Exposé presenter Karen Koster is seven months into her pregnancy and is watching her diet carefully on behalf of her “new tenant”. She talks to Clodagh Finn.
WHEN TV presenter and mother-to-be Karen Koster found herself downing two litres of orange juice a day, she worried that she might be overdoing it. But friend and TV3 colleague Aisling O’Loughlin put her mind at rest by suggesting it was her pregnant body’s way of looking for an extra hit of vitamin C.
“I have learned to listen to baby and body now,” she says, seven months into her pregnancy, “though when your body tells you that you need a Big Mac, it might not be telling the truth.”
Since Karen Koster announced she was expecting her first baby with husband John McGuire earlier this year, she has been more than willing to talk about the cravings (pizza and the aforementioned orange juice); her bump (they don’t know the gender yet); making sense of the deluge of information that swamps every newly pregnant woman… in fact, anything you care to ask her.
The 33-year-old has an openness about her pregnancy that is striking. It’s a no-nonsense kind of openness that makes it clear from the off that she doesn’t think she is different from anyone else.
Ask her if she worries that talking about her pregnancy will bring too much exposure to her future baby and she tells you that she’s not Angelina Jolie. “You have to get over yourself, too. I mean this is Ireland. The only genuine celebrity here is Bono.”
In other words, Karen Koster has no airs or graces so when she talks about pregnancy and health you know she is just like any first-time mother-to-be who wants to make her body as healthy as possible “for its new tenant”, as she puts it.
The Xposé anchor had that new tenant in mind when she recalled an interview she had done with Dr Eva, the former Operation Transformation doctor who explained that a mother’s health can have a big influence on a child’s long-term health. It made her think — and it also made her extremely health conscious in the first trimester.
“There was a huge amount of new information. I found it overwhelming. I said I would leave the room if someone lit up a cigarette, that I’d never eat shellfish or homemade mayonnaise.”
It was in stark contrast to her mother’s experience of pregnancy, she says, adding that nobody thought anything if you went out to have a cigarette after leaving the labour ward.
And yet she thinks that the emphasis on health is a good thing and it is part of the reason she has signed up to be the new ambassador for Pregnacare supplements range.
“It was a no-brainer. I was taking it anyway. It was the first thing that was recommended by my doctor when I found out I was pregnant. It’s sometimes very hard to get your five-a-day but this is a kind of safety net. You can contribute to the health of your baby,” she says.
Though, she adds, that doesn’t mean eating for two. “I craved so much pizza that I thought my baby would be born with a slice of pizza in its hand, but you only need about an extra 300 calories when pregnant — that’s only a few biscuits.”
Her health regime is simple: no skipped meals, a 30-minute walk, lots of water and a good night’s sleep.
Karen Koster is optimism personified, but she worries it might come back to bite her. “I’ve had such a good time in pregnancy I’m sure I’ll be in labour for about two weeks. There has to be some payback.”
Though she will always remember the incredible kindness of people during the pregnancy. That men were so vocal and so open came as a particular revelation.
“Friends tell me to enjoy the pregnancy because as soon as there is a buggy, you will be in everyone’s way. And I get the impression that I will be sentenced to a life of insomnia and that I will never leave the house again. I think people just want to share the misery. Stop putting me off!”
Though she is not in the least put off by the challenges of juggling work and motherhood. She wants to return to work and says she is blessed to work for such a supportive, women-oriented company as TV3.
Nothing is written in stone, either. She says she will take it as it happens. Her mother didn’t work and she was always there to meet her at the school gate, which was very special.
“The experience for women has changed so much that sometimes it feels as if there is more than a generation between my mother and me. She had to give up work when she married and was a full-time mother, but I had free third-level education, a career and now a chance to be a mother. At my age, 33, my mother had two children. If she didn’t, it would have been seen as some kind of awful failure.”
She is open, too, on being lucky enough to conceive without difficulty and says asking newlywed couples if they are thinking of having children is just not on given the fertility difficulties many face.
It’s not surprising then that the more superficial issue of losing post-baby fat doesn’t really bother her. “I have never had more compliments and I’ve never been fatter or more bloated!”
Looking ahead, she says she would like to be a fun mum but strict when she has to be.
“I told John that I would be a strict parent and that we would try to move the baby into its own room early. He said; ‘You must be having me on’.”
At the time, she was sitting on the bed petting the dog.
The dog has since been banished from the bedroom — it is the first of many changes that are coming to Karen Koster and John McGuire’s Ballsbridge home.
Nutrition tips for mums-to-be
Pregnancy is one of the biggest nutritional stresses faced by a woman, according to consultant dietitian Aveen Bannon.
An unborn baby is totally reliant on what its mother eats and her diet can also protect the baby against diseases in later life, she says.
And while you don’t have to eat for two when expecting, it is important to pay special attention to certain nutrients. These include calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and vitamins C and D.
“A balanced diet coupled with regular gentle physical activity will help keep mum and baby healthy before, during and after pregnancy and help the baby grow healthy and strong,” Bannon says.
While most of those nutrients come from food, 50% of Irish doctors and midwives recommend pregnant women take a supplement, according to a survey conducted last June.
But Irish women are inclined to take one anyway. Two in every three reached for vitamin and mineral support when they found out they were pregnant, an eu-mom online study of nearly 2,000 women found.
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