Pregnancy

‘Drinking Coffee Is Not A Crime’ And Other Tips For Breezing Through Your Pregnancy

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When I was 12 weeks pregnant with my first, I reluctantly signed up for an eight-week prenatal class. Thanks to my Ob-Gyn – one of the best in the city – I already knew the basics: avoid alcohol, load up on fruits and veggies, get enough calcium. Coffee? Not a problem, she told me, so long as it’s in moderation. Alcohol? Steer clear. Folic acid? Consume religiously.

Being an information junkie, I also went online to research everything from epidurals to organic crib sheets. I bought the obvious books but was disheartened to read such old-school advice as, “Get your husband to cook dinner one night if you’re feeling extra tired,” or, “Go ahead, pamper yourself with a pedicure – you deserve it!” (Perhaps I would have appreciated the tips had it been oh, I don’t know, 1962?!)

On day one of prenatal class, I was looking forward to meeting the other moms-to-be – cool chicks with careers and aspirations and strong feelings about impending motherhood. Instead, I got a bunch of overly neurotic-types stressing about unpasteurized cheese and babymoons. These were the women rubbing their barely-there bellies and talking about quitting work to focus on their pregnancy (kind of like those women who leave awesome jobs to plan their wedding – I never understood that – unless you’re, say, Kate Middelton).

Eventually I learned that the best source of information on all things baby are moms (duh). I lucked out in that department by running into a friend of a friend at a random work event who happened to be pregnant with her second. She invited me to join a small prenatal yoga course and, despite hating yoga, I said yes when she assured me that the weekly gathering actually had nothing to do with downward dog and everything to do with pigging out afterwards on a nearby patio. (She wasn’t lying.) And so this group of women became the pregnant new best friends I so badly craved – and they taught me more about pregnancy and parenthood than I could have ever learned from reading a book or attending one of those cheeseball classes.

Here’s what you need to know:

Coffee is your friend. Or at least it’s not your enemy. This advice came from my own doctor, in 2005, when I was pregnant with my first. She said to feel free to enjoy a regular cup or two of coffee each day. A bit of caffeine  isn’t going to kill anyone. Like most things, it’s about moderation (don’t exceed 200 mg in a day). Which is why I almost threw away a 30-year friendship when a pregnant friend emailed: “Let’s grab a coffee one afternoon – but decaf for me!” Or how about a PostSecret Twitter post I once read: “I work at Starbucks. I judge pregnant mothers and decaffeinate their drinks, even though they ask for caffeinated.” Puh-leeze.

Don’t eat for two. You’ll get stoner-like cravings, that’s for sure, but eating everything in sight is a bad idea. Recent research shows that women who gain an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy tend to have chubbier babies – and this may set their children up to be overweight or obese as they age. So what constitutes healthy weight gain? If you’re a healthy weight pre-pregnancy, around 25 to 35 pounds, according to guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine. A good idea is to eat smaller meals more frequently (think five small meals rather than three large ones).

Take your vitamins. A new study in the July 2011 issue of Epidemiology shows that taking prenatal vitamins three months before getting pregnant and during pregnancy cuts your chances of having a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder by a whopping 40 percent. Look for one that contains folic acid (which lowers the risk of birth defects), calcium (builds bone density) and iron (decreases risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight and infant mortality). Delta Lab’s Prenatal Vitamins has all three.

Butt out. Yes, lots of our moms smoked and drank while pregnant with us and we turned out just fine. But that’s no excuse. A large new study shows that babies born to moms who smoke are more likely to have certain birth defects compared with mothers who don’t smoke during pregnancy. The former group had 20 to 30 percent higher odds of having shortened or missing arms and legs, cleft lips or cleft palates, and abnormally shaped heads or faces compared to babies born to nonsmoking mothers.

Chill out. A recent study shows that stress in pregnancy impacts the emotional health of a baby. German researchers at the University of Konstanz found that babies whose mothers were very stressed while they pregnant are more likely to be susceptible to stress themselves because of genetic changes that occur in the fetus. The women in the study had suffered domestic violence, which is fortunately not a typical home circumstance. Still, the study is the first to associate stress during pregnancy with changes in DNA.

Be patient. Yes, creating new life is miraculous. It is also tiring and, especially during this current heat wave, beyond uncomfortable. Still, don’t be in a rush to get this baby out of you quite so fast. Experts now say that planning to give birth too far ahead, either with a c-section or by induction, can be harmful. NPR reports that a full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks and that babies born even a few weeks too early are at greater risk for health problems than those who are born later. Even though 37 weeks is still considered full term, it’s best to wait until 40 weeks if given a choice – there is a difference.

(Photo: Nick Daly)

This post was sponsored by Delta Labs.