environment

What is Fetal Programming?

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What is fetal pro­gram­ming? Every per­son liv­ing on earth was first exposed to a uter­ine envi­ron­ment that helped deter­mine their life­time health and devel­op­ment. The term for this phe­nom­e­non is fetal pro­gram­ming. It is a hot top­ic and deserves atten­tion.

Accept­ing the impor­tance of fetal pro­gram­ming places respon­si­bil­i­ty on the moth­er-to-be to do all she can to insure her body pro­vides nutri­ents and oxy­gen to her grow­ing infant while avoid­ing pos­si­ble risks and tox­ins. At the same time, genet­ic and envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors con­tribute great­ly to the poten­tial for some dis­or­ders and prob­lems that arise. Thus, we must be care­ful in assign­ing guide­lines for accept­able behav­ior or blame for poor out­comes to preg­nant women.

On the one hand, we can all see the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of some­thing like fetal alco­hol syndrome…clearly the result of mater­nal behav­ior. Is a preg­nant woman whose baby has been dam­aged in this way guilty of abuse?

But, what if a moth­er is obese, eats poor­ly and ends up with an infant with a dis­turbed metab­o­lism. Is this abuse? What if the moth­er has an infec­tion that results in cere­bral pal­sy? Or what if she lives near a high­way and invol­un­tar­i­ly inhales fumes that neg­a­tive­ly affect the pla­cen­ta?

How do you get a healthy baby? Of course, there are no guar­an­tees. There remain many unknown fac­tors that can affect the course and out­come of a preg­nan­cy. Some fac­tors we are aware of, such as avoid­ing cer­tain fumes or chem­i­cals.  There are some behav­iors we know can max­i­mize the poten­tial for a good out­come, such as eat­ing ade­quate pro­tein, aer­o­bic con­di­tion­ing and strength train­ing. [Note for new readers…lots of these fac­tors have been cov­ered in our pre­vi­ous posts.]

But, what about all the things we don’t know about?

If these goats eat the wrong grass, will they go into labor?

Here is a cau­tion­ary tale:  There is a species of goat that, if they eat a cer­tain type of skunk grass on day 14 (and only day 14) of preg­nan­cy, will not go into labor. Why? Plant tox­ins in this grass inter­fere with the devel­op­ment of a small por­tion of fetal brain, the par­aven­tric­u­lar nucle­us. This nucle­us is involved in the sig­nal­ing cycle of labor. With­out it, the moth­er will not go into labor!

What are the take-home mes­sages here?

  • Prob­a­bly no one is ever a per­fect fetus…too many pos­si­ble threats.
  • There are some threats we can avoid…being lazy, over-eat­ing, smok­ing.
  • There are some threats we can­not avoid, so we do the best we can.

Do the best you can by your baby…aerobic fit­ness, good nour­ish­ment, sleep, good hygiene and de-stress­ing your life.

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, 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!!

Sign up for this Blog (top tool­bar, click blog info and sub­scribe)!! Learn from our more than 30 years of help­ing make healthy moms & healthy babies.

Vis­it our web­site:  www.dancingthrupregnancy.com

Pregnancy Pathway, Conception — Review & Small Rant!

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REVIEW: Evi­dence is clear - pre-preg­nan­cy mater­nal health sta­tus, includ­ing phys­i­cal fit­ness, healthy nutri­tion and an uncom­pro­mised immune sys­tem affect the health and well-being of both moth­er and off­spring, in both short and long term.

This is the mes­sage sum­ma­ry from our first two areas of dis­cus­sion:  Pre­con­di­tions and Con­cep­tion — the green and sand col­ored sec­tions on the chart below.

pregnancy_pathway

COMING ATTRACTIONS: We are about to move on to the blue sec­tion — Preg­nan­cy!!  So, book­mark this Blog for future ref­er­ence!

Also, you can sub­scribe to this Blog by click­ing on Blog Info in the upper right cor­ner and then click­ing on Sub­scribe in the drop down menu.

But, yes, you guessed it, first we have a small rant!

SMALL RANT: When we note that fit­ness, nutri­tion and a healthy immune sys­tem play sig­nif­i­cant roles in the out­come of preg­nan­cy and the future health of moth­er and child, we are appeal­ing to young peo­ple of child­bear­ing age to be care­ful about your bod­ies. The alliance of egg and sperm shapes the world. With 6.5 Bil­lion egg/sperm com­bi­na­tions (yes, peo­ple) present­ly liv­ing on earth, our resources are stretched. With time, either we get more picky about doing this, or the 3rd rock from the sun (remem­ber that show?) is cooked.

