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Nutrition, exercise and body care can help expectant and new moms thrive

Megan Callahan is 34 weeks pregnant and still teaching more than a dozen yoga classes a week.

Dr. Shaveta Malik is carrying her second child as she helps care for other expectant moms at UBMD Obstetrics & Gynecology in East Amherst.

And Caitlin LoVullo plans to remain on the job as assistant merchandising manager at the Lexington Food Co-op until she delivers her third child in July.

“Lifting and going up ladders has stopped,” LoVullo said, “but I do a lot of walking.”

All three moms believe that sticking to most of their routines and taking good care of themselves during pregnancy are the best ways to ensure a more manageable labor and delivery while they give their children the best opportunity for a healthy start.

“You don’t have to start slacking off or be a couch potato when you’re pregnant, or take off of work because you’re pregnant,” Malik said. “You’re going to get more stressed if you’re going to be sitting at home all day thinking about pregnancy and this child that’s coming into your life.”

There are several ways to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy.


One in two women in New York State is either overweight or obese.

“Because of that, pregnancy can be a crucial time when women can make lifestyle changes, not just for their own health but also for the health of the newborn,” said Malik, who also works at Women & Children’s and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals and is an assistant clinical professor at the University at Buffalo medical school. “It’s extra motivation because you’re helping two people.”

Tobacco and alcohol

“Any amount of smoking or drinking can be potentially harmful for the baby,” Malik said, so it’s the perfect time for expectant mothers to quit both. Women & Children’s offers smoking cessation classes for those who are pregnant; call 352-3515 or email

Watch your weight

The recommended weight gain is 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy for a normal weight woman, 15 to 25 pounds for an overweight woman, and 10 to 20 pounds for an obese woman, Malik said.

A healthy, normal-weight woman should eat only 100 extra calories a day during the first trimester, 200 extra calories during the second trimester and 300 extra calories in the third trimester. “Think before you eat,” Malik said. “The 300 calories don’t have to come from a brownie or ice cream sundae. They should come from fruits or high protein snacks that can give you a boost of energy rather than empty calories that are just rich in sugar,” and can pose a risk for diabetes.

Supplement your diet

Malik recommends a daily prenatal vitamin which includes more folic acid, typical amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and vitamin B6, which helps with nausea and vomiting in the first trimester of pregnancy. Callahan suggested blackstrap molasses, lentils and cooking in cast iron to help address iron deficiency, common during early pregnancy. LoVullo recommended Floradix, an iron-rich mix of whole foods that tastes like cherry juice and is available at Lexington Food Co-op.

Consider chiropractic

Back pain during pregnancy can be common and most of the medication used to treat it – including Advil, Motrin, Aleve and aspirin – are strongly discouraged. “That’s where chiropractors can come in handy because we can tell patients having any kinds of generalized aches and pains to see a chiropractor,” Malik said. Chiropractic care helps stabilize the sacroiliac joints in your lower back, and can improve posture that can worsen as a pregnant woman’s body weight shifts. Chiropractors in some cases can also reduce pain and speed labor during delivery.


“If you’re doing a planned pregnancy it’s always a good idea to start exercising beforehand,” LoVullo said. “It helps your fertility if you’re in shape ahead of time and, if it’s kid after kid, you want to bounce back.”

Regular exercise prevents excessive weight gain, Malik said, and reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, a blood pressure-related condition that can endanger mother and unborn child. Exercise also reduces the likelihood of a C-section delivery and increases well-being.

Keep pace

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week. “The recommendations do not change depending on how far along you are, as long as the pregnancy remains uncomplicated,” Malik said. “Exercise can include anything from brisk walking, running, swimming, water aerobics, group dance classes like Zumba, Pilates or prenatal yoga.” Exercise to avoid includes contact sports and other activities with a high risk of falling – skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, scuba diving or skydiving. “In addition,” Malik said, “no hot yoga or hot Pilates because it increases the body temperature to a high level where we don’t want it to be.”

Holly Klick, 34, of Kenmore, ran on a treadmill and used an elliptical five days a week at the BAC for Women after she got pregnant last year with her first child. Her runs turned into fast-paced walks in the fourth to the ninth months. She also did strength training throughout the pregnancy, though, on the advice of her doctor, didn’t lift anything heavier than 20 pounds. “Your exertion level, on a scale from 1 to 10, should be about a 6 or 7,” Malik said. “If you’re exercising and can still talk to the person next to you, it means you’re OK. If you’re huffing and puffing, that’s too much.”


