preconception

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)

How to Get Pregnant — Coaching Topic #1

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So let’s get on with the top­ic of How to Get Preg­nant, start­ing with why do we need to know this?

In the past few decades, the aver­age age for a first preg­nan­cy in the U.S. has moved from the mid twen­ties into the mid thir­ties. In the same time peri­od, the facts of con­cep­tion — sperm enters egg released in mid cycle, then zygote implants in the uterus, along with how sex allows this to hap­pen and how to pre­vent it — seems to have dis­ap­peared from mid­dle and high school health class­es. If that weren’t enough, as women have become more and more essen­tial in the work force, the cost of hav­ing chil­dren as well as start­ing lat­er, have dri­ven down the birth rate. Sim­i­lar con­di­tions exist in most devel­oped nations, although teen preg­nan­cy rates are low­er every­where else.

The birthing pop­u­la­tion has bifur­cat­ed — we see old­er women (over 35) and teens as the major groups hav­ing chil­dren. On the one hand we have been work­ing to reduce teen preg­nan­cy while help­ing old­er and old­er women become first time moms. To a cer­tain extent, they need the same infor­ma­tion; its just that with teens we use this infor­ma­tion to pre­vent preg­nan­cy and with old­er women we use infor­ma­tion to help them increase their odds of get­ting preg­nant.

Under­stand­ing the men­stru­al cycle, ovu­la­tion, chart­ing tem­per­a­ture — all the basic tech­niques of using the “nat­ur­al” method of birth con­trol — have become the first steps of the how-to-get-preg­nant coach­es. Beyond this, a num­ber of sites have their own essen­tial lists to help women be healthy and ready. Sites such as gettingpregnant.com, pregnancy.org/getting-pregnant, and storknet.com/cubbies/preconception/ pro­vide addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion. Many sug­ges­tions — things to avoid eat­ing, what pro­teins are need­ed for ovu­la­tion, how to reduce stress, what to do if there are sperm prob­lems, how to find IVF clin­ics, donors and sur­ro­gates — are addressed.

How effec­tive are these sug­ges­tions? Well, research tells us they are some­what effec­tive. None of the sites I con­tact­ed answered my query about how they mea­sure or assess con­sumer out­comes when fol­low­ing their sug­ges­tions.

An inter­est­ing arti­cle in the NY Times 9/1/2011, enti­tled Are You as Fer­tile as You Look? openened with this sen­tence: “FORTY may be the new 30, but try telling that to your ovaries.” The real­i­ty is that being under 35 is still the best pre­dic­tor of how dif­fi­cult it may be for you to become preg­nant. As the arti­cle makes clear, look­ing 30 and being 30 are not the same thing. Even healthy liv­ing does not pre­vent the loss of good eggs.

So, what con­clu­sions can we draw? First, even if you come from a “fer­tile fam­i­ly,” it may behoove you to have your chil­dren in your late 20s or ear­ly 30s. Sec­ond, if you are putting off hav­ing chil­dren beyond that time, ask your­self what extremes you are will­ing to go to to have your own bio­log­i­cal off­spring. And, third, con­sid­er adop­tion. Frankly, it would be won­der­ful if adop­tion were eas­i­er, but in the dri­ve to con­ceive at lat­er and lat­er ages we see the hand of biol­o­gy and under­stand why adop­tion is not easy:  Our own off­spring — our own DNA out there in the world — is a heady moti­va­tion.

If you are on the path­way of becom­ing preg­nant, being under 35 is the best ally you have. If not, maybe some of the sug­ges­tions on the web will work for you. What­ev­er you decide, all the best.

One part­ing com­ment:  Reg­u­lar mod­er­ate exer­cise — while it helps you stay young and healthy — will not pre­vent your eggs from being popped out every month. It will help you have a healthy preg­nan­cy if you con­ceive, so stay with it!

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, Preconditions — Genetics

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Please refer to Feb­ru­ary 5 entry for com­plete graph­ic. The Pre­con­di­tion we will dis­cuss today is Genet­ics.

bubblus_preconditions_-_genetics

There are genet­ic fac­tors total­ly out­side your con­trol that deter­mine things as sim­ple as your offspring’s hair or eye col­or, how the ear­lobe attach­es to the side of the head and whether or not s/he can roll the tongue. More com­plex things, such as a pre­dis­po­si­tion to types of can­cers, bleed­ing dis­or­ders or var­i­ous oth­er dis­eases, also have a genet­ic basis.

Because the male con­tributes the sex of the off­spring, once con­cep­tion hap­pens, the sex off the fetus is deter­mined — at least genet­i­cal­ly. But, it turns out not every­thing genet­ic is set in stone. In utero, hor­mone expo­sures may affect how male and female char­ac­ter­is­tics devel­op, so that some girls will be very girlie, some will be tomboys, and some may be gay. A sim­i­lar effect will influ­ence how boys devel­op.

Genet­ic, envi­ron­men­tal and behav­ioral pre­con­di­tions can be  inter­twined. Envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors can alter genes, caus­ing them to express pro­teins that would oth­er­wise be dor­mant. Like­wise, our behav­ior affects some of our genes. If we have a fam­i­ly propen­si­ty for heart dis­ease, but we eat a healthy diet, exer­cise and avoid risky behav­iors, we alter the impact of our genet­ic code.

Keep in mind that some things will be com­plete­ly deter­mined by genes. It is not rea­son­able to hope, for exam­ple, that our off­spring will be 6′5″ if both par­ents are short (or vice ver­sa). If the moth­er has “thrifty genes” — that is, genes that make it easy for her to gain weight — she may well do so dur­ing preg­nan­cy, even if she fol­lows a rea­son­ably healthy lifestyle. If the immune sys­tems of both par­ents have some sim­i­lar­i­ties, it may affect the mater­nal immune response to the implant­i­ng tro­phoblast cells, thus affect­ing the pla­cen­ta and, indeed, the entire preg­nan­cy.

So, how do we advise peo­ple who are think­ing of preg­nan­cy to pre­pare them­selves for a healthy preg­nan­cy genet­i­cal­ly? Sure­ly, to deter­mine all the poten­tial genet­ic pos­si­bil­i­ties is not fea­si­ble or afford­able at this point. Maybe in anoth­er cen­tu­ry! But, we can know some fac­tors:  Is there sick­le cell ane­mia in both fam­i­lies? Is there a Mediter­ranean type of sick­le cell dis­or­der? What about clot­ting fac­tors or dif­fer­ences in Rh? What about dis­eases or dis­or­ders that are not com­mon, like ALS? These are things that poten­tial par­ents may want to dis­cuss.

Like so much of life, we can’t know every­thing. There are no guar­an­tees. There is a lot to be learned still about human genes and how they work.

This blog has at its heart the notion that phys­i­cal activ­i­ty has tremen­dous ben­e­fits for moth­er and offspring…and for part­ners, too. How does the genet­ic com­po­nent affect this? First, pre­con­cep­tion fit­ness low­ers some risk fac­tors for moth­ers and babies. Sec­ond, each mother’s genes will make it eas­i­er or more dif­fi­cult for her to enjoy or ben­e­fit from the activ­i­ty of exer­cise. We appre­ci­ate this and encour­age young moms-to-be to find some­thing enjoy­able that you like doing and find peo­ple or sit­u­a­tions that sup­port you in being active now before you become preg­nant.

If you need assis­tance or advice, please go to www.dancingthrupregnancy.com (use the BlogRoll)

Find Ask the Expert under the Con­sumer menu. Let us know how we can help!

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.