Humor­ous incur­sion: In case you need fur­ther enlight­en­ment on this whole area, there is a great web­site that will help you out. Be pre­pared to be amused and amazed!

The Truth about Eggs and Sperm

Hope­ful­ly, this gets you in the right mood and keeps you smil­ing. After all, once you actu­al­ly are preg­nant, we have more seri­ous mat­ters to dis­cuss.

Pregnancy Pathway, Conception — Health Status

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Today: How the mother’s health sta­tus at the time of con­cep­tion affects the preg­nan­cy.

For com­plete graph­ic, see Feb. 5 or 23 post.

The Impact of Health Status at the time of conception.

The Impact of Health Sta­tus at the time of con­cep­tion.

When a woman becomes preg­nant, her health can be a major fac­tor how her preg­nan­cy will pro­ceed. If she has been exposed to a vir­u­lent infec­tion, it may have an impact on how well the implan­ta­tion goes. If she has meta­bol­ic syn­drome, she is at risk for com­pli­ca­tions such as ges­ta­tion­al dia­betes.

On the oth­er hand, if she has tak­en care of her­self, is phys­i­cal­ly fit and well nour­ished, is well rest­ed and has not been exposed to ill­ness­es that induce dra­mat­ic changes in her immune sys­tem, she has done her best to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion in which her body is best pre­pared for the rig­ors of preg­nan­cy.

There are still genet­ic and envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that can affect the course of the preg­nan­cy, but behav­ior is the one fac­tor that women have con­trol over. At Danc­ing Thru Preg­nan­cy we are fond of the notion that if you know a cer­tain behav­ior is the best for a sit­u­a­tion, it is smart to chose that behav­ior; if you do not, you are sab­o­tag­ing your­self.

So, if preg­nan­cy is in your head­lights, eat right, exer­cise, and be cau­tious about expo­sure to ill­ness and infec­tion. Wash your hands, use one of the hand cleansers, prac­tice safe sex (okay, so if you are try­ing to get pg, this may change, but in the mean­time!).

We wel­come com­ments on what you are doing to be healthy for preg­nan­cy!

Curl-up! Strong abs are part of physical fitness!

Curl-up! Strong abs are part of phys­i­cal fit­ness!

Small Rant, Review, References & Coming Attractions

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Small Rant — Women, their preg­nan­cies, births and moth­er­ing styles are all unique. The big issue in child­bear­ing these days is con­trol. Fear of los­ing con­trol, who con­trols birth (do YOU give birth or are you deliv­ered by oth­ers?), hav­ing the self con­fi­dence and skills to know when to let go of con­trol yet be okay. It’s inter­est­ing to hear what hap­pened to some­one else, but (here’s the rant part) this can often be fright­en­ing because — let’s face it — cat­a­stro­phe gets our atten­tion. What­ev­er you’ve heard, you still have to do it your­self. Preg­nan­cy, birth and par­ent­ing cre­ate a steep learn­ing curve.

Review — Our job at the DTP Blog is to help with the learn­ing curve through evi­dence-based infor­ma­tion. We are mov­ing along a path­way. Here it is, in a small ver­sion (see Feb. 5 for full ver­sion):
pregnancy_pathway

So far, we have dealt with Pre­con­di­tions (the Green items). If you under­stand what you can and can­not con­trol along your Preg­nan­cy Path­way it can help pre­vent you from spin­ning your wheels or wast­ing mon­ey. Some things are worth doing (self care, good food, exer­cise) and some are not (self-indul­gence, tox­ins, stress). Pre­con­di­tions to preg­nan­cy — genet­ics, envi­ron­ment and behav­ior — are worth pay­ing atten­tion to if you are of child­bear­ing age and think or know you are mov­ing along this path­way.

Ref­er­ences - We have used hun­dreds so far and will use many, many more, but only some of you will find the sci­ence some­thing you want to pur­sue, so please go to our DTP web­site (use the Blogroll) for more infor­ma­tion on research in this field. Here are some texts that explain much more: “Women and Exer­cise” in Varney’s Mid­wifery (edi­tions 3, 4 & 5), Jones & Bartlett Pub.; Women’s Fit­ness Pro­gram Devel­op­ment by Ann Cowl­in, Human Kinet­ics Pub.; and Immunol­o­gy of Preg­nan­cy by Gil Mor, Springer Pub.

