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Diet & Exercise
Q. I'm 19 weeks pregnant and my husband finds me to be very unattractive. He can't even look at me even when I have clothes on. He stated that I'm grouse and disgusting because I've gained some weight and my torso is discolored and puffy. Can I do a low carb diet without harming the baby?
A. Unless you are gaining an unusual amount of weight, I would not attempt a diet. Most OB/GYNs say you should gain about 25-35lbs. during a pregnancy. My girlfriends and I like to stretch that rule a little to 35-50lbs. being okay. At this point in your pregnancy, you should be gaining about a pound a week. Dieting may deprive the baby of nutrients she/he needs for proper development. If you are convinced that you need to lose weight, consult your doctor before making a plan.
As for your husband, men's reactions to pregnancy can vary quite a bit. My friend Nicole's husband found her pregnancy and all of its symptoms to be fascinating and he was never more obsessed with her body. On the other hand, my friend Natalie's husband seemed to be threatened by the existence of the pending baby and withdrew physically from her until after the baby was born.
Remember that your body is a miraculous tool that is hard at work making a human life. You will notice changes as a result that may not always be glamorous. If your husband doesn't see and appreciate the beauty in your pregnancy, that's his problem. : p
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Q. I am amazed and happy at age 40 with my first pregnancy two months along. Up to now, I've been very active in sports—running and swimming. My doctors said I can continue exercising as long as I keep my heart rate under 140 and listen to my body for any signs of distress. So far it’s been fine except for side stitches. I am getting a little worried about the side stitches and also a little depressed about not being able to stay fit exercising as long as possible into the pregnancy. I am well aware the body changes, but I don't wish to turn into a total weak blob. So far I can't find any straight answers on exercise's impact on a more mature age pregnancy or any insight about these annoying side stitches. Any thoughts, please?
-Anonymous, New York
A. I did pregnancy both ways: the first time overweight with little exercising, and the second time fit and exercising throughout. I think you have a huge advantage going into pregnancy as fit as you are. You're right, there's no reason to stop (I actually found exercise to be the biggest help battling fatigue and nausea), but you do need to listen to your body and keep your heart rate down a bit. Don't worry about cutting back a bit in your regimen. You will not become a “total weak blob.” Just being pregnant is a workout in itself! Your body requires an extra 300 calories a day. And, while exercising, you burn as many as 200-400 calories an hour.
As far as the side stitches–shocking, isn't it? When I first felt this stabbing pain, I thought something surely must be wrong. I later found out that it is quite normal. It's the stretching of the tendons and ligaments in the abdomen that, when jostled, can contract quickly and cause pain. You may even get the stabbing sensations while doing something as minor as rolling over in bed. These pains will lessen in a few months, but will be replaced by Braxton Hicks contractions. Oh joys!
Q. I am six weeks pregnant. I'm not fit at all and I am 33 years old. Is this a problem? What do you suggest I do? How often should I exercise? What would be over-straining? I am nervous my weight will make my pregnancy difficult.
A. It's true that women who are fit usually have a more comfortable pregnancy. If you have not already been exercising, now is not the time to start a strenuous regimen. You can, however, do light exercise and gradually build yourself up to a more intense workout. Walking and light weight lifting will improve your cardiovascular health and muscle tone, but do start out slowly. If you feel dizzy or experience any pain, slow down.
It may also benefit you to watch what you eat during pregnancy. Don't diet, but don't overindulge like I did with my first pregnancy. I felt like being pregnant gave me license to eat, and boy did I!
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Q. I was wondering if I can have feta cheese while pregnant? I have been eating a lot of Greek salads lately and I am 13 weeks pregnant. And what about blue cheese dressing?
A. Supposedly, you should avoid all soft cheeses during pregnancy, including blue cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese and brie, because they may contain certain bacteria that could spoil and cause food poisoning. Ultimately, it's the food poisoning that is the most dangerous for a pregnant mother. If you've already had these cheeses and been fine, I wouldn't worry, but you may want to avoid them in the future- just in case. Personally, I still consumed these cheeses occasionally during pregnancy but would check to be sure they were fresh first.
Q. How important is it REALLY to drink a lot of water when you're pregnant? I'm way too busy during the day and have not been drinking a lot. I catch up a little in the evenings and never really feel "thirsty."
-Cindy, North Carolina
A. It is recommended that you drink about two quarts of fluids a day during pregnancy. It doesn't all have to be water. Juice, de-caf tea or milk can count towards your two quarts. Is it important to follow this guideline? I think so. Your baby requires plenty of fluids to develop; your uterus, breasts, and amniotic sac become engorged with fluids; and your body is working overtime to filter out toxins (baby's waste, and so on.) from your system, making you urinate much more frequently. Of course, the more you drink, the more you urinate, but it's a trade-off that's well worth a healthier baby and mother.
