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Answers to the Top 50 Most-Asked Pregnancy Questions

Get Advice from BabyFit Members and Experts
-- By BabyFit

Pregnancy is a time of endless excitement, happiness and love. It's also a time of great change in both mind and body.

BabyFit was created to help you have the happiest, healthiest pregnancies possible. To further ease your pregnancy, we have compiled 50 of the most common questions about pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood. We consulted our experts, talked with our members and searched our Message Boards and compiled the most comprehensive answers possible. We've given you professional advice, mothers' sage tips and additional resources in this new Answers feature. From breast changes to itching, weight gain to hair coloring, we've got the Answers to your pregnancy questions!

Click on any of the topics below for more information.

Abdominal Pain/Round Ligament Pain in Pregnancy

Abdominal Exercises: Are They Permitted?

Artificial Sweeteners: Can I Have Them?

Backache

Bed Rest/Pelvic Rest

Body Changes

Braxton-Hicks Contractions/Practice Contractions

Breastfeeding, First Weeks

Breast Changes during Pregnancy

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during Pregnancy

Cats and Other Pets: Risks during Pregnancy

Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeinated Beverages: Can I Drink Them?

Due Date Changes

Emotions

Exercise during pregnancy

Fetal Activity/Movement: When Should I Feel My Baby Move and How Often?

Food and Supplements: What Should I Avoid?

Forgetfulness aka Mommy Brain

Gestational Diabetes

Glucose Tolerance Test and Challenge

Hair and Nails: Can I Still Get Them Done?

Hair Changes and Hair Loss during Pregnancy

Headaches during Pregnancy

How many calories should I consume, and when should I eat them?

Itching

Kegels: How Do I Do Them?

Labor Signs

Miscarriage, Signs of Concern

Nausea: How Much is Normal?

Postpartum Exercise

Postpartum Weight Loss

Pregnancy Books and Information

Pregnancy Loss

Prescriptions/Over-the-Counter Medicines: What can I take?

Progesterone Supplements

Seat Belts

Separated Abdominal Muscles (diastasis recti)

Sexual Contact during Pregnancy

Signs of Pregnancy

Sleep, Difficulty during Pregnancy

Sleeping or Lying on Your Back

Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Spotting: Should I Be Concerned?

Stretch Marks

Swelling

Travel during Pregnancy

Twins or more: How Do Multiples Affect Pregnancy?

Vaginal and Urinary Tract Infections

Vaginal Discharge: When to Be Concerned

Weight and Weight Gain: How Much is Too Much?

Didn't find the Answer here? Check out our comprehensive Ask the Experts feature, with more helpful parenting and pregnancy advice from BabyFit's experts and staff.

1. Abdominal Pain/Round Ligament Pain in Pregnancy
Abdominal/round ligament pain can come and go as your baby has growth spurts. The added tension causes the pain until the ligaments adjust to the increased tension. You might feel sharp stabbing pains during movement or dull, continuous aching pains in the lower abdomen.

What Members Say:
"I saw a prenatal chiropractor during my second pregnancy, and he helped immensely with both round ligament and sciatic nerve pain."
NEANOE

"Hold your legs close to your body when you know the pain is going to hit. The overstretching of the ligament is what causes the pain. I also use a small wedge pillow to hold my belly up off the mattress so rolling over isn't as painful."
CANARYJEN

What the Experts Say:
Ask your medical provider about getting a referral to a physical therapist. A physical therapist can develop a stretching program that will help address some of the pain. Some women also find that wearing a belly support belt can help take some of the pressure off the ligaments, especially during walking.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
Maternity Support Belts
Beat Pregnancy Pain the Holistic Way
How to Handle Hurting Hips
Making Way for Baby

2. Backache
Back pain is not uncommon during pregnancy. In fact, it is totally normal as long as it is not sharp or debilitating. As you gain weight in a localized portion of the body, your body compensates in the way you walk and carry yourself, which puts stress and strain on the lower back in particular. Add to that the increase in hormones that are relaxing the joints and ligaments throughout the body, and it is no wonder that back and round ligament pain are such a common complaint.

What Members Say:
"If your lower back hurts try hanging out in deep water. Walk in chest deep water or just hang with some floaties in the deep water. For the past three workouts, I have felt like a chiropractor had just adjusted my back (in a good way)."
.B2B.

What the Experts Say:
A stretch that should help ease your discomfort is: pelvic tilts on all fours (tuck your pelvis under, pull your belly button to spine, and round only your lower spine like an angry cat).
Tips for easing sitting:
  • Always place a lumbar support (a rolled-up towel, small pillow, or even a sweater) in the small of your back as you sit.
  • Use an ice pack when your back is sore. Simply wrap it in the lumbar support and ice for 15-20 minutes every hour or so.
  • Use a small box or step to rest one foot as you sit in your chair.
  • If possible, fit your chair to your body. Raise or lower the seat so that when sitting, your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
  • Be aware of your posture as you sit. Your bottom should be as far back in the seat as possible and your back should be resting against the back of the chair. Scoot your chair close to your desk to avoid leaning forward too much.
  • Stand up and stretch your back every half hour. Place your hands on your hips, feet shoulder width apart, and stretch backward as you look up.
  • Sit in your chair with your feet as far apart as possible. Lean forward, dropping your arms between your legs until your feel the stretch in your lower back.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
Exercises and Stretches for Back Pain Relief
Ask the Expert Advice

3. Bed Rest/Pelvic Rest
There are a variety of reasons that a medical provider will recommend pelvic or bed rest. Some of the more common reasons include low placental placement, incomplete cervix, spotting, cramping or premature labor. Pelvic rest is less restrictive and typically includes keeping the pelvis "quiet" by avoiding any vaginal penetration. Bed rest can mean anything from being in bed all the time except for bathroom privileges, to no exercise and resting a certain amount of time each day to the most restrictive, which is hospitalization and continual monitoring.

What Members Say:
"When I was on bed rest (for 3 months), I thought I would go crazy looking at the same four walls--and the physical pain was very difficult at times. One of my saving graces was Pregnancy Bedrest: A Journey of Love, by Wanda Hale. This book is written by a woman who had bed rest twice for 3 months each time, and she also is a therapist. Before I got this book my attitude was very bad. The information about positive thinking gave me back a sense of hope and joy about becoming a mother. Also, there are some great bed rest exercises for pain and stiffness (my doctor approved them first) and a lot of information about how to set up your bed rest space. Also, my favorite part of the book is how to deal with your emotions--I felt like a basket case before this book. If you can afford the $12, it is worth buying. Try and keep a positive focus, and before long you will be off bed rest."
ELLIEGD

What the Experts Say:
For most women it means the difference between a life-threatening and life-saving pregnancy. Here are some tips that will help your transition go smoothly include:
  • Have handy supplies such as water, snacks and the remote nearby.
  • Prepare a list of things you might need for the week ahead of time.
  • Create a support group of friends, family, and neighbors to help you accomplish the household and everyday tasks that you are no longer able to complete.
  • Have a wide selection of books and magazines within easy reach.
  • Prepare a schedule for yourself so you have something to look forward to each day.
  • Take the time to brush your hair and change your clothes. You'll feel better about yourself and your baby.
Antigone Arthur, BabyFit Contributor

Additional Resources:
Bed Rest: An Expectant Mom's Survival Guide
Bed Rest Mommy Team

4. Breastfeeding, First Weeks
When it comes to breastfeeding, preparation is the key. Talk with family and friends who have successfully breastfed. Check out breastfeeding books at your local library. And definitely sign up to take a breastfeeding class, taught by a certified lactation consultant. During this class you will learn breastfeeding basics, tips and techniques, and do's and don'ts. With hands-on instruction, you will be exposed to different holding techniques, basic nipple and breast care, milk storage methods, ways to determine if your infant is getting enough milk, and info on how and when to use a breast pump. You'll learn what to do if problems arise and know when it is necessary to call your doctor or the pediatrician.

Breastfeeding is the natural and healthy way to feed your child, but it can be hard and trying for the first few weeks until mom and baby have established a strong feeding relationship. Many moms are tempted to give up, but when they are supported and helped through those first weeks - most are glad they stuck with it.

What Members Say:
"To simplify the picture for you, remember these three words: supply and demand. If your baby demands it, your breasts will supply it. This is particularly important as you are waiting for your milk to come in and building your supply. The more your baby nurses, the faster your milk will come in and the stronger your supply will be. You can't nurse too often, but you should nurse at least 8-12 times in a 24-hour period for the first few days."
NOT_A_WITCH

What the Experts Say:
In the first days of breastfeeding, new moms are always concerned about whether their baby is getting enough to eat. Although answering that question would be so much easier if your baby could tell you whether she is hungry or full, new parents can monitor a few signs (like their diapers and their weight ) to see if their breastfed baby is thriving. There are several things that are NOT good signs of whether you are producing enough for your newborn:
  • The sensation of let down
  • The presence of leakage
  • How the breasts feel
  • How frequently the baby nurses
  • How happy or content the baby is
  • How much milk can be pumped
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Breastfeeding: Benefits and Resources
Breastfeeding Buddies Mommy Team Breastfeeding 101
Breastfeeding: Frequently Asked Questions
Breastfeeding: Evaluating Your Milk Supply
What I Wish I Had Known about Breastfeeding - Advice from BabyFit Moms Who Breastfed

5. Breast Changes during Pregnancy
Sometimes breast tenderness is the first sign of pregnancy. It is normal for women to notice tenderness of the breasts due to the increases of female hormones in the body. The breasts can also become bigger early in pregnancy because of increasing milk glands.

As the breasts grow throughout pregnancy and the skin stretches, itchiness and stretch marks are common. As more blood begins to be supplied to the breasts, more noticeable bluish veins can appear. Many women notice that their nipples will stand out more and are darker in color. Some women may also experience leaking. This leakage is colostrum, also called beestings, first milk or immune milk. Colostrum is high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies and low in fat. Some women don't start producing colostrum until after the baby is delivered. Whether or not you leak colostrum has no affect on whether or not you will be successful with breastfeeding, so don't worry if you do not leak but plan to breastfeed.

What Members Say:
"I feel like I don't recognize the person in the mirror every morning...the changes seem to be happening so quickly. I had no idea I would struggle with this aspect so much - I completely understand and respect what my body is doing, but I somehow feel like mentally (or maybe it's emotionally) I just can't keep up with it."
CSLACK

What the Experts Say:
Breast tenderness is very common during early pregnancy. You may want to take a "hands-off" approach, sexually. Be sure to share this with your partner. As the tenderness decreases, you may want to enjoy the pleasures of your full and firm breasts again.

During the later stages of pregnancy, some women begin to produce colostrum. Colostrum is pre-milk that can leak from your breast during sexual stimulation. It is nothing to worry about. However, if it bothers you or your partner, you can refrain from breast play.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Registered and Licensed Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Thread From the Community - words from the wise on BabyFit
The Ever-Changing World of Making Love During Pregnancy

6. Braxton-Hicks Contractions/Practice Contractions
Braxton-Hicks contractions, or "practice contractions," usually begin around 28 weeks of pregnancy. They can start earlier for some women, especially those who are frequent exercisers. Braxton-Hicks contractions cause your stomach to become rigid and hard, which many are able to feel when they touch the belly. Typically this rigid and hard contraction will last only a few minutes. Some women describe some moderate pain in the front of the abdomen, which can radiate down the body.

