With the barrage of conflicting information about what to do—and what not to do —when you’re expecting, moms-to-be are more confused than ever. Many just throw up their hands and hope their maternal instincts kick in.
To break through the hype and misinformation, we asked William Sears, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California Irvine and best-selling author of more than 40 books, including the recently released The Healthy Pregnancy Book, to share the most important things you should do when you’re expecting.
Grow a brighter baby.
Since the baby brain is 60 percent fat, choosing the right fats is key. Studies show that the children of moms who eat safe seafood during pregnancy, or take omega-3 fish oil supplements, have higher IQs. These smart fats help boost your baby’s brain development. Saturated and trans fats, on the other hand, cross the placenta, clogging cell membranes. Trouble is, the average American women gets only 150 mg of omega-3s daily—a far cry from the recommended 500-1000 mg.
Graze on superfoods.
Grazing throughout the day not only keeps your belly (and baby) happy, it also staves off pregnancy-related woes like reflux, constipation, and low blood sugar. As a general guide, limit the size of your mini-meals to the size of your fist, which is roughly the size of your stomach. More than a fist full, particularly as your pregnancy progresses, is likely to produce belly pain. Top choices include fish, nuts, eggs, avocadoes, yogurt, greens and oatmeal.
Your body is like a giant walking pharmacy. All you have to do is set those internal medicines in motion to dispense the right dose at the right time, without harmful side effects. In fact, studies show that women who exercise during pregnancy have higher levels of natural pain relievers called endorphins in their bloodstream and report less pain during than those who don’t move.
Environmental toxins can do the most damage during the first trimester when the organs are forming the fastest. In addition to the obvious culprits — drugs, alcohol and nicotine — myriad substances can cross the placenta and wreak havoc on baby’s development, even those generally recognized as safe. A few to avoid: monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (a sugar substitute), and high fructose corn syrup.
Consider laboring in water.
Water releases muscle tension and saves energy for where it’s needed: Your uterus. Immersing your body in a warm tub soothes your mind, reduces stress hormones, and allows your body’s natural relaxing and pain-relieving hormones to take over. A bonus: Being in the water is like a continuous body massage, stimulating all the touch receptors in your skin, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?
By Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H.