I know it's hard to find the time in a hectic schedule to add yet one more daily task. You might try to force down two cups of water before work, then keep a bottle of water in your car, on your desk and by your side for most of the day so when you think of it, you can take a quick sip.
p.s. When you feel “thirsty,” your body is already dehydrated and that is not good for you or the baby.
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Q. I am trying to get pregnant and have had no success for the past six months. In the past I had terrible dieting habits which included the use of diet pills, diuretics, laxatives and yo-yo dieting. I am wondering if my past habits could have affected my chances of becoming pregnant. I now have a healthy diet (for the past six months) with exercise. A pre-natal vitamin and an occasional Tylenol are the only drugs I take.
-Anonymous, New York
A. I don't think your past dieting habits could be affecting your reproduction chances now. It may take your body a few months to get back to a more normal reproduction schedule of regular periods and ovulation, though. If you have been having normal periods and ovulating regularly for six months or more, you may want to "try" harder before you consult your doctor. See the other "trying really hard" question for more details.
Q. I am four months pregnant and I have a problem eating vegetables. I don't like any vegetables at all. They make me disgustingly sick to my stomach. I can't even force myself to eat them. Is there anything I can do to get the same nutrients that are in vegetables?
A. If your aversion to vegetables is a result of your pregnancy, you may find it to be just a phase that will soon pass. Maybe by next week you will be detesting cheese, but craving carrots. Try not to worry too much. Your body instinctually craves the nutrients it needs.
If you have always detested vegetables, this may present a problem as a growing fetus does require a variety of nutrients for the best possible development. You can try liquid or pureed vegetables– a carrot juice drink can be quite good, or a can of V-8. A last resort would be to get the nutrients in a pill form. Ask your doctor or local pharmacist which ones may benefit you.
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Q. I became pregnant in October - the season of pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding and yams. All of those foods are high in Vitamin A and I ate all of them in mass quantities. I did not learn of the Teratogenic effects of Vitamin A on pregnancy until I was about six weeks along. I have recently been reading about the possible birth defects caused by Vitamin A toxicity. Could you please let me know why this is not more widely publicized and what my chances are that my child will have these birth defects (cleft palate/lip, neural tube defect, neural crest defect or missing limb)? I am very scared. Thank you!
A. I'd never heard of the Teratogenic effects either, so I went online and did some research. Here is what I've unearthed: a few studies have shown links between ingesting large quantities of Vitamin A and birth defects - the Teratogenicity effect. These studies also show that there is significantly less correlation between birth defects and Vitamin A consumption from food alone, which would be your case. I have also found that Vitamin A and beta-carotene are significantly reduced in fruits and vegetables when cooked. I can't imagine your pumpkin pie, pudding and yams were made with raw vegetables.
I think these studies are not widely publicized because a typical diet usually does not include ingesting large quantities of Vitamin A. And, the same birth defects that may be linked to mass Vitamin A consumption are also known to appear from Vitamin A deficiency. Plus, most pregnant women have an aversion to raw vegetables in the first few months. They can make you so gassy.
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Q. Would it be harmful to diet in the first three months? I’d like to lose about ten pounds before the second trimester comes and the weight starts to come too.
-Sue, New York
A. Unless you are obese and your doctor has told you that you must, I don't think dieting during pregnancy is a good idea. Proper nutrition and sufficient calorie intake during the first three months are especially critical to the baby's development.
The good news is that if you're worried about becoming a big fatty, you probably won't.
I did pregnancy both ways: the first time I ate like a fiend and became quite overweight. The second time I just ate when hungry and gained 20lbs. less. Of course, the second time I was much more conscientious about what I ate, as you seem to be.
Q. To my shock, I just found out I'm seven weeks pregnant. My biggest fear is that for the past seven weeks I have been drinking coffee and eating chocolate on a regular daily basis. I have now quit cold turkey, but I am scared my caffeine fixes caused problems to my fetus.
Thank you for your advice.
-Anonymous, New York
A. Caffeine consumption during pregnancy is considered one of those "maybe" risks. There have been no substantial studies done on humans proving that caffeine use is harmful to the fetus. It is believed, though, that high does of caffeine may possibly cause a higher risk of miscarriage, withdrawal and increased risk of SIDS in newborns.
Try not to worry. I think these "maybe" risks are only associated with women who ingest large quantities of caffeine throughout their pregnancies. Since you are cold turkey now, you and your baby should be fine.
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