6. Your Nutrition


Some women experience food cravings during pregnancy. Food cravings have long been considered a nonspecific sign of pregnancy. We don’t understand all the reasons you might crave a food while you’re pregnant, but we believe hormonal and emotional changes add to the situation. Some experts believe cravings may indicate your body needs the nutrients a particular food contains.

Craving a particular food can be both good and bad. If the food you crave is nutritious and healthful, eat it in moderation. Don’t eat food that isn’t good for you.

What Foods Do Pregnant Women Crave?

Research indicates three common cravings among pregnant women.

• 33% crave chocolate

• 20% crave sweets of some sort

• 19% crave citrus fruits and juices

If you crave foods that are high in fat and sugar or loaded with empty calories, be careful. Take a little taste, but don’t let yourself go. Try eating another food, such as a piece of fresh fruit or some cheese, instead of indulging in your craving.

Be careful what you eat when you’re tired. You may crave a snack that isn’t healthy for you. Try eating a small healthy snack first, and wait for a bit. See if you really want the unhealthy food. Some cravings are emotional—you may be tired and out of sorts, and you crave a hot-fudge sundae. It may be that you are craving comfort, not food.

When you crave something sweet, eat a cherry tomato or some broccoli pieces to help curb your sweet tooth. These foods may help reduce cravings. Or replace high-calorie fare with low-calorie ones, such as lowfat pudding, lowfat frozen yogurt or a smoothie. If you crave the same nonnutritious treat over and over again, buy single-serve portions, and keep them in the freezer. Eat one at a time.

If you’re having trouble with sugar cravings, try chewing sugar-free gum in the afternoon. Or go out for a treat you crave. If you have to go out, you may change your mind. Understand when you indulge your cravings for high-fat, sugary foods, you may actually increase your cravings for them!

Food Aversions

On the opposite side of cravings is food aversion. Some foods you have eaten without problems before pregnancy may now make you sick to your stomach. It’s common. Again, we believe the hormones of pregnancy are involved. In this case, hormones affect the gastrointestinal tract, which can affect your reaction to some foods.

Pica—Nonfood Cravings

Some women experience pica during pregnancy. They crave nonfood items, such as dirt, clay, laundry starch, chalk, ice, paint chips and other things. We don’t know why pregnant women develop these cravings. Some experts believe it may be caused by an iron deficiency. Others think pica may be the body’s attempt to get vitamins or minerals not being supplied in the food the woman eats. Still others speculate pica cravings may be caused by an underlying physical or mental illness.

Pica cravings may be harmful to your baby and you. Eating nonfood items could interfere with nutrient absorption of healthy foods and result in a deficiency.

If you have pica cravings, don’t panic. Call your healthcare provider immediately. He or she will develop a plan with you to help deal with the cravings.

If you have food aversions, try to substitute foods to get the nutrients you need. For example, drink calcium-fortified juice if you can’t drink milk. Meat making you ill? Try eggs, beans or nuts.

7. You Should Also Know

Will You Get Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are large, distended veins deep under the skin. They are caused by blood-flow blockage in the veins, aggravated by pregnancy.

You may also experience spider veins. They are small groups of dilated blood vessels near the skin surface. You see them most commonly on face and legs.

Varicose veins, also called varicosities or varices, occur to some degree in most pregnant women. There seems to be an inherited tendency to get varicose veins during pregnancy. It can be worsened with increased age and pressure caused by standing for a long time. Most women actually begin to develop varicose veins in their 20s.

Problems usually occur in the legs but may also be present in the vulva and rectum (hemorrhoids). The change in blood flow and pressure from the uterus can make problems worse and cause discomfort. In most instances, varicose veins become more noticeable and more painful as pregnancy progresses and may get worse as you gain more weight (especially if you stand a lot).

Symptoms vary. For some, the main symptom is a blemish or purple-blue spot on the legs with little or no discomfort, except maybe in the evening. Other women have painful bulging veins that require elevation at the end of the day. Varicose veins may also cause itching. The following measures may help keep your veins from swelling as much.

• Wear medical support hose; many types are available. Ask your healthcare provider for a recommendation.

• Wear clothing that doesn’t restrict circulation at the knee or groin.

• Spend as little time on your feet as you can. Lie on your side or elevate your legs when possible. This enables veins to drain more easily.

• Wear flat shoes when you can.

• Exercise regularly to help improve blood flow through the veins.

• Drink citrus juice or eat citrus fruit; the vitamin C helps keep capillary and vein walls strong.

• Consider eating spinach, broccoli and asparagus, as these foods may help lessen the severity of varicose veins. These foods are high in vitamin K, which may help relieve symptoms.

• Don’t cross your legs. It cuts off circulation and can make problems worse.

Dad Tip

It’s not too early to start thinking about baby names. Did you know nearly 50% of all Americans are named after a family member? Sometimes partners have very different ideas about names for their child. There are many books available to help you. Do you plan to honor a close friend or relative by using their name? Will you use a family name? What problems could arise if you choose a peculiar, difficult-to-say or hard-to-spell name? Find out what a name means—it could help you make a decision. What do the initials spell out? What nicknames go with the name? Start thinking about it now, even if you decide you won’t pick a name until after you meet your baby.

The type of exercise you choose may make the problem worse. High-impact exercise, such as step aerobics or jogging, can damage veins. Low-impact exercises, such as biking, prenatal yoga or using an elliptical trainer, may be a better choice.

Following pregnancy, swelling in the veins should go down, but varicose veins probably won’t completely disappear. After-pregnancy treatment methods include laser treatment, injection and surgery.

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