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Tag Archives: pregnancy health

  • Are you Tired or Iron Deficent?

    As summer steams up, many of us start feeling a little lethargic. If you are living in a hot and humid area, it is easy to get the pregnancy doldrums that make our maternity weight feel like it is double, even if you aren’t expecting twins. For many women the hot weather is not the only cause of pregnancy fatigue, it may also stem from a lack of sufficient iron in your diet.

    Research shows that only one in five women begin their pregnancy with sufficient iron levels. No matter the geography, iron is the most common and widespread deficiency in women around the world and the leading cause of fatigue in women. Other symptoms from low iron are poor concentration and quick mental fatigue as well as a low tolerance for exercise and physical exertion.

    During pregnancy women’s iron requirements double and without the proper diet and supplementation iron reserves can continue to deplete with each subsequent pregnancy. Studies show that as many as 50% of pregnant women are iron deficient and 20% of non-pregnant women. Clearly we all need to be getting more iron in our diet or at least supplementing more.

    If your diet has 15mg of iron and 30mg of iron supplementation you are probably meeting your iron requirement during pregnancy. If you are not meeting your iron requirement, an easy way to add more iron to your diet is to eat more iron-enriched cereals and grains (read the labels) as well as snacking on dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. Also, foods in the bean family such as lentils, chick peas and soybeans are all high in iron as well. We all know that dark leafy greens like Popeye recommends such as spinach and collards are rich in iron and very good for you.

    Other foods high in iron are red meat and egg yolks. But even if you are a vegetarian or a vegan there are still plenty of iron rich food options for you. Talk to your doctor about a supplement (or have a blood test) if you suspect you may be low on iron in your diet, particularly if you are pregnant.

  • Is your Baby getting enough Vitamin D?

    Breastfeeding your baby is a great way to not only bond with your baby but to give them the very best customized nutrition and antibodies that they need to be healthy.  However the one vitamin that you may be lacking in providing through your breast milk is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important part of both your pregnancy diet while your baby’s bones are developing and your breastfeeding diet as your baby continues to grow and develop.

    If you do not get enough Vitamin D in your diet when you are pregnant your baby may develop a condition called rickets from soft bones. Also by getting enough Vitamin D while you are pregnant you increase your chances of having a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

    While breastfeeding it is important that you eat a healthy diet as your nutrient intake is what feeds your baby the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy as well. Depending on how much vitamin D you are getting with your diet and sun exposure, you may or may not be providing enough vitamin D for your baby. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your diet, you will need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement (and you should probably a supplement for yourself too).

    Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of factors including:

    Not enough sun exposure outside.

    Having dark skin

    Being overweight or obese

    General recommendations for Vitamin D for pregnant women by the Vitamin D Council are 4,000-6,000 IU/day. Researchers found that moms that took at least 4,000 IU a day where more likely to have uncomplicated births and their newborns were likely to have enough vitamin D when he or she was born. Women without enough Vitamin D in their diets were more likely to have premature births, develop gestational diabetes, have preeclampsia and more likely to have a C-Section.

    The Vitamin D Council’s recommended intake of vitamin D for babies is 1,000 IU/day.  If you are getting enough vitamin D as a breastfeeding mother, then your baby is also getting enough vitamin D and does not need a supplement. If you baby does need a supplement you can give them prescription vitamin D drops directly or add them to food or drink for your baby.

    If you as a breastfeeding mother are taking a supplement of 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day, then your baby does not need a vitamin D supplement as your breast milk will have enough. If you are not taking a supplement (or you are taking less than 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D) and not getting a good amount if sun exposure, then you need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement.

    If you are getting a good amount of skin exposure to the sun each day, then you are probably getting enough vitamin D to make your breast milk rich with vitamin D. However most mothers are not able to get enough skin exposure every day to meet this requirement and do need a supplement 5-6 days a week. When you are not getting enough sun exposure for a number of days your breast milk will quickly clear itself of vitamin D unless you are taking a supplement.

    The upper limits for Vitamin D intake is 2,000 IU/day for babies and 10,000 IU/day for pregnant women. So, unless you are over supplementing, it is hard to exceed these limits. Formula milk varies with how much vitamin D in the formula. Most formula milk has between 40-100 IUs of vitamin D per 100 calories. You will need to figure out how much formula your child has a day to add up the vitamin D IUs they are getting. Based on this result you can figure out if you need to supplement your baby with vitamin D or not and how much to supplement. Remember to adjust your supplements as your baby’s intake of formula may increase over time.