Com­ing Attrac­tions — next, we talk about con­cep­tion. Yes, this is an excit­ing part, though not per­haps why you think (!). It turns out con­cep­tion is fraught with many twists and turns.

Humor­ous incur­sion:
Q: Why does it take a mil­lion sperm to fer­til­ize just one egg?
A: Because none of them will stop and ask direc­tions.
[Sor­ry, couldn’t resist.]

After that we will like­ly rant and review again, have more humor­ous incur­sions, pro­ceed on to the preg­nan­cy and birth expe­ri­ences, then dis­cuss health out­comes for mom and baby in the short and long term.

Why do we spend our time on this? From a bio­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, humans can do noth­ing more impor­tant than cre­ate healthy off­spring. Wars may be fought, the banks fail or cars become a thing of the past; we might even become post-racial; but, hav­ing babies doesn’t real­ly change. It remains a pri­mal expe­ri­ence. It’s nes­tled in a high tech world, but its still pri­mal. Women have always had guides; we take this role seri­ous­ly.

Stay tuned!!

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.

Pregnancy Pathway, Preconditions

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Please refer to Feb­ru­ary 5 entry for com­plete graph­ic. Today we turn to the ques­tion of pre­con­di­tions to preg­nan­cy and how they might affect mater­nal and off­spring health.

Preconditions

Pre­con­di­tions

Pre-exist­ing fac­tors that can influ­ence health out­comes include genet­ic fac­tors (fam­i­ly risk for heart dis­ease, for exam­ple), envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors (liv­ing in a build­ing with mold, for exam­ple), and behav­ior (eat­ing well and exer­cis­ing, for exam­ple). In each cat­e­go­ry, fac­tors will con­tribute to the health of the moth­er and even­tu­al­ly to off­spring health.

It is impor­tant to under­stand what major genet­ic fac­tors may affect your off­spring and whether the envi­ron­ment or behav­ior can help off­set neg­a­tive fac­tors. For exam­ple, there may be a his­to­ry of preeclamp­sia dur­ing preg­nan­cy in your fam­i­ly, but vig­or­ous aer­o­bic exer­cise in the six months pri­or to preg­nan­cy pro­vides a high degree of pro­tec­tion from this risk. Preeclamp­sia puts both moth­er and off­spring at risk for com­pli­ca­tions.

Oth­er genet­ic fac­tors that may be of con­se­quence include autoim­mune dis­or­ders, aller­gies, and meta­bol­ic syn­dromes. For exam­ple, so-called “thrifty genes” may pre­dis­pose you to a high weight gain in preg­nan­cy. But, you may be able to off­set health prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with this by stay­ing active and eat­ing well.

Pregnancy Pathway, introduction

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Please refer to the Preg­nan­cy Path­way chart in the Feb­ru­ary 5, 2009 entry. Dur­ing preg­nan­cy, there are some fac­tors with­in our con­trol and some that are not. The Preg­nan­cy Path­way, designed by Danc­ing Thru Preg­nan­cy® founder and Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Move­ment Spe­cial­ist Ann Cowl­in, and Cer­ti­fied Nurse Mid­wife Robyn Bran­ca­to, is intend­ed to describe the flow of fac­tors that influ­ence preg­nan­cy and its out­come.

In the weeks to come, we will focus on indi­vid­ual areas. Our goal is to help women under­stand how they can opti­mize their preg­nan­cy by focus­ing on what they can con­trol that results in ben­e­fi­cial out­comes.

Ann and Robyn are also found­ing mem­bers of the Women’s Health Fit­ness Insti­tute, a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is research and pub­lic edu­ca­tion out­reach in women’s health fit­ness. Our com­ments for this blog are based on sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence and 30 years of track­ing indi­vid­ual preg­nan­cy out­comes from women through­out the world. Some entries will include ref­er­ences to the rel­e­vant stud­ies.

By help­ing women under­stand what endeav­ors are effec­tive in pro­duc­ing ben­e­fits for moth­ers and their off­spring, we hope to aid moms-to-be and those con­sid­er­ing preg­nan­cy to be ful­ly present and active in the empow­er­ing process of becom­ing a moth­er.