Ages & Stages: Pregnancy: Expecting the Best This Holiday Season

The holidays have always been a time of anticipation and expectation — whether it’s remembering a family awaiting the birth of a small child long ago, or bubbly children anticipating Hanukkah gifts or Santa Claus — the season is a natural time to be expecting a bundle of joy. Follow these tips to be sure you’re expecting the best holiday season ever!

• Be realistic in your expectations. Perhaps you’ve always helped with your older children’s school program or Christmas carnival, or maybe everyone expects your special dessert at a family gathering. Lower the demands you place on yourself this holiday season. Be choosy — pick only the activities that will give you the most enjoyment with the least amount of effort. By filling your calendar too full, you’ll only feel frustration at not being able to meet the demands you’ve placed on yourself and you’ll worry about disappointing others.

If planning elaborate decorations around the house, remember that you might not feel so energetic in a few weeks when it’s time to take them down (and consider the possibility that Baby might arrive early!). Instead, be moderate and decorate as simply as possible this year.

• Accept offers of help. If a neighbor or relative suggests taking your other kids for the afternoon or picking up groceries for you, gladly accept their offers of help. More importantly, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you could use it. Your partner should take a very active role in helping with the household chores and daily schedule during this time.

• Keep your regularly scheduled ob/gyn appointments. Don’t get so busy that you forget these important visits. If your doctor requests special lab work or blood tests, don’t put them off until after the holidays, but schedule them immediately, and be sure to keep the appointments.

• Plan for rest times during your holiday schedule. Don’t schedule yourself so tightly that you forget that your body will need more rest during your pregnancy. Leave plenty of transition time in your schedule between one activity and the next for a quick nap if needed.

• Be realistic with your holiday shopping. Stick to a tight budget, because financial stress compounded by a pregnancy can be overwhelming when holiday bills are piled on. Use quiet time to make inexpensive, homemade gifts this year, or send gifts from mail-order catalogs or the Web.

• Listen to your body. Dizziness while waiting in line at the cashier or swollen feet or ankles are signs that your body needs attention. Eat small meals frequently and carry along healthy snacks and beverages for long shopping trips, so you don’t get dizzy from low blood sugar or dehydration. For days that you plan to be sitting or standing for long periods, wear pregnancy support hose. The best shoes for long periods of standing are those with a 2-inch high, very wide heel.

• Watch your diet. Everyone overeats at this time of year, but if you’re expecting, you’ll want to be extra careful. Don’t be tempted to drink alcohol — it’s linked to fetal alcohol syndrome — which results in irreversible physical and intellectual damage to your unborn child.

Choose healthy meals at a restaurant and stay away from rich, creamy foods, fried foods or lots of holiday sweets. Caffeine in beverages and chocolate can make you jittery and more susceptible to stress. Stay away from spicy foods, as heartburn and gas can be even more unpleasant when you’re expecting. Salty foods or fast foods can increase your chances of swelling.

• Plan holiday travel carefully. If you’re expecting airline travel, check with the airline — many have restrictions for pregnant fliers. OK any travel plans with your doctor — as she may feel there are only certain times in your pregnancy that you should fly. Many doctors recommend that you not fly during the early months of pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage is greatest. And many airlines will not let women fly long distances after their seventh month of pregnancy.

High altitudes are usually not recommended during pregnancy, as adjusting to decreases in oxygen can be too much for both mother and baby. Most doctors recommend that you not fly in small planes with non-pressurized cabins during pregnancy. If you have a history of early labor or miscarriage, airline travel is not recommended. If your doctor gives you the go ahead, take along your medical history and health insurance card. Most experts recommend that you do not travel to foreign countries, where water quality or exposure to diseases can pose serious health threats, while pregnant,

• The holidays are cold/flu season. If you feel a cold or flu coming on, drink lots of warm fluids and increase your rest. Don’t take any over-the-counter medications or natural remedies to relieve your fever or cold symptoms without first getting the approval of your doctor.

• Pay attention to your back. Pregnancy places strain on your back, but especially during the holidays when stress adds to the risk of back strain. Don’t carry a heavy purse or shopping bag on one shoulder, but alternate often. Use proper lifting techniques when carrying holiday boxes or small children — bend at the knees.

When standing for long periods, raise one foot and place it on a step or small box to give your back some relief. Remember that during pregnancy your center of gravity has shifted, so you may seem clumsy or off balance. If you’re traveling to an area where there is ice or snow, take cautious steps and always use handrails or a companion’s arm on icy stairs or walkways. Don’t reach high overhead for holiday decorations; use a low step stool.

Carmen Short-Shagam is editor of Island Parent magazine in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.