    Although exposing your skin to the sun is a great way for pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their vitamin D supply for both themselves and their babies, you also want to be careful not to burn. Although skin exposure for your baby will increase their vitamin D directly, your baby’s skin is extra sensitive and should not be exposed directly to the sun for at least the first six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even after 6 months you will need to be careful of your baby’s sun exposure, especially in the hot summer months as burns can happen quickly to your baby’s sensitive skin.

    Vitamin D supplements are a good subject to bring up with your pediatrician. However it is also good to educate yourself on this subject as well so you can have a very informed conversation with your doctor on how to best supplement your baby if needed.

  • Attention Expectant Moms – Drive Carefully!

    Drive Safely! Drive Safely!

    A new study by the Canadian Association Journal cautions that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester, have a significantly higher risk of getting into car accidents than women who are not pregnant. Although the cause is still uncertain, it did find the risk of getting into a serious accident rose 42% during the middle trimester of pregnancy.

    Although I usually attribute such news or assertions to stereotypical data skewing, this research does seem to have some valid data behind it to warrant a cause for concern. The study leader, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, told NPR that he suspects the normal symptoms that accompany pregnancy and which may be more pronounced during the second trimester such as fatigue, insomnia and stress, are likely the reason for this uptick in driving accidents.

    This would make sense as numerous studies have shown that fatigue is as big or sometimes bigger culprit than alcohol in many motor vehicle accidents. Also, pregnant women oftentimes have to deal with nausea, morning sickness and even under eating and unusual diets during this time. Physiologically expectant woman have increased hormones associated with pregnancy, namely progesterone and estrogen, which can lead to looser tendons and ligaments, thus further lack of coordination and reaction time when driving a car.

    Now hopefully this study does not give us one more thing to be paranoid about during pregnancy as we already have such a laundry list of “don’ts” but increased awareness and vigilance is not a bad thing. Dr. Redelmeier tells NPR, that telling pregnant women to be careful drivers “seems like incredibly banal advice to give. I realize that. But every one of our crashes in the study could have been avoided by a small change in driver behaviors.” Those small changes included minimizing speed and distractions (not texting or reading email while driving or talking on cell phones while driving) and simply taking care to follow traffic rules could have avoided an accident.

    Maybe skipping that morning coffee has increased the risk as well (they didn’t check out that variable)! In any case, go ahead and grab your keys and drive where you need to go, but just be a little extra careful to pay attention as you do have a baby onboard.

  • Diet matters for a Healthy Pregnancy

    A recent study led by Englund-Ögge with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Institute of Clinical Sciences at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gottenburg, Sweden showed the diet was very important for a healthy pregnancy and for lowering the risk of a preterm birth. Dr. Linda Englund-Ögge told Reuters Health in an email.

    "Diet really matters when it comes to preterm delivery and it is very important for pregnant women to choose or to increase the intake of an overall healthy diet consisting of fresh and raw vegetables, fruit, whole-grain products, certain fish and to drink water."

    In recent years there has been more interest and more research done concerning maternal diet how it affects the risk of preterm delivery. In this study 66,000 Norwegian women participated between 2002-2008 to study the effects of diet and maternal health. Those who had a “Prudent Diet” consisting of cooked vegetables, salad, onion/leek/garlic, fruit and berries, nuts, vegetables oils, water as a beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry and fiber-rich bread had the lowest instance of preterm birth. Those with a “Western Diet” which included more salty snacks, sweets and chocolates, French fries, white bread, ketchup, sugar-sweetened drinks, pasta and processed meat products had a much higher instance of preterm birth.

    There were a total of 3,505 preterm deliveries. The researchers found that women who adhered most closely to the Prudent Diet were 11 percent less likely to have preterm deliveries compared to women who didn't follow the diet as closely.

    "We would like for doctors, midwives and all others who work with pregnant women to reinforce the important message that pregnant women should be encouraged to eat a balanced and healthy diet," Englund-Ögge said.

    "There are modifiable risk factors that people can address to enhance their pregnancy outcomes," Dr. Louis Muglia told Reuters Health.

    Based on this study, he said, a balanced diet with more foods rich in vitamins and other micronutrients probably facilitates a full-term pregnancy. Additionally women that followed the prudent diet were also more likely to have other beneficial lifestyle habits which would contribute to good pregnancy outcomes. These women were more likely to maintain a healthier weight, smoked less and avoided alcohol.

