Month one Q&A
Q:My first pregnancy was spoilt by so many diet-related niggles that this time I’m determined to get it right. I suffered from nausea in the first trimester, and when that was over the heartburn started in the third trimester, joined by the most terrible constipation and leg cramps – apparently due to some shortage in my diet. Is there any way to avoid these annoyances second time around?
A:Lindsay answers: Morning sickness is a common problem during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. It helps to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to avoid becoming too full or overly hungry. It is recommended to avoid strong flavoured and highly seasoned foods because they can increase nausea. Cold meals may be better than hot ones, as cooking smells may bring on feelings of nausea. Foods such as crackers, toast, dry cereal, pretzels, nuts, ginger biscuits, ginger ale, lemons and peppermint tea are thought to be helpful. Heartburn (or acid reflux) is frequently experienced during pregnancy because the hormones released by the placenta relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, which keeps food contents in the stomach. These hormones allow acid to go up into the oesophagus and cause a burning sensation. Heartburn can be aggravated if the baby is pushing up on the stomach. Heartburn is treated in many of the same ways as morning sickness. Small, frequent meals are recommended, along with avoidance of strong flavoured, fatty and highly seasoned foods. If acid reflux is severe, avoiding tomato based foods, citrus fruits, chocolate and caffeine may also help. Avoid drinking large volumes of liquid whilst eating as this can increase the pressure on the oesophageal sphincter and worsen the heartburn. Medicines are available for treatment, however discuss this first with your doctor. Constipation is most common during the third trimester as a result of decreased smooth muscle activity. Treatment includes increasing fibre intake, which is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as adding seeds such as flaxseeds to the diet. Drinking plenty of fluids each day is known to help relieve constipation, as well as gentle regular physical activity. If none of the above work, medicine is another option that can be discussed with your doctor. Muscle cramping may be caused by a deficiency of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Many fruits and vegetables including bananas, oranges, papayas, melon, kidney beans, white and sweet potatoes are high in potassium. Magnesium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, pulses, wholegrains and avocado. Calcium is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and bread. Ensure you stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day or occasionally a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. If you don’t regularly consume these foods, consider taking a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin.