Four Off-Limit Foods for New Moms-to-Be

Meals should be a pleasure during pregnancy, not a problem. But certain foods can be risky when you’re eating for two. For your baby’s safety, steer clear of the following foods when expecting, and always ask your doctor if you have any questions on what you should -- and shouldn’t -- eat .

Fish high in mercury. Eating fish is an important part of your pregnancy diet because much of it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are super nutrients for your new baby’s brain development. But not every kind of fish is recommended. Some larger ones contain too much mercury, which can affect your baby’s nervous system. Steer clear of shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. And limit safer varieties of fish to 12 ounces a week.

Some raw and undercooked foods. The risk with anything raw is that you may contract a case of food poisoning. While it’s rare for this illness to affect your new baby, it’s not pleasant to deal with, whether you’re pregnant or not. To be on the safe side, cook eggs, seafood, shellfish, meat, and chicken fully. Skip raw fish and shellfish, smoked fish, refrigerated pate, and raw sprouts like radish, mung bean, and alfalfa.

Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juice. Unpasteurized products are off the menu when you’re expecting. Read labels carefully to be sure all milk and juice you drink has been pasteurized and the cheese you consume (especially soft varieties like Brie,  Camembert, and goat cheese,) is made with pasteurized, not raw, milk.

Deli meats. Listeriosis, a rather serious foodborne illness, is the concern for this category. It’s a good idea to avoid deli meats and hot dogs anyway as they aren’t a healthy choice (many are high in sodium). If you do indulge in deli items during pregnancy, be sure to heat all meats and franks until they are steaming.

Remember to practice good hygiene in the kitchen -- it’s smart whether you’re having a baby or not. Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating a meal, and wash produce well under running water, using a brush to scrub the outer layer of tough-skinned fruits and veggies. Knowing your diet is safe for your new baby will put any expectant mom at ease. Happy eating!

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Pregnancy Beauty Basics

When you’re pregnant, it’s not uncommon to want to make up for swollen ankles and other less desirable symptoms with a fresh face of make up and a new hair ‘do. But keep in mind that the ingredients in your beauty products, if absorbed into the skin, may reach the placenta and could pose a risk for your new baby. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on looking glam until post-birth. Just be sure to steer clear of the below, and, if in doubt of a product’s safety, ask your doctor.

Skip it: Hair dye Expecting new moms should try to avoid dying or chemically straightening their hair when pregnant, as the ammonia fumes could harm a new baby during the first three months of pregnancy. If you must change your color or touch up your roots, do so after the first trimester in a well ventilated space, and ask the stylist to avoid touching your scalp with the chemicals.

Skip it: Nail polish

The phthalates in nail polish have been linked to birth defects, so it’s best to wait until after the first trimester to get a manicure or pedicure, when the risk to your new baby is much lower. Acrylic nails should also be avoided when expecting. Need some color before then? Reach for a phthalate-free nail polish instead.

Skip it: Hairspray

Hairspray also contains phthalates, and considering you spray it by your face, it’s very easy to breathe it in. Instead, keep your hair in place with a mousse or gel during your pregnancy.

Skip it: Acne creams

Expecting new moms should avoid prescription acne medications, as they can increase the risk of birth defects. If pimples pop up during your pregnancy, try to use a gentle face wash and switch to oil-free makeup. If that doesn’t work, ask your doctor about what acne face washes may be safe for your new baby.

Skip it: Teeth whitening products

The jury is still our on whether the peroxide, the active ingredient in teeth whiteners, is safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to skip this one. If your pearly whites aren’t looking so, well, white, use a brightening toothpaste instead. And don’t forget to floss and brush regularly during pregnancy. Good dental hygiene is good for your smile and for your new baby’s health.

It’s not always easy for new moms-to-be to give up go-to beauty routines, but keep in mind that sporting your natural hair color or not-so-perfectly-white teeth is best for your new baby. For now, skip the scary stuff and wear your pregnancy glow instead.

Facts about Pregnancy Cravings

For many women around the world, having a baby often comes with an array of new eating habits and cravings, from feasting on a tray of brownies to dipping pickles in curry. But what are pregnancy cravings exactly? Here’s a look at some common cravings and ways to satisfy them without derailing your pregnancy diet or harming your baby.

Understanding pregnancy cravings

You want an entire bag of chips, or an ice cream sundae, and you want it now. Strong urges like these are common among new moms during pregnancy, and no one is completely certain why they occur. Some experts believe that pregnancy cravings happen as a result of your body asking for the nutrients it needs. So desires for ice cream sundaes or a tray of brownies could be a signal that your body needs more calcium or fat

Top cravings from around the world

Most food cravings fall into the sweet, spicy, salty, or sour category, and include foods like ice cream, pickles, soda, lemon, tomatoes, and chocolate.

