It's not easy to be pregnant when your mom is a dietitian.
It’s not easy to be pregnant when your mom is a dietitian. My daughter reminded me of this when she called to confess that she has already gained a pound for each week of her pregnancy. And she has more than 3 months to go.
Do you want me to send you a pregnancy weight gain chart? I offered, only half kidding.
“No, Mom! It’s just going to depress me!” she said, only half laughing.
Later, she assured me that growing up with a mom who counsels people about their diets “was not as bad as it sounds. You taught us how to make healthy food choices, the importance of exercise, and the phrase, ‘everything in moderation. And now that I’m pregnant, I have your nutrition advice on speed dial.” (Whatever that means.)
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Poor thing. Her first 3 months of pregnancy were rough. Nothing stayed down and it wasn’t so pleasant when it came back up. Lots of friends offered their personal remedies. But she called me because she said she knew “my personal dietitian would have the latest research.” Sweet.
I advised her to stick with bland, easy-to-digest foods like hot cereals, chicken broth and — the one that really worked when I was pregnant with her — crackers by the bedside before even thinking about moving in the morning. And I told her about an interesting finding that potato chips (not the whole bag, please) and lemonade were sometimes soothing for pregnant women with nausea.
When I learned of her overnight stay in the hospital for dehydration, I suggested she sip on nutrient-rich fluids such as Ensure- or Boost-type products once she got home. She did get better but says if she sees another saltine cracker, she’ll throw it out the window. Another comfort, she says, was her mom’s voice from so many miles away. Miss you too, honey.
So back to the weight gain. With her nausea much improved, her appetite came back with a vengeance. After she and her husband enjoyed the holidays at home with family, she called me in a panic.
“I gained 8 pounds in two weeks! Is that bad”
Well … it is a bit excessive, I said gingerly. (Although women need to gain weight during pregnancy, excess weight gain may increase a woman’s risk for complications, according to current guidelines by the National Institutes of Medicine.)
I gently reminded her that the expected weight gain for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is only 1 to 4 pounds. After that, most women have better outcomes with a weight gain in the half pound to 1 pound per week range. (Women who begin pregnancy overweight are advised to gain at the lower end of this scale.)
Now that she was feeling better, I said lovingly, she may want to resume some “pregnancy- appropriate” physical activity. (No ice hockey or weightlifting, for example.) Water exercise, I suggested, can be a nice “lift” for swollen bellies and — according to a recent study — may help prepare a woman for a less painful delivery.
So in true style, my eldest daughter signed up for a water aerobics class at her local YMCA. And she started tracking her calorie intake.
And then I needed to remind her not to overdo her great health habits. Pregnant mommies need rest. Pre-born babies need to grow. And I do believe she is listening … to her body … as well as her doctor and her dietitian mom. And that is good for her mental health as well.
My daughter wrote to me recently, “I smile when I think about the special bond I hope to share with the growing baby girl inside of me, just like I share with you. I pray I can be as good a mom to my baby as my mom has been to me. The one difference is I probably won’t offer to send her a pregnancy weight chart when she’s expecting.”
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(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)