    "So I think there are a lot of things that go along with that prudent lifestyle that increases the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy and reduces the likelihood of a preterm birth as well," Muglia said.

    This research is helpful in relying the message that we assumed for years, that as expecting moms we can positively affect our developing baby’s health by eating healthy foods during pregnancy and following a healthy lifestyle. The research noted that even the women in the “Prudent Diet” category did indulge in Western eatting from time to time and did indulge in sweets sometimes as well, but it’s the overall diet pattern that mattered the most. This is good news for all of us as it’s impossible to be perfect in pregnancy or anytime!

  • 6 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

    1. Eat 5-6 well-balanced meals each day. Morning sickness is actually lessoned when you don’t let yourself go too long between meals, symptoms can actually get worse on an empty stomach. Meals do not have to be big, but try and vary your food choices and stick to healthy snacks and meals.

    2. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Sometimes with morning sickness it’s easier to not drink as much with a meal and drink more between meals. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day while avoiding or limiting caffeine.

    3. Exercise – it’s important to stay active during pregnancy, just stay cognizant of your exertion level and  hydrate frequently. Remember your ligaments and tendons are looser, so wear supportive athletic shoes to exercise and use good judgment in choosing your exercise-- no wind sprints or downhill skiing! Also, take more breaks and keep in mind that your center of gravity is also shifting. Staying fit during your pregnancy will improve your overall health and make your postpartum recovery much easier.

    4. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke. Also be careful about exposing yourself to second hand smoke. The jury is still out how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy. It is better to abstain drinking alcohol altogether than risk your baby’s health. There will be plenty of times for Happy Hours when your baby is older!

    5. Wear comfortable clothing that you can move around in and that does not restrict blood flow. Non restrictive shoes are particularly important as you approach your third trimester. During this period of your pregnancy it is typical for feet to accumulate fluid and swell. Remember to prop up your feet during the day whenever possible to reduce any swelling.

    6. Consult your doctor before taking any medications, even seemingly benign over the counter medications such as Tylenol have been found to be risky during pregnancy. Also consult your doctor for herbal remedies as these too can be risky for your baby's development.

    There seems to be a lot of “be careful” advice and “don’t do’s” during pregnancy which can sometimes feel overwhelming. For the most part you can use common sense and listen to your body about what is and is not a healthy choice during this time. Now your get to eat, drink and think for two, not just yourself which is an adjustment for most of us.  It is an incredibly important time during your baby’s development so although you don’t need to guilt yourself over every slip up you also want to use your best judgment for your baby’s optimal health and development. You owe it to yourself and your baby to be the best expecting mom you can be! Motherhood starts during pregnacy, so now is a great time to adopt healthy habits.

  • Folic Acid during Pregnancy may reduce Baby’s risk of Autism

    Most of us have received the news flash that we should take our prenatal vitamins and in particular we should take our folic acid when we are pregnant. Folic acid is an important vitamin for helping prevent neural tube defects in babies. However, did you know that it may help reduce autism?

    Now this is even more relatable a reason for most of us as autism is almost always in the news, seemingly on the rise or at least on the rise in terms of diagnosis and is surrounded by a shroud of mystery and debate over how a child can get it or be born with it.

    A new study in Norway found a very strong correlation between a reduction in autism and women who took folic acid supplements four weeks before their pregnancy and through at least the 8th week of their pregnancy. Women who took Folic Acid daily during this time period saw a 40% reduction in autism in their children (when they were tested about 8 years later) as compared to the children of the pregnant women in the group who did not take folic acid for this time period. This is a huge reduction in autism!

    Apparently timing does matter. The earlier you can start supplementing with folic acid prior to conception, the better. The study found that in terms of autism risk that the folic acid supplements did not seem to have any impact beyond the 22nd week of pregnancy. The crucial time interval was from four weeks before conception to eight weeks into the pregnancy.

    Of course it does not hurt to continue on with folic acid throughout your pregnancy and who knows, maybe there’s further benefits or risk reductions that are yet to be uncovered from continuing with folic acid beyond the first trimester. However, what researchers have uncovered so far is enough evidence to start any woman even thinking about having a baby to be popping a folic acid supplement right away.

    So what is folic acid? It is the B vitamin that helps with the construction and repair of DNA molecules which is the genetic code that controls all of the body’s cells, including the brain cells. It is especially important to take it early in pregnancy during the development of the baby’s spine and nervous system to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Doctors typically recommend that all women who are planning on getting pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from a multivitamin and continue taking this amount throughout their early pregnancy.

