Five steps to the birth of your dreams

Most women anticipate labour and birth with a mix of excitement, and fear—of all the unknown and loss of control. In the face of that kind of vulnerability, it is good to have a plan, a vision of the outcome you want and then begin taking steps to get there.

Actively preparing with easy, practical measures will lead to a birth experience that is satisfying and empowering. No client of ours ever told us “I did too much to prepare for my birth.” That is why we are happy to suggest these five steps to the birth of your dreams!

1) Choose online prenatal education or yoga classes that reflect your vision of an ideal birth.

A virtual gathering with other pregnant women in online classes that discuss pregnancy, labour and birth will help you to find support and community in which to make your choices, share ideas, and learn together.

I also lead virtual Regina Hospital tours, allowing you to become accustomed to the setting in which your birth will unfold. Attending these classes is your start to finding your tribe and building vital connections that will help you thrive in the postpartum.

2) Create your circle of support and birth-power

Expecting Couple

Take a clear-eyed look at the others on your support team. Partners sometimes feel pressured to perform and provide a level of physical and psychological support that may exceed their capacities. Many times it feels unfair to expect them to take on such a new role all on their own.

What do they need to feel supported? What things can you both do in the prenatal time? Have they talked to other non-birthing partners? Birth is a shared experience so both of you need to be mindful of what you need and communicate your expectations.

If a friend or relative is invited, are they experienced, will they add calm or stress to your birth, will they come at any time and stay as long as needed? Have you invited them or did they invite themselves? You get to decide. Birth is not a spectator sport – as the birthing woman you get to choose.

If you’re a solo parent-to-be, consider inviting someone who brings you comfort. Any person coming to the birth should attend prenatal education classes with the mother. They should be familiar with the birth setting, the protocols there, their own availability and the ability to be a helpful presence, not a distraction.

3) Hire a Doula

It is hard to navigate all the decisions you will be faced in pregnancy, labour and birth. Why do it alone?

Professional doulas support the birthing woman and her labour team members. Women who have doula support have half the rates of cesarean births as those without. They also have significantly shorter labours, request pain meds at far lower rates (less than half as often), and experience significantly fewer interventions.

Doulas are experts in comfort measures and also great information resources. Whether it is a simple question or a complex decision, your doula is there to help you through every choice you make. Partners do more when there is a doula on their team!

Plus – doulas make the process fun! We are trained to smooth out the edges, show you the ropes and be your birth sherpas! Contact me for more information!

4) Make an effective birth plan that works for you instead of against you

There are many options for labour and birth, but many people don’t know they can do some research, ask some questions and design their birth their way. It is important to know what to expect from your time in the hospital (or home if that is your choice); it is important to be informed and prepared.

There are many things you can control in the face of the vulnerability of labour and birth.

We all want to feel safe first. For our babies to be born in a cocoon of safety. And then we are allowed to want other things as well.

You are allowed and encouraged to dream big and envision the birth of your dreams, not just a birth that is safe, not just the birth you dread.

  • What makes you feel safe?
  • What stresses you out?
  • What do you need?
  • What would you love to happen?
  • Quiet respectful space to labour in?
  • A less clinical feel to the room?
  • A more clinical and monitored space? So you know both you and baby are ok.
  • Want to catch your baby?
  • Keep the cord?
  • Use your own playlist to create the vibe?
  • Wear your own clothes?
  • Use your own pillow?
  • Labour in whatever position is most comfortable to you?
  • Birth in the posture of your choice?

Your plan should use positive language, including things that are unique and important to you. Including the things that are essential for you.

5) Find and Practise tools to manage the intensity of labour

Pregnant Yoga

Whether your labour is a sprint, a marathon or a surgical experience – many women describe birth as hard work.

There are things you can do to manage this intensity! Whether you plan to labour naturally or to use an epidural to support your experience, taking the time to strategize what tools might work for you – and practice the skills while you are pregnant is essential.

Be your sensuous self and amplify your senses to distract or soothe yourself – sight, sound, smell, touch!

Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, sound/music, and visualizations/affirmations are valuable tools. Hypnobirthing is a system many women find helpful. As are hynotherapy sessions with a trained therapist. Ask me for suggestions.

