fetus

Pregnancy Pathway — Exercise cont’d

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MORE?!! You didn’t think that was it? Only a few com­ments on evi­dence as to WHY mov­ing around, burn­ing calo­ries, being strong and learn­ing to relax while preg­nant is ben­e­fi­cial? No, of course not. You know there is more to it, like WHAT move­ment is safe and effec­tive dur­ing preg­nan­cy?

So, what is safe? Well, first, unless you have a very few con­di­tions that your health care provider con­sid­ers unsafe, every woman — fit, cur­rent­ly seden­tary, young or a lit­tle old­er — can exer­cise safe­ly in preg­nan­cy. How much of what kind depends on your fit­ness lev­el and exer­cise his­to­ry. Get med­ical screen­ing first.

If you are fit, you can do vigorous exercise

If you are fit, you can do vig­or­ous exer­cise

If you are fit, you just need to learn how to mod­i­fy some move­ments to accom­mo­date your bio­me­chan­ics. As your body changes, stress on the joints and tis­sues means a lit­tle less jump­ing or bal­lis­tic motion will be more com­fort­able and safer. If you are fit, you can con­tin­ue with vig­or­ous exer­cise and it will be of ben­e­fit to you and your baby.

If you are not so fit or are seden­tary, find a cer­ti­fied pre/postnatal instruc­tor and join a group where you will have fun, get some guid­ance and be mon­i­tored for safe­ty. How do you find such a per­son? Try our Find A Class or Train­er page.

What is effec­tive? Don’t spend your time on things that may be nice to do but don’t help you focus and pre­pare for birth, relieve dis­com­forts or have the sta­mi­na for birth and par­ent­ing. There is sub­stan­tial sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence and infor­ma­tion from large sur­veys that these things are help­ful.

Car­dio­vas­cu­lar or aer­o­bic activ­i­ty is the most impor­tant activ­i­ty you can do. Already fit? Keep work­ing out; join a class if you want sup­port or new friends. If you are seden­tary or some­what active, you can improve your fit­ness by doing at least 20 — 30 min­utes of aer­o­bic activ­i­ty 3 times a week. Work at a mod­er­ate pace — some­what hard to hard — so that you can talk, but not sing an aria! If you are more than 26 weeks and have not been doing car­dio, you can walk at a com­fort­able pace. Aer­o­bics is key because it gives you endurance to tol­er­ate labor and pro­motes recov­ery.

Strength and flex­i­bil­i­ty exer­cis­es that do not hurt and are done cor­rect­ly are also safe. There are some spe­cial preg­nan­cy exer­cis­es that actu­al­ly help you pre­pare for birth. Essen­tial exer­cis­es that aid your com­fort, align­ment and birth prepa­ra­tion include:

Kegels (squeez­ing and relax­ing pelvic floor mus­cles) — squeez­ing strength­ens them and thus sup­ports the con­tents of the abdomen, and learn­ing to release these mus­cles is nec­es­sary for push­ing and birth.

Abdom­i­nal hiss/compress and C-Curve® - con­tract­ing the trans­verse abdom­i­nal mus­cles reduces low back dis­com­fort and strength­ens the mus­cle used to push and lat­er to recov­er abdom­i­nal integri­ty after birth.

Squatting

Squat­ting

Squat­ting — get­ting into this posi­tion strength­ens the entire leg in a deeply flexed posi­tion; start seat­ed and use arms for sup­port, sta­bil­i­ty and safe­ty. Leg strength improves mobil­i­ty and com­fort in preg­nan­cy and post­par­tum; plus, deep flex­ion is a com­po­nent of push­ing in almost all posi­tions.

Strength­en­ing for bio­me­chan­i­cal safe­ty — strength­en­ing some parts of the body helps pre­vent injury to bone sur­faces, nerves and blood ves­sels with­in joints re-aligned in preg­nan­cy. This can be done using resis­tance rep­e­ti­tions (weights, bands, cal­is­then­tics or pilates) or iso­met­rics (yoga or bal­let). A respon­si­ble class will focus on upper back (row­ing), push-ups, abdom­i­nals, gluteals, ham­strings, and mus­cles of the low­er leg.

Stretch­ing of areas that tend to get tight — reliev­ing some dis­com­forts through flex­i­bil­i­ty helps you main­tain a full range of motion. Sta­t­ic stretch­es, used in com­bi­na­tion with strength exer­cis­es or fol­low­ing aer­o­bics, is most effec­tive. Stretch­ing pri­or to exer­cise tends to pro­duce more injuries than not stretch­ing. Areas need­ing stretch­ing include the chest, low back, ham­strings and hip flex­ors (psoas).

Mind/Body skills are very impor­tant. There are two activ­i­ties that exer­cis­ers con­stant­ly tell us are a big help in preg­nan­cy, birth and par­ent­ing.

• Cen­ter­ing employs a bal­anced or neu­tral pos­ture, deep breath­ing and mind­ful­ness to help you work in a relaxed way. Ath­letes and dancers call this “the zone.” Start­ing your work­out in asso­ci­a­tion with your body estab­lish­es econ­o­my of motion, some­thing very use­ful in birth and par­ent­ing, and reduces risk of injury.

• Relax­ation is anoth­er key activ­i­ty; it relieves stress, pro­motes labor in the ear­ly stages and helps you enter the zone!

Remem­ber: Birth is a Motor Skill™

Pregnancy Pathway, Pregnancy – Exposure to Toxins and Infection

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Hot top­ic for today: Tox­ins and infec­tions in preg­nan­cy.

Pregnancy Exposure to Toxins and Infections

Preg­nan­cy Expo­sure to Tox­ins and Infec­tions

A moth­er-to-be needs to be aware of items that can have adverse effects on the health and devel­op­ment of her fetus, as well as her own health. Two of these fac­tors are tox­ins and infec­tions.

1. Tox­ins can be food, envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, and med­ica­tions, alco­hol or drugs. Let’s start with food. Inter­est­ing­ly, many plants have slight tox­ins in them that can have a small neg­a­tive impact dur­ing ear­ly fetal devel­op­ment. One the­o­ry of nau­sea and vom­it­ing in ear­ly preg­nan­cy is that this helps the mother’s body pre­vent these tox­ins from inter­fer­ing with nor­mal devel­op­ment. Pica — espe­cial­ly eat­ing dirt that is large­ly clay — may be anoth­er man­i­fes­ta­tion of how the body strives to counter plant tox­ins, as clay can coun­ter­act some of the effects of these tox­ins. So, plant tox­ins can be one food source in ear­ly preg­nan­cy.

Anoth­er source is food addi­tives (things you can­not pro­nounce, so read the ingre­di­ents!). We have no idea how many chem­i­cals and hor­mones added to foods affect fetal devel­op­ment.

NIH illustration of reading food label

NIH illus­tra­tion of read­ing food label

Risk-aver­sion involves avoid­ing items that are risky. If you are not sure, don’t eat it. For up to date infor­ma­tion, look at the FDA site on food safe­ty or the NIH site on read­ing food labels.

Envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that may affect fetal devel­op­ment can include air pol­lu­tion, house­hold cleansers, mold and oth­er items encoun­tered any­where one goes. Things we breathe can be par­tic­u­lar­ly dan­ger­ous, so be sure to keep cleanser use to sim­ple items such as vine­gar, ammo­nia or chlo­rine bleach. Wear­ing a mask while clean­ing is also a good idea.

Med­ica­tions, drugs or alco­hol that might nor­mal­ly be con­sid­ered safe for a non-preg­nant per­son — some­thing as sim­ple as aspirin — can be dan­ger­ous as they affect blood clot­ting fac­tors and threat­en the pla­cen­ta. Or, because they cross the pla­cen­tal bar­ri­er but can­not be metab­o­lized by the imma­ture fetal liv­er, they are tox­ic and induce dam­age to the fetus.

2. Infec­tions are of con­cern, as well. It is pos­si­ble that an active infec­tion at the time of fer­til­iza­tion and implan­ta­tion can con­tribute to dys­func­tion in preg­nan­cy because it inter­feres with the nor­mal immune respons­es of ear­ly preg­nan­cy. Hyper­ten­sion in preg­nan­cy may be relat­ed to infec­tion in the ear­ly days of preg­nan­cy. Some infec­tions — par­tic­u­lary sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions — are known to have detri­men­tal effects on the baby’s health. Preterm pre­ma­ture rup­ture of mem­branes (P-PROM) almost always reflects active infec­tion.

Tak­ing Pre­cau­tions: First, be sure to let your health care provider know about any ill­ness or infec­tion. Sec­ond, take care of your­self. Fol­low rec­om­men­da­tions for fre­quent hand­wash­ing and car­ry ster­ile hand gel in your purse or back­pack. Avoid places where hygiene might be com­pro­mised. Prac­tice safe sex.

