Read an Excerpt
The Healthy Pregnancy Book
Month by Month, Everything You Need to Know from America's Baby Experts
By William Sears, Martha Sears, Linda Holt, BJ Snell
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2013 William Sears Martha Sears Linda Holt BJ Snell
All rights reserved.
Planning to Become Pregnant: Eleven Habits to Increase Your Chances
Give your baby the healthiest start possible: preconception planning is just what the doctor ordered. Is your body ready to birth a baby?
New insights into child development reveal that the healthier the mother is during her pregnancy, the healthier her baby is likely to be as an infant, child, and adult. Here's another incentive for you to start our Healthy Pregnancy Plan—now! There is a high correlation between mother's prenatal health and her ability to conceive. The sooner you start to follow the health tips in our book, the sooner you are likely to conceive.
Women expecting to get pregnant underestimate the overwhelming changes that will occur in their minds and bodies when they become pregnant. Every organ system will change. Every hormone will change. Your body will work harder than it ever has, 24/7. Take a look at one organ: your heart. When you are pregnant, your blood volume increases by 50 percent, and your heart has to work that much harder to nourish you and that growing little person inside. The awesome thing is that a woman's body is designed to pull that off, gradually and gracefully.
Are you fit for this feat? Waiting to get fit until you get pregnant is unfit timing. That's when your energy reserves will be used up by your growing baby, so it's the hardest possible time to make major lifestyle and habit changes. Now is the time to make healthier choices. Here's our preparing-for-pregnancy health plan:
1. Is Your Body Fit to Birth a Baby?
Are there L.E.A.N. (lifestyle, exercise, attitude, and nutrition) issues that need to be resolved, or at least worked on, before you get pregnant? Do you have dietary habits that may affect your fertility and your likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy?
Are you taking medications that need to be tapered or changed?
Do you have a chronic illness that needs to be better controlled, such as diabetes?
Do you have harmful lifestyle habits that could affect fertility and pregnancy? (See page 88.)
Do you have emotional issues that need to be stabilized before the hormonal havoc begins? (See page 73.)
Do you have harmful habits, such as the use of illegal drugs, tobacco, or excessive alcohol, that need to be handled before becoming pregnant? (See page 88.)
Are you using chemical birth control? If so, it's time to toss the pills. Discuss with your healthcare provider how to get off them immediately and switch over to natural family planning to learn about your fertility peaks. It's important to give your body at least three months before conceiving so that the effects of chemical contraception can wear off.
It's not necessary to wait for the best time, best lifestyle, best health to get pregnant. Many mothers with less-than-ideal lifestyles and severe chronic illnesses have gone on to birth healthy babies. Yet, the better you care for yourself now, the better your baby-growing and baby-birthing are likely to be.
2. Make Health Your Hobby
Pregnancy may just be the motivation you need to get off the couch, visit the produce section of the supermarket, eat in and not out, and do all the other good things for your body that your mother preached and medical talk shows highlight. Put up this reminder throughout your home and workplace:
3. Schedule a Preconception Checkup
Consider having a thorough checkup with either your healthcare provider or a newly selected OB/GYN and/or midwife. Besides a general physical examination, your healthcare provider will:
Review your medical history and family genetics history to see whether there are issues that might affect your pregnancy. Come prepared with your medical and family history.
Review previous miscarriages or pregnancy-attempt history for clues on how to increase your chances of conception and birthing this time.
Order a complete profile of laboratory tests to be sure you enter pregnancy with a stable biochemistry and an optimal balance of hormones.
Give you advice on getting a chronic condition under control. Unless advised by your healthcare provider, don't let a chronic illness—such as an autoimmune disease, diabetes, or a mood disorder—put you off from getting pregnant. Often the hormonal and biochemical changes that take place in a pregnant woman's body become therapeutic for existing ailments, leading some women to conclude: "My health was never better once I became pregnant!"
Check your immunizations. Your healthcare provider may do various antibody titers to see whether you need boosters. Be sure to bring your immunization record, especially if you have had any immunizations in the past ten years. (See "Getting Vaccines Safely While Pregnant" on our website: AskDrSears.com/topics/vaccines.)
Not only is a checkup by your medical doctor necessary for proper preconception planning, but one by your dentist is important, too. You want to enter pregnancy with healthy gums and healthy teeth for two reasons: Pregnancy hormones are going to mess with your mouth anyway, making already sore gums sorer. And gingivitis, or periodontal disease, can cause harmful inflammatory biochemicals and germs to enter your bloodstream and perhaps harm your pregnancy.
4. Preload Your Body with Nutrients
Now is the time to eat more of what you and your little one need and less of what you don't. Besides preloading with prenatal supplements (see "How to Choose the Prenatal Supplement That's Right for You" on page 23), eat more foods containing the nourishing nine:
(See page 48 to learn why you and baby need more of these nutrients, and which foods are highest in them.)
The reason we call this "preloading" is because now is when you can best stomach dietary changes. Those early pregnancy months of queasiness and picky eating are not the most tummy-friendly time to make significant dietary changes. So, store up those needed nutrients now.
5. Eat More of the Twelve Pregnancy Superfoods
In chapter 2, you'll learn what you should eat more of while you're planning to become pregnant and why. In a nutshell, you will now be eating, very simply, the Real Food Diet. You will need to become a "picky eater," selecting food based on quality and nutrient density—that is, the most nutrition in the smallest volume. This may be the first time in your life that you have to be scientifically selective about what you eat. Certainly this does not mean that you have to take all the fun out of eating and make it a mathematical exercise. In fact, calorie counting is just what the pregnancy doctor doesn't order. It's quality of calories rather than quantity that's important. In chapter 3 you will learn to eat a right-fat, right-carb diet rather than a low- fat, low-carb diet.
Reshape your tastes. Pre-pregnancy is the time to begin getting your body accustomed to the foods you and your baby need, not just those you want. Try this exercise in taste reshaping: Eat a diet of primarily the twelve pregnancy foods. Follow the "how to eat" and "what to eat" healthy pregnancy tips in chapters 2 and 3 at least 90 percent of the time. Over a few months you will experience metabolic reprogramming (simply put, taste reshaping), in which your food cravings and gut feelings change toward preferring real food over fake food. Then, by the time sperm meets egg and baby starts growing, your body is already craving those foods and a way of eating that is not only friendly to your more selective intestines but provides the best "grow foods" for your baby. It's as if that little motivator inside continues to prompt you to eat as you should have been eating all along anyway.
6. Get Used to Grazing
In chapter 2 you'll discover the three magic words of pregnancy cuisine: graze, sip, and dip. This way of eating is healthiest for people at all ages and stages, but is especially gut-perfect during pregnancy.
7. Get Lean
"Lean" means having the right amount of body fat for your body type, and the right amount of body fat for your health needs and those of your baby. "Lean" does not mean skinny. In fact, a woman needs a certain amount of body fat to produce the hormones that help her ovulate. This is why teen athletes, such as gymnasts, often have delayed menstruation: they have too little body fat.
On the other hand, too much body fat increases your chances of complications during pregnancy (see page 53), in addition to lowering your chances of getting pregnant in the first place. Getting your weight under control increases your chances of getting pregnant and lowers your chances of having a complicated pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and an unhealthy newborn. (See page 54 for more on optimal weight control during pregnancy and page 58 for our L.E.A.N. Expectations Program.)
8. Go Green to Get Pregnant
The cleaner and greener the air you breathe, the food you eat, the lotions you use, and even the lipstick you wear, the greater your chances of conceiving and birthing a healthy baby. Begin going green now to prepare for growing baby in a "green" house. (See chapter 8 for tips and strategies on how to go green during pregnancy. To increase your motivation for going green, turn to page 18 to read about recent scientific breakthroughs showing how a green environment increases your chances of growing a healthy baby.)
9. Don't Worry, Get Pregnant!
If you suffer from stress or mood instabilities, now is the time to get help and get stable. In chapter 6 you will learn about new research showing that unborn babies and mommies share the hormonal effects triggered by thoughts, for better or worse. Learning natural stressbusters (see page 75) is especially important if you are now on mood-altering medications, many of which are not safe to take while pregnant.
If you're habitually sedentary and planning to get pregnant, now is the time to get moving. It is certainly easier to be mobile now than when you're heavily pregnant and off-balance. We're often surprised to learn how few people really understand the power of movement to help you make your own internal medicines (see page 59 for more on this). The right exercise program for you is one that you will stick to. While you're still in the pregnancy planning stage, start an exercise routine that helps you feel so good you'll want to continue it.
11. "We're Pregnant!"
Long before you wow your mate with that little blue line on the pregnancy test, keep in mind that your baby needs happy parents. While making a baby, growing a baby, and then parenting a baby can strengthen a marriage, the sooner your partner learns to share the responsibility, the better. It's important for him to make preconception lifestyle changes with you, especially if he has habits like smoking, excessive drinking, or illegal drug use. Secondhand smoke, for instance, can be nearly as harmful to baby as mommy's own smoking—for example, it doubles the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Following these strategies to increase your chances of getting pregnant will hopefully reward you with one of the greatest privileges of womanhood—growing a human being. In the following chapters you will learn habits that will increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and birthing a healthy baby.