What Members Say:
"You may not even realize you're having them. Despite having read about them many times, I didn't think I had had any either, until my last appointment. My midwife was about to measure my belly, and she pointed out that I was having one. My husband and I just thought the baby was sticking his head or butt out against the front, so that's why it was hard/solid to the touch, but she said it was definitely a Braxton-Hicks. I now see why people say "tightness," but it doesn't feel like a muscle contracting to me at all -- more just like the skin getting a little tight because it's being stretched. Apparently they can feel QUITE different for different people."
ALISON1234

What the Experts Say:
Exercise can trigger Braxton-Hicks contractions, especially activity that is weight bearing like walking, running or aerobic dance. Also, lifting weights may cause you to get a contraction as you lift. Some women find that if they become even slightly dehydrated it brings on Braxton-Hicks contractions, so make sure you're drinking plenty of water throughout your exercise.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
5 Things You Might Not Know about Labor & Delivery

7. Due Date Changes

The first day of your last menstrual cycle, not the day of conception (when the egg is fertilized), is typically the day the doctor uses to determine your baby's due date. This results in a typical 40 week expectation (280 days to delivery from your last menstrual cycle) for pregnancy. (This is why nine months of pregnancy is not equal to 40 weeks.)

What Members Say:
"The EDD (estimated due date) on the doctor's wheel works by estimating when you probably ovulated (assuming a 28 day cycle and ovulation on day 14) and assuming that you conceived on the day of ovulation. If you ovulated late or conceived a few days later, for example, the EDD will be wrong. Once you've had an ultrasound, the doctor will measure the baby's growth and tell you a new EDD."
LIN1235

What the Experts Say:
It is important to remember that estimated due dates are just that - an estimation. Even those who are trying to conceive and paying very close attention to what is going on with their body do not know "exactly" when egg fertilization and attachment to the uterine wall actually takes place. Alternatively, some women who aren't paying close attention don't know exactly when the FIRST day of their last menstrual period was. Some doctors will make alterations in dates based on fundal height of the uterus or measurements taken during an ultrasound that can make the dates fluctuate throughout the pregnancy. The bottom line is that most healthy babies arrive on their time, between 38 and 40 weeks. Be patient and just think about the EDD as an approximation of when your precious little one may join your family but not as the expected date of arrival.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
The Beginning of Pregnancy

8. Fetal Activity/Movement: When should I feel my baby move and how often?
The first fetal movements are called quickening and are described by many women as a "fluttery" feeling. This typically is noticed between weeks 13 and 16 after the start of the last menstrual period. It is not uncommon for first time moms to not notice these flutters as baby movement as soon as women whole have experienced it before. It is not uncommon for first time moms to start feeling movements between 18-20 weeks.

What Members Say:
"I am 10 weeks and I have just started feeling something that kind of feels like little Q-tips very lightly bumping against my lower abdomen."
THETURNERS

"About the last 4-5 days or so I have definitely been feeling the baby and more and more throughout the day. It's more like pushing or a pressure from the inside or something like that vs. jabs or kicks. (It's hard to explain how it feels, huh?)"
KRISTYRE

What the Experts Say:
As babies continue to develop, they kick, punch and roll and respond to noise, mom's emotions as well as certain foods. Moms can begin to notice patterns to wake and sleep patterns as well. Many medical professionals suggest counting baby's movements each day from around 28 weeks. Lie on your left side, relax and see how long it takes to feel 10 movements at about the same time each day. If you notice any big changes in the pattern, it is always best to contact your medical provider especially later in pregnancy.
BabyFit

Additional Resources:
Baby Kick Chart

9. Headaches during Pregnancy
There are different causes of headaches - tension, sinuses, hunger, stress, allergies, dehydration and migraines. As with many symptoms during pregnancy, the leading cause of headaches is changing hormone levels. Unfortunately, if you have sinus headaches or a history of migraines, you may battle those as well as random pregnancy hormone-related headaches. Trying to identify the cause of the headache can help you identify how best to cope with it.

What Members Say:
"My doctor asked me if I cut back on caffeine, and yes, that was part of the problem. I used to drink up to 3 caffeinated drinks, and then I stopped cold turkey when I got pregnant. So, I added back one caffeinated drink in the AM and that helped the headaches decrease."
SLEEPLESSMOM

What the Experts Say:
Understanding the cause can help you identify options to help you feel better. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
  • If your headache is from fatigue, you might try taking a nap to catch up on some rest, especially if you are in the first weeks of pregnancy.
  • If you have a tension-related headache then doing some yoga or going to a dark and quiet place and doing some relaxation techniques might be the way to go.
  • If you haven't eaten enough or it was awhile ago, your blood sugar could be on the low side. Get a snack, making sure it is a balance of complex carbohydrates and proteins.
  • If you are suffering from a sinus headache, then you might want to try a cold or warm compress or some saline nasal drops for relief.
  • If it is a migraine, then you will want to talk with your medical provider about additional options during pregnancy.
Note: If your headaches persist for more than four hours or you have other symptoms (fever, visual disturbances, sudden dramatic weight gain, or puffiness in your face or hands), call your medical provider.

Additional Resources:
Low Carbs and Pregnancy - Part 1: The Great Debate
Is Your Exercise Program Wearing You Out?
Mind-Body-Spirit Exercises Fit for Pregnancy
Tai Chi During Pregnancy-A Safe Mind-Body Workout
What's Brewing with Caffeine?

10. Miscarriage and signs of concern
Pregnancies are filled with new symptoms as well as new worries. Each twinge, spot or cramp leaves many new moms-to-be with questions and fears of loss. Most symptoms are a normal part of a new pregnancy--including spotting and some cramping. Trying to remain calm and positive can be hard but can be beneficial when you simply don't know what is going on and there really isn't anything you can do but wait.

What Members Say:
"Every little cramp bothers me, I'm definitely nauseated and my breasts are incredibly tender, but my stomach feels tight, too. Then I worry that I'm stressing about it too much and that it will cause problems. I hope everything goes well, but the next time I think I might be pregnant I'm going to wait a few extra weeks before I take a test. I hate the waiting game."
BabyFit member

What the Experts Say:
It is important to try and not overreact if you see a little brown spotting. Brown indicates old blood, and it is not necessarily a sign of miscarriage. Spotting is not uncommon as part of "implantation," and so is bleeding at about the time of your typical menstrual cycle or after intercourse. You want to assume your spotting is related to one of these unless the bleeding worsens.

If you experience bright red blood that resembles the start of your monthly period, cramps in the pelvic area, passing tissue or blood clots or pain in the lower back or abdomen you will want to get off your feet and contact your medical provider and ask what you should do next. It may indicate miscarriage, but some women have some bleeding and still have viable pregnancies (and delivery healthy babies) so take it easy, try and relax and avoid stress, which can make problems worse. Expect the best while you work with your medical provider to confirm what is going on.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Anyone Else on Progesterone?
Progesterone Levels - Anyone Know About This?
Coping with Pregnancy Loss - Getting Support after a Miscarriage
Coping with Your First Miscarriage Mommy Team

11. Nausea: How Much is Normal?
About half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness or nausea. For the vast majority of women, morning sickness and nausea aren't serious conditions, and they don't pose risks to their babies. However, a severe and serious form of pregnancy sickness, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, can pose health risks to both mother and baby.
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is frequently described as consistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that prevents the woman from eating food and drinking fluids. This severe nausea and violent vomiting prevent the body from retaining and utilizing food and fluid. Some common concerns associated with untreated hyperemesis include:
  • rapid loss of weight (sometimes more than 10% of pre-pregnancy weight)
  • dehydration
  • critical nutrient deficiencies in early pregnancy
  • metabolic imbalances, including ketosis
  • inability to participate in previous levels of activity, including daily living
What Members Say:
"I'm finding that if I don't let myself get to the hungry point, I can avoid the morning sickness. I have crackers, fruit, popcorn, Luna bars, whatever around so I have something to munch on. Ginger ale has also helped me, but I've heard other women say they use ginger candies, too."
KYOAKSLUV

"Try lemon drop hard candy. I also found that 7-Up helped me, and the Orbit Citrus flavored gum."
HEATHER_M

What the Experts Say:
Here are some tips that may make you more comfortable:
  • Stay away from strong smells and foods that make your stomach queasy. When cooking, open a window or use the exhaust fan to get rid of odors.
  • Keep a diary to find out which foods cause the worst reactions.
  • Listen to your body. Ask yourself what foods and beverages might ease the nausea. Consider different flavors, textures, aromas, and temperatures. Keep some of these foods at home and at work so you are able to react immediately.
  • Eat and drink whatever stays down. It is important to stop the nausea, then move on to feeding the body nutritiously.
  • Eat 5-6 small meals a day.
  • Stay well-hydrated and drink fluids throughout the day. Experiment with ginger ale, ginger tea, lemonade, lemon tea, fruit juices, water with lemon, and carbonated beverages.
  • To help with early morning nausea, have a light snack before getting out of bed. Try crackers, dry cereal, potato chips, lemonade...whatever sounds good to you to eat.
  • Avoid foods that trigger a bout of nausea. This could be greasy and fried foods, gas-forming foods, or spicy foods.
Additional Resources:
Menus for Morning Sickness
Pregnancy Sickness
Natural Cures for Pregnancy Symptoms
More Than Morning Sickness (What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?)

12. Signs of Pregnancy
Despite all the joys motherhood brings, pregnancy itself can sometimes be challenging. Pregnant women the world over endure similar symptoms in the beginning weeks of pregnancy. Among the more common are nausea/morning sickness, abdominal twinges, breast tenderness and fatigue. Some of these can be the first signs that a woman is even pregnant.

What Members Say:
"What were your pregnancy symptoms right before you got a BFP (big fat positive)? I have been pregnant 2 times. My breasts feel like I am breastfeeding and need to pump, I have some minor cramping in my pelvic area, and I am so tired!"
LUV4MY3BOYS

"Sharp pinching pain in lower abdomen (implantation pain?), tenderness on both breasts, sleepiness. I knew I was pregnant before my missed period on both pregnancies."
1BOY_1GIRL

What the Experts Say:
Anywhere from 6 to 12 days after conception, the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall. It is not uncommon for some women to experience light spotting and some cramping. Of course a missed menstrual cycle is one of the first clear signs that a woman could be pregnant. Many also experience swollen and/or tender breasts, fatigue/tiredness as well as nausea/morning sickness. While some women will experience many or all of these symptoms at the start of pregnancy, others will only have a few symptoms until a few weeks into the first trimester. Try not to fear that anything is wrong if you are one of the lucky ones who only has some minor discomforts and a positive pregnancy test. It is important to make sure you confirm your pregnancy with your medical provider so you can get started on the right medical care for you and your baby.