Control, control, control! Find things that you can control and control the heck out of them!

Looking for more information on your upcoming birth? Interested in taking one of my online prenatal classes or in need of birth support? Please contact me!

Article written by my wise friend and work-partner, Karen Herriot – Master Doula, Doula Trainer, Yoga Teacher.

Released Waters (aka Ruptured Membranes or Water Breaks) and What to Do!

Your waters just released – now what?  When you water breaks, it can be released as a few drops at a time or in a gush.  Only 10 per cent of women will experience waters releasing before labour has started.  When this happens, labour usually starts within 24 hours.  The other 90 per cent of women’s waters will release at some point during labour, usually in active labour.  Here is information on self-care and warning signs.

About 75 per cent of women with PROM at term (“premature rupture of membranes” i.e. before labour starts, from 37 weeks on) give birth within 24 hours. This increases to 90 per cent within 48 hours and 95 per cent by 72 hours.  People often worry about infection after waters release.  Note that risk of infection increases with internal exams (vaginal exams), fever in mother and being confirmed GBS-positive. So this is something to be aware of.

Warning Signs

If any of these occur, seek medical attention in a timely manner.

  • If waters release before 37 weeks, contact your medical care provider and/or go to hospital.
  • If fluid is coloured (yellow, green, brown) or has a strong smell, then contact your medical care provider.
  • If you have any signs of fever contact your medical care provider.
  • If your baby isn’t moving normally, then contact your medical care provider.
  • This is a 911 call! If you feel a cord between your legs or at the vaginal opening, assume a “child’s pose” with bum in the air (on hands and knees with chest on the ground) and call 911.
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“Child’s Pose” with bum in the air

Self-Care

  • Nothing inside! That includes internal examinations unless there’s a good reason to do one. There’s a correlation between time on first internal exam and onset of infection; the earlier the initial internal exam, the higher the risk of infection.  Risk of infections goes up with number of internal examinations.
  • Baths in your own tub at home are fine. Once you’re in active labour then baths are also fine in your private birth room.  Use showers instead when in public spaces (e.g. hotel, hospital assessment washroom).
  • Be aware of signs of infection such as fever. Take your temperature every 4-8 hours during awake hours.
  • Stay hydrated. Consider if you’ve had a steady stream of fluid or just that early trickle.  It’s also possible to have a little “high leak” without membranes fully  releasing.  A healthy mama/baby will continue to make amniotic fluid.
  • Take care of hygiene:
    • Wear a clean pad and change it often
    • When using the toilet, one wipe from front to back per tissue
    • Wash hands before and after using toilet or changing pads

Go to Hospital… or Not?

This should be discussed with your midwife or doctor at prenatal appointments ahead of time in case they have specific instructions for you.  If fluid is clear then you may have the  choice to stay home or contact your medical care provider for options. Generally there are 3 things assessed at hospital:

  1. Baby’s health (by listening to fetal heart tones)
  2. Maternal health (vital signs and interview)
  3. Presence (or absence) of amniotic fluid (the “waters”) present

If you go to hospital and you’re not in active labour, you will likely be offered a sterile-speculum exam (think PAP test); the purpose being to confirm your waters actually released.  This is optional, although it’s not usually presented as such.  Other ways to determine if waters actually released may included simply asking the pregnant woman or dipping the testing swab into her wet pad.

  • If you previously tested “GBS positive” then your medical care provider may recommend induction.
  • If you previously tested “GBS negative” then may be offered induction but will more likely be sent home to wait for labour to start.  If labour hasn’t started within 24 hours then your medical care provider may recommend induction.

Your Options

  1. Go to hospital for maternal and baby assessment but decline internal examination.
  2. Go to hospital and consent to all of it – sterile speculum exam, maternal and baby assessment.
  3. Stay home and wait for labour to start, barring any warning signs or health complications.  Practice good self-care, be aware of warning signs, and pay attention to your baby’s movements.

Further Info:

Here is an excellent article about obstetrical care of women with Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) at term (37+ weeks), including discussion of differences in outcomes with GBS positive and negative, options, and when labour typically starts.

Pregnant Woman by ocean

I teach a variety of Child Birth Education classes and prenatal workshops online for students all over.  I have been a birth doula since 2002, and have helped over 300 mothers with their births and over 1000 through prenatal classes. Learn more about my birth doula services, and contact me with any questions you may have.