    Now with 1 out of 88 children diagnosed with autism we hope that this research will help us reduce the risk of childhood autism and increase awareness of our ability to potentially prevent this disability by supplementing with Folic Acid early in our pregnancy and even before. Knowledge is power so let’s empower ourselves and those we know with this scientific knowledge and preventative health measure of supplementing daily with Folic Acid if we are pregnant or hope to become pregnant. It’s an easy lifestyle adder that can reap benefits in our child’s health and well-being for a lifetime.

  • Lifestyle Factors you can Change to avoid Miscarriage

    Obviously during pregnancy, the last thing you want to worry or even think about is a miscarriage. I know for me it was almost a feeling that if you don’t think it, it won’t happen, just stay positive, right? Obviously stress is something that you want to lesson to make your pregnancy journey safer and better overall. However, there are times I believe reliable information about what we fear, may actually be helpful and allow us to be more empowered to make better health and lifestyle decisions during our pregnancy. This is why I would like to share some research by scientists in Denmark recently published in International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on miscarriage and how we can avoid it.

    In this study it was determined that miscarriages during pregnancy could be lowered by as much as 25% by modifying or avoiding high risk behaviors duing pregnancy. These risk factors included factors including lack of exercise or too vigorous (or risky) exercise, too much alcohol consumption, smoking(at all), drinking coffee, overtime and evening work schedules, regular heavy lifting, weight gain, and advanced maternal age. Of course if you are already pregnant and at an “advanced maternal age” there’s not much you can modify about that factor but there are plenty of other risk factors we can affect in our lifestyle to reduce our risks and improve our pregnancy health and our baby’s health.

    Apparently weight was an important factor for pregnancy viability and pregnancy health as well as the baby’s health. If you were overweight before you were pregnant then you do not need to gain the recommended 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. You can gain far less but you will need to be extra vigilant about healthy calories so that your baby (and you) get the nutrients you need. Talk to your doctor about your weight and do not avoid the subject or wait for them to bring it up. New research shows that doctors in the United States are less likely to bring up a pregnant woman’s weight gain if she is gaining too much than they did in previous years. Obviously it is not always a popular subject and one that is often the last thing mentioned before the end of the visit if at all. As a result of less emphasis on our weight gain and pregnancy diet, our pregnancy obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years and this factor is affecting rates of healthy pregnancies overall. These health risks include stillbirth rates, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), gestational diabetes (leading to higher weight babies and childhood obesity), more complications during labor and delivery and a harder time losing the weight after pregnancy. Instaed of feeling guilty, we need to address the problem directly with our doctor and admit if we are having problems with our pregnancy weight and ask for help.

    As a mom of three I understand the problems with weight gain during pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness with all three of my babies yet I gained more than the recommended weight with my first two pregnancies, particularly the first. It seemed high carbs and sugars were the only thing my body could keep down or that seemed appealing whenever the sickness would subside. Even though I stayed active during my pregnancies it seems that food choices and quantities would really drive my weight gain more than I could offset those calories with exercise. I also admit that I was guilty of over indulging in sweets as all my forgiving stretchy pregnancy clothes seemed to hide the extra pound or two that was rapidly creeping on. On the other side, you definitely do want to gain enough weight if you are underweight or not gaining enough to support your pregancy and development of your baby. It is a delicate balance and seems unfair that pregnancy is a time we should need to worry about our weight at all. My recommendation is to be proactive in talking to your doctor and even getting a dietician referral if you have any difficulties or questions with your weight. It is never too late to be proactive about your pregnancy health.

    Obviously exercise is good for us during pregnancy and promotes a healthy pregnancy, so it is important to keep a regular safe exercise regime that your doctor approves and to be flexible in adjusting your routine during each stage of your pregnancy. Pay attention to your body and make sure you are not over straining it by lifting too heavy of a weight (and this includes childcare routines where children 40 pounds or more are lifted and carried). Also make sure that you hydrate regularly as your body requires more water and you may need to take more frequent breaks, particularly if you feel you are overheating or your heart rate is too high. If an exercise involves more balance, like tennis, be extra careful as your center of gravity is constantly shifting and your ligaments and tendons are looser during pregnancy. This is maybe a time to just "practice" a safe sport and not compete if you are the competitive type!