Additional Resources:
Pregnancy Frequently Asked Questions
Natural Cures for Pregnancy Symptoms

13. Spotting: Should I be concerned?
There are many causes of bleeding during pregnancy including implantation bleeding, miscarriage, premature dilation, placental abruption or the onset of labor. Bleeding or spotting early in pregnancy is very common even though it would not be called normal. It happens in about 25% of all pregnancies.

What Members Say:
"I've had one healthy pregnancy, with extreme pink spotting every month for 6 months. It just required me to take it easy and put my feet up each time. I had many ultrasounds to make sure baby was OK... and she was. Sometimes we're just bleeders."
3LILPEANUTS

What the Experts Say:
Early in pregnancy, spotting is not uncommon as part of "implantation," around the time of your typical menstrual cycle or after intercourse. However, if you experience bright red blood that resembles the start of your monthly period, cramps in the pelvic area, passing tissue or blood clots or pain in the lower back or abdomen - you will want to get off your feet and contact your medical provider and ask what you should do next. In later pregnancy, if there is any spotting it is best to get off your feet right away and contact your medical provider immediately.

Additional Information:
6 Natural Ways to Pamper Your Pregnancy
Answers to Common Pregnancy Questions

14. Swelling
It is completely common during pregnancy to experience mild swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, and hands. Your body produces as much as 50% more blood and bodily fluids during pregnancy to meet the baby's needs. Some of this extra fluid leaks into your body tissue and is pushed into your legs, feet and hands.

What Members Say:
"I was starting to swell. I mentioned it to my doctor, and he just monitored me but told me that it was normal. It's abnormal when your face gets puffy--that's a sign of something, sorry, don't remember what. I too felt like my feet and fingers were going to split open they hurt so bad."
VEGASBABY1

What Experts Say:
Here are two key things that can help control swelling:
  • Use salt to taste. It is no longer believed that salt restriction is wise during a normal pregnancy, but excessive salt intake isn't smart either and could increase fluid retention. Therefore, moderation is the key.
  • Drink plenty of fluids each day. Taking in 8-12 cups of water each day can help avoid excess water retention.
NOTE: If your face becomes puffy, you have a headache, your blood pressure has been borderline, and you are in your third trimester, please contact your medical provider right away as these could be signs that there are things other than normal swelling going on.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Swelling of the Feet, Ankles and Hands
Drinking Water During Workouts
Easy Ways to Cut Sodium Intake

15. Twins or more: How Do Multiples Affect Pregnancy?
Twins, triplets and even quadruplets are not all that uncommon. It is exciting but very important to see your health care provider frequently so he or she can monitor your pregnancy more closely. Multiple pregnancies require a higher intake in nutrients for mom and closer monitoring of babies and moms. Bed rest can be necessary, and premature delivery is a risk. However, with care and monitoring, many, many women have a healthy and safe pregnancy and delivery of multiple babies.
What Members Say:
"As a mommy of twins, I found the book When You are Expecting Twins, Triplets and Quads by Barbara Luke very helpful and informative. It has recommended guidelines for weight gain, caloric intake, nutrients etc. It also explains a lot of the increased risks associated with carrying twins, such as pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, etc, etc."
KISOFFBABY

What the Experts Say:
We recommend that members speak with their medical provider regarding weight gain, nutrient needs and exercise guidelines when they are pregnant with multiples. Innumberable factors are involved, and your health-care provider knows your pregnancy, medical and health history the best. He or she is the best person to give you accurate information specific to your pregnancy.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
9 Signs and Symptoms of a Twin Pregnancy
I Was Single, Expecting Twins -- and Stationed Overseas: Marine Finds Support, Strength Through Her 'March Moms' Team
Twins, Triplets, Quads or More Mommy Team
Mommy of Twins Mommy Team

16. Weight and Weight Gain: How much is too much?
Your weight at the beginning of your pregnancy affects your recommended weight gain recommendations. Ideally you want to aim for a BMI (body mass index) between 20 and 25 pre-pregnancy. The recommendations for women who are overweight before pregnancy are lower than normal, while women who are underweight at the time of pregnancy are encouraged to gain more weight than the average woman.

BMI (Kg/m2) Before Pregnancy Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Low (BMI under 19.8) 12.5-18 kg (28-40 lb)
Normal (BMI 19.8-26) 11.5-16 kg (25-35 lb)
High (BMI 26-29) 7-11.5 kg (15-25 lb)
Obese (BMI over 29) no more than 6 kg (no more than 15 lb)

Read the article here.
Generally, little weight is gained during the first trimester (only 3 or 4 lbs.). The most weight (about 12 to 14 lbs.) is gained during the second trimester. In the third trimester, a woman should expect to gain about 8 to 10 lbs.

What Members Say: "I eat basically the same amount I did pre-pregnancy, exercise almost every day and I've gained 30 lbs (probably 32 by now) at 32 weeks. By the time I deliver I'll be over the recommended 35 pound maximum weight gain. So what? Unless you're eating fast food on a regular basis, you're probably going to gain exactly the amount your body needs to sustain the pregnancy." MOM2ALINA

What the Experts Say:
Early in pregnancy, you can eat about the same number of calories (for weight maintenance) as you were prior to pregnancy, then add on about 200-300 calories daily in trimesters 2 and 3. Another good site to check calorie recommendations, broken down for each trimester is www.mypyramid.gov.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Pregnancy Weight Gain
The Importance of Eating Enough During Pregnancy
I Gained Fifteen Pounds In My First Trimester
Having Trouble Gaining Weight?
Managing Weight Gain Topic on the Community Message Boards

17. Coffee, Tea and other beverages: Can I drink them?
Research is inconclusive on the effects of caffeine on a developing fetus. It is known, however, that caffeine passes quickly through the placenta to the baby. The FDA and most health organizations recommend that you don't drink or eat foods with caffeine while pregnant, or at least limit your intake to 300 mg per day (2-3 servings). Brewed coffee contains about 65-135 mg of caffeine. Remember, caffeine is also found in tea, soda, and chocolate.

Even though herbal teas are advertised as natural, safe, and healthy, they are not regulated as drugs are, and they are not necessarily safe for pregnant women. Growing evidence suggests some herbs may be harmful to pregnant women. They are best avoided, though if you do choose to drink herbal teas, stick to those with ingredients found in an ordinary diet, such as cinnamon, orange, lemon, and apple.

When you drink alcohol, your baby is drinking it, too. Therefore, you should avoid all forms of alcohol when you are pregnant. This includes beer, wine and hard liquor. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it quickly reaches the baby through the blood stream. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, lower birth weight, physical deformities, mental retardation, and motor development complications. There is no data to support a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Therefore, medical experts recommend avoiding alcohol completely during your pregnancy.

What Members Say:
"I used to work in a coffee shop so I know all about chai tea. It's my favorite! The black and green chais are usually caffeinated. They usually offer an alternative decaf chai that is a similar taste to the black chai. It's not bad to drink caffeine every now and again--it's only bad if you do it all the time."
JAKIROO

What the Experts Say:
You may think I am cautious, but actually the fact is that there are very few herbal products, teas with any documented research to show benefits, risks, safety, etc. Your doctor may tell you it is fine in moderation, but if you asked to see the research study, I doubt if he could show you one that was done using pregnant women. So the question is: Are you willing to be the guinea pig and do the testing during your pregnancy? We just do NOT have the studies to show safety during pregnancy. I try to share the facts. And for your herbal questions, there are few answers.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

A few brands of non-alcoholic beer contain no alcohol whatsoever. However, there are many brands on the market that can contain up to 0.5% alcohol per volume or 5 parts per thousand. The alcohol percentage of most brands is situated somewhere between 0.35 and 0.48 percent.
You'll need to check the label of the non-alcoholic beer you are considering it to see if it truly is alcohol free or if it contains up to .5% per volume. We advise avoiding all alcohol during pregnancy and as always, talk with your doctor regarding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Healthy Beverage Guidelines
What's Brewing with Caffeine
Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs: The Facts
Green Tea May Increase Incidence of Birth Defects
Playing it Safe: Herbal Teas and Supplements
Green Tea - Ask the Expert
Rooibos Tea - Ask the Expert

18. Food and Supplements- What Should I Avoid?
There are many, many foods that you should include as part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Prenatal vitamins/supplementation is also important to ensure that the extra nutrients that are needed for healthy fetal growth are received throughout pregnancy.

There are some foods and supplements that should be limited or avoided during pregnancy. Here is some basic information to keep in mind as you plan meals and snacks.

Eating fish during pregnancy offers preventive health benefits and can promote a higher and healthier birth weight. However, some fish, such as tuna, can have high levels of contaminants that can cross the placenta and be harmful to your baby if consumed in large amounts. Eat about 1-2 (6 ounce) cans of tuna per week. Limit albacore tuna and tuna steak to one serving per month.

During pregnancy, it is important to be aware of what you put inside your body while you are pregnant. Listeria is a bacteria that can contaminate foods and cause problems for both you and your baby. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they are properly reheated until steaming. They also recommend that you only consume soft cheese and dairy products that have been pasteurized. Hard cheese is generally pasteurized and safe during pregnancy.

Most experts recommend that pregnant women get 1,200 mg of calcium daily. A good multivitamin or prenatal vitamin should include at least 150 to 200 mg of calcium, and you can also include a calcium supplement. You should also aim for four servings of dairy or other calcium-rich foods a day.

If yours is a planned pregnancy, you likely have been taking a daily multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid or an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin that has 800 mcg. Now that you are pregnant, you'll need at least 600 mcg daily, although many doctors recommend 800 mcg. Most doctors will recommend taking a supplement, as well as eating plenty of folate-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, chicken or beef liver, lentils or cereal, etc.

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for human reproduction, cell growth and development. Because foods rich in vitamin A are so prevalent in the American diet, deficiency is not common (but it can result in reproductive problems). Because vitamin A is stored in the body, excessive consumption can be very harmful-especially during preconception and pregnancy. High levels of vitamin A intake can be toxic to the baby and may cause birth defects or spontaneous abortion. By eating a balanced, healthy diet and taking your prenatal supplement, your needs for vitamin A can easily be met. Taking additional vitamin A supplements is extremely dangerous and is NOT recommended when pregnant or trying to conceive.

What Members Say:
I think common sense regarding your eating behavior is better than following a list. Take sushi for example. California rolls are just fine. They are made with cooked and processed white fish that does not get very big to accumulate high levels of mercury. All cheese that you can buy in a grocery store is pasteurized. Just read the label. If it is not, then it is labeled as made with "raw milk."
SIGMAP

What the Experts Say:
The FDA came out with the statement about the concern with listeria and deli meats during pregnancy. Based on these guidelines the deli meat should be heated first. I tell my moms to check with the doctor about this issue. Always use reputable, reliable deli counters. I have even asked when the meat slicer was last cleaned. Or ask them to clean it before cutting my meat. I also do suggest making your own meat spreads (more sanitation control). If you purchase deli meats, put them in a cooler with an ice pack and bring them home quickly and into the refrigerator. Have them eaten in 1-2 days!
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Say NO to Vitamin A Supplements
Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin Supplement
Playing It Safe: Soft Cheeses
Playing It Safe: Eating Fish
Playing It Safe: Herbal Teas and Supplements
Green Tea Caution
Calcium Foods and Supplements
Vitamin B 12 Highlight Info

19. Artificial Sweeteners: Can I have them?
There are a lot of options and much confusion when it comes to artificial sweeteners. Pregnant women can safely use low-calorie sweeteners in moderation, unless otherwise advised by their physicians. Many health organizations and healthcare providers suggest limiting artificially sweetened foods in your diet to only 2 or 3 servings a day.