Brewer Pregnancy Nutrition

Adequate protein and good quality nutrition are required for the increased metabolic functions that accompany pregnancy. Many midwives and practitioners recommend good nutrition during pregnancy, including the Brewer Diet.  There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to support them.

A study conducted at Harvard University found that eating at ≥75 grams of protein daily helps prevent diseases of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia (Abubakar & al., 2011) (Haas, 1995).

In the 1960’s Dr. Tom Brewer worked with a large, high-obstetrical-risk group in California: impoverished ethnic minority teen mothers in their first pregnancy.  During the same time in other areas of the USA, this group had up to 35% rates of serious pregnancy diseases, preeclampsia and eclampsia. Dr. Brewer worked with more than 7000 pregnant women over more than 12 years. He asked each woman about her diet and determined that malnutrition was prevalent.  All of his clients were required to attend nutritional counselling and were fed good nutrition and adequate protein.  The incidence of serious pregnancy illnesses  among his patients dropped to 0.5% (Brewer & Brewer-Krebs, 1977)! This is remarkable and well documented but as there was no “control group” (a group who didn’t receive “treatment”, because Dr. Brewer felt it would be unethical to withhold good nutrition from a group of pregnant women), most medical associations don’t consider this scientifically valid research.

The basic Brewer diet recommends a daily minimum of 2600 calories, 80-120 grams protein, salt-to-taste, green veggies, whole grains, fats, and vitamin-rich foods (Jones).  The Brewer diet can be easily integrated into general good pregnancy nutrition (see Basic Prenatal Nutrition handout (Evans, 2011)).  For example, while the Brewer Diet doesn’t specify types of salt or fat, whole-mineral salts (e.g. Himalayan or Celtic) and high quality omega-3 fats are healthiest.  Special needs such as food-sensitivities / allergies, ethical choices or cultural habits can all be incorporated into the Brewer Diet.  As usual, ensure you eat 3 meals and 3 snacks daily, including protein at each one.

If you wish to check out the actual “Brewer Diet”, see diet checklists at www.blueribbonbaby.org .  They also include vegan and vegetarian options.  Below is a basic checklist you can use.

Brewer Pregnancy Diet Food Log

The list below is the minimum daily requirements according to Dr. Brewer.  You may wish to consult a holistic nutritionist if you have special needs.  Let you midwife know if you aren’t meeting these daily minimums as this requires prompt attention.

Check off a box each time you have a serving.  Each food counts as one checkmark on the lists e.g. a glass of milk counts as either “Milk” or “Protein”, but not both.  Examples for each category are presented.  Modify to fit any special considerations you have, such as vegetarian or a health issue to work around.

DAILY MINIMUMS:

oooooooo  (8) Calcium source; servings below.  Note 125ml = ½ cup

½ cup animal milk, yogurt or sour cream

¼ cup cottage cheese

1 small slice cheese

36 almonds

12 Brazil nuts

1 tbsp raw sesame seeds

1/3 cup cooked bok choy or collard greens

1 cup broccoli, cooked

½  cup kale

2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses

4 oz black olives

1 oz sardines

 

oooooooo  (8) Protein; servings below.  1oz = 7g.

Note:  See information about fish and mercury on Basic Prenatal Nutrition handout.

1 oz poultry, fish, red-meat, or organs

¼ cup canned salmon or tuna

3 sardines

1 oz cheese: cheddar, Swiss, other hard cheese

¼ cup cottage cheese

1/8 cup brewer’s yeast + 1/4 cup rice

1/8 cup sesame or sunflower seeds + ½ cup cup rice

1/8 cup beans + 1/4 cup whole rice or ½ cup cornmeal (measured before cooking)

 

oo (2) Fresh, dark green vegetables; servings below

1 cup broccoli

1 cup brussels sprouts

½ cup lettuce (preferable romaine)

