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Nutrition

A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you better handle the physical stresses of pregnancy and ensure that your baby receives the nutrients essential for development. Eat at least three meals a day. You may want to eat four to six small meals a day, especially if you experience nausea.

Make it a habit to choose snacks high in vitamins, minerals and protein such as cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of foods that are high in sugar or fat or have little or no nutritional value such as candy, pastries, cookies or soft drinks. Remember, anything you eat, your baby eats.

The following food lists offer guidelines for proper eating habits. Keep in mind that many foods fulfill more than one nutritional requirement. For example, three cups of milk equal three servings of calcium as well as one serving of protein.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Milk and milk products provide calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Although the recommended allowance is usually two to three servings, you need three servings per day during the first two trimesters, and four servings per day in the last trimester.

If you are lactose-intolerant look for special lactose-free products in the dairy section and concentrate on non-dairy sources of calcium such as calcium-enriched orange juice, sardines with bones or broccoli. If you don't like the taste of milk, consume it in other forms such as cheese, pudding or milk-based soups. In additions, limit the use of non-dairy substitutes like condensed milk and coffee creamers, which have little nutritional value.

Fluids

You need to consume extra fluids to aid in the production of amniotic fluid, extra blood and other fluids. These extra fluids also reduce the risks of urinary tract infections, excessive swelling and constipation. You need at least 8 cups of water, fruit juice or milk daily. In addition, you should increase your intake further in extremely hot weather or if you are retaining fluid. Intake fluids over the entire day and do not consume more than two glasses at one time.
You should also limit your intake of caffeine, which can interfere with your sleep as well as negatively affect your baby's development. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, soft drinks and chocolate.

Fruits

Fruits provide vitamins, especially Vitamin C, that are needed for proper growth and development. You should eat two to four servings per day. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so a fresh supply is needed every day. Fresh fruits provide more nutrients than canned or frozen. If, however, you choose canned or frozen fruit, make sure you select fruit packaged in its own juice instead of sugar or heavy syrup. Also, be sure to drink 100% fruit juice rather than fruit cocktails or other fruit drinks that are high in sugar.

Grain Products

Grains supply you and your baby with energy as well as minerals and vitamins, especially Vitamin B. Starchy foods may also relieve morning sickness. You need six to eleven servings of grains per day.
To get the most nutritional value, use whole-grain products such as whole wheat, oat, rye, barley, corn, rice and millet as opposed to refined grains, such as white flour. Limit pastries, doughnuts and cookies which are usually made with refined grains and are high in sugar and fat.

Vegetables

Vegetables provide a range of vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, B6, C and E as well as riboflavin, folic acid and beta-carotene. These are essential for cell growth as well as the development of healthy skin, bones and eyes. You need three to five servings per day. Like fruit, vegetables are best fresh, but you can use frozen or canned. However, avoid fried foods such as french fries or batter-dipped zucchini.

Meat & Protein Foods

Protein builds strong muscles and blood. It is vital to the development of every cell in your baby's body. While you are pregnant, you need four servings of protein rich foods each day. Limit your intake of processed meats and meats high in fat such as hot dogs, bologna, sausage, spare ribs, corned beef hash, turkey wings and bacon. If you are a vegetarian, you can get your protein requirements from foods such as beans, tofu and nuts.

What To Avoid

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and mental retardation in your baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the medical term that describes the many physical and mental problems that affect children born to mothers who drank during their pregnancies. The adverse effects of drinking depend on the amount consumed, the stage of pregnancy and certain susceptibilities in the mother and her baby. The effects of even small amounts of alcohol on the unborn baby are still unclear. Therefore, the safest course to take while you're pregnant is not to drink alcohol at all.

Do not take any medication until you have checked with your healthcare provider. This includes aspirin, allergy medication, large doses of vitamins, homeopathic remedies and prescription drugs.

You should avoid all recreational drugs, including marijuana. Substance abuse during your pregnancy victimizes your unborn child. Amphetamines, crack, barbiturates, narcotics and cocaine have all been linked with low birth weight babies, fetal distress and premature birth. These newborns often begin life by fighting withdrawal symptoms. They also run the risk of sudden infant death.

Stop smoking and encourage your partner to stop as well. Smoking while you're pregnant can impair your baby's growth. Once your child is born, a smoke-free house is a much safer and healthier environment. Children who live with someone who smokes have significantly more colds, respiratory problems and other illnesses.

Exercise

Your physical fitness is another important factor in a healthy pregnancy and delivery. To get in good shape prior to the birth of your baby, and help you shed those extra pounds afterward, you may wish to take advantage of our H.E.A.R.T. Health and Fitness Center which offers a wide variety of exercise equipment, stretching and aerobics classes and general health and fitness instruction. We invite you to call 858-7320 for membership rates and other information or visit our H.E.A.R.T. location at Memorial Healthcare Plaza, 3625 University Boulevard South.

Breast Feeding

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby. It is properly balanced and even changes to meet your baby's needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding throughout the first year; however, any amount of breast milk you can give your baby is very beneficial.

At the Women's Center, we understand the importance of breast feeding. That's why we offer a full-time certified lactation consultant to assist you and answer your questions. We also offer a breast feeding hotline at 391-1538 and a monthly support group.

Everyone on our staff has been trained by the lactation consultant to assist you in learning correct breast feeding techniques and support your breast feeding efforts. For special breast feeding needs, the lactation consultant is available for consultation both during your stay and after you've been discharged from the hospital.

Dad: How You Can Help

Although breast milk is good for your baby, it means that at least in the early weeks you won't be involved in feeding your newborn. This doesn't prevent you from bonding with your baby. You can develop a close relationship by giving baths, changing diapers and playing with your baby. Plus while you help with baby care, your partner can get some much-needed rest.