The Healthy Pregnancy Plan
What's going on in there? Every mother wonders how her habits affect how her baby is growing. Once upon a time it was thought that a baby in the womb grew according to a predetermined genetic blueprint, and as long as a mother took reasonably good care of herself, her baby would grow according to that genetic blueprint. Genes were believed to be so powerful that they determined growth, and that there was not much that nurturing could change. In other words, it was thought that nature was much more important than nurture in regards to prenatal development.
New research shows that how the genes behave and how they affect your baby's growth, for better or worse, are very much influenced by what a mother eats and does, and even by her level of unresolved stress. And research in the new field of epigenetics shows that a baby's womb environment can set up a baby for health, or disease, for the rest of her life. Does diabetes or heart disease begin in the womb?
You are your baby's first filter. The brain grows the fastest during pregnancy, especially during the last three months, and it is the organ most susceptible to toxins. The mother, as well as the placenta, acts as a filter for these toxins. What goes into your mouth, your gut, even possibly your thoughts conceivably could pass into your baby. In this section, you'll learn how this happens. Following are the nine top tips for a healthy pregnancy and baby:
1. Learn about the fetal effect.
2. Graze for good health.
3. Eat the top twelve pregnancy superfoods.
4. Gain the weight that's right for you.
5. Exercise right for two.
6. Don't worry, be pregnant.
7. Sleep peacefully.
8. Go green; avoid environmental pollutants.
9. Practice the pills-and-skills model of self-care.
Get Motivated to Get Healthy
For many mothers, pregnancy is just the jump start they need to finally take up the health habits they've been putting off. Pregnant mothers who follow our Healthy Pregnancy Plan are more likely to:
Enjoy more comfortable pregnancies
Have their babies go to term
Have an easier transition into parenthood
Have babies who are smarter
Have babies who are healthier
Become emotionally and physically healthier themselves
Our health topics are intended to show you that pregnancy is a privilege that enables you to translate what you do for yourself over nine months into increasing your chances of delivering a healthy baby who grows into a healthy child and adult. After reading Part I, we want you to be both motivated to make these changes and empowered with the tools to do so.
F.O.O.D. FOR THOUGHT
Fetal origins of diseases—F.O.O.D.—is the theme of this chapter. Once upon a time preventive medicine pundits preached: "Adult diseases begin in childhood. Let's raise healthier children." New insights reveal that preventive medicine needs to go one step earlier—fetushood. This new science of F.O.O.D. teaches that a healthy society begins with healthy pregnant mothers. The healthier the mother during her pregnancy, the more likely her baby will be born with a healthy blueprint for life.
The "fetal origins" belief proposes that disturbances in fetal nutrition and endocrine balance can result in permanent changes in organ structure, physiology, and metabolism, which can predispose these babies to cardiovascular, metabolic, and endocrine disease in adult life. This "programming" means that a chemical insult in a sensitive or critical period of development can have long-term effects. The fetal origin of cardiovascular disease, especially high blood pressure, seems to present the strongest case. The endothelium—the lining of the blood vessels—is most affected, causing these kids to grow up with stiffer arteries.
Opponents of the fetal origin theory counter that lifestyle and diet influences after birth may account for these differences. Yet, in analyzing the data, researchers have taken this theory into consideration and concluded that the fetal origin effect is still an important factor. On the other hand, there is no question that postnatal lifestyle and diet can greatly lower the magnitude of any fetal programming effects. Studies have shown that animals that suffer from both an unhealthy intrauterine and postnatal health environment experience a double whammy. Children who have both of these unhealthy starts in life are even more prone to adult diseases than if they had just one or the other.
How F.O.O.D. Happens
The most common example of how a mother's prenatal habits can cause lasting health changes in her baby is that excess baby fat becomes excess adult fat. If a baby in utero is not given enough of the right nutrients or is exposed to too much of the wrong nutrients, a strong adaptation mechanism clicks in so that baby's tissues are programmed to conserve sugar and fat. That baby is born a calorie storer instead of a calorie burner, which predisposes the child and adult to obesity.
Excerpted from The Healthy Pregnancy Book by William Sears, Martha Sears, Linda Holt, BJ Snell. Copyright © 2013 William Sears Martha Sears Linda Holt BJ Snell. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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