What Members Say:
"So after some trial and error, I used the applesauce in place of the sugar for the Red Velvet cake, and since I used the ball cake mold (beach theme) I used only a TB of oil. The cake came out moist, and slightly bland w/ a hint of apples, perfect for a LO. One downside is that it took longer to cook due to the density, and did not rise AS much as it should have."
SLOSHA

What the Experts Say:
Artificial sweeteners are safe to use during pregnancy in moderation. They have been extensively tested. Stevia, on the other hand, has not been extensively tested and many safety questions are left unanswered; therefore is should NOT be used during pregnancy.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Artificial Sweeteners and Your Pregnancy
Are Sugar Alcohols Safe?

20. Hair and Nails: Can I still get them done?
The effects of chemicals in hair dyes on a fetus are unknown. Some doctors recommend that women minimize use of or even avoid all hair dyes, especially during the first trimester. Highlighting or streaking your hair involves less scalp contact with dye, so those processes might be safer. Always use latex gloves and don't leave dye on any longer than necessary. This will minimize skin contact and the level of absorption. If you do dye your hair, consider vegetable-based products like henna.

Catering to pregnancy is a new trend in the spa industry, with pregnancy-specific spas (like Bierschwal's Becoming Mom) popping up all over the country. Other full-service spas are also adding pregnancy services to their repertoire. These services are performed by professionals, trained to work specifically with a pregnant mother, to help moms feel beautiful-without the worries. Ensure that either your salon (or the room where you paint your nails at home) is well-ventilated or that you wear a mask to diffuse the fumes.

What Members Say:
"I get my nails done almost every week. I had acrylic wraps and removed them about a month after I found out that I was pregnant because they kept lifting, and I didn't want a fungus. You can totally get a pedicure and have the foot massage, just ask the person not to massage around your ankles. In Eastern medicine, the ankles have many points that are energy points for the uterus and reproduction. If these points are stimulated, there is a slight chance it could cause contractions to start. My girls all know to stay away from the ankles, and I get to sit back and relax for 40 minutes. Be sure that the nail equipment is sterilized and that the foot sink that they use is really clean--including the drain. I actually purchased my own tools at the salon that I go to when I found out that I was pregnant! Have fun and relax and enjoy! It is well worth the money!"
DINARI32

What the Experts Say:
While there is little in the way of scientific information on the safety of perming or relaxing your hair during pregnancy, perhaps the most convincing evidence against their use comes directly from hairdressers. Most say that because pregnancy hormones frequently interfere with, or even change, the way your hair reacts to perm or relaxing solutions, you could easily end up with a look that is quite opposite of what you expected. Hair can get frizzy or straight instead of curly, or kinky and frizzy instead of straight. So forgo the perm or straightening for now and opt for a style that's easy to manage without the extra chemical treatments.
Colette Bouchez, health journalist and pregnancy book author

Additional Resources:
Pedicures in Pregnancy
Body Beautiful from the Inside Out
Dying for a Change - Hair Color and Your Pregnancy

21. Prescriptions/Over-the-Counter Medicines: What can I take?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to test drugs that might be used by reproductive-age women in pregnant animals, but the reactions in animals aren't always the same. The FDA uses the data that's accumulated to classify drugs based on teratogenic risk. There are currently five categories: A, B, C, D and X. Type A drugs are the least harmful, and X have risks that clearly outweigh any benefits. Remember that choosing to take a medication should provide a documented benefit to offset even the smallest risk.

Most headache medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended for pregnant women. If you are prone to headaches or other conditions that necessitate these types of over the counter medications, consult your doctor or pharmacist about which ones you can take.

What Members Say:
"Go to safefetus.com. You can check on drugs and see if they are safe to take. They classify them as A,B,C etc and I think the ones that are A and B are OK, but if you aren't sure ask your doctor."
MOM2KD_N_JAYME

What the Experts Say:
I had a lingering cold in my first trimester. Doctors will tell you there are some meds you can take, but my theory is you are better off if you don't. The old time-tested remedies that you probably know are: drink lots of fluids (water, OJ, etc), get lots of rest, sterilize your toothbrush so you don't re-infect yourself every time you brush your teeth, wash your hands whenever you come home to keep from spreading germs, try to stay away from other people as much as you can, eat healthy food, even if you don't feel like eating. Your body needs the nutrients to keep strong.
Karina Downie, BabyFit Contributor

Additional Resources:
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider
Beat the Flu: Here's How
Self-Care Tips for Sick Days
Ask the Expert about Alka-Seltzer
Answers to Common Pregnancy Questions

22. Exercise during pregnancy
The exercises you can do during pregnancy depend on two things: your current health and how active you were before you became pregnant. If you were not active before, don't use pregnancy as the time to begin a strenuous fitness regime; if you did exercise before pregnancy, you can continue your program with some slight modifications.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says that if you were a runner before pregnancy, then often you can continue running during pregnancy. But ACOG suggests that pregnant women talk to their doctors first and modify their routines. Running during pregnancy is a way to maintain your fitness level--not to train for competition, like winning your next 10K or marathon. As long as you listen to your body, running can be a wonderful part of a healthy pregnancy. (Be sure to review the General Pregnancy Running Tips in the Running During Pregnancy article.)

NOTE: If you experience problems such as bleeding, premature labor, dizziness, severe abdominal pain, or feeling unusually tired, during or after exercise, you should stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider before continuing.

What Members Say:
"Our love for running has joined us in a sisterhood across many miles, states and even continents."
BURCHA
From the article: We Love Running - and BabyFit

What Experts Say:
Swimming is probably one of the best all around exercises for pregnant women. The buoyancy takes stress off the joints, the water offers smooth movements, falling is not an issue, and the water prevents you from overheating. Other good activities include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, low-impact aerobics, and some forms of yoga.

Additional Resources:
Exercise Central Message Board
Pregnancy Fitness Guide
Running During Pregnancy
Exercise During Pregnancy - Keeping It Safe
Exercise for Beginners
If the Shoe Fits, Wear It
How to Choose a Jogging Stroller

23. Abdominal Exercises: Are They Permitted
As long as your doctor has given you permission to exercise during pregnancy, it is safe to continue core and abdominal exercises. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that no exercise after the fourth month should be done in the supine position (lying on your back). After the fourth month of pregnancy, if a mom-to-be is on her back, there is a risk that the uterus may compress the vena cava, which could decrease cardiac output, reducing maternal blood pressure. However, many effective exercises can be modified for safety during the second and third trimesters.
For safe abdominal exercise ideas, check out BabyFit's Core Exercise Demonstrations.

What the Members Say:
"I find that doing crunches on a fitness ball works best for me--that way, you're not lying flat on your back, but still getting ab work in."
SAR_BEAR

What the Experts Say:
I'm not a big fan of traditional sit-ups during pregnancy because they put a lot of stress on the lumbar spine and your tummy, instead I like reverse curls or the Sahrmann exercises (they were developed for postpartum abdominal recovery, but work great prenatal as well). If you do feel lightheaded when doing exercises on your back just prop up your upper body with a pillow or wedge when doing the exercise.

To learn more check out the article for Sahrmann Exercise descriptions.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert


Additional Resources:
Pelvic Tilt
Round Out Your Fitness Routine with a Stability Ball
Rebuilding Your Core after Pregnancy

24. Kegels: How do I do them?
Your pelvic-floor muscles act as a sling for the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Kegel exercises play an important role in helping you heal and recover after labor. Kegels help keep your pelvic-floor muscles strong during pregnancy, help get them back in shape after delivery, and possibly prevent urinary incontinence.

What Members Say:
"I've done (Kegels) every day since it is on my list of stuff I need to do... it helps having a "reminder"! I hope I keep it up but we will see. Prior to this I had done them about 3 times."
GROWLEE

What the Experts Say:
How to do a Kegel: Exhale and tighten the muscles in the walls of your vagina, pulling upward and inward; count to 3 and inhale as you relax. Repeat for a total of 5 repetitions. Do 5 sets, 3 times per day. Gradually work up to holding each Kegel for a count of 10. (If you have difficulty with figuring out if you are doing it right, practice by stopping your flow of urine.) Once you are able to do Kegels, incorporate them into your abdominal exercises and lower body moves.

Additional Resources:
Step-by-Step Instructions for doing Kegels
Kegels for Urinary Incontinence
The Secret To Easing Labor Pains
Pregnancy Fitness Guide

25. Separated Stomach Muscles (diastasis recti)
A spreading or separation of the midline of the abdominal wall is called diastasis recti and is normal. It allows the belly to expand and make room for the growing baby. The extent of diastasis should be checked three days postpartum by lying on your back with knees bent, placing fingers in midline of abdominal wall and lifting your head up. Feel for the separation below your fingertips; if it's greater than three fingers, make exercise modifications using information linked below until the diastasis is corrected.

What Members Say:
"If you want to check, lie on your back and put your fingers right above your belly button. Now, start to do a crunch. You'll feel your fingers go into a valley if your muscles are not back together."
RAINYDAY

What the Experts Say:
Traditional abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups, put too much stress on a postpartum tummy and back and are not recommended for new moms. Instead, I recommend a series of exercises developed by Shirley Sahrmann, a physical therapist who specializes in abdominal rehabilitation. These exercises are designed to target the area most weakened by pregnancy-below the belly button-without creating stress on the back and abdomen. They're amazingly effective, but it's important for you to go slowly and master each level before moving on to the next one.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
Diastasis Recti Test
Ask the Expert Questions Regarding Exercises for Separated Stomach Muscles
Rebuilding Your Core After Pregnancy
Postpartum Recovery: The First Six Weeks

26. Postpartum Exercise
Now that your baby has finally arrived, your life will never be the same. Your body has gone through some major changes as well and will continue to do so in the coming months.

But you can gain control over your body (and its changes) through exercise. Your body just went through a very intense experience. When you're ready-and after your doctor gives you clearance-resuming or starting an exercise program will help your body heal, become stronger, and be more fit than ever.

