healthy behavior

NEW: Upper Valley — Vermont + New Hampshire!

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Tree Life Birth Care in White Riv­er Junc­tion, VT, is our newest loca­tion for Total Preg­nan­cy Fit­ness. The cen­ter is ded­i­cat­ed to pro­vid­ing bal­anced, evi­dence-based sup­port to women and their fam­i­lies dur­ing preg­nan­cy, labor and post­par­tum. They offer doula care, child­birth edu­ca­tion, pre­na­tal dance class­es, and lac­ta­tion con­sult­ing in the Upper Val­ley region of Ver­mont and New Hamp­shire. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it http://LifeTreeBirth.com or email Mary Etna Haac at DoulaMaryEtna@gmail.com.

Mary Etna R Haac, MPH, PhD, DONA-trained Birth Doula. Bilin­gual: Eng­lish-Span­ish. 703–447-98–94.

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 Guest Blog — Healthy Start Brooklyn

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Healthy Start Brook­lyn (HSB) recent­ly added Danc­ing Thru Preg­nan­cy to its ser­vices with ter­rif­ic results. Find out more about HSB at http://fphny.org/programs/giving-brooklyn-families-a-healthy-start. This blog describes how DTP became a part of the pro­gram.

DTP: When did you first work or study with DTP?
HSB: We first dis­cov­ered DTP in 2011 while research­ing evi­dence-based exer­cise pro­grams for preg­nant women. DTP was exact­ly what we were look­ing for! So in Jan­u­ary of 2012, Healthy Start Brook­lyn trained three for­mer clients and one staff mem­ber to teach free DTP class­es to low-income preg­nant women in Cen­tral Brook­lyn. It took some time for us to get the pro­gram up and run­ning, but we have been offer­ing class­es since March of this year and they have been con­tin­u­ing suc­cess­ful­ly ever since.

DTP: Describe the focus or mis­sion of your work.
HSB: Healthy Start Brook­lyn is a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed pro­gram that seeks to improve the health and well­ness of women, infants and fam­i­lies in Cen­tral Brook­lyn. Rates of infant death, pre­ma­ture birth and ill­ness in the neigh­bor­hoods of Bed­ford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bush­wick, East New York, and Flat­bush are far high­er than else­where in New York City and the U.S. as a whole. HSB pro­vides sup­port ser­vices, edu­ca­tion and train­ing to reduce these inequal­i­ties and improve the lives of Cen­tral Brook­lyn res­i­dents. Our DTP class­es, as with our child­birth edu­ca­tion and doula pro­grams, are aimed at try­ing to offer our clients free ser­vices that are avail­able to more afflu­ent women to help off­set some these inequal­i­ties that can have a neg­a­tive impact on birth out­comes.

DTP: What do you most enjoy about your work?
HSB: We enjoy see­ing our clients com­ing back to class every week. Some of them have very lit­tle sup­port sys­tems in their lives, and it is extreme­ly reward­ing to see them par­tic­i­pate in class each week and stay after class to talk to each oth­er and share sto­ries. It is our hope that the class not only pos­i­tive­ly affects their phys­i­cal health, but also their men­tal health as well, serv­ing as a place where they can de-stress and social­ize with oth­er women in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions. We also real­ly enjoy receiv­ing pic­tures of the babies that our class had some part in help­ing enter the world healthy!

DTP: What is the most impor­tant or inter­est­ing thing you have learned from work­ing with moms, moms-to-be, or oth­er women clients?
HSB: Preg­nant women can move! In the begin­ning, we were ner­vous about mak­ing our class rou­tines too high inten­si­ty for some of the women who were fur­ther along in their preg­nan­cies. We were sur­prised to find that they could all keep up and were even request­ing the high­er inten­si­ty rou­tines.

To learn more and see more pho­tos, go to the DTP Blog:

http://dancingthrupregnancy.wordpress.com/

Pregnancy Exercise — The Evolutionary Imperative for Vigorous Activity

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This arti­cle is from my blog, Danc­ingTh­ruPreg­nan­cy on Word­Press.

I have long want­ed to write this post. Recent­ly two arti­cles appeared in the NY Times prompt­ing me to move for­ward. One arti­cle dealt with how it is that ongo­ing vig­or­ous exer­cise pro­duces brain enhance­ments. The sec­ond arti­cle dealt with how run­ning cre­ates its “high” and explained why the result­ing addic­tion is an evo­lu­tion­ary ben­e­fit for human sur­vival.

Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up.

It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morn­ing a lion wakes up.

It knows that it must out­run the slow­est gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t mat­ter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.

When the sun comes up, you bet­ter be run­ning.

Abe Gubegna
Ethiopia, circa 1974

The preg­nant mom who exer­cis­es vig­or­ous­ly and reg­u­lar­ly — the one who runs or swims or does aer­o­bic danc­ing — is not the one at risk, or whose infant is at risk, of a lack of tol­er­ance for the rig­ors of labor or for lifestyle health prob­lems. It is the seden­tary or low activ­i­ty moth­er and her off­spring who are at risk. I have writ­ten at length on this real­i­ty in my chap­ter on Women and Exer­cise in Varney’s Mid­wifery.

This real­iza­tion has plagued me for ages, and the two arti­cles in the Times con­vinced me to make this state­ment, explain why it is true and exhort women of child­bear­ing age to become aer­o­bic ani­mals.

In the con­tem­po­rary world, we are not as active as pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Few women exer­cise to the extent required to devel­op the capac­i­ty to with­stand the rig­ors of birth. It is lit­tle won­der that so often health care providers hear that women are afraid to exer­cise, and child­birth edu­ca­tors hear that preg­nant moms are afraid of birth and don’t have con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ty to do it. There are solu­tions for these issues…

The biggest bang for the buck is aer­o­bics. This gets almost every­thing that helps you in labor. It increas­es endurance, strength and range of motion. It improves breath­ing capac­i­ty (you get more oxy­gen + less fatigue). It reduces your need to tap your car­diac reserve (your body works hard in labor but not to the degree it must if you are not fit). Plus, reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion in a good car­dio or aer­o­bic work­out gives you the men­tal tough­ness and con­fi­dence you need to know that your body is capa­ble of the work and the recov­ery — what we call body trust. Fit Preg­nan­cy has dis­cussed the myths sur­round­ing how hard a preg­nant woman can work out.

Learn­ing use­ful posi­tions and move­ments is extreme­ly help­ful. Be sure that your work­out also includes strength and coor­di­na­tion move­ments — such things as squat­ting, core move­ments for pelvis and spine, and oth­er motions that aid your progress in labor. Being upright and mov­ing are keys to a healthy labor. These require strength and coor­di­na­tion.

Men­tal focus and being present teach you to work with your body. Activ­i­ties such as relax­ation train­ing, yoga, pilates for preg­nan­cy and dance help you devel­op the men­tal skills (mind­ful­ness and deep breath­ing) that accom­pa­ny your move­ment. Learn to rec­og­nize your body’s sig­nals so you know when it’s time to push.

A tru­ly effec­tive use of your time is a one hour class a cou­ple times a week that com­bines all these ele­ments. We have known this for decades. The evi­dence is clear that it works. Keep moving…right into labor and birth!

Find a safe and effec­tive class or train­er.

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.

Birth of Pregnancy Exercise: Evolution of DTP

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Some­times it is fun to look back at the long road to the present! Recent­ly, I was inter­viewed by our local online media out­let (the Bran­ford CT Patch) and was real­ly thrilled with the result­ing sto­ry. It focused on the 30 year road of DTP and I thought you might find it inter­est­ing.

Here is the link to the sto­ry and the sub­ti­tle:

http://branford.patch.com/articles/ann-cowlin-a-prenatal-fitness-pioneer-celebrates-30-years-of-work

What start­ed as a “fledg­ling exper­i­ment” has become one Bran­ford woman’s life work.

Thank you for tak­ing a look!

Still look­ing for new ways to devel­op core strength & coor­di­na­tion for new moms…start with the pos­ture on the left (inhale) and move to the one on the right (exhale). Keep the trans­verse abdom­i­nal sucked in. Repeat.…

Postpartum Exercise: Creating Your 3rd Body

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Recent­ly, while talk­ing with some moms in our post­par­tum exer­cise class, DTP’s Mom-Baby Fit­ness™ pro­gram, I real­ized it has been a while since I have addressed the notion of what we call “the 3rd body.” This stems from the idea that before you are preg­nant, you live in your 1st body; then, while preg­nant, you live in your 2nd body. After giv­ing birth, many women feel their options are to try to get their first body back or live in what they are left with after birth. We sug­gest anoth­er way:  cre­ate your 3rd body.

We dis­cov­ered this 3rd body in work­ing with women to gain the fit­ness nec­es­sary to have a healthy recov­ery and enjoy moth­er­hood. What we found was that women were often becom­ing more fit than they had been before preg­nan­cy, with less body fat and more mus­cle, yet their clothes did not fit the same.  Some­times the flar­ing of the ribs and/or hip bones made for a larg­er waist – despite less fat!

Many clients also feel a new, deep­er sense of their core devel­oped. In fact, over time they real­ized they actu­al­ly liked this body bet­ter in some ways! After all, they came into the world with the pre-preg­nan­cy body, but this body they actu­al­ly cre­at­ed out of the pro­found expe­ri­ence of the phys­i­cal self that preg­nan­cy and birth pro­vide. It extend­ed the empow­er­ment of birth into moth­er­hood.

Extend­ing this metaphor even fur­ther, of course, leads to the 4th and 5th bod­ies, if you have anoth­er child. Even­tu­al­ly, there are more bod­ies as women go through per­i­menopause, menopause, post menopause, and what I like to call the phe­nom­e­nal wis­dom stage. Each body rep­re­sents a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to become some­one strong and pro­found.

I fig­ure I am to body #8 now, and in each stage I have found some­thing incred­i­ble that I could not have at oth­er stages. Long ago I gave up look­ing for my past bod­ies. Each one has been bril­liant in some way, but in the end it had to be left behind if I was to enjoy life’s path to the fullest.

Liv­ing in the moment does require know­ing where you are in time, space and ener­gy. So, dis­card your past bod­ies with delight and move on. Use your ener­gy to cre­ate your­self in the present.

It’s a process and you won’t ful­ly live in your next body until you own the toll of the last one. A post­par­tum mom may expe­ri­ence hair loss, big­ger feet, a mal-aligned spine, con­stant thirst if she is breast­feed­ing, exhaus­tion and a jel­ly bel­ly. But, all these things will pass with time, if you eat right and exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly. Oh, and you can bring the baby, who will have a blast meet­ing oth­er babies!!

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.

Buy the Book!

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Recent­ly, we have expe­ri­enced grow­ing inter­est in infor­ma­tion includ­ed in the text­book, Women’s Fit­ness Pro­gram Devel­op­ment. So, we decid­ed that site read­ers might want to pur­chase this text if they are seri­ous­ly inter­est­ed in sub­jects per­tain­ing to women’s health fit­ness. The book opens with a chap­ter on how women dif­fer from men in their phys­i­cal, men­tal, emo­tion­al and social devel­op­ment and how these dif­fer­ences affect our moti­va­tion to be active. Sec­tions on ado­les­cence, preg­nan­cy, the post­par­tum peri­od and menopause explain what hap­pens dur­ing these crit­i­cal and unique­ly female life tran­si­tions, what is known about the impact of exer­cise on health dur­ing these times, and how to devel­op effec­tive pro­gram­ming for these pop­u­la­tions. It is avail­able through the pub­lish­er, Human Kinet­ics, or through Ama­zon or Barnes & Noble.

High Birth Weight: The New Adverse Outcome

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While pub­lic aware­ness of low birth weight and pre­ma­ture infants is becom­ing — at long last — inter­est­ing to the main­stream cul­ture and media, anoth­er phe­nom­e­non is begin­ning to shake the pro­fes­sion­al birthing world:  high birth weight. Because it is occur­ring in a more afflu­ent ele­ment of soci­ety, it is alarm­ing. This tells us that you can­not buy your way out of preg­nan­cy risks that are cre­at­ed by a seden­tary, tox­ic food life-style.

Here is the dilem­ma:

Nor­mal weight and some over­weight women who eat too much in preg­nan­cy tend to have babies who are, basi­cal­ly, already obese at birth. There­fore, these infants already have meta­bol­ic and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dys­func­tion. Babies born over 8 lbs. 14 oz. are at increased risk for Type 2 Dia­betes and heart dis­ease.

Inter­est­ing­ly, the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine  recent­ly issued new guide­lines on preg­nan­cy weight gain. After near­ly 20 years of adher­ing to the “nor­mal” weight gain being 25 to 35 pounds, the Insti­tute rec­og­nized that pre­na­tal BMI plays a role in how much weight gain is nec­es­sary for a healthy preg­nan­cy.

The evi­dence that under­lies this change demon­strates that gains greater than 22 pounds — for all clas­si­fi­ca­tions of pre­na­tal BMI — is the demarka­tion point for increased health prob­lems.  More infor­ma­tion on this is avail­able at:  New IOM Guide­lines.

We have known for a while now that obe­si­ty in preg­nan­cy puts moth­er and infant at risk for a num­ber of prob­lems from car­dio­vas­cu­lar, meta­bol­ic and immune dis­or­ders to pre­ma­tu­ri­ty, low birth weight, increased need for cesare­an birth and slow recov­ery. Add anoth­er one:  Obese new­borns with increased risk for heart and metab­o­lism prob­lems.

Ref­er­ence on weight gain and high birth weight:

Lud­wig DS, Cur­rie J. The asso­ci­a­tion between preg­nan­cy weight gain and birth­weight: a with­in-fam­i­ly com­par­i­son. Lancet. 2010 Sep 18;376(9745):984–90. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

A good ref­er­ence for issues sur­round­ing obese preg­nan­cy:

Led­dy MA et al. The Impact of Mater­nal Obe­si­ty on Mater­nal and Fetal Health. Rev Obstet Gynecol 2008;1(4):170–178.