Eating During Pregnancy: A Labor for Dad
My wife, Constance, gave birth last month to our first child. I'm happy to say, mother and baby are doing beautifully.
I'm not doing badly myself, although the pregnancy was murder on my diet. I suspect a lot of fathers-to-be go through a nutritional dip, but there's no mention of it in What to Expect When You're Expecting. Even a slim guidebook called The Expectant Father doesn't cover the male partner's eating concerns, which is why this crucial aspect of pregnancy must finally be addressed.
The First Trimester
The first five weeks went fine, as I suppose they do for most men early in pregnancy. In fact, I never ate better than I did then. Constance was feeling pretty well and was determined to follow the best nutrition protocol possible. I benefited from her carefully prepared meals of brightly colored vegetables, small amounts of meat, and a variety of starches.
Then, during week six, morning sickness set in, and all bets were off.
Dietitian’s Note: It’s estimated that two-thirds of pregnant women experience morning sickness and that 50%-90% experience food aversions or cravings. It is often suggested that morning sickness and food aversions may be mother nature’s way of providing protection from food-borne illness and chemicals may harm the unborn baby.
I tried to continue on the good-meals track, by cooking up my "famous" meatloaf, preparing pasta primavera, broiling chicken, and serving up salads and cooked vegetables every night after work. But as Constance's nausea got worse, my efforts—and my own meals—started going south. She couldn't come to the table to eat, and there seemed to be no point to preparing decent foods for myself. Dinners became a catch-as-catch-can affair—a turkey sandwich, boxed macaroni and cheese, a half pint of ice cream eaten right out of the container.
One night I bought a jar of tomato sauce to throw over spaghetti, and Constance bolted up the stairs as I filled my plate. Her aversion to garlic—and pretty much anything that had a smell—had begun in earnest, and now my choices became more and more limited. Constance couldn't even stomach my eating the dill pickles left over from the beginning of the pregnancy, when she'd had sitcom-like cravings.
The Second and Third Trimester
According to most of the pregnancy books out there and expert organizations such as the American Pregnancy Association, morning sickness usually ends by the 12th week of pregnancy—but this wasn’t the case for us. It didn't end after the twentieth week, as Allison, who had just given birth, assured Constance would happen.
For twenty-two weeks I suffered. By the end of our marathon bout of morning sickness, I was reduced to soft-serve vanilla ice cream, Mallomars, and Entenmann's Raspberry Danish Twist. It was a sorry state of affairs for all, except Ellie the dog, who loves ice cream.
Things didn't get much better for me after that. Yes, Constance's nausea had passed its peak, but not to the point that I could eat freely. One day in May I came home after work and was busted for having had pizza for lunch. (The garlic aversion lasted through the entire pregnancy.)
Lunches after that became an endless stream of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches punctuated here and there by Swiss cheese on a bagel. Breakfast was the only meal I didn't have to suffer through. It continued to consist of my usual, smell-less yogurt concoction. But dinner and after-dinner snacks remained a free-for-all, with Ellie and I going out most nights for soft-serve suppers with raspberry Danish chasers.
In all, 24 pounds were gained during the course of this pregnancy, 19 of them by Constance. By the time her water broke, I was more than ready for the baby to be born.
Dietitian’s Note: Most women should aim to gain 25-37 pounds (11.34-16.78 kilograms)- total during pregnancy. Women who were underweight before becoming pregnant should aim to gain a bit more—28-40 pounds (12.70-18.14 kilograms), and women who were overweight before becoming pregnant should aim to gain a bit less—15-25 pounds (6.80-11.34 kilograms).
While she called the doctor to say it was time, I dutifully packed myself a labor bag that contained plenty of snacks. Our birthing class teacher had told us a lot of the husbands get faint as labor goes on because they forget to eat. Cinnamon raisin bread, bananas, some potato chips, and other assorted labor-assisting foods went in to the satchel.
Then the big event finally arrived, all 5 pounds, 12 ounces (2.61 kilograms), and 19 ½ inches of him (49.53 centimeters), and from that moment I barely had a chance to eat. I was too busy making phone calls; watching my wife and my son in awe; running back and forth to the house to walk Ellie and work at setting up the nursery; and generally going on lots of adrenalin.
I've had so little chance to catch my breath, in fact, that I've just about returned to my pre-pregnancy weight. You'd never even know I'd been expecting.
American Pregnancy Association
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Dietitians of Canada
Eating for two when you are under or ovwerweight. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/eatingfortwo.html. Accessed February 18, 2008.
Morning sickness. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/morningsickness.html. Accessed February 18, 2008.
Morning sickness is Mother Nature's way of protecting mothers and their unborn, Cornell biologists find. Cornell University website. Available at: http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May00/morning.sickness.hrs.html. Accessed February 18, 2008.
Nordin S, Broman DA, Olofsson JK, Wulff M. A longitudinal descriptive study of self-reported abnormal smell and taste perception in pregnant women. Chem Senses. 2004;29(5):391-402.
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