Pregnancy Pathway, Pregnancy — Maternal Immunological Response

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Today: Mater­nal Immuno­log­i­cal Response…or…the Mother/Fetus Dance!

Maternal Immune Response During Pregnancy

Mater­nal Immune Response Dur­ing Preg­nan­cy

Back to work! Thank you for your fore­bear­ance while we wrote a chap­ter for a nurs­ing text­book!

Dur­ing the course of preg­nan­cy, the mother/fetus dance is ongo­ing. The mater­nal immune sys­tem and the tro­phoblast cells con­tin­ue to influ­ence each oth­er even beyond the implan­ta­tion.

Because the mother’s immune response mod­u­lates near the start of each trimester, the fetus is affect­ed to some degree and mounts a response, as well. For a long time it was thought that mater­nal and fetal DNA mate­r­i­al was not exchanged across the pla­cen­tal mem­brane, how­ev­er recent find­ings indi­cate that there is some exchange of mate­r­i­al. Thus, we all car­ry some por­tion of our mother’s DNA and our moth­er car­ries some of ours.

What is the impact of this chimeric effect? It depends on how well our DNA gets along!

How does this affect the fetus in utero? The fetus may be affect­ed by clot­ting issues. Depend­ing on mater­nal health sta­tus s/he may be sub­ject to a stronger or weak­er immune sys­tem.

How does this affect the moth­er? Women are more like­ly than men to devel­op autoim­mune dis­or­ders (preg­nan­cy play­ing a role here), and those who bear male off­spring are more like­ly than those who only have girls to have these dis­or­ders.

The maternal/fetal dance goes on.…

Be Prepared for Birth!

Be Pre­pared for Birth!

Pregnancy Pathway, Pregnancy

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Time for an entre: Preg­nan­cy!!

Up for dis­cus­sion…

Health Influences in Pregnancy

Health Influ­ences in Preg­nan­cy

Let’s start at the begin­ning…in the first trimester you feel sick and tired, right? Three things:

1) your immune sys­tem is pro-inflam­ma­to­ry (caus­ing nau­sea and fatigue), 2) your body is pro­tect­ing your fetus from some tox­ins (if you eat some­thing not so great for the fetus, you throw up), and 3) you have extreme swings in blood sug­ar lev­els so that after you eat, the lev­el soars and you feel sick.

Num­ber 3 can be fixed with behav­ior, but you may have to wait out 1 & 2. To fix num­ber 3 eat very small meals fre­quent­ly (6 or 8 times a day) and be sure to eat pro­tein, that is, eggs, meat, fish, fowl, cheese, nuts, rice & beans, soy, etc. with each small meal. This sta­bi­lizes blood sug­ar and pre­vents dra­mat­ic ele­va­tions that can cause nau­sea.

In most healthy preg­nan­cies, the immune sys­tem will rebound in the sec­ond trimester so that you feel good; it is pro­tect­ing you again!  But, those wicked tox­ins and infec­tions are still out there in the envi­ron­ment, so the mes­sage is beware bad air (smog, smok­ing, indus­tri­al air pol­lu­tion), high­ly processed foods (lunch­meats, things with names you can’t pro­nounce), any drugs or meds not pre­scribed or okayed by your ob or mid­wife, alco­hol, and dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria, virus­es and oth­er microbes!

Exer­cise wisely…no sky-div­ing or scu­ba div­ing! Eat healthy food and get enough sleep. De-stress through relax­ation and med­i­ta­tive tech­niques. Don’t take risks with your health, but do stay active and start to pre­pare for birth and bring­ing home a baby (or two?).

Third trimester & the immune sys­tem goes on the fritz again — can’t keep this baby in here for­ev­er; must expel! You may feel sick and tired again. BUT, keep your pre­na­tal care appoint­ments, keep mov­ing, get good nutri­tion, rest and stay focused. Before you know it the real work begins, not to men­tion the 18 years of sleep depri­va­tion.

Get­ting from here…

Being Fully Present in Your Pregnancy...

Being Ful­ly Present in Your Preg­nan­cy…

…to here..

Being Fully Present as Mom

Being Ful­ly Present as Mom.

…is a jour­ney like no oth­er. The adap­ta­tions of your body to the demands of preg­nan­cy are amaz­ing. If you pay atten­tion, you will learn more about the mean­ing of exis­tence from this than from any­thing else.

BE HERE NOW!!

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