½ cup endive

½ cup asparagus

½ cup sprouts: bean, alfalfa

2/3 cup greens e.g. collard, turnip, beet, mustard, dandelion, kale, spinach

 

ooooo (5) Whole grains; servings below

1 slice whole grain bread

1 corn tortilla

½ cup oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa,

1 shredded wheat biscuit

½ cup bran flakes or granola

¼ cup wheat germ

1 waffle or pancake made from whole grain

½  roll, muffin, or bagel made from whole grain

 

oo (2) Vitamin C foods; servings below

½ grapefruit

½ cup grapefruit juice

1 orange

½ cup orange juice

1 large tomato

1 cup tomato juice

½ cantaloupe

1 lemon or lime

½ cup papaya

½ cup strawberries

1 large green pepper

1 large potato, any style

 

ooo (3) Fats and oils; servings below

1 tbsp butter

¼ avocado

1 tbsp nut-butter

1 tsp algae oil

1 tbsp first/cold-pressed vegan oil – olive, flax, avocado, hemp, coconut

1 tsp cold-pressed fish oil – cod-liver, sardine, mackerel, anchovy, krill

 

o (1) Vitamin A foods; servings below

3 apricots

½ cantaloupe

½ cup carrots (1 large)

½ cup pumpkin

½ cup winter squash

1 sweet potato

 

Salt and other sodium sources—unlimited, to taste

kelp powder–to taste

soy sauce or tamari–to taste

full spectrum natural salt to taste – Himilayan, Celtic

 

Water—unlimited; drink to avoid thirst, not in response to it

Purified water is best – see http://www.angieevans.ca/pdf/Water%20&%20Hydration.pdf

Fresh, home-made juice

Unsweetened herbal tea (see Safe Herbs in Pregnancy handout)

 

 

References

Abubakar, A., & al. (2011, Aug). Lipid Profiles and Platelets Counts of Pre-eclamptic women in Selected Rural Areas of Northern Nigeria.  WebmedCentral PHYSIOLOGY: http://www.webmedcentral.com/article_view/2121

ACOG. (2002, Jan). Diagnosis and Management of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia; #33. ACOG Practise Bulletin – Clinical Management Guidelines for Obstetrician-Gynecologists: http://mail.ny.acog.org/website/SMIPodcast/DiagnosisMgt.pdf

Brewer, D. T., & Brewer-Krebs, G. (1977). What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know. The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet: http://www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com/id74.html

Evans, A. (2011). Basic Prenatal Nutrition. Canmore.

Frye, A. (2007). Understanding Diagnostic Tests in the Childbearing Year, 7th Ed. Portland, OR: Labrys Press.

good nutrition… for healthier moms and babies. (n.d.).  BlueRibbonBaby.org: http://www.blueribbonbaby.org/

Haas, A. (1995). Preventing Preeclamsia, PIH, Toxemai and HELLP by Good Nutrition. Midwifery Today .

Jones, J. M. (n.d.).  The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet: http://www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com/

Maine, D. (2000). Role of nutrition in the prevention of toxemia. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 72 (1), 298-300.

NICE. (2010, Aug). NICE clinical guideline 107: Hypertension in pregnancy. NHS – National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence: http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/13098/50418/50418.pdf

 

 

Hospital Birth Room Set-up 101

One of the important tasks I do for my clients is to set up their hospital birth room for comfort, safety and efficiency.  Here’s a list of what I take care of I go into a birth room.  In my local hospital the birth rooms all have a small closet, mini-fridge, blanket-warmer, some empty shelves and an adjoining private washroom with a tub. If you’re DIYing then find out ahead of time what your local birth rooms are like and modify as needed.

Doulas and Dads

Although the information here will reassure any partner, this article intentionally addresses dads-to-be. All the quotes, links and videos are made by dads for dads-to-be, about their most common concerns about birth support:  1) Value; why should I pay for a doula if I’m going to be there?  2) Why do we even need a doula; what does she have that I don’t?  3) How will I be included if a doula attends?

Use of Herbs During Pregnancy & Lactation

Herbal medicine is specific category of health-care.  Many herbs, including essential oils, are safe and beneficial during the childbearing year, while others can be dangerous.  Pregnant women must be cautious with any remedies, especially during the first trimester when the fetus is most vulnerable.  There’s a lot of misinformation concerning herbs.  Here are lists of commonly used herbs that are considered safe and unsafe through pregnancy and postpartum.

