but your expectations may be too high. Newborns only drink about 1 1∕2 ounces of milk in the first 24 hours, and only a few ounces a day in the next few days, because you’ll produce colostrum— the calorie-dense, nutrient-rich “pre-milk”— before your milk comes in on day four or so.
Finally, try to surround yourself with people who will be positive and supportive of your efforts to breastfeed. “It’s a lot harder if you have people around you suggesting that you give the baby a bottle,” Viehmann says.
REALITY CHECK This is a valid concern, especially for the 41 percent of women who gain too much weight during pregnancy and for those who were very overweight before they got pregnant.
WHAT YOU CAN DO Stick to the Institutes of Medicine guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy and you’ll have an easier time taking it off later. If you’re normal weight (your body mass index, or BMI, is 18.5 to 24.9), gain 25 to 35 pounds; if you’re underweight (BMI less than 18.5), gain 28 to 40 pounds; if you’re overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9), gain 15 to 25 pounds; and if you’re obese (BMI 30 or higher) gain 11 to 20 pounds, though some experts believe obese women should stay at the low end of that range.
Try to stay active during your pregnancy and start exercising after giving birth as soon as you get the green light from your OB. Studies show that diet and exercise together to 12 ounces of canned light tuna or other low-mercury seafood, such as shrimp, wild salmon, catfish, sardines and anchovies. can help you lose weight postpartum faster than either tactic alone. And breastfeed: Recent research found that if you stay within the prenatal weight-gain guidelines and feed your baby nothing but breast milk for the first six months, you’ll likely lose all your pregnancy weight during that time.