The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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You’ve heard plenty about the childhood obesity epidemic. What you may not know is that moms-to-be are contributing to the problem. When women weigh too much at conception or gain too much during pregnancy, they can set their children on the path to obesity and add to the next generation’s weight struggles.
Heavy moms-to-be who follow a regular workout regimen are more likely to stay within the recommended weight-gain guidelines, according to a study of 82 second-trimester women published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And it's best to start exercising earlier in pregnancy rather than later.
Three decades ago, maternal-fetal medicine specialist Yvonne Thornton, M.D., was determinedly shedding the 67 pounds she gained during her first pregnancy when she found out she was expecting another baby. Thornton vowed not to let that derail her healthy eating habits again. “There was a strong dictum back then that no matter what you weighed, you should gain 26 to 35 pounds during pregnancy or risk fetal death,” says Thornton, now an OB-GYN professor at New York Medical College.
Not long ago, I was bouncing with my 3-year-old twin boys in one of those street fair blow-up castles when—oops!—I felt a bit of urine spurt out. It happens a few times a year, typically during a forceful sneeze, and it’s a reminder that all is not the same, bladder-wise, as before I got pregnant.
Nearly 30 percent of American women today are obese when they begin their pregnancies. This means they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, as would a 5-foot-4-inch woman who weighs 175 pounds. Now, how much weight these women should gain while pregnant is being debated.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), or high blood sugar during pregnancy, used to be relatively rare, occurring in about 3 percent to 4 percent of pregnancies. But in recent years, the rate has doubled— now, up to 6 percent to 8 percent of moms-to-be are diagnosed with this prenatal complication. And new recommendations lowering the cutoff point for diagnosis may lead to an even more dramatic increase.
1. A half tablespoon of ground flaxseed sprinkled on cereal and salads can help control cholesterol, which can soar during pregnancy and breastfeeding, says Stacy Goldberg, R.N., a nutritional consultant in West Bloomfield, Mich. Credit its fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans.
2. An ounce of high-cocoa content (dark) chocolate several times a week may help prevent high blood pressure (a common problem during pregnancy), studies show.
From traditional meals with family to laid-back gatherings with friends, this time of year is a minefield of social activities centered around food and drink. “Most people hang up their diet hat during the holidays because they feel they can get back on the program later,” says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. But when you’re pregnant, you don’t have the luxury of giving up a healthy eating plan—even for a few weeks.
How much weight to gain during pregnancy is a tricky issue. Guidelines exist, but health experts are reviewing them because so many women of child-bearing age are now overweight.
If you want your baby to develop healthy eating patterns, don’t load up on cheeseburgers and milkshakes while you’re pregnant. Research on rats found that a high-fat prenatal diet produces permanent changes in the offspring’s brain that ultimately lead to overeating and obesity. Study author Sarah F. Leibowitz, Ph.D., says that triglycerides, unhealthy fats that are elevated in the blood after high-fat meals, stimulate brain chemicals that cause us to eat more. In her study, she fed pregnant rats a high-fat diet, then replaced it with a normal diet just before they gave birth.