pregnancy aerobics

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)

Exercise and Body Trust in Birth

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In the gen­er­a­tions since birth moved from the home to the hos­pi­tal set­ting, it has become less and less fre­quent that women in devel­oped nations see birth first hand and accept it as a nat­ur­al part of life pri­or to their own first birth expe­ri­ence. The “epi­dem­ic” of fear sur­round­ing birth may well be part­ly a result of this phe­nom­e­non. In a recent post pub­lished in Mid­wives mag­a­zine, a pub­li­ca­tion of the UK’s Roy­al Col­lege of Mid­wives, DTP direc­tor Ann Cowl­in wrote a blog enti­tled ‘Exer­cise and Body Trust in Birth.’ The post address­es the con­fi­dence in one’s body that accom­pa­nies train­ing spe­cif­ic exer­cise and how this applies to preg­nant women and their prepa­ra­tion for birth. Here is the link to the blog post: http://community.rcm.org.uk/blogs/exercise-and-body-trust-birth

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/

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.

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.

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™