Promoting Health For New Moms

Dr. John Hathaway, OB/GYN with the Coleman Center for Women offers tips on healthy practices for moms – before, during, and after – pregnancy.

Two-year-old Ethan Walker recently ran circles around the exam room in Dr. John Hathaway’s office. Ethan’s older sister, Evelyn, 3, wasn’t far behind and baby brother, Nathan, 6 months old, slept in his car seat.

Mom Alisha Walker, 28, has a goal: She wants to have enough energy to keep up with her growing family. 

“The snap back from the first pregnancy was much easier than the third,” said Walker. “I barely had to do anything and I was right back into shape.” She said she had three typical pregnancies and the last two births came quickly. Young Ethan was born in triage – before Walker was checked into a delivery room at Methodist Hospital and the newest member of the family nearly arrived before dad could make it through the doors of Methodist Hospital.

Now with three children, Walker is looking for ways to get back into shape.

Dr. John Hathaway, her OB/GYN with the Coleman Center for Women, has been in practice for 12 years. He and his wife, Anna, are the parents of four children ages 22, 20, 17, and 14. He offers the following tips for remaining and regaining good health before, during and after pregnancy:

Q: What can women do now to have a healthy pregnancy?

A: First, if you are a smoker, quit smoking. Next, start with a prenatal vitamin. You can get an over-the-counter vitamin or a prescription from your doctor. Start now eating a healthy diet. Most people don’t need to add anything; they just need to eliminate things from their diet – like foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. You can still have ice cream but not as much as normal. I don’t think juice or soda is ever good for adults or children. I encourage moms to eat everything in moderation including green leafy vegetables. As a general rule, I suggest eating lots of foods with color, and remember that even a small amount of weight loss can increase fertility and improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy.

Q: What should women do during pregnancy to maintain good health?

A: Continue to eat healthy and continue to exercise. There are few exercises that you can’t continue through the first half of pregnancy. It’s fine to begin an exercise routine when you become pregnant, but toward the second half of pregnancy some things aren’t a good idea like riding a bike or weight lifting. Walking and swimming will always be healthy in pregnancy up to the day of delivery.

Q: How can new moms get back to normal weight after pregnancy?

A: First set proper expectations. It takes nine months to put on the extra weight and it can take about six months to take it off. It can be harder with each new pregnancy. The number one thing to consider is breastfeeding your newborn. Breastfeeding burns around 500 calories a day, which is equivalent to running seven miles. The second thing to do is drink plenty of water. Breastfeeding can make mom feel dehydrated and manifest hunger. When she sits down to nurse she should have a full glass of water at her side. Beyond that, mom should begin exercising as soon as possible – going on walks and light exercise to build up her strength. Remember: You lose weight in the kitchen; you gain muscle in the gym. 

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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