Craving caveat

Keep in mind that while many pregnancy cravings can be very strong, oftentimes your body doesn’t need the specific food you’re craving, just something in that food. And filling up on unhealthy foods can lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy and nutritional deficiencies for both mom and baby.

How to satisfy your craving

So how do you satisfy a pregnancy craving without doing any damage to your overall health or the health of your new baby? Learn to understand your cravings and satisfy them by eating small amounts of what you desire without overdoing it, or by choosing something similar but  more healthful. That hankering for a vanilla milkshake could just be your body’s desire for calcium and can be sated by a cup of low-fat yogurt, while some crunchy carrots may satisfy a potato chip craving (or maybe not). 

And if a healthy alternative doesn’t do the job? Take your mind off of your craving by going for a walk, spending time with another new mom to-be, or calling a friend to talk about your day.

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Stress-Free Pregnancy Tips

Having a baby is incredibly exciting -- but can also be stressful at times. Between preparing for your baby, arranging the nursery, scheduling checkups, and dealing with your changing body, you've got a lot to handle! The following tactics can help keep anxieties at bay, which will help you -- and your new baby -- stay happy and healthy. 

Stress-free pregnancy tip #1: Get moving. Exercise not only maintains fitness -- it also releases tension. Swimming and walking are great, low impact choices for workouts, and deep-breathing exercise such as in prenatal yoga can be extra soothing. Just be sure to ask your doctor before starting a new physical activity.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #2: Snack wisely. We all know that whatever you eat during pregnancy, your new baby eats, too. But there’s another reason to be mindful when you chow down: A well-balanced diet will help provide the physical and mental energy to help your body power through the pregnancy while keeping you focused.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #3: Catch some Z’s. There’s a reason getting extra sleep is the pregnancy tip that you hear over and over again. While your body is working overtime, you and your baby need all the rest you can get. Getting to bed early means you’ll snooze enough to keep your calm the next day. Check your temperature regularly with a touch free infrared thermometer.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #4: Just relax. Whether you  curl up with a good book, meditate, or enjoy a warm bath, make sure you fit in some calming activities. Once you welcome your baby home, it’ll be tough to find the time for these!

Stress-free pregnancy tip #5: Avoid information overload. Taking a pregnancy education class is crucial for knowing what to expect when you’re having a baby. However, it’s easy to get caught up listening to other people’s horror stories and spending hours on the Internet reading about what could (but probably won’t) go wrong. Instead of delving into the gloomy, pay attention to your own body and look to your doctor for reassurance and advice.

Preparing for a baby can be a lot of work, so don’t hesitate to ask someone for help, to take some pressure off you. A happy, healthy mom-to-be is part of the secret to a happy, healthy pregnancy!

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A Guide to Childbirth Classes

If you're an expectant mom, you'll find that childbirth classes can be an integral part of preparing for the big day, and are well worth the time and effort. Though different classes vary in their focus, most will include helping you figure out what your birth plan will be on the big day, and what you can (and should) expect from the experience. You'll probably want to sign up for a class in the sixth or seventh month of your pregnancy (or anytime before you go into labor). The earlier you sign up for a class, the more flexibility you’ll have in choosing the best days and time for your schedule. (Another option is to take an online class -- that way you'll have even greater flexibility.)

So what exactly happens in these classes? Read on so you know what to expect.

Get the info. One of the most important parts of childbirth class is learning about the labor process and how to determine if you’re going into labor. Especially for first-time moms, preparing for a new baby can be scary, and childbirth classes are a great forum to ask any and all questions you might have about the process, as well as to address any concerns.

Figure out your birth plan. Deciding on the type of labor you’d like to experience while giving birth to your new baby is a very personal decision. During the childbirth class, you can ask your labor coach questions to help determine what labor method will be best for you.

Check out the facility and meet the staff. If your class is held in a hospital or birth center, you'll probably get the chance to tour the facilities, as well as to meet some of the staff on duty. You’ll be able to ask any questions you have about the hospital’s policies and resources, including whether additional classes are offered for expectant moms, and that staff will be available to help you with breastfeeding and bathing your new baby after birth.

Learn about breathing methods. Proper breathing technique can help make your delivery easier. Childbirth classes will teach you the practice, and prep both you and your partner on how to breathe effectively through your labor.

At the end of the day, childbirth classes will provide you with pregnancy tips and labor information  that will help you feel more confident as you’re preparing for your baby. And they’ll provide you with an opportunity to meet and chat with other soon-to-be new moms -- and that’s always priceless.

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