You dream that your baby will be healthy, happy and smart – but how can you help?
Start with your diet, says Tereza Hubkova, M.D., of Canyon Ranch in Lenox, who is the mother of a year-old daughter. Eating healthy is a great chance to influence your baby’s development and future abilities in the most positive way possible.
If you’re planning to get pregnant, it’s never too soon to develop good dietary habits, she says. “The most crucial time is the first trimester. The baby is at its most vulnerable then, and lasting damage can be caused by exposure to toxins or certain medications. Often, though, pregnant women do not receive vital information about foods, medications and toxins to avoid until the first prenatal appointment, at the end of the second month or later.”
Dietary do’s and don’ts
If your initial weight is in the normal range, you might expect to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Foods to avoid include caffeine, alcohol, raw seafood (sushi) and poorly cooked meats. Also, deli meats and soft, unpasteurized cheeses are potential sources of listeria, bacteria that can cause infection or miscarriage. Limit fish intake, advises Dr. Hubkova, because most contain mercury. (Learn about the safest fish to eat – visit Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
You can combat pregnancy constipation by eating plenty of fiber. You’ll find it in whole grains, bran and oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, nuts, lentils and other legumes, and fruit and vegetables. Don’t forget to eat your greens: Kale and Swiss chard are great sources of folic acid – important for your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. Do include healthy fats in your diet, from foods such as avocados and nuts.
Don’t forget your vitamins
Supplements ensure you get the vitamins, minerals and trace elements needed for good health and your baby’s development. Take a multivitamin with iron and iodine every day. Check with your physician to make sure your vitamin D level is adequate; deficiencies are linked to preterm labor and preeclampsia. Vitamin A is important, but don’t overdo it, Dr. Hubkova says, as too much may contribute to cleft palate.
Get your calcium as a supplement or by eating greens, lentils, beans or dairy products. Bear in mind that your body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time, so spread out your intake.
TLC for the mom-to-be
“Relax and enjoy your pregnancy,” says Dr. Hubkova. “Stress can lead to low birth weight or premature birth. This is your time to feel like a queen and allow people to look after you.”
You can gently help your body prepare for this special event. Pregnancy yoga is great for ligaments that need to stretch, and may help you have an easier and faster labor, she says.
After the birth, continue to eat healthy. “It may take up to a year to regain your pre-pregnancy weight,” says Dr. Hubkova. “Breastfeeding helps burn more calories. Go for a daily walk with the stroller. When the baby is playing on the floor, do some Pilates or ab exercises, even for just ten minutes at a time.”
Eating right and staying in shape will get you and your baby off to the happiest, healthiest start possible. It’s the best gift a mom can give.