What Members Say:
"It is hard to find the time to exercise with a new baby but it is possible. For the first couple of months I used to go for a walk every day with my little one. It was hard to squeeze in any cardio since she would only nap for 20 minutes, and it seemed like I never had any energy. Once it got nice outside and I got my energy back I bought a jogging stroller and would go jogging in the evening. I also joined Strollercise, which was a group of moms taking their babies for a fast paced walk and stopping to do various exercises like squats, lunges and toning with resistance bands along the walk. I absolutely loved the class.
"Once my little one started napping regularly for longer intervals, I found it so much easier to fit regular exercise into my day. I now run on the treadmill during her afternoon nap or after she's gone to bed at night almost every day. If you don't have any exercise equipment at home you could always get your husband to watch the baby for an hour or so while you slip away to the gym. My treadmill recently was broken for a couple weeks, and I was going to the gym and found it so refreshing to get that break.
Obviously exercise is very important to you, and I have no doubt that you will be able to fit it into your day. It may take awhile before you get into a routine, but you'll figure it out for sure."
SARAH_VW

What the Experts Say:
The most important things you can do during the first weeks postpartum are care for your baby, rest when possible, and eat a healthy diet. Time for exercise will come soon enough, so don't overly stress yourself too soon. Listen to your body and start slowly. Don't jump back into the same intensity and duration of exercise you were doing before your baby was born. Find an activity (like walking or postpartum yoga) that feels good and includes your baby.

Here are a few tips for determining if your body is ready to start exercising postpartum:
  • All incisions or tears have healed.
  • Your postpartum recovery is progressing normally, and you and your baby are healthy. (A baby with additional needs means even less sleep and more physical and mental stress for mom.)
  • You feel good after exercise and don't experience any increase in vaginal bleeding.
  • You don't feel excessively fatigued from exercise and recover within your normal period of time.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
Postpartum Recovery: The First Six Weeks
Post-Partum Fitness and Nutrition Message Board
Post Pregnancy Fitness 101
Rebuilding Your Core after Pregnancy
Post Pregnancy Core Rebuilding
Bouncing Back Into Shape: Fitness Once the Baby Arrives
Walk Your Way to Fitness after Baby
Ask the Expert Question about Starting Exercise after Delivery
Post Pregnancy Exercise Demos
Postpartum Endurance Training: How to Rebuild Your Endurance
Exercise While Breastfeeding
Weight Loss and Breastfeeding
Postpartum Depression

27. Postpartum Weight Loss
The baby's here! Among the dozens of changes you're making, it's also time to move on from your pregnancy nutrition program. It's pretty simple to customize your plan so that you continue to consume the calories and nutrients you need to stay energetic and healthy.

If you are formula feeding then losing one pound per week is fine. Moms can eat slightly less than their pre-pregnancy calorie needs in order to lose weight though healthfully. Adequate calories and nutrients are required for proper recovery and energy.

If you are nursing, then losing 1/2 pound per week is OK--as long as you're eating healthy and not restricting calories so your milk supply doesn't decrease. Weight loss should result from exercise and nursing--not dieting. Be sure to follow the recommended calorie guidelines so that your body uses excess fat stores instead of holding on to them to produce milk. Remember, your body needs plenty of calories for recovery, energy, building strength, and milk production. In the first weeks you need more calories than you needed for pregnancy.

What Members Say:
"It is really frustrating that it takes so long to lose the weight postpartum. No matter how hard you work during and after pregnancy, the weight seems to have a mind of its own! UGH!"
CHESSICAO

What the Experts Say:
Weight loss will happen, but for many it takes a little time. One of the biggest reasons women have trouble is that they think about "dieting" instead of about recovery. Your body needs to heal and recover from the marathon it just endured and if you are breastfeeding then it has to produce milk as well. Be sure to feed your body the nutrients it needs (you'll need more if you are breastfeeding) and let your body slowly lose the weight by using the stored energy over time, the same way it stored the energy to begin with.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Information:
Post-Partum Fitness and Nutrition Message Board
Post-Pregnancy Nutritional Transition
Ask the Expert - Weight loss and Breastfeeding
Kick Your Metabolism Into High Gear
Learning to Love Strength Training
Strength Training: Good for Muscles, Great for Bones
Do's and Don'ts of a Successful Fitness Program

28.Sleeping or Lying on Your Back
When sleeping, most doctors recommend that you lie on your left side during pregnancy to promote optimal blood flow to your body and uterus. But if you're more comfortable on your right side, there is no reason you shouldn't sleep on this side.

Most pregnant women also need added support during sleep. You may find it helps to use additional pillows. Tuck a body pillow under your belly and legs, and then also use a smaller pillow to support your back so you don't roll over on your back while sleeping.

If you roll onto your back while sleeping, don't panic! Simply roll back onto one of your sides and go back to sleep. Most women will find a comfortable position for sleeping. Some even prefer a semi-reclined position. What matters is your comfort-not the exact position you fall asleep in.

What Members Say:
"I stopped lying flat on my back around week 13. I started using my bench on an incline. As for the core, that one I'm still working out the kinks on. I use a ball but that doesn't work when the ab work calls for knees up. Instead I've been doing the core work without ever laying flat back on the floor (I stay up at a 45 degree angle and work in the top half of my sit up). Believe it or not I find this harder than doing regular crunches."
SAKAY1

What the Experts Say:
You don't want to lie flat on your back for any strength training exercises while pregnant because of the pressure of lifting the weight, along with the pressure of the fetus on your vena cava (the large blood vessel that returns blood back to the heart/lungs). Plus, you may become lightheaded.

As you get further along in your pregnancy, it gets pretty tough to get up from a supine position (flat on your back). You can strain you back easily that way.

However, it is safe to lie on an incline or semi-upright position, such as on a stability ball or incline bench, when doing strength training.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
7 Hidden Ways to Get Better Sleep
Sleeping for Two Sleeping for Two
BabyFit's Guide to Strength Training During Pregnancy
Why Strength Training is a Must for Everyone
Learn to Love Strength Training
Strength Training: Good for Muscles, Great for Bones
Core Exercise Demos Including a Stability Ball

29. Gestational Diabetes
The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but it seems to start when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. It seems that the hormones secreted by the placenta that help the baby develop also block the action of insulin in mom. Since glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy without adequate insulin, it builds up in the blood to high levels or hyperglycemia. This phenomenon could also be called pregnancy induced insulin resistance.

What Members Say:
"I had gestational diabetes with my last child. She was not large at birth (7 lbs 3.8 oz), but she was delivered 11 days early by induction. They wanted to be sure that the baby wasn't getting too big. If you end up with gestational diabetes, just make sure that you are eating a healthy diet and be sure to exercise. This will help your body process the glucose."
AIMEEROMERO

What the Experts Say:
There are two things a woman can do to help prevent development of gestational diabetes. The first is to achieve a healthy weight BEFORE pregnancy through exercise and healthy eating. The second is to keep your weight gain within a healthy range during pregnancy. If you think you are at risk for gestational diabetes, see a dietitian or certified diabetes educator in order to begin a carbohydrate-controlled diet, which will keep your blood sugars in control and prevent the need for medication and/or insulin during your pregnancy.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Diabetics Can Have Healthy Babies
Advice for Overweight-Moms-to-Be
Pregnancy Weight Gain
More Reason to Get Fit Before Pregnancy
Carbohydrate Control with the Please KISS me plan

30. How many calories should I consume, and when should I eat them?
Your unborn baby is entirely dependent on you for nourishment. Pregnancy requires an added 300 calories daily in the second and third trimesters to provide the nutrients necessary for baby's growth and development. This increased need requires at least a few modifications to your "usual" intake to get the additional calories, protein, and nutrients.

What Members Say:
"My appetite increased a lot when I became pregnant--sometimes I'd feel like I needed to eat only an hour after lunch!

It seemed ridiculous to me so I tested my new crazy appetite out by waiting an hour before responding to it. If my body truly needed energy, by the end of the hour the hunger would have increased significantly, so I'd eat something. If it was just the need to snack, the feeling of wanting food would go away. I don't think it hurts to test your appetite out a little, as long as you're eating 3 healthy meals and a couple of snacks every day and not starving yourself. Doing this helped me to learn when and how much food my body needed.

Now that I'm in the third trimester, I wake up in the early hours of the morning absolutely ravenous--so I've started eating a snack about an hour before bed, and that works for me."
SKEETABOAT

What the Experts Say:
People have different metabolism rates. Formulas that determine calories are estimates--good estimates--yet still estimates. THEN one must experiment and adjust calories up or down to find the desired and healthy weight gain rate for their pre-pregnancy weight and exercise levels.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
Pregnancy Nutrition 101
Pregnancy Weight Gain: How Much Is Enough?
I Gained Fifteen Pounds in my First Trimester
Advise for Overweight Moms-to-Be
The Importance of Eating Enough During Pregnancy
Pregnancy Weight Gain Tips

31. Pregnancy books and information
With a plethora of health resources available these days, it can be hard to know where to look for reliable, accurate and useful information. Online information can be very confusing, too. It is helpful to talk with others who are similar to you and get recommendations from them. The books they recommend are more likely to match what you desire for your pregnancy and parenting plans.

What Members Say:
"I read many books on pregnancy and childbirth, and the ones I felt helped me the most for the actual birth were and "The Birth Partner." And of course "What to Expect When You're Expecting" is an informative staple that will answer a lot of questions you have while you're pregnant, and "Your Pregnancy Week by Week" was really interesting. And for afterward, "So That's What They're For!" is a great book on breastfeeding. I liked it better than the commonly recommended "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" put out by La Leche League (I did read them both)." MANJARIW "I really enjoyed "The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy." It answers a lot of those questions you don't feel comfortable asking. It's not boring, so I stayed really interested throughout it."
JESCASEY1

"For vegetarians I recommend "Your Vegetarian Pregnancy" its decent and its eye opening for non-vegetarians. It is by Holly Roberts. Also, I am interested in reading the "Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy" plus "Birthing from Within" and "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy."
SPEEDMUMA

What the Experts Say:
Checking out books from the local library or borrowing from other mothers are great ways to review the information. By checking books out before buying, you can read and scan about all sorts of topics--from pregnancy, baby care, and breastfeeding to different parenting styles. This allows you to find the information that resonates best with you and your parenting philosophies without investing a lot of money into books that may not be right. Once you find the ones that provide you with the best information for your parenting style, you can invest in those for your home library.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
July 2007 Moms: Favorite Pregnancy Books thread
Book Club: What Are Some Good Pregnancy Books thread
Healthy Family Book Reviews
More About Catherine Cram

32. Hair Changes and Hair Loss during Pregnancy
How your hair will be during pregnancy is hard to predict and different from woman to woman. Increases in estrogen during pregnancy cause some to grow thick hair fast while others find limp hair that may also fall out. It is also not uncommon to have dry hair suddenly become oilier or vice versa. Curly hair can become straighter or even curly or quite the opposite. Because of all these unknowns, many hair dressers to not recommend perms or coloring during pregnancy since they have no way of knowing exactly how things will turn out for you. It is also not uncommon to notice that other body hair changes as well or for hair to grow on your face, abdomen or back. Don't panic as this is only temporary and just another part of pregnancy changes related to increases in hormone levels.

After delivery it is also not uncommon for women to find their hair falls out in handfuls. Increased hair loss typically peaks between 3 and 6 months after delivery as the hormones are returning to normal. It can last longer for some who are breastfeeding.

