Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, which is also the busiest time of year for some. Decorating, cooking, planning, and gift shopping can stress anyone out. So, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re pregnant.
This time of year is hectic enough without adding in the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. You might wonder how you’ll handle your family member’s reactions at Thanksgiving. How will you answer their questions when you arrive at Thanksgiving dinner with a baby bump? Keep reading for tips to get you through Thanksgiving in the healthiest way possible, physically and emotionally!
Remember to Rest
The truth is, being pregnant is hard work, and it takes a lot of energy. Your heart is working much harder to pump enough blood to you and your baby: the amount of blood pumped by the heart increases by 30 to 50% during pregnancy. Your kidneys are working extra hard, too! Rest is important so that you can keep up with the energy needed to support your body’s extra work.
Let others do the work. Avoid overdoing it when you’re helping your family clean up. Now’s your time to use the “frail pregnant woman” excuse. Wash dishes for a few, then complain, “Ugh, I feel lightheaded all of a sudden.” Then go sit down and rest.
If you’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, try making it a potluck and asking everyone to bring a dish. Or, go the super-easy route and just get desserts and dishes from your grocery store’s deli. These shortcuts will help you cut down on the amount of time you spend on your feet. If you stand for too long while you’re pregnant, it can decrease your blood flow by compressing veins and putting pressure on your already-tired uterus.
Choose Healthy Food
Thanksgiving food is so delicious but might not be very healthy. With so much food available and an appetite for two, it’s so tempting to devour it all! But this can cause heartburn and general discomfort because it takes longer to digest food when you’re pregnant.
Your body and your baby both need healthy food to thrive. So, here are some general recommendations:
- Avoid salty foods because too much salt might raise your blood pressure. Higher blood pressure will cause swelling and fluid retention.
- Avoid too much sugar because it can raise your blood glucose levels and put you at risk for gestational diabetes. It might also lead to pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, and other pregnancy complications.
- Steer clear of deli meats and soft cheeses. This is because lots of these foods are unpasteurized, putting them at risk of having a bacteria called “listeria, which is dangerous because it may lead to listeriosis infection. You’d have flu-like symptoms with a listeriosis infection, but it would have much more of a serious risk for your baby.
- Fill your plate with healthy foods like broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and of course protein-rich turkey. And remember to pack Rolaids. Heartburn is common during pregnancy, and stuffing yourself with food will worsen it.
When you’re pregnant and eating for two, Thanksgiving can be a dream. But before you take advantage of dining on all the delicious food this Turkey Day, make sure the food you’re enjoying is safe for your baby. Here are 10 common Thanksgiving foods and beverages to watch out for:
- Apple cider
Make sure that the apple cider served is pasteurized. If it’s unpasteurized, this drink has the risk of containing E. coli!
Most ob-gyns advise that their pregnant patients avoid refrigerated pâté. Canned pâté seems to be considered safe, though.
- Soft cheeses
Many hosts set out a plate of various kinds of cheese for guests to snack on while waiting for dinner. Cheese is OK; just make it’s pasteurized. You’re in luck: most cheese in America is pasteurized nowadays. But we suggest that you ask your hosts before you eat, to be on the safe side.
- Undercooked turkey
Turkey needs to be cooked until it reaches at least 160°F in the thickest portion of the thigh. Preferably, the turkey should reach 180°F before eating. Make sure your bird is fully cooked by using a meat thermometer before chowing down.
The inside of a turkey doesn’t get hot enough to kill all bacteria. But this doesn’t mean you have to skip stuffing. Put it in a separate dish and bake until it reaches a temperature of 165°F.
- Unwashed vegetables
Don’t forget this vital step in making your perfect Thanksgiving meal: washing your veggies. It’s smart to wash all produce before you eat, no matter if you’re pregnant or not.
- Wine or other alcoholic beverages
We know that this one is obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re pregnant, avoid the vino (and any other alcohol). Alcohol poses too much of a growing risk to your baby to safely indulge.
Licking batter from the spoon of holiday goodies might be tempting (and delicious!), but it’s best to avoid. Eating raw or uncooked eggs increases the threat of being exposed to salmonella, which is not good for you or your baby.
- Custard pie
Mousses, custards, and even ice cream might contain raw or uncooked eggs, which is bad when you’re pregnant.
- Cold cuts
Thanksgiving leftovers are the best part of the holiday for many. But cold turkey may have listeria (just like deli meat may).
Tips for Leftovers
Thanksgiving leftovers are delicious…but for how long? For pregnant women, there’s a genuine concern about everything from lettuce to deli meat. What about the remains of a turkey dinner, though? When does it go from delicious to dangerous? According to the USDA, these leftovers are good for three to four days. Toss them by Monday, when things are going to start turning bad.
Lots of people love a nice turkey and cranberry sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving. But since your body is more open to bacteria when you’re pregnant, here are some extra precautions to take:
- Stick leftovers in your fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking.
- Choose containers that are shallow for your leftovers: they cool food more evenly and quickly.
- Make sure to enjoy your leftovers within four days.
- When you eat leftovers, reheat the meat until it’s hot.
This short video shares more:
How to Face Thanksgiving With an Unplanned Pregnancy
Being with family during the holidays can be intense and might bring up issues. Since you’re facing a crisis, you might have difficulty feeling festive and getting “into” all the holiday cheer around you.
Know that you’re not alone. Many women have been where you’re at and have felt like you’re feeling right now.
Once you arrive at Thanksgiving festivities pregnant, some family members may ask you snoopy, nosy questions like “are you sure you’re ready to be a mom right now?!” Think about it this way: is anyone really ever *really* ready? There are a lot of aspects of adoption and motherhood to think about. Making an adoption plan and becoming a mom are both major life events, ones that take lots of time and thought before starting.
The truth is, no one can tell you what you should do next. People will tell you what they think you should do, of course, but they can’t tell you how having or not having this baby will affect your life.
So if people ask you awkward (or downright rude) questions, you could respond with something like, “I am going to take some time to think about it, so I can make the best decision for my baby’s future. Right now, I’m just taking things day by day.”
If you feel like you just can’t go to Thanksgiving dinner because of your situation, it’s OK to put this tradition aside to care for your needs right now. Sometimes we feel like we have to carry on with life as usual. But the reality is that things aren’t as usual. Even if you’re making an adoption plan and your family supports it, you might still have a hard time acting like nothing’s changed or nothing’s happening.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 21, 2018, and has since been updated.
Heidi Keefer is a Content Creator for Lifetime Adoption and has 15 years of experience in the field of adoption. An author of thousands of blog posts over the years, Heidi enjoys finding new ways to educate and captivate Lifetime’s ever-growing list of subscribers.
Heidi has a keen eye for misplaced apostrophes, comma splices, and well-turned sentences, which she has put to good use as a contributor to Lifetime’s award-winning blogs. She has written and published hundreds of adoption articles which explore the various facets of domestic infant adoption today.