Pregnancy is one of the most awesome things that a woman will do in her entire life; it is also one of the scariest. Aside from labor and complications with pregnancy, our biggest concern is often the amount of weight we may gain during the pregnancy. While it is certainly not a time to loose weight, or begin a vigorous exercise routine, it is also not the time for reckless abandon. The actual amount of weight that you should gain is very individualized and should be discussed with your doctor. The amount will vary based upon your pre-pregnancy condition. If you are overweight to begin with, the amount will be less than if you are underweight (obviously). Talk with your doctor or midwife to determine what the best goal is for you. That being said, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to make sure you stay on the right track.
- Talk to your doctor and/or midwife about a fitness routine. Let him or her know your concerns and ask what they recommend as a good fitness plan. It should be based upon your current activity levels and any specific medical conditions you may have. Generally speaking, walking and/or swimming are very safe activities while you are pregnant and can usually be done safely for 30 minutes three to five times per week. If you are at a higher level of fitness, you may be able to do more than this safely. It is also very important to rest when you feel tired and always listen to your body. Stop immediately if you feel anything strange or if you have pain anywhere in your body.
- Create a food journal. There are two main benefits from this. First, it keeps you honest about what you are really eating. You may think that you don't eat anything bad, but upon looking at what you actually eat and how much, you may be surprised. Secondly, it makes you think twice about what you are eating. In fact, sometimes knowing that you have to write down that you ate half of a pie will slow you down from eating the other half. Obviously this is only going to work if you accurately report what you are eating and how much. Writing only what you would like to think you eat instead of the truth does you no more good than having an empty notebook.
- Make a menu plan and use it to shop. This is very important. Be sure to plan for several small meals everyday and a couple of healthy snacks. Don't be afraid to use convenient foods such as pre-washed and bagged salad greens and frozen cut vegetables. You don't have to make your life more difficult to eat well. Try to eat 45-60 grams of lean protein daily. Fill the rest of your meals with fresh vegetables and whole grain starches such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta and high-fiber foods. Healthy snacks to keep around are nuts (if you don't have an allergy), fresh fruits, cottage cheese, hard cheeses (pasteurized), dried fruits such as cranberries or raisins, granola bars, protein bars and real fruit snacks. You should also keep some of these available in your purse or book bag for when the urge to snack strikes outside of the house.
- Drink lots of water. You may have heard this before, and for good reason; it's healthy! In fact, you should do this when you are not pregnant, too. Clean water helps your body flush out toxins and extra fat. It is also essential for proper kidney function. Water is extra important during pregnancy since your kidneys are working twice as hard. You should try to drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water daily, in addition to whatever other beverages you choose drink. Only water is water, and nothing else should be counted for this total each day.
- Allow yourself some goodies. If you plan on allowing yourself the treats you crave, you are eliminating guilty feelings and lowering your tendency to totally pig out on junk. Be sure that you are honestly recording in your food journal when you do this, so you keep yourself in check. This way you are truly enjoying your treat!
- Don't over do it. Too much of anything can be bad, exercise and diet included. You shouldn't obsess over any of this. Rest when you are tired and enjoy your beautifully changing body. You should be more occupied with preparations for the up and coming arrival than how many times you exercised this week. Try to appreciate this time in your life; you will miss it more than you think.
- Enlist the help of your family and friends. Share your goal and concerns with everyone in your household. Let them know what they can do to help--like not bringing junk home, or healthy meal preparation. You will be surprised how much people are willing to help when they know what they can do. Those who love you will want to help do what is best for the health of you and your baby, so don't be afraid to ask. Maybe what you need is someone to walk with a few days a week, or someone to help you carry fresh produce home. If you don't ask they won't know you need help, so talk to them from the beginning.
Aside from these basic tips, there are a lot of resources that are already available to you. Your doctor and/or midwife or local health department should have a list of things that you can do locally during each phase of your pregnancy. As always, your library is a good place to start, as they usually have lots of videos, DVD's and books. Online you can find groups of other women who are in the same position as you, or you can check out sites such as http://www.mothering.com/ or http://www.fitpregnancy.com/ for example. There are materials already available if you want to find them. You just need to make a little effort and you should be able to gain a healthy amount of pregnancy weight without worry.