5 Pregnancy Mistakes Even Smart Women Make
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Fitness

5 Pregnancy Mistakes Even Smart Women Make

Diet and health mistakes you make while pregnant could harm you or your baby -- here's how to separate fact from fiction.

Common Pregnancy Myths

When you're expecting, everyone seems to have an opinion about what you should and shouldn't be eating, drinking, and doing, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. "There's so much information available that it's easy to misinterpret what you hear and read," says Michael S. Broder, MD, author of The Panic-Free Pregnancy (Perigee, 2004). Here, five surprising slipups and how to stop them from harming your -- and your baby's -- health.

1. You stick with your pre-pregnancy sleep schedule.

Five to six hours may have seemed like plenty before, but the physical changes of pregnancy zap your energy. Research in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who averaged less than six hours of sleep nightly during their ninth month had longer labors and were more than four times more likely to have a C-section than those who slept longer. "Women with a chronic sleep debt may not have the energy to get through labor and delivery," says Kathryn Lee, RN, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor of nursing at the University of California at San Francisco. To work up to getting more sleep, go to bed one hour earlier or take naps.

2. You stop taking your prenatal vitamins because they make you nauseated.

These supplements beat a multivitamin because they contain higher levels of nutrients crucial to fetal development. To prevent nausea, take the pill with food. You can also split it and take half in the afternoon and half in the evening to avoid morning sickness, says Melinda Johnson, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a maternal-health expert in Phoenix. If you still feel queasy, ask your doctor to prescribe a different formula.

3. You "eat for two."

Your body doesn't need more calories to support a developing baby until the second trimester, says Johnson. Even then, you need only 300 more a day. Eating with abandon puts you at risk for excess weight gain, which can lead to complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Experts say adding 25 to 35 pounds is healthy.

4. You've cut out chocolate because it has caffeine, and you miss your daily Hershey's Kisses.

Being stressed out about what you can't have may cause anxiety. Relax -- you can allow yourself this treat. A recent study published in the journal Early Human Development found that pregnant women who ate chocolate daily had calmer, happier babies. Researchers speculate that compounds in chocolate have a soothing effect on the mother, and thus the infant. Plus, experts say you can have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine daily; one Hershey's 1.55-ounce milk chocolate bar has only 9mg.

5. Your doctor okayed an occasional glass of wine, so you indulge every other day.

"Some healthcare providers believe that a little alcohol won't harm the baby, but research hasn't determined how much is safe. It's better to avoid it," says Johnson.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, May 2006.

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