breathing

Building a Global Team of Teachers for Healthy Pregnancy, Birth & Baby

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Danc­ing Thru Preg­nancy®, Inc.

Women’s Health & Fit­ness Pro­grams
found­ed 1979
MISSION STATEMENT
Many impor­tant health issues for girls and women involve mat­ters of repro­duc­tive
health, child­bear­ing, fer­til­ity and aging. Research informs us that an active, healthy
lifestyle pro­vides a num­ber of ben­e­fits through­out a woman’s life span:

  • reduced dis­com­forts from preg­nancy, labor, birth, recov­ery & menopause
  • reduced risk of hyper­ten­sive dis­or­ders of preg­nancy and pre­ma­ture birth
  • poten­tially short­er active labor and reduced risk of cesare­an deliv­ery
  • more rapid return to joy­ful activ­i­ties, less excess weight fol­low­ing birth
  • moth­er-infant inter­ac­tion, lead­ing to infant psy­chomo­tor enhance­ment
  • reduced rates of obe­sity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, and type 2 dia­betes
  • reduc­tion of some can­cers, osteo­poro­sis, falls and loss of mus­cle mass
  • improved social sup­port, net­work­ing and stress man­age­ment skills
  • greater belief in one’s abil­ity to be strong and capa­ble (self-effi­ca­cy)

DTP Offspring – Renee Crichlow: REAC Fitness

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In Part 4 of our con­tin­u­ing series on DTP’s off­spring, meet Renee Crichlow, ACSM Cer­ti­fied Per­son­al Train­er from Bar­ba­dos, whose REAC Fit­ness busi­ness includes Mum-me 2 B Fit­ness Series (pre­na­tal), After Baby Fit­ness Series (post­na­tal) and 6 week Jump­start Body Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gram (gen­er­al female pop­u­la­tion).

See pho­tos and read more about Renee’s busi­ness on the DTP Blog here. The adven­tures of one of her stu­dents is fea­tured in a recent series of arti­cles in Bar­ba­dos Today.

Renee is a women’s fit­ness spe­cial­ist, tar­get­ing all stages of a woman’s life cycle from ado­les­cent, child bear­ing years, pre­na­tal, post­na­tal to menopause. I design var­i­ous exer­cise pro­grammes to help women get into shape. As a train­er, friend and coach, I am com­mit­ted to guid­ing, moti­vat­ing and edu­cat­ing women to exceed their fit­ness goals and to per­ma­nent­ly adopt healthy lifestyles. She start­ed study­ing with DTP in March 2012 and com­plet­ed the practicum in May 2012.

I most enjoy the good feel­ing asso­ci­at­ed with know­ing that I am help­ing women to pos­i­tive­ly change their lives through exer­cise. I have learned that we are con­nect­ed and not sep­a­rate from each oth­er. Shar­ing our chal­lenges and tri­umphs enable each of us to grow and have a sense of belong­ing like a sis­ter­hood. The baby and preg­nan­cy sto­ries always amaze me and I learn a lot con­sid­er­ing I don’t have chil­dren of my own.  I am also fas­ci­nat­ed by the fact that as the preg­nant mum­mies bel­lies grow, they are still mov­ing with lots of ener­gy and I feed off of that ener­gy.  I just love work­ing with preg­nant ladies and moth­ers.

Active Pregnancy — the rationale

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Moving into Motherhood

It’s time to hit the main theme again:  Aer­o­bi­cal­ly fit women are at reduced risk for things that go wrong in preg­nan­cy, improve their tol­er­ance for labor and birth, and recov­er more rapid­ly in the post­par­tum peri­od.

Mov­ing into Moth­er­hood

The arrival of the hol­i­days pro­vides a good rea­son to bring this up, yet again! Preg­nan­cy is a gate­way time in women’s lives…we become more aware of our bod­ies, our sen­sa­tions, our feel­ings, our needs, and how ver­sa­tile and amaz­ing our bod­ies are. We can make peo­ple with our bod­ies! Dur­ing preg­nan­cy, we often take precautions…we eat more care­ful­ly, avoid tox­ins, try to avoid stress. When the hol­i­days arrive, we see indul­gent behav­ior in a dif­fer­ent light.

Yet, even with all this focus on behav­ior, we some­times miss the biggest aid to a healthy preg­nan­cy:  phys­i­cal fit­ness. Research clear­ly demon­strates that fit women do bet­ter, are health­i­er and hap­pi­er. More and more in the U.S. we see dis­or­ders of nor­mal organ func­tion that accom­pa­ny seden­tary preg­nan­cy.

Let’s look at this a lit­tle clos­er (yes, I am going to repeat myself some more, but it is an impor­tant con­cept to spread). We live in a body mod­el that rewards an active lifestyle.

Being sedentary causes things to go wrong

Not mov­ing cre­ates bio­chem­i­cal imbal­ances because the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem atro­phies and mol­e­cules cre­at­ed in the brain or brought in through the diges­tion may not get where they need to go for a healthy metab­o­lism.

Your car­dio­vas­cu­la­ture is the high­way that brings usable sub­stances to the place they are used. You have to help it grow and devel­op, use it to pump things around and give it a chance to be healthy. Aer­o­bic fit­ness does all these things.

Advice for young women of childbearing age

If you are think­ing of preg­nan­cy, have recent­ly become preg­nant, or work with women of child­bear­ing age, we encour­age you to open avenues of activ­i­ty for your­self or oth­ers in this pop­u­la­tion. You can learn more from our blog dancingthrupregnancy.wordpress.com. You can seek out local pre/postnatal fit­ness experts on this site. Yoga is nice…we use some of it in our work, along oth­er spe­cif­ic exer­cis­es for which there is a direct health ben­e­fit. But, we also see yoga con­verts who come into our pro­gram in mid preg­nan­cy unable to breathe after walk­ing up a flight of stairs. How will they do in labor? Not as well as those who have been doing aer­o­bic dance or an ellip­ti­cal machine 2 or 3 times a week.

The AHA/ACSM guide­lines for the amount of aer­o­bic exer­cise need­ed to improve car­dio­vas­cu­lar sta­tus hold true for preg­nant women just as they do for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion – a min­i­mum of 150 min­utes of mod­er­ate, or 75 min­utes of vig­or­ous, or a com­bi­na­tion of these lev­els of inten­si­ty, per week. If you are not get­ting this lev­el of activ­i­ty, you are putting your health – and that of your off­spring – at risk.

Pregnancy Pathway, Birth

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There is no birth of con­scious­ness with­out pain.

Birth is a process with two major components

Birth is a life process with two major com­po­nents

Okay, be here now:  This is about a real­ly major experience…bringing human con­scious­ness into the world…opening a door to a room of love in your heart that you can only know by giv­ing birth to this person…changing your iden­ti­ty for­ev­er.

Get­ting your mind around the image: If you have not tak­en the time yet to get your mind around this, take a moment. Breathe in deeply. Gen­tly blow the air out. Repeat. Repeat. Let go of any resis­tance. Slow your heart. Slow your mind. Con­sid­er:  Your body has the pow­er to cre­ate a per­son. Your body has the pow­er to expel this per­son when the rent is up.

Your brain, glands and organs are hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the baby’s brains, glands and organs. At some point, this dis­cus­sion reach­es a place where it is time to end this arrange­ment of two peo­ple shar­ing one body. It is true that occa­sion­al­ly the pas­sen­ger doesn’t want to leave, but that is rare. And, we have a rem­e­dy for that. Let’s just focus now on the what hap­pens when it’s time to go.

Labor starts how? Well, it depends. Some­times con­trac­tions start in fits and spurts and take a while to get orga­nized. Some­times they start strong­ly from the get go, and for oth­ers the process of get­ting rolling can take a few days. Some­times it starts ear­ly, and some­times has to be helped to start. Once in a while, the water breaks and labor starts…or not. So, the first les­son of hav­ing a child come to live with you is that you need to be flex­i­ble in your expec­ta­tions.

In the next two posts, we’ll cov­er Labor and then the Birth Mode. Each of these process­es is unique. They involve dif­fer­ent ener­gy sys­tems. They require dif­fer­ent mind-sets from the moth­er and her sup­port team. The out­comes are dif­fer­ent. Going through the cen­ter of these process­es helps you deal with them, helps you recov­er from their stren­u­ous nature and helps you move on to being a par­ent.

Remem­ber: Breathe in deeply. Gen­tly blow the air out. Repeat. Repeat. Let go of any resis­tance. Slow your heart. Slow your mind. Con­sid­er:  Your body has the pow­er to cre­ate a per­son. Your body has the pow­er to expel this per­son when the rent is up.

Pregnancy Pathway, Pregnancy — Behavior: Avoiding Risks

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Some­times it seems like preg­nan­cy is a time of restric­tions. Avoid­ing risks can be one thing that makes it seem that way. But, bear with us here in an inter­est­ing trip through dan­ger and find­ing you find ways of enhanc­ing your preg­nan­cy!

Risk Fac­tor #1:

Lack of pre­na­tal care. More than any­thing else, be sure you have care. Hav­ing some­one mon­i­tor your health and that of your baby dur­ing preg­nan­cy is vital to a good out­come.

Risk Fac­tor #2:

Not exer­cis­ing. Seden­tary behav­ior increas­es the risk for meta­bol­ic, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and immune dis­or­ders.

I know, I know, you don’t have time to exer­cise. Well, pay now or pay lat­er, as they say. Make time to go to a class (make sure it includes 20 -30 min­utes of aer­o­bics) a cou­ple times a week. A class will also pro­vide social sup­port, anoth­er fac­tor that enhances your preg­nan­cy. Take a walk at lunch time. Prac­tice relax­ation tech­niques.

Risk Fac­tor #3:

Breath­ing dan­ger­ous fumes. Yes, this includes smok­ing and sec­ond-hand smoke. But, it also means avoid­ing envi­ron­ments where there is a lot smog (near high­ways), liv­ing with mold or dust, and fan­cy cleansers that may have dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals in them. Stick with vine­gar, ammo­nia or bleach as cleansers.

Smog can endanger your fetus!

Smog can endan­ger your fetus!

We are learn­ing that com­bus­tion exhaust from cars and trucks can neg­a­tive­ly affect birth weight and pre­ma­tu­ri­ty. If you live or work near a high­way or in an area where smog is preva­lent, what are your options? Can you trans­fer or move? Can you wear a mask? Talk to your care provider and fig­ure out the best pro­tec­tion for you and your fetus.

Risk Fac­tor #4:

Poor Nutri­tion. Yup, just go back one entry and find out how food affects preg­nan­cy. If you don’t eat enough pro­tein and drink enough water, you don’t make suf­fi­cient blood vol­ume to nour­ish your pla­cen­ta and thus your fetus.

Read labels!

Read labels!

Eat whole foods and learn to read labels when you buy processed foods. What is a “processed” food? Any­thing with more than one ingre­di­ent!

Some pro­cess­ing (ex: home­made soup) takes lit­tle nutri­tion away, but some pro­cess­ing (ex: pota­to chips) takes every­thing good away and replaces it with unsafe sub­stances. Look for low sodi­um, low sug­ar, high vit­a­min and min­er­al con­tent items with no sat­u­rat­ed or trans fats.

Read the ingre­di­ents; if you don’t know what the words mean, maybe you want to pass it up.

Risk Fac­tor #5:

Alco­hol and Drugs. Com­mon items can be as dan­ger­ous as street drugs, which

There is plenty of time in life for a glass of wine...later.

There is plen­ty of time in life for a glass of wine…later.

No. No. No. Only meds from your prenatal care provider are okay.

No. No. No. Only meds from your pre­na­tal care provider are okay.

Caffeine? Only one cup & only if you must.

Caf­feine? Only one cup & only if you must.

can severe­ly com­pro­mise you baby’s future. If you have a drug or alco­hol habit, get help.

Risk Fac­tor #6:

Genet­ics. You can have genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tions for many preg­nan­cy issues. How­ev­er, that does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean you will devel­op a giv­en dis­or­der. For exam­ple, nutri­tion and exer­cise great­ly reduce the risk and sever­i­ty of meta­bol­ic issues. Some genet­ic issues are unavoid­able how­ev­er, and your care provider will alert you to these, if they are rel­e­vant.

Risk Fac­tor #7:

Social issues — iso­la­tion, lack of sup­port, abuse, pover­ty. All of these fac­tors can have neg­a­tive effects.

If iso­la­tion is a sim­ple mat­ter of need­ing to meet oth­er moms-to-be, join an exer­cise pro­gram. That way, you get both sup­port and exer­cise; just be sure it includes aer­o­bics, along with cen­ter­ing, relax­ation and appro­pri­ate strength.

If your sit­u­a­tion is more dire, seek the help of a care provider or social work­er at your local hos­pi­tal or clin­ic. Safe­ty and sup­port are crit­i­cal for you at this time. Get the help you need. There are peo­ple who care. And, if you know of some­one who needs help, help them.

If you have oth­er risk fac­tors to offer, please post them in the com­ments. Thanks!

What’s next?  BIRTH!!

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, Preconditions — Environment

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Please refer to Feb­ru­ary 5 entry for entire graph­ic. Today: Envi­ron­men­tal Pre­con­di­tions to Preg­nan­cy.
bubblus_preconditions-environment
Our envi­ron­ment is with us all the time. Even if we think we are pre­vent­ing or con­trol­ling envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that impinge on our bod­ies and minds, they are lurk­ing here, there, every­where, and they are myr­i­ad. Our envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences are every­thing from the air we breathe to the per­sons who raise or teach us, from the food avail­able to our hous­ing, from our job stress­es to cul­tur­al forces or even the weath­er in our part of the world. These things help shape who we are phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly, over the long term and from moment to moment.

08-4Are you pre­pared to become a par­ent? One way to tell is to look at your environment…is it healthy? Are you liv­ing in a sit­u­a­tion that you can count on? What about clean air, safe paint or safe food? What about water? What about peo­ple around you? Are they sup­port­ive? Does your envi­ron­ment help you stay healthy?

What about your body? Fac­tors in the envi­ron­ment that affect fer­til­i­ty (or lack of it) may deter­mine if  you can even become preg­nant, or when you can become preg­nant. Think about this:  Women who work togeth­er often cycle togeth­er. What if you work alone, say at home…does this affect your ovu­la­tion? One fac­tor iden­ti­fied in the low­er­ing age of men­stru­a­tion in girls is the increas­ing num­ber of hor­mones in var­i­ous meats. Anoth­er fac­tor is the pres­ence of non-bio­log­i­cal­ly relat­ed old­er males in the house­hold. If these things are known, imag­ine what is not known about sit­u­a­tions, chem­i­cals or peo­ple in our envi­ron­ment that affect our repro­duc­tion!

There is not an absolute sep­a­ra­tion of genet­ics, envi­ron­ment and behav­ior. If we are genet­i­cal­ly pre­dis­posed to cer­tain dis­or­ders, for exam­ple, we may or may not devel­op them, depend­ing on envi­ron­ment. Some per­sons are inclined toward autoim­mune dis­or­ders, but they may do well or poor­ly depend­ing on the air pol­lu­tion where they live. Some indi­vid­u­als may devel­op immune dis­or­ders. And, this sit­u­a­tion may adverse­ly impact inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es dur­ing implan­ta­tion.

Peo­ple who strive to take care of them­selves even if they live in hor­ri­ble con­di­tions can use their behav­ior to improve their chances for suc­cess in every­thing from a healthy preg­nan­cy to a mean­ing­ful exis­tence. Even if genet­ics and the envi­ron­ment are against the process, behav­ior can some­times over­come the odds. Grant­ed, it’s not like­ly you can pro­duce 6′5″ off­spring (see last post on genet­ics!) if the egg per­son is 5′2″ and the sperm per­son is 5′7″, but much is pos­si­ble beyond that.

So, what do you do about your envi­ron­ment if you are think­ing about becom­ing preg­nant? Take stock. Ask your­self what, if any­thing, might have to change. Ask what you can or can’t accept for your off­spring, if you know there are envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that aren’t per­fect. Fetus­es are amaz­ing crea­tures; the pla­cen­tas that sup­ply and defend them are ruth­less and will pro­tect a fetus at all costs. But, you can give your body and poten­tial baby a good chance to do well by pro­vid­ing a six month span of a healthy envi­ron­ment lead­ing up to con­cep­tion. And, healthy for mind as well as body.

When your baby comes into the world, a door opens in your heart to a room you didn’t even know was there. In that room is a cer­tain kind of love and car­ing that can­not be described. It is love for this being who is and isn’t you. As a moth­er, you have been her/his envi­ron­ment for nine months or how­ev­er long you have shared. The womb is a small, pro­tect­ed, orga­nized envi­ron­ment, one that reflects your larg­er envi­ron­ment. So, take stock now, ahead of time.