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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more






Exercise, Good Food, And Prenatal Care Are the Keys


By Rebecca D. Williams

Although prenatal visits may seem simple and even mundane, their importance can't be overestimated. Years of research have shown that pregnant women who get adequate prenatal care are more likely to have healthy babies and fewer complications during labor and recovery. Says Schwarz, "We know that pregnancy outcomes are better in women with early prenatal care."

Eating for Two

Good nutrition is another crucial step in having a healthy baby. A pregnancy takes about 300 extra calories a day to maintain, and an average-sized woman can expect to gain between 25 and 35 pounds overall.

Those extra calories should be nutritious ones, however. A pregnant woman needs a balanced diet complete with protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a minimum of sweets and fats.

"Good nutrition is extremely important even before a pregnancy," says Shirley Blakely, Ph.D., a registered dietitian with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "If nature favors the growing fetus, the mother will suffer if she hasn't had a good diet."

According to the March of Dimes, a pregnant woman should increase her daily food portions to include:

  • 6 to 11 servings of breads and other whole grains
  • 3 to 5 servings of vegetables
  • 2 to 4 servings of fruits
  • 4 to 6 servings of milk and milk products
  • 3 to 4 servings of meat and protein foods
  • 6 to 8 glasses of water, and no more than one soft drink or cup of coffee per day to limit caffeine.

Some nutrients have been found to provide specific benefit to mother or child. For example, the B vitamins have been found to be especially important. One of them, folate, or its synthetic form, folic acid, can reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, called the "neural tube." Each year, an estimated 2,500 babies are born with neural tube defects. The most common of these is spina bifida, in which the spine is not closed. The exposed nerves are damaged, leaving the child with varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes mental retardation.

Because neural tube defects develop in the first 28 days after conception, "Once you know you're pregnant it's too late to do anything about [them]," says Blakely.

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