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Diet & Exercise
Q. I'm five months pregnant and I have been craving bleach. I have a really strong urge to drink it. I never experienced this in my other two pregnancies. Can this be harmful to my baby? Have you ever heard of this?
A. First, please do not drink the bleach! It can be very harmful to you and your baby. You should report your craving to your doctor ASAP. You are probably deficient in iron or some other vitamin. Your body is instinctually seeking out what you are lacking through your seemingly-odd craving.
It is more common than you think during pregnancy to crave such potentially poisonous items as permanent markers, spray paint, gasoline, dirt and bleach. It's almost always an indicator of a dietary deficiency.
Q. I am only five weeks pregnant and my doctor said that I should keep my heart rate at 120 while exercising. I have been exercising regularly for the past few months, and I'm finding it hard to maintain 120 right now. I've never understood why this is important to the developing fetus. Is it because of the heat?
A. Most doctors will recommend that you keep your heart rate under 120 while exercising during pregnancy. It is believed that a heart rate elevated for more than 20 minutes may deplete the oxygen supply to the developing fetus. Heeding this warning is especially important in the first trimester during the development of key organs and body parts.
If you are an exercise fanatic, you may want to alter your routine. Try doing shorter and less intense workouts more often. This may take more time, but you get the same results. I think it's worth not risking the depletion of your baby's oxygen supply.
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Q. Is manicotti safe to eat during pregnancy? It has ricotta, which is a soft cheese.
A. Certain soft cheeses can become contaminated with bacteria called Listeria. If a mother contracts Listeria, it can become life-threatening to the unborn baby. Processed cheeses such as Ricotta and cottage cheese do not contain Listeria and are therefore safe for pregnant women.
Here's a listing of what cheeses you can indulge in and what you should avoid while pregnant:
Indulge in these:
Hard cheeses: Austrian Smoked, Babybel, Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, Edam, Emmental, English goat's cheddar, Feta (if bought in the UK), Gouda, Gruyere, Halloumi, Havarti, Jarlsberg, Lancashire, Mozzarella, Orkney, Paneer, Parmesan, Pecorino, Provolone, Red Leicester.
Soft and processed cheeses: Boursin, cottage cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, Mascarpone, Philadelphia, Quark, Ricotta. Yogurts, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche.
Blue-veined cheeses: Bavarian Blue, Bergader, Bleu d'Avergne, Blue Shropshire, Cabrales, Danish Blue, Dolcelatte, Doppelrhamstuge, Eldel pilz, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Romano, Roncal, Roquefort, Stilton, Tommes, Wensleydale.
Mold-ripened soft cheeses: Brie, Blue Brie, Cambozola, Camembert, Chaumes, Lymeswold, Pont L'Eveque, Prince Jean, Tallegio. Vacherin-Fribourgeois, Weichkaese.
Soft, unpasteurized goat and sheep cheeses: Chabichou, Pyramide, Torta del Cesar.
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Q. I am three months pregnant and want to get my butt in shape (literally). Is it safe to do lunges and squats?
A. If you haven't already been doing a particular exercise frequently, I don’t think now is the time to start something new unless it's easy walking or swimming. If you've already been doing squats and lunges, you can continue as long as you are careful. Do them slowly, without quick jerky movements and stop if you feel discomfort or out of breath. The key to monitoring your exercise level is to listen to your body. It will tell you by a contraction, dizziness or pain when to stop.
Q. I'm a fitness instructor and teach a weight lifting class once a week (sometimes more often). It's endurance-based (high rep, low weight) and, while I don't keep track of my heart rate, I know the exercise involves quite a bit of exertion and makes me sweat a lot. My husband and I are planning to get pregnant this year and when/if we succeed I'm wondering if I should continue to teach. I wouldn't want to outright quit (I'm entitled to maternity leave after the pregnancy, but I am not sure whether I'm automatically entitled to take a temporary absence during pregnancy), nor would I want to tell people for the first few months. Modifying the exercises and/or giving up my class would give it away. Is it safe to keep teaching in my usual way for as long as I feel physically capable, or would that put the (hoped for) pregnancy at risk?
A. Especially in the first trimester, you need to be careful about not overexerting yourself and depriving the fetus of oxygen it needs to develop key organs and body parts. If you do become pregnant, you should alter your routine to not elevate your heart rate for more than 20 minutes at a time.
I understand your dilemma about not wanting to tell people too early or having to quit. I've seen two aerobic instructor friends of mine manage to keep their pregnancies a secret (for the first trimester) and also to keep their jobs until the day of delivery. Donna told her class that she had been ill and wanted to take it easy until she fully recovered. She continued to go through the motions of the steps to keep things moving, but would not do all the steps or repeated moves.