Here We Go Again: Facts vs Fear-Mongering in Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta capsulesYesterday the CBC posted another article on placenta encapsulation.  The article is low on fact and filled with fear-mongering.  Certainly an article like this should lead service-providers to pay attention to their practices, ask questions, and re-evaluate protocols to ensure safe services are being offered.  An article of this nature should also lead clients to ask questions of their encapsulators.  Unfortunately, when a big media company publishes an article with an inflammatory headline, most people don’t read through, and of those that do, few know how to evaluate the information presented.

Let’s get to the facts.

Exercise During Pregnancy – What To Know

Birth has been compared to climbing a mountain or completing a marathon.  Being physically fit is an advantage.  Exercise generally improves pregnancy, birth and newborn outcomes for people with normal pregnancies.  There may be a protective factor for gestational diabetes, congenital anomalies, miscarriage, placental problems, intrauterine growth restriction, high blood pressure or fetal death.  Evidence suggests that abnormal heart rates, cord entanglement, and the presence of meconium are significantly reduced.  While there is no increase in premies, there may be fewer postdate gestations.

Those who engage in regular, vigorous exercise require less intervention in labour, including a substantial decrease of cesarean birth rates.  They may have faster labours, both in stage-1 and stage-2, compared to those who are sedentary.   However, keep in mind that during pregnancy, ligaments and tendons soften, center of mass shifts, blood volume and oxygen levels change.  During pregnancy one is more prone to falls, muscle / joint injuries, and running out of steam.

Exercise During Pregnancy 1

There are many benefits to exercising during your pregnancy:

  • Feel comfortable in and enjoy your body
  • Increases circulation
  • Promotes tone in muscles and increases stamina
  • Promotes well-being; prevents depression
  • Oxygenates blood to reduce fatigue
  • Improves placental function
  • Reduces pelvic congestion and cramping, low backache, ligament pain and constipation
  • Prevents blood congestion in lower body, reduces leg cramps, tension, and varicosities
  • Recovery of organ tone and placement; prevents prolapsed pelvic organs post-partum
  • Gestational diabetes and blood sugar issues improve after exercise
  • Moderately high blood pressure may be lowered
  • Improves pregnancy, birth and newborn outcomes
  • Contributes to shorter labours and fewer medical interventions

(For more information on Easing Labour Pain, join me for my monthly workshop. Register here.)

Relaxation for Birth Prep

  • It’s important to do exercise and also practice relaxation.
  • Relaxation must be practiced daily to be effective, especially as a labour tool.
  • Yoga, meditation, tai-chi, or just listen to a relaxation CD.
  • Conscious awareness of relaxing muscles balance building and toning; especially important if you are muscle-bound or super-muscular.

(For more information on preparing for your birth, join me for my monthly Birth Essentials Live But Online series. Register here.)

Exercise During Pregnancy – Do’s:

  • LISTEN TO YOUR BODY; DO ONLY WHAT FEELS GOOD!
  • Continue your regular exercise program, but listen to your body; modify/stop as needed.
  • Exercise on a firm surface.
  • Balance exertion with relaxation periods.
  • Remember your center of balance / weight distribution is quickly changing.
  • Warm up and cool down well to prevent injury and pooling of blood in the extremities.
  • Feel your baby move inside you – pay attention.
  • Stay hydrated to ensure proper cooling and adequate blood expansion. Drink 4-8oz water before exercising and 2-4oz every 20-30 minutes during; double this amount at high elevations. This is in addition to your regular pregnancy water requirements.
  • Exercise in a cooled or air-conditioned room, especially in hot, humid weather.
  • Consume additional calories to sustain exercise. Moderate exercise in an average sized woman requires 600-700 additional calories daily.
  • Taper off gradually if you’re used to vigorous exercise and have to exercise less.  An abrupt drop in activity can cause constipation, circulatory problems, or nervous irritability.
  • Begin slowly if you have not routinely exercised.
    • If motivation is an issue, think of it as movement rather than exercise.
    • Start twice weekly and increase to 5 times. A 10-20minute walks is a great start!
    • Videos can help you learn to exercise but ensure they’re safe for pregnancy.
    • Discuss beginning an exercise program with your medical care provider.

