Peppy, peppery Cristina Ferrare of KABC-TV's "A.M. Los Angeles" and "Incredible Sunday" has joined the expanding list of the publicly pregnant.

She said Italian women have worked for centuries during pregnancy; she just does it in front of millions of people instead of in front of the stove.Before the birth of daughters Jamie, now 6; Lindsay, now 3; and Sarah, 16 months, Joan Lunden was a professional mother-to-be, performing her pregnancy exercises, talking about her diet and modeling her expanding clothes in full view of the national television network audience watching ABC's "Good Morning America."

In fact, Lunden was pregnant with Jamie when she was hired by ABC.

Jane Pauley was another woman who grew visibly in her role as co-anchor of NBC-TV's "Today" show, before giving birth to twins Rachel and Ross, now 5, and Tommy, age 2, after on-camera gestations.

Pauley went to London to cover the wedding of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson just weeks before her delivery date, joking that "I've designated (NBC correspondent) Bob Jamieson as substitute labor coach" for cartoonist-husband Garry Trudeau, who did not make the trip.

Things have come a long way since the days when Florence Henderson was pregnant during her tenure on the "Today" show in 1960 and had to hide behind cutesy props, like a parasol.

Los Angeles KCBS-TV newswoman Valerie Coleman remembers being grateful that she was so tiny and didn't show for a long time when she was pregnant and an on-camera anchor 15 years ago in San Francisco. "Once I began to show, I sort of hid behind the furniture."

Lunden remembers Barbara Walters coming into the studio one morning and seeing the little nursery set aside for Lunden's Lindsay.

"Barbara said that if she had tried to talk her ("Today" show) producer into something like that when she was pregnant 16 years before, he would have thought she was crazy," Lunden recalled.

It is a sign of the times that women are not only occupying many high-profile positions on television, but that they are allowed to appear enceinte on camera, expanding waistline and all.

Today, women like Ferrare take this as a given. Producers, they say, realized a long time ago that the those in the TV audience were not only able to handle pregnant women on their television screen but were usually supportive, sending baby gifts and offering suggestions.

So the women who are pregnant on camera now concentrate on maintaining a good diet, keeping their energy up and the blessings of having help in the house as factors in being able to carry-on professionally while they carry a child.

Over a lunch at the Ivy Restaurant, Ferrare said she keeps her life in order by being totally organized.

"I make copious notes about where I am supposed to be as a television person, where I am supposed to be as a mother, and where I am supposed to be as a wife."

Scheduled notations include, she said, "when I have to be at the set, which set, when I need to get to appointments like hair or nails or fittings, when I need to get to the `Mommy and Me' class with (2-year-old) Alexandra, when I need to be at a particular dinner or meeting, including what I need to know for the occasion and how I should dress."

She said her duties as a wife have expanded lately, along with her dress size, since her husband, former United Artists honcho Tony Thomopoulos, is in negotiations to buy MGM. "We do a lot of business dining out. But when we are at home I cook for all of us," she said.

Ferrare jokes that she is convinced her baby is going to be green because she has such a craving for crunchy green things. She has had a rather unusual life, but most likely a green baby is not in the cards.

Ferrare was previously married to entrepreneur John DeLorean and had two children with him: Zach, 17, who is living this year in New York with his father, and Kathryn, 11.

She and Thomopoulos have Alexandra, 2, and the baby-to-be, who is minus-4 months and counting.

Ferrare said it would be impossible for her to live with any semblance of sanity without the help of her housekeeper and the children's nurse.

She also counts a midday nap as an automatic must. "Every pregnant woman needs some time for herself for a bubble bath or a nap, or both. I put my nap on my daily calendar."

Coleman said naps were a godsend for her as well.

"With my first child I was determined to do everything right," she said. "I went onto a complete vegetarian diet and made sure that I took a nap every day. I have always had a lot of energy, so that helped. With my second child I didn't have quite the control over my time, but I still ate properly and took a nap when I could."

According to her "Incredible Sunday" co-star John Davidson, Ferrare doesn't stand on ceremony when she gets tired. He said, "Lots of times I'll look around for Cristina, and she's on the floor napping."

He said that because she is "so beautiful and vulnerable" he is always looking to see if she's tired.

"But she doesn't need pampering. She takes good care of herself," Davidson said. Part of that, he thinks, is her professionalism, and part is because she's a "typical Italian matriarch. She doesn't fall apart, she doesn't let herself get crazy."

That jives with how Valerie Coleman said she coped with pregnancy:

"I was determined not to let things bother me. You have to have your wits about you on camera. You have to appear calm and collected. You have to protect the child you are carrying. You just can't afford to let the craziness get to you.

"The television business gets a little wild at times, and I remember saying, `Hey, when you all get through yelling and screaming, just tell me what you'd like me to do.' They usually respected that."

All on-camera pregnant women report getting loads of mail, most of it very solicitous and thoughtful.

"People were always writing me telling me to do things like eat more tomatoes so my baby's cheeks would be rosy, and not to cross my legs or I would cut off circulation," Lunden said.

Sometimes a star's pregnancy infects her producer with the programming "cutes," and Lunden remembers her worst time on that score.

"Our producer thought it would be fun to have a psychic come on the show to tell whether my baby was going to be a boy or girl," Lunden said. "Everything was OK on camera. The man, who said he was a minister (with a church in a shopping center), said my baby was going to be a girl."

Off camera the man approached Lunden and said that he was "worried for her health and the health of the baby."

"He told me that he was concerned about the pregnancy," Lunden said. "I was so distraught my husband asked my (obstetrician-gynecologist) to talk to me."

She remembers putting it out of her mind until just before the baby was born, and then "I couldn't help it. I worried."

She and the baby were fine.

Ferrare said people stop you on the street, send letters and gifts when you are pregnant and on television.

"You come into their home every day, and they think they know you. They are really wonderful.

"One woman sent me the most beautiful handmade blanket when Alexandra was born. When I took it out of the box, I looked at it and just started to cry thinking how much time it must have taken her to make it."

Ferrare said she put it away carefully and will get it out for the birth of her new baby, due in March.

Clothes were a big problem when Lunden was first pregnant on television. "I had these hideous maternity things, smocks and skirts, and I made the mistake of cutting my hair short. I looked like Humpty Dumpty," Lunden said, laughing.

Ferrare previously relied on casual clothing for local morning television but discovered Los Angeles designer Rubin Panis when she needed more elegant clothing for the network show.

"He has made these incredible hand-beaded gowns for me that he can let out as I get bigger and then will take in after the baby is born."

That will be a welcome day for Ferrare.

Not the case with Valerie Coleman.

"I loved being pregnant. I had higher energy, felt absolutely wonderful. If I had my way, I would be 6 months pregnant for the rest of my life," Coleman said.

Although there were bouts of morning sickness, usually not in the morning, and discomfort as the birth time came near, most of the TV moms reported smooth sailing into parenthood in spite of the tremendous demands on their time, energies and ability to look good for the camera every day.

That doesn't mean they should be used as role models.

According to NBC-TV's Dr. Art Ulene, "If these women are comfortable and happy in their pregnancies, then they are doing the right thing by working up to the birth date."

But, he warned, that doesn't mean that every woman should expect to do that or even think that it's a good idea.