Robin let her class believe she was trying a new, more "hands-on" method of teaching. While belting out instructions and occasionally doing the steps, she would walk around the class, suggest ways to perfect moves, press those who needed motivation and occasionally let one of the students lead.
I don't think you need to give up teaching your class, but you may have to come up with some creative white lies of your own to keep your secret for a little while. Twelve weeks really does go by so fast in the scheme of things.
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Q. I am six weeks pregnant and have been eating spicy food throughout. Is this harmful to the baby's development?
-Anonymous, New York
A. If you enjoy spicy foods, go ahead and eat them while you still can. The baby will be fine. Later in pregnancy, most women have real problems with heartburn, diarrhea, gas and bloating that can be aggravated by eating spicy foods. I can remember actually having dreams about eating spicy Indian food during my second pregnancy. I craved it so badly, but couldn't have a bite without experiencing extremely painful gas and diarrhea which would, in turn, flare up my hemorrhoids.
If you plan on breastfeeding after pregnancy, you should abstain from eating gas-causing and spicy foods then. The flavors and gasses from foods can be passed on through the breast milk and newborns have extremely sensitive digestive systems.
Q. I was told that you can increase the potential development of allergies in your child based on what you eat during your pregnancy. For example, eating lots of peanut butter during pregnancy may cause peanut allergies. I drink lots and lots of milk (I never liked it before I was pregnant). Now, at almost four months, I drink over a liter a day. Will I make my baby lactose intolerant? Should I limit myself to soy milk?
A. I have not been able to find any information supporting that theory. In fact, I think you should eat (within reason) what you crave. Your body is telling you what you need to properly nourish you and your growing baby. If you want milk, keep drinking it. When I was pregnant with my first, I craved a big, fat, juicy hamburger at least once a week, and I had one. The strange thing was that I was previously a vegetarian.
If you choose to breastfeed, that's when you need to watch what you eat in order to avoid passing on an allergic reaction to your baby. Excessive peanut butter, nuts, strawberries, spicy or gas-causing foods should be avoided. Drinking milk is usually fine, unless you notice your baby having real problems with gas, diarrhea or vomiting. My friend Burkely had to give up drinking milk once she started breastfeeding. After a lengthy process of elimination, she and her doctor figured out that her baby had an allergy to a milk protein. Once Burkely switched to soy milk, her baby's diarrhea stopped.
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Q. I am 31 weeks pregnant with my first child. I have gained 23 lbs. already, although everyone tells me that I don't look like I've gained any weight. While I continue to gain weight, I have been eating less and less and do not feel hungry at all. Is this normal? Should I try to make myself eat even though I have no desire to do so? Up until now I have eaten very well and had a diabetes test a few weeks ago that came back very good with no signs of any problems, including anemia.
A. It sounds as if your weight gain is right on target so you have no need for concern there.
Lack of appetite during pregnancy could be due to depression, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, liver problems or it may just be a phase that will soon pass. Regardless of the cause, you should mention your lack of appetite to your OB/GYN and continue to get enough proper nutrition daily.
You might try drinking juice in the morning. Vitamin C has been known to stimulate the appetite. If you still are unable to eat much, I recommend drinking Ensure or a sports shake, or eating an energy bar, Total or Product 19 cereal as these items are packed with the nutrients a growing baby needs.
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Q. My wife is 15.5 weeks and she heard that eating ice is harmful to the baby is that true?
A. Eating ice during pregnancy is not harmful to the fetus but it might be classified as a “pica” craving. A pica craving is a craving for a non-food substance. The most common substances craved during pregnancy are dirt, clay and laundry starch. Other pica cravings include burnt matches, stones, charcoal, mothballs, cornstarch, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, baking soda, cigarette ashes and ice.
The reason that some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy is not known for sure. But, according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, there may be a connection to iron deficiency. Pica cravings may be the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing.
If your wife is craving any of the other non-food substances listed above, she should report it to her OB/GYN and refrain from eating any non-food item, with the exception of ice.
Q. I am entering my seventh month and just ate some dry fruits containing sulfites. I am feeling sick. Can this harm the baby?
-Véronique, New York
A. Preservatives such as sulfites and nitrates taken in large quantities during pregnancy may contribute to birth defects. For example, if you ate these preserved fruits on a daily basis, you might put your baby at risk. Snacking on them every now and then should be okay.
You may be feeling sick from the extra gasses caused by the sulfites or it could simply be your body telling you that this food is not what you or your baby need.
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