Exercise During Pregnancy – Avoids:

  • Inversions and twists, especially during yoga.
  • Sit-ups or crunches as they stress abdominal muscles, weakening and lengthening them in the long run. Post-partum recovery of a tight core in this case is difficult or impossible.  In fact, every time you go from laying to sitting/standing, roll over on your side first.
  • Exercising to the point where you cannot carry on a conversation.
  • Weights or exercises that require holding your arms over your head for an extended period of time or for many repetitions.
  • Impact exercises (once they no longer feel 100% great, if you’re used to them).
  • Laying on your back for extended periods of time.
  • Any exercise that can cause trauma to the abdomen or pelvis.
  • Valsalva manoeuvres / inner pressure on pelvic floor (e.g. some breathing patterns that resemble bearing down).
  • Scuba diving due to increased pressures of submersion.
  • Sudden changes of position or level.
  • Exercises that require standing on one leg as that can cause pulling in the pubic symphysis, not to mention balance issues.
  • Starting a vigorous exercise program after 26 weeks if you’re new to exercise.
  • Strenuous exercise during last trimester, no matter how fit or used to high intensity you are (correlated with lower birth-weight babies).

Contraindications for Exercise During Pregnancy

  • Placenta previa
  • Tearing or separation of placenta (abruptio)
  • Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Premature labour
  • PIH (pregnancy induced high blood pressure)
  • Pre-eclampsia (a.k.a. toxaemia)
  • Fever (or presence of infection)
  • Acute and/or chronic life-threatening condition

Warning Signs or Symptoms – Stop IMMEDIATELY and seek medical attention in case of:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • Bleeding or fluid discharge
  • Feeling ill, dizzy, faint, disoriented, nauseated
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty walking or moving
  • Regular strong contractions
  • Cramps
  • Fever
  • Hyperventilation – take slow deep breaths until it passes

Conditions for Assessment

If any of these issues are a concern, then consult with a perinatal fitness specialist.  There are often things you can do to exercise during pregnancy safely with special circumstances.

  • Extremely sedentary lifestyle
  • Gestational diabetes or blood sugar issues
  • Marginal or low-lying placenta
  • History of IUGR (decreased or slow fetal growth)
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat or mitral valve prolapse
  • Asthma
  • Oedema / swelling of face and hands
  • Anaemia
  • Multiple gestations / foetuses (twins, triplets etc)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Three or more miscarriages
  • Excessive over- or underweight
  • Nerve compression injuries – don’t stretch to extremes or do weight bearing on the affected part

Exercise During Pregnancy – Suggestions:

  • Pelvic-floor exercises – see below
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Tai-chi
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Dance (belly dancing is especially good for birth)
  • Daily squatting – start with supported squat for as long as feels comfortable (holding a pole or counter, or sliding down a wall) – maybe only seconds at first. Build flexibility and endurance in this position.  Feet should be parallel to each other.
  • Pelvic rocking – all fours and do cats & dogs. Start with 5 of each and build to 20 daily.
  • Any stretching that increases flexibility and flow to pelvis, such as cobbler-sit, pigeon pose, or straddles. A good prenatal yoga DVD or class can teach you these.
  • See special note below for those who participate in extreme sports or live in the mountains.

 Pelvic floor exercises are particularly important when preparing for birth:

  • Assists with relaxation of pelvis floor – prevents tearing
  • Tones pelvic floor to prevent prolapse, incontinence, haemorrhoids
  • “Elevator Kegels” – Kegels are often mentioned as a good pregnancy and post-partum exercise but need to be done properly, like an elevator, not just a urination squeeze. Relax all muscles except pelvic floor and vagina.  Tighten those muscles progressively, layer by layer, then release slowly.  Build up to cycles of 15, for a total of 50 contractions daily. Do not hold longer than 5 seconds at a time, nor perform regularly during urination, as this may contribute to urinary tract infection.
  • Squats are excellent for pelvic floor health

Posture – While Exercising or Resting

  • Maintain good posture to prevent low back pain, shortness of breath, and indigestion.
  • Hold head high (crown to sky), shoulders back, abs and lower back strong, tailbone tucked in and feet slightly apart.
  • Spend time on the floor! Carpet or a firm pillow can keep your bones comfortable.  Crawl on all-fours during the last trimester to ensure