“I feel like yoga and walking are the two most important exercises,” said Callahan, owner of Yoga Parkside. “It’s not starting something really radical, plus there are traditions that say, ‘Walk 5 miles a day and the baby just falls right out.’ We’re so sedentary as a society and normally walk in short bursts. When we’re walking longer distances, we’re helping to stabilize the pelvis as the body shifts. Walking in the third trimester can really help ease labor.

“You can get tired when pregnant,” she added. “Take a walk first. Sometimes, it energizes you.”

LoVullo, 30, and her husband, Bryan, have two children, Dylan, 6, Abigail, 3, and a girl on the way. The family likes talking walks with their two dogs, Millie and Sophie, as mom prepares for a July delivery.


“Sometimes when you’re pregnant, your body feels foreign to you. It can create a divide. The whole point of yoga is to bring you back into unity,” said Callahan, who teaches prenatal, mom and baby, kids and adult yoga classes. Yoga, she said, can focus the physical and emotional forces that fly around during pregnancy and “collect all that energy back.”

Postpartum caution

New moms shouldn’t do more than a bit of general walking for at least six weeks after delivery; or eight weeks in the case of a C-section. Exercise more vigorously, particularly with the abs, and you run the risk of tearing your abdominal wall as your body starts to return to pre-pregnancy form. “It just takes a while for your body to readjust,” Callahan said. “That’s why our mommy-baby classes don’t start until eight weeks postpartum.”

Klick, a University at Buffalo data analyst, recently returned to yoga and Pilates after delivering her daughter, Margaret Loudenslager, in late January. She and Margaret are among several mom-baby combinations who take Callahan’s Friday morning class. “It helps to cultivate community, when maternity can be a bit isolating,” Klick said, “and you get to work out at the same time.”


“The baby is eating everything that I am,” said LoVullo, who satisfies her cravings with cooked kale mixed with olive oil, hot peppers and lemon juice. She snacks on raw fruits and veggies, “something whole, really watery and easily digestible, like an apple or cucumber.” She and her kids munch in the evening on air-popped popcorn with olive oil and B vitamin powder.

Power foods

Klick ate lots of salads for lunch and small snacks throughout the day – apple slices, string cheese – while pregnant.

Callahan, who is vegetarian, printed a list of pregnancy power foods. A list at includes eggs, leafy greens, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, berries and sweet potatoes. Callahan also eats popcorn dusted with nutritional yeast, and likes to drink smoothies made with pasteurized Siggis plain yogurt, greens, an organic protein powder, frozen fruit and coconut milk.

Pregnant women should avoid unpasteurized foods, including cheeses, and food that’s been left at room temperature, to minimize the risk of infection, Malik said. Four fish high in mercury – king mackerel, shark, tilefish and some types of tuna – also should be spurned. “Other fish are safe to take,” the doctor said, “and we advise having one or two servings a week.”


“If you’re busy and working and it feels overwhelming, do some batch cooking,” Callahan advised. “Pick Sunday and have friends over and cook several different things to send home with people for during the week.”


The ability to know how to relax and focus can be key during pregnancy and can help you get through labor and delivery more manageably.

“I was pretty certain labor was going to be chaotic,” said Klick, who took labor and delivery, baby talk and breast-feeding classes at Sisters of Charity Hospital, where Margaret was delivered.


Callahan also is a big proponent of massage during pregnancy. “In the third trimester, you should splurge more often,” she said, “because whenever you relax, the baby relaxes.”


Callahan has set “Facebook-free time” to steer clear of the online swirl of politics and drama. Klick meditated every evening to put her in a better frame of mind at bedtime.

The Village, at 140 Elmwood Ave., helps new and expectant moms improve mindfulness with meditation, message and other strategies. Smartphone apps, including and, can help expectant moms sleep and relax more easily. Books that include “Beautiful, Bountiful, Blissful,” by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, offer meditation exercises for expectant moms and partners.

“I also think it’s important to note that your partner should learn meditations,” Callahan said, “not only for while you’re going through all the changes pregnancy can bring but also so they can be a good birth partner during labor.”

Labor was no picnic, Klick said, but the deep breathing and calming voices in her meditation practice helped. So did her exercise regimen. Though she had a C-section delivery, “My recovery, she said, “was very, very quick.”

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