What Members Say:
"With each pregnancy I went bald at the sides of the front of my head. The corners where bangs would start (I have all one length hair though. Round circles of baldness. Good news is the hair grew back in between each pregnancy, but I lost it again. Along with this losing my hair, my hair also grew darker when I was pregnant. I have long hair to my waist. I have been pregnant 4 times in 5 years and now my hair has "growth rings" in it like a tree. My hair stylist says that it is due to the change in hormones. The one saving grace I did notice is that while I was pregnant and breastfeeding my hair grew faster."
LVDHURK

What the Experts Say: Low calcium intake can contribute to hair loss, especially during pregnancy. You need at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Most prenatal supplements contain 300 mg or less. If you do not have a calcium rich diet and do not take supplemental calcium, low calcium levels could be a cause of your hair loss. Here are several ways that you can take to increase your calcium to see whether that slows the rate of hair loss.
  • Use the food tracker to see how much calcium you are getting from your typical diet.
  • Be sure to include several rich calcium sources each day in addition to your prenatal vitamin: low fat dairy, calcium-set tofu, collard greens, black-eyed peas, fortified soymilk or calcium-fortified orange juice.
  • Talk with your medical provider about additional calcium supplementation if you routinely have difficulty meeting 1,000 mg of calcium each day.
Also, hair tends to break off when it is wet. Use conditioner daily, never brush wet hair and don't pull hair back tightly to help prevent breakage.

Additional Resources:
Dairy-Free Calcium Sources
How to Get Adequate Calcium during Pregnancy
Calcium Foods and Supplements

33. Stretch Marks
Around half of all pregnant women get stretch marks, so if you have them, you're in good company. Also known as striae gravidarum, stretch marks are scars that appear when the elastic fibers in the skin are damaged. Your susceptibility to stretch marks is largely controlled by genetics, so if your mother or sister have them, there's a good chance you will develop them, too.

Stretch marks start out as pink, purple or reddish-brown streaks, depending on your skin tone. In most cases, stretch marks fade away gradually after birth to become a less noticeable silvery color. Older stretch marks can also be depressed or atrophic, meaning that they dent into the surrounding skin.

What Members Say:
"I think they are just plain old ugly no matter what you got them for. I got some stretch marks from growth spurts when I was young. I didn't like them then and if I get them from this pregnancy I won't like them now. Doesn't mean that I don't love my baby and am blessed to be able to give birth to her but not everything from pregnancy is likable like morning sickness, hard time sleeping, peeing all the time and stretch marks."
FAIRYTALELOVER

What the Experts Say:
Whether you develop stretch marks or not during pregnancy has a lot to do with your genetics and the size of your baby. Keeping the abdominal skin well moisturized will help keep your skin softer and more pliable, but won't affect the deeper dermis where stretch marks occur. There are post-pregnancy treatments with lasers and topical creams that can have been clinically shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Keeping your pregnancy weight gain within your doctors recommendations can help prevent the development of stretch marks, and eating a good diet with lots of nutrients that aid in skin health also can go a long way towards keeping your abdominal skin looking great.
Catherine Cram, MS, Maternal Fitness Expert

Additional Resources:
Skin Changes During Pregnancy
Body Beautiful From the Inside Out
6 Natural Ways to Pamper Your Pregnancy

34. Sleep, Difficulty during Pregnancy
Difficulty falling (and staying) asleep is a common problem for pregnant women. As an important source of fuel for the body, sleep is a valuable commodity. Like with so many other things that are going on with your body, changing hormones and there affect on the body are at the heart. As your expanding uterus pushes on your bladder, you have to go to the bathroom more often at night. As you begin to think about all that has to be done or how you will parent your new little one, you may find it hard to fall asleep even though you are tired. Look at your environment, what you are eating and drinking before bed and how much time you are allowing in your day for sleep including naps. Set yourself up for success as best you can during these exciting but tiring months and make sleep a priority.

What Members Say:
"I don't know if it's better than other pregnancy pillows or not, but I sleep horribly without my 'Snoogle'. I refused to pay that much for a pillow and said I'd make do w/ regular pillows, so DH bought it for me. I am so glad he did. J just turned one year, and I still sleep with it."
MAMADOU

"I have a plain-old body pillow that I like. I can put it between my knees and under my belly at the same time, I just put an extra pillow behind my back so I don't roll as much and it works out great...it's also cheaper than a REAL pregnancy pillow."
WSPRATT

What Experts Say:
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body converts to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is believed to play an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, emesis (vomiting), sexuality and appetite. Eating more foods that contain tryptophan may help to make you sleepy.

There are two types of protein sources that provide essential amino acids like tryptophan: animal (dairy, meat and poultry) and vegetable (soybeans, nuts and seeds).

It takes around one hour after eating for the tryptophan from foods to reach your brain. Eating a snack that includes tryptophan-rich foods an hour before bed could help induce sleep. Here are some tryptophan-rich snack ideas:
  • Oatmeal & raisin cookies, with a glass of milk
  • Whole-grain cereal with milk
  • A peanut butter sandwich with a glass of milk
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Sliced cheese on whole-grain crackers
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
7 Hidden Ways to Get Better Sleep
Slip Into a Steady Slumber
Sleeping for Two
Another Reason to Get Those Zzz's
Relaxation and Meditation Survival Guide

35. Travel during Pregnancy
Traveling during pregnancy is usually acceptable if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy and are not considered high risk. Generally, the second trimester is best time to travel. Women are usually feeling their best during this time and are in the least amount of danger of experiencing a miscarriage or premature labor. It is important to discuss your medical history and travel plans with your physician before planning travel at any time during pregnancy-especially when traveling in the early and late stages of pregnancy.

What Members Say:
"My doctor said no traveling after 34 weeks. I went beyond my due date with my daughter but I'm not going to risk being away from my doctor and hospital. I want the people I know and trust delivering this baby."
KFLEMING

What the Experts Say:
Traveling during pregnancy is usually acceptable if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy and are not considered high risk. Determining if it's safe for you and your unborn born baby to travel depends on several factors. Use this guide to help you plan a safe trip during pregnancy.

Generally, the second trimester is best time to travel. Women are usually feeling their best during this time and are in the least amount of danger of experiencing a miscarriage or premature labor. It is important to discuss your medical history and travel plans with your physician before planning travel at any time during pregnancy-especially when traveling in the early and late stages of pregnancy.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Travel During Pregnancy

36. Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Exposure
Smoking is not good for you anytime, and it is even harmful during pregnancy. Tobacco contains thousands of chemicals that cause physical and drug-like reactions in the body. Chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide can reach the placenta. This reduces the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your baby.

If you smoke during your pregnancy, you increase the chance that your baby will have a low birth weight. These infants are less healthy and have more medical complications. Smoking also increases the risk for premature delivery and miscarriage.

The best thing to do is to stop smoking completely. If you cannot quit, then smoke fewer cigarettes. The fewer cigarettes you smoke, the less damage to the baby. After the baby is born, do not smoke. Infants and children of smoking parents suffer more respiratory infections and illness than children who aren't exposed to secondhand smoke.

What Members Say:
"I am not sure how to tell you to quit, because I have chosen to not be a smoker. I am going to say after watching my sister in the ups and down of it, it is going to be hard, so tell yourself that. I know that when she was pregnant, she talked to her doctor and he was able to offer her many resources so that she could quit. For me, it is hard enough being a parent every day when I am doing the things that I think I should be doing. I try my hardest, and when I am pregnant it is my job to try and put this baby in the safest environment possible. I could never do anything to possible cause any harm to my child, because I couldn't live with myself. Get help, talk to your doctor, and get some support from family and friends. It will be tough, but you can do it!"
KERARAE

What the Experts Say:
Only 15 percent of cigarette smoke is inhaled by the smoker, while the remaining 85 percent -- secondhand smoke -- goes directly into the air. Secondhand smoke has been found to contain more than 4,000 chemicals, at least 40 of which are carcinogenic. There is no safe level of exposure. All-day exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is comparable to smoking two to three cigarettes per day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) has information regarding "Secondhand Smoke in Your Home" that can provide more specific information to minimize effects on your family.
CDC resources

Additional Resources:
Number of Cigarettes Smoked Linked to Birth Weight
Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs: The Facts

37. Body Changes
Pregnancy brings nine months of change--that we can assure you. But how your body will change is different and unpredictable and can vary not only from woman to woman but from pregnancy to pregnancy. As your baby grows, your body and every system in it changes in some way as well. Skin, hair, and nails may grow faster or slower or become stronger or more brittle. Back and leg aches and varying twinges as ligaments and joints move and stretch are common as well. Be sure to talk with your medical provider openly at each appointment and let him know what is going on and how things are changing so he can reassure you about what is normal and take note of anything that is out of the ordinary.

What Members Say:
"In my opinion it is a very difficult thing to accept, especially if you have had body issues previously (I have had these issues as well). I had a very difficult time during my first pregnancy for that reason. I worked very hard to keep a "decent" figure, and it seemed to me like I would never get that back again. Don't get me wrong, I knew it was worth it because I was going to have a baby, but it was still difficult. So after I had the baby I decided that I would just take care of myself and maybe I would be able to get close to what my pre-pregnancy figure was. Well, I did, it took me 6 months, and I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight (mind you, my jeans still never fit quite right, but that is OK, I have a beautiful baby in exchange for a little bit wider hips). So just tell yourself that not all is lost, you can get back into the same shape you were before pregnancy, after the baby is born. And although those stretch marks will never go away, they will get lighter and smaller after you have the baby and after you get back into shape."
KERRIGIRL

What the Experts Say:
Pregnancy is a time of change--suddenly, everything you've ever known about your complexion is different. From stretch marks to acne, your skin reflects the big transformation that's occurring in your body. So instead of feeling self-conscious about all the changes in your body, change your attitude--and consider them badges of honor in the wonderful world of motherhood.

Additional Resources:
Advice From Four New Dads
Body Beautiful from the Inside Out
10 More Tips for Your Wellness Journey

38. Sexual Contact during Pregnancy
Almost every couple's sexual relationship undergoes some kind of change during the 9-month pregnancy adventure. Sexual activity can vary widely from discomfort during intercourse or lack of sexual interest, to unbelievable sexual encounters. Because of the emotional, physical, and hormonal changes, a couple's sexual life can be altered dramatically. However, the bottom line is that sexual practices during pregnancy are different for every couple. It is important to have an open, honest relationship. Set aside time to discuss sexual feelings and expectations. Find out together what works and is right for you.