    If you smoke, then pregnancy is an excellent time, reason and motivation to quit.Alcohol and coffee consumption have long been a hot topic in pregnancy circles. Although some doctors say a small amount of alcohol or caffeine is OK during pregnancy, no one seems to know exactly how much is OK. If you want to err on the safe side it is probably best to tee-total on both alcohol and caffeine or at least to strongly limit your intake. You will have plenty of time to enjoy a cocktail or two as well as extra mochas in years to come. There are always other options to choose from for beverage choices such as an alcohol free beer or decaf latte or tea.

    Work schedules and stress are not always easy factors to control. One major way to reduce the risk of miscarriage is to pay attention to our physical and emotional stress level and get the sleep we need. The study did find that night and overtime schedules increased women’s health risks during pregnancy as well as heavy lifting jobs. If these factors are a issue for you then you might want to check out your company’s pregnancy, health and maternity leave policies as there may be allowances for you to alter your high risk job demands during pregnancy, especially with your doctor’s permission. Sometimes you can work directly with your manager to work out a flex-time schedule or work at home schedule that allows you to take more rest. Or, you may need a doctor’s note to excuse you from certain tasks, such as heavy lifting on the job, or to get an early maternity leave. If you cannot, then you may need to re-assess if the job and its hours and determine if it is worth the risk of your pregnancy health.

    Pregnancy is a time to be selfish about your health and your baby’s health and not a time to be “tough” about taking on undo physical and emotional challenges that could challenge you and your baby's health. Your body is making a baby which takes a huge amount of energy and strength and affects not only your hormone levels but your physical abilities and needs. You will need more sleep as well as better nutrition, and more friendly work hours. Do not be afraid to speak up for what you need at home or at work, even if you feel like a wimp asking for extra time off or permission to get out of a physically demanding job. You can make it up when you are not making a baby. As everyone knows, pregnancy is not for wimps!

  • Breastfeeding Tips from Bravado!

    Breastfeeding is the best nutrition and antibodies you can provide your baby during it's first year of life and particularly for it's first 6 months of life. According to a new Study published by Bravado! designs, our top nursing bra brand, breastfeeding is on the rise in North America.

    In 2012 77% of new moms nursing their newborn, up 6% from 12 years ago in 2000 in the United States. In Canada breastfeeding rates also continued to rise with 89% of mothers breastfeeding their infants, up 4% from 2003. This is super news for both babies and new mothers as breastfeeding can improve the bond between mothers and their infants and even improve materal health and aid with postpartum weight loss.

    Here is Bravado's List of the Top 7 Benefits of Breastfeeding:

    1) Breastmilk contains the right balance of nutrients for your baby.

    2) Antibodies in Breast Milk boost your baby's immune system.

    3) Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies.

    4) May lower baby's risk of SIDS.

    5) May protect your child from obesity.

    6) May boost your child's intelligence.

    7) May reduce your stress level and risk for post-partum depression.

    Although breastfeeding can seem a like perfectly natural thing to do, it may not always feel natural or be easy in the beginning. For many moms (and babies) it can take some time catching onto, breastfeeding every baby can be a different experience. Do not hesitate to get the help you need to get you and your baby on the right track with breastfeeding. Hospitals provide nurses and lactation consultants to guide you in feeding your baby. You can also to nursing support groups, La Leche Leagues and local Moms groups to seek out the help you need for breastfeeding.

    Here are some Basic Breastfeeding Tips (as provided by Bravado!)

    1) Ask for help right away

    The first time you breast-feed your baby - preferably within a few hours after delivery, ask for help. The maternity nurses or a Lactation Consultant can offer breastfeeding tips, stating with how to position the baby on the breast and make sure he or she is latching on correctly.

    2) Let your baby set the pace

    For the first few weeks, most newborns feed every two to three hours around the clock. Watch for signs of hunger such as restlessness, sucking motions with lip movements.

    3) Give it time

    If breastfeeding is tougher than you expected, don't get discouraged. Don't let a rough start turn you off from breastfeeding. The more your breastfeed your baby, the more milk your breast will produce and the better you will get at it. But do  not hesitate to get the help you need if you do hit a rough patch (back to Step 1 when all else fails!) You will get there with time, patience and practice.

    Breastfeeding is a job, but it is so worth it for your baby. It can be exhausting feeding your baby around the clock, so make sure you are getting the nutrition and support you need from friends, relatives, neighbors and anyone else who offers to cook you a meal, help with baby or household chores! Be sure to pat yourself on the back for doing a very good deed for your baby that will reap rewards for your both now and for years to come.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Selfies of Uber-fit Moms who show off bodies after Birth are Selfish

    Personally I am tired of these moms coming out of anonymity to show off post baby ultra-fit bodies by posting selfies on Facebook while scantily clad to put the rest of us normal people to shame. Really, is there not any decorum and decency left? Of course I say “good to you” if you can find the time, means and let’s not kid ourselves, genes, to drop all your baby weight in mere days after giving birth and reveal something like a set of six pack abs. But in my opinion these photos reveal more about vanity than muscles.