What Members Say:
"He stepped back and then reached out and touched my tummy and said he thought I was gorgeous. At first I was covering myself up with my hands, turning my back towards him. But he made me feel so comfortable. It was amazing. He boosted my self esteem a lot. When we were lying in bed after, he told me that confidence on a woman is the most attractive thing to him over any physical trait. I have felt very raw with him these past few days. I've been so open and honest with him and he has been so great. It makes me remember why I love him, and I fall in love with him all over again."
PRESTONS_MOM

What the Experts Say:
You may see your unborn child as fragile; however, your baby is well-protected inside mom. In a normal, healthy pregnancy, there is no danger in having sexual intercourse. In fact, the gentle rocking motion of intercourse and mom's contracting uterus may pacify the baby. And making love can actually do mom a world of good too. Letting her know she is desired and the physical and emotional closeness might be just what she needs.
Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian

Additional Resources:
The Ever-Changing World of Making Love During Pregnancy
Terms of Endearment

39. Emotions
Pregnancy is a fantastically emotional experience. Thanks to some major hormonal changes, which provide the ideal environment to sustain and nourish your growing baby, pregnancy can also wreak havoc on your emotions. Add to that the physical strain of extra weight, worries of being a new parent, and the development of some unwanted stretch marks, and it can spell trouble for some women. One of the most important things a baby needs is a parent who is healthy, so don't put yourself on the back burner! It is very important to pay attention to how you are doing emotionally as well as physically and deal with it and be open with your support system and medical provider so they can provide alternatives and support throughout your pregnancy and recovery.

What Members Say:
"Conflicting feelings are not something that is easy to admit--not to myself, my husband, or anyone. I always feel like people are going to judge me so I usually say nothing at all, which ends up making me feel worse. It's not a great cycle. I know this child is a gift, but I also think it's important to deal with the emotions involved. I need to mourn the impending further loss of time to myself, etc. Some of it is definitely hormonal, but some of it is legitimate and I have a hard time figuring out which is which."
BOYSMAMA

What the Experts Say:
BabyFit: What advice would you give soon-to-be dads for helping mom out?
Kevin C.: Listen to your wife. Her body is definitely changing.
Josh K.: And be more forgiving. Also, know she is not going to act the same all the time.
BabyFit: How do you deal with your partner's emotions?
Chris D.: You have to get good at reading her.
Josh K.: Some days you definitely have to be there to talk and some days you need to just step back.

Additional Resources:
7 Simple Stress Busters
Now & Zen: Easy Relaxation Techniques
Pregnant and Feeling Stressed?
Relaxation and Meditation Survival Guide
Going Through the Emotions
Depression During Pregnancy
Advice from Four New Dads

40. Seat Belts
During pregnancy and anytime you are driving or riding in a vehicle, you should always wear a seat belt. You should position the lap portion of the belt snugly under your abdomen and across your upper thighs. The seat belt should NOT cross your abdomen. It is also recommended that you move the front seat back as far as possible. Official suggest that your breastbone should be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel or dashboard. You will likely need to keep moving the seat back throughout your pregnancy as your abdomen grows. Doctors also recommend that pregnant women leave their air bags on as well. Seat belts and air bags work together to protect both mom and baby in a crash.

What Members Say:
"I was in a car accident on Sunday. The paramedic asked how I had the seat belt positioned, and when I told him, he said, "Very good. I wish all moms-to-be knew to put their seat belts there." He didn't go into details, but he sees what happens. If you don't have much of a bump (or didn't start with some "extra" like I did), then it is harder to get the belt down. Basically, try to put the belt so that the lap part is lying flat across the very top of your thighs. Kind of snug it into that crease between your legs and belly. You may need to tighten the belt slightly to get it to stay in place better. (Not too tight)."
SPROUTZMOM

What the Experts Say:
Whether it's a cross country trip or just a short drive, follow these guidelines every time you are in a car during your pregnancy:
  • Always wear a seat belt. Position the lap portion of the belt snugly under your abdomen and across your upper thighs. The seat belt should NOT cross your abdomen.
  • Air bags are just as safe during pregnancy as they are at any other time, so don't turn them off. To minimize the risk of injury during airbag deployment, sit as far back as possible-at least ten inches away from the dashboard or steering wheel.
  • Pull over at least once every two hours to stretch your legs and move around. You'll probably need to stop and use the restroom this frequently anyway.
  • If you are in a car accident of any sort, regardless of severity or how far along you are in your pregnancy, you should be checked out by a doctor immediately, even if you feel fine.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

"Without a seat belt, a pregnant woman can be thrown into a rapidly opening air bag (which should be turned on because they work WITH your seat belt for your safety). A movement of such force could injure or even kill the mother and her unborn child."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Additional Resources:
Traveling During Pregnancy
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Buckle Up Brochure

41. Pregnancy Loss
If you recently experienced a miscarriage, it's important to find the support you need to get through this difficult time. For most women, the loss of a pregnancy is also the loss of a child and a dream. The grief that comes afterward can be riveting, complex, and confusing to say the least. Many women are shocked at the intensity of their feelings, especially if this is their first miscarriage. You may find great comfort in speaking with other women who have experienced miscarriage. It is hard for anyone who hasn't gone through it to truly understand the deep sense of loss a woman feels. Other sources of comfort include: journaling about your thoughts and feelings; writing poetry; planting a tree or plant in your child's memory; or creating artwork that addresses your emotions. If your feelings intensify to an unhealthy degree or do not subside over several weeks or months, contact your doctor.

What Members Say:
"I have had three miscarriages. My first time getting pregnant the doctors said it was stillborn at 5 1/2 months. The second time I was pregnant with twins and the doctor said it was a miscarriage at 4 1/2 months. This last time, I was very early in the pregnancy--maybe 3 or 4 weeks. It still hurts the same. I feel like I will never have kids. The doctor told she didn't know why I miscarried. I feel like the only thing we're missing in life is a baby. My husband just bounces back, but me on the other hand it takes me a while to bounce back. I think this web site really helps it lets me know I'm not the only one that has miscarried or suffered a loss."
TARA_GILLESPIE

What the Experts Say:
"Forever Our Angels" is a collection of personal essays by men and women who have been dealt the blow of pregnancy loss. Whether the loss occurred in the first trimester or it was experienced in the later weeks of a happily anticipated pregnancy, these men and women were willing to share their pain and devastation in order to help others. My one and only goal in writing this book is to offer grieving parents (and their loved ones) something that shows them that they are not alone during their time of loss. When I suffered my first loss 12 years ago, no one told me where to look or go for support. I believe that my pain could have been somewhat lessened, had I been given support and encouragement by others who have been through this very real loss."
Author Hannah Stone

Additional Resources:
TTC after Loss Mommy Team
Coping with Your First Miscarriage
Coping with Pregnancy Loss
Life after Loss Community Forum
Miscarriage Support Community Forum
Going Through the Emotions

42. Vaginal and Urinary Tract Infections
One of the first ways women know they have a vaginal infection is a change in discharge that is discolored, foul-smelling or accompanied by redness or itching. Yeast infections are most common after taking antibiotics for another illness or because of increased blood sugar levels. Burning, pain and/or low grade fever can indicate a urinary tract infection. Because infections can have effects on pregnancy outcome especially related to pre-term labor, you should always contact your medical provider when you notice any changes that might indicate infection.

What Members Say:
"I am a yeast-infection-during-pregnancy expert. With my daughter, I got my first yeast infection around month 4 and had at least one recurrence a month until I gave birth. Disgusting discharge was a part of my life for a long time!!"
NEANOE

What the Experts Say:
Probiotics (in yogurt) and acidic foods eaten regularly can help keep your body in balance and limit risks of vaginal or urinary tract infections.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Super Foods for a Super You
Probiotics: A Billion Good Bugs
Ask the Expert regarding Yogurt/Probiotics

43. Vaginal Discharge: When to be concerned
Normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy is called leukorrhea and is thin, white, milky and mild smelling. Leukorrhea is normal and nothing to worry about. You can use panty liners or change panties frequently to keep clean, dry and more comfortable.

Early in pregnancy, some women experience brownish discharge especially after intercourse and are concerned that it is a sign of miscarriage. Bright red blood like a period is a sign of miscarriage typically and not brown or pink tinged discharge. Also, it is not uncommon to have an increase in discharge later in pregnancy, but this can make some women concerned they are leaking amniotic fluid. Be sure to talk with your medical provider at your appointments about what you are experiencing throughout your pregnancy so he can help you determine if there is anything to be concerned about.

What Members Say:
"I've been having quite a bit of discharge that I know is not normal. I did some research on it, and I had some results come back about BV - Bacterial Vaginosis, which is potentially harmful for the baby and the entire pregnancy. Well, I went to the doctor to have it tested (just to be sure, better safe than sorry), and it came back negative for BV, thank God, but I did indeed have a yeast infection."
HIS-MUNCHKINS

What the Experts Say:
Probiotics and acidic foods eaten regularly can help keep your body in balance and limit risks of vaginal or urinary tract infections.
Drinking plenty of water and emptying your bladder often can also help.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Super Foods for a Super You
Probiotics: A Billion Good Bugs
Ask the Expert regarding Yogurt/Probiotics

44. Cats and Other Pets: Risks during Pregnancy
Cats and other household animals can pose a health risk to a pregnant woman. The risk with cats is largest if they are infected with a parasite causing toxoplasmosis. The infection can cause problems for the fetus if the mother contracts it during pregnancy. While infection during pregnancy is rare, women should intentionally limit their risk during pregnancy as toxoplasmosis can cause blindness or brain damage in an infected infant. Human infections typically originate from food that is contaminated with the toxoplasmosis parasite, such as undercooked meat from an infected animal. You can also become infected by touching an infected cat or its feces, such as from a litter box.

Reptiles and amphibians pose a risk of salmonella to pregnant women as well. The Centers for Disease Control has advised that reptiles and amphibians should not be kept in households with children younger than 5 years old. Hand washing and cleanliness are critical if you have these pets.

What Members Say:
"The only two problems are cat litter, which I'm sure you know, and WASHING your hands after every time you touch a cat before eating or rubbing eyes. (Same toxins found in their fecal matter are on their fur due to their diligent bathing.) Other than that I would relax and enjoy your kitty!!"
TADSMITH

What the Experts Say:
You can decrease your risks of infection of toxoplasmosis by:
  • Avoiding eating raw or undercooked meat as well as raw eggs and any unpasteurized dairy products. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly.
  • Making sure you thoroughly wash produce.
  • Making sure all utensils used to cut raw meats, raw eggs or unpasteurized dairy products are thoroughly washed and sanitized.
  • Limiting contact with an animal's litter box or breathing the litter dust.
  • Always using gloves when working in soil outside and be sure to wash hands and arms thoroughly since the parasite can be left behind for months after a cat has been in your garden.
  • Limiting close contact with any cats that are not strictly indoor pets and avoid contact with stray cats or kittens.
  • Avoiding playing in public sand boxes and keep your own tightly covered.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Pets and Pregnancy Cafe Post

45. Progesterone Supplements
Adequate progesterone production is necessary to safely maintain pregnancy from implantation through delivery. The levels of progesterone are supposed to increase dramatically throughout pregnancy. If progesterone levels remain too low, pregnancy will fail, in miscarriage or premature delivery.

When women produce low levels of progesterone, supplementation is often required. Some women use progesterone only for the first 12-16 weeks of pregnancy in the form of vaginal suppositories or creams while others receive progesterone shots throughout pregnancy. Never self medicate yourself using progesterone. It should be worked into your care plan by your medical provider after appropriate testing.

What Members Say:
"I found myself pregnant the first time and it was a surprise. I made an appointment with my doctor, and I found out I had low progesterone levels. I was prescribed progesterone suppositories. I had to take them with this pregnancy (my 2nd) as well. If your progesterone levels are too low, you will more likely find yourself having trouble holding a pregnancy if you get pregnant in the first place."
PETITE

"The P17 shots worked great for me. I would do it all over again. I delivered my first child at 33 weeks without the shots. This time I had the shots for 20 weeks and delivered at 38 weeks. I really feel it helped, and I would definitely do it again. My insurance did pay a portion of these. The soreness and other small side effects were worth all of it to have a full-term, healthy baby."
SCOOTERSMOM

What the Experts Say:
In 2003, two research studies found that a form of the hormone progesterone (17P) reduced the rate of premature birth for some women who have given birth to a premature baby and are at increased risk of having another early birth. 17P should be used only for pregnant women who meet these criteria:
  • They have already been pregnant at least once with a single baby (not twins or multiples).
  • With that baby, they began labor on their own before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Medical professionals did not use drugs or other methods to start labor.
  • They are currently pregnant again with a single baby.
Women being treated with 17P receive weekly shots, which start between weeks 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and continue until 38 weeks. If you have already had a premature baby, ask your health care provider whether 17P might be a good choice for you.
Based on guidelines provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Additional Resources:
Preconception Forum Community Post - Progesterone Levels - Anyone Know About This?
Preconception Forum Community Post - Luteal Phase Article

46. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful problem that affects 28% of all pregnant women. CTS is a result of the median nerve (that travels through the "tunnel" of the wrist bones) being compressed. Typical symptoms include tingling or numbness especially in the thumb and/or fingers, sharp shooting pains or burning type sensations in the fingers. Water retention and hormone changes are key causes of CTS during pregnancy.

What Members Say:
"My doctor told me I had carpal tunnel. My finger tips (mostly just right hand, thumb, index and middle fingers) get numb, and the knuckles get tingly and crampy on and off throughout the day, and they're terribly painful in the night. It helps to bend my wrist in when the pain and numbness/tingling starts."
MGALLMAN

What the Experts Say:
Watching your sodium intake and being sure that you are drinking 10 or more cups of water is a great way to help limit water retention, which in turn can control carpal tunnel syndrome. Many women who are retaining water and drink less water thinking this will help. It actually makes the water retention worse because it keeps the fluid in the interstitial spaces instead of drawing it into the blood stream. So watch your sodium intake and keep it below 3,000 mg and drink lots of water to help keep water retention down, which will also reduce the impact on CTS to a certain degree.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Easy Ways to Cut Sodium Intake
Leg Cramps
How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label

47. Forgetfulness aka Mommy Brain
Forgetfulness during pregnancy is very common. It's so common in fact, that many lovingly refer to it as "mommy brain" or pregnancy haze. So why do we become forgetful when we are pregnant? Many experts believe that changing hormones is at the heart of this pregnancy change, as it is with so many others.

What Members Say:
"I was out to lunch with a friend of mine, who is also the mother of three boys, and THREE TIMES I forgot what I was talking about mid-sentence! It's so bizarre. It's like one second it's there, and the next it's completely gone and nothing you do will make you remember. Needless to say my girlfriend was totally cracking up with this "I told you so" sort of look on her face."
NOAZMAMA_D

What the Experts Say:
According to the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, some experts believe that pregnancy haze may be worsened by iron deficiency and stress. Although research has not proved these theories, try to lower your stress and eat enough iron.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
7 Simple Stress Busters
10 High-Stress Personality Characteristics
Pregnant and Feeling Stressed?
Iron Fact Sheet
Your Pregnancy 9 to 5
Organizing Your Life Through Your Pregnancy - Part 1
Organizing Your Life Through Your Pregnancy - Part 2

48. Glucose Tolerance Test and Challenge
The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT or GTT) measures the body's ability to use glucose, which is the body's intended main source of energy. In pregnancy it is used to check for gestational diabetes. It is typically performed between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Women who are at a particularly high risk of developing gestational diabetes may be screened earlier, between the 12th and 14th weeks of pregnancy.

The Glucose Challenge test is typically conducted first unless there is a history of diabetes. For the challenge test you are asked to drink a sweet glucose-containing liquid. A blood sample is then collected 1 hour after you drink the glucose. If this screening indicates a difficulty handling glucose, a complete glucose tolerance diagnostic test may be done.

The GTT is done over a 3-4 hour time period. It is recommended that you eat a well balanced diet for several days prior to the test. It is not recommended that you eat, drink, smoke or exercise strenuously for 8 hours prior to the first blood draw. When you go for the test, they will take a fasting blood sample to serve as your baseline. You will then be asked to drink a glucose beverage. This drink typically contains 100 grams of glucose, and it is usually recommended that you drink the liquid quickly. Additional blood samples are typically collected at 1, 2 and 3 hours after you completed ingestion of the glucose drink.

Many find it a little difficult to drink the extremely sweet glucose liquid. Some people begin feeling sick or even vomit after taking it. Vomiting may prevent completing the test, and you might have to repeat the drink again on another day.

What Members Say:
"When I talked to a nurse about it, she said that there is a 50/50 chance to fail the one hour glucose test and pass the three hour. I was one of those."
MAPGEEKSKI

"You take the three-hour tests if you fail the hour test. I just had my three-hour test (it's actually more like four hours) today, and it's no fun because you just have to sit there and not get up except to get your blood drawn and to pee."
SEH2SEJ

What the Experts Say:
No preparation is usually needed for the glucose challenge screening test. Many women are told that they do not need to limit food or fluids before the test either. However for women who are borderline with their ability to manage glucose, eating higher glucose intakes prior to the challenge can cause your challenge test to come back higher than expected and cause the medical provider to recommend the more complete glucose challenge test. If you have any reason to suspect you could be borderline in your glucose tolerance, try to schedule a mid morning test and make your breakfast a combo of whole grains (oatmeal with milk) and protein (hard boiled egg) while skipping the juice and having decaf coffee or tea. You may find you are better ready to pass the test with flying colors than if you have a doughnut and orange juice right before your appointment.
Tanya Jolliffe, BabyFit Nutritionist

Additional Resources:
Diabetics Can Have Healthy Babies
Advice for Overweight-Moms-to-Be
Pregnancy Weight Gain
More Reason to Get Fit Before Pregnancy
Carbohydrate Control with the Please KISS me plan

49. Labor Signs
How do you know you're in labor? You may feel cramps or Braxton-Hicks contractions at increased intervals or intensity levels that gradually decrease or even go away entirely towards the end of your pregnancy. This is your body preparing for labor and delivery but it doesn't always mean that it is time. As your cervix dilates towards the end of your pregnancy, you may notice a "bloody show," which is the loss of your mucus plug. It may be stringy, streaked with pink, red, or brown, resembling the appearance of a Kleenex after blowing your nose. While it doesn't necessary mean labor is eminent, it does mean you are dilating, and that's a good sign. No two pregnancies or bodies are alike, and some women never notice the loss of their mucus plug, as it might happen gradually. Also, only about 10 percent of labors begin with the breaking of the amniotic "water" sac. So you can't expect that this will be your sign that labor has been initiated either.

Generally if contractions start, are progressing in duration and strength, with or without any other signs, you should contact your medical provider and let them know what is going on because this is the best sign of impending labor and possible delivery. Your medical provider or a specialist at their office can help you decide if this is truly the start of labor and what should be the next steps for you. Also, if you are experience a sudden onset of cramping type lower back pain this could also indicate the start of back labor and your medical provider should also be contacted so they can help you decide the next best course of action.

What Members Say:
"Well I had no signs of labor, I had no Braxton Hicks contractioms, and I wasn't dilated at all at my 38 week appointment. My water broke in the middle of night in bed, I had woke up to go to the bathroom and when I stood up--GUSH."
HOCKEYMOM.DANI

"I was having contractions for 2 days straight; however, they were irregular up until I was admitted. My suggestion is if you are having contractions that get stronger as time goes on but do not fall into a pattern, call your doctor."
KATIEBEAR81

What Experts Say:
Don't feel cheated if you don't experience all of these oddities. While common, there certainly is no rule book or checklist for a "normal" experience before or after delivery. Remember that "due dates" are estimates. If you are past your expected due date, be patient. Your baby knows when the time is right. Trust your body and listen to it. It won't fail you!

Additional Resources:
5 Things You Might Not Know About Labor and Delivery
The Secret to Easing Labor Pain
What Are Midwives and Doulas?
Packing for the Hospital or Birthing Center
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider

50. Itching
You're itchy and feel that your skin is always dry no matter how much moisturizer you use. You can thank your changing hormones for this. Itching to a small degree is normal and one of the side effects of the hormone changes your body is going through during pregnancy. Stretching skin on the belly is also another reason that your tummy itches frequently, especially if your skin is less elastic and more prone to stretch marks. However, if you find that you have itchy red bumps and hives that have spread to your legs -- and even your behind, this could be more than just dry skin. During the last few months of pregnancy, about 1 in 200 women develops "pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy." The name sounds as awkward as the condition can make you feel! Called "PUPPP" for short, the condition usually starts as itchy red bumps and larger patches of hives on your abdomen. Often, the bumps form in your stretch marks, then within a few days spread to buttocks, thighs and arms. PUPPP generally affects women only during their first pregnancies. Women in the last half of their pregnancy also can get a skin condition called prurigo of pregnancy (or prurigo gestationis). Small red bumps that resemble bug bites appear on the arms and legs.

What Members Say:
"This is my fourth pregnancy and I've gotten itchy with each of them! The first time my doctor told me she hadn't heard of it before, but I certainly know now that it is due to pregnancy. Cream helps, but I find that I'm still itchy. Luckily, it does go away after the baby is born!"
CASSANDRA4

What the Experts Say:
For the itching associated with pregnancy, try these tips:
Itching Do's
  • Use a mild soap and moisturize with unscented lotions.
  • Take a warm oatmeal bath. The oatmeal will help soothe skin.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing.
  • Use a baking soda paste for intense itching. It's messy, but baking soda can help relieve itching.
  • Use a cooling aloe gel that contains camphor or menthol.
  • Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or Calamine lotion to relieve the itch.
Itching Don'ts
  • Don't scratch! The relief will be temporary, and you'll further irritate your skin in the long run.
  • Don't take a hot shower or bath. Hot water will dry out skin and exacerbate the itching. Opt for warm water.
  • Don't use heavily perfumed soaps or lotions. Scents can worsen irritation.
  • Don't take any antihistamines (or any other medications) without first talking to your health care provider.
Additional Resources:
Skin Changes During Pregnancy
Creating a Personal Pregnancy Spa
Body Beautiful from the Inside Out


Didn't find the Answer here? Check out our comprehensive Ask the Experts feature, with more helpful parenting and pregnancy advice from BabyFit's experts and staff.


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Member Comments About this Article
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"I'm about 16 weeks pregnant and my hair is falling out in CLUMPS when I get out of the shower. It made me nervous. but now that I know I need more calcium and to leave my hair down more often, I feel relieved!!! ugh I hope after I give birth my hair will go back to normal : )" -- AWILSON2108
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