    However it does give me pause to wonder if they are forgetting about the baby or were more focused on their own body weight than a healthy pregnancy. If you are nursing postpartum, which is a fulltime job in itself, you should be consuming an additional 500 calories a day for a total of approximately 2500 calories a day to support milk production.

    Many nursing women find that over time nursing does help them burn off a lot of the baby weight while continuing to eat a healthy 2500 calorie a day diet, particularly as the baby gets older and eats more. Personally I think nursing fulltime should be redefined as something of a contact or endurance sport as it does take a high level of skill, patience, strategy, quick reaction time and limitless energy to get it right. Of course the long-term benefits to your baby and to your own health are infinite and priceless (and yes it does save you money). However, any sort of weight drop from nursing is usually gradual and generally does not kick in for several months as the early day and weeks postpartum are really about revving up your milk supply and learning how to feed your baby successfully (and around the clock while trying to steal catnaps whenever possible and feel vaguely human).

    So my message to the exhibitionists who are looking for instant fame and recognition through a viral Instagram or u-tube videos for their abnormal postpartum weight loss is, please keep it to yourself or between you and your husband. We may gawk at your photo and send encouraging messages, but really you are shaming the rest of us normal people with actual human bodies that do not react like yours.

    Redirect the focus to your postpartum health and that of our baby and less on vanity. These early days with your new baby are a precious bonding experience which can set the tone for your relationship with your child for life. Savor them, expect them to be heartwarming as well as challenging steeped in sleep deprivation. Be sure to rely upon the kindness of friends and family who offer to help and cook a meal or watch the baby while you take a break or rest.

    Remember to give yourself a pat on the back for successfully bearing a child, managing your life and body through 9 months of pregnancy and having the guts to care for a newborn who does not always follow an instruction manual and seeking to make that new baby a priority in your life in the days, months and years to come. That’s the important stuff, six pack abs can wait.

  • Exercise During Pregnacy to Make your Baby Smart!

    As Holiday Season approaches many of us find ourselves munching on more cookies, eating more pie and indulging in bigger meals. It’s easy to do as the weather is cooler and you may be surrounded by friends and family and lots of yummy goodies. Although pregnancy is not a time to diet, it is perfectly ok and even recommended to exercise, especially when you need to offset some extra helpings of stuffing or pumpkin pie.

    Not only is exercise good for maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight, it’s also good for your brain, nerves and self-esteem. More recently researchers are uncovering new benefits of exercise to the developing fetus. Two studies presented a few weeks ago at the Society of Neuroscience suggest that exercise during pregnancy gives unborn children a neurological advantage with “more mature and effective brain patterns.” Dave Ellemberg, a neuroscientists at the University of Montreal says active moms can give their kids “a kickstart even before they are born.” He continues, “What we found is that there’s this amazing transfer from what the mother does onto her child.”

    What better motivation is there to exercise since not only are you improving your own body and mind during pregnancy but that of your unborn child’s at the same time. Another recent study performed at Dartmouth University found similar results with the potential for exercise to leave “long-lasting effects on the behavior and cognitive function of the offspring.”

    Even as little as thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise can help with weight gain, mood and prepare mothers for labor, says Laura Riley, Director of labor and delivery and obstetrics and gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital. She continues, that pregnant women who exercise are more mobile throughout their pregnancy and report less aches and pains during pregnancy.

    How much you exercise and the type of exercise you choose to do should depend on your fitness level. In general it is recommended that women should continue the exercise they already do and just adjust the level to their weight and abilities as the pregnancy progresses. Even just walking will do wonders for your body and your baby.

    There are obvious safety precautions such as staying clear of contact sports or those that require advanced coordination, such as biking (maybe consider a stationary bike). Also steer clear of exercise that involves flat on the back positions that can cause back strain or cut off the blood flow. Also you should not do abdominal work since those muscles are stretched to support your baby.

    Most importantly stay in tune with your body and take more frequent breaks. Also, be sure to hydrate more often as your body will need more liquids when you are pregnant. Finally be sure to be in close communication with your doctor on all exercise you pursue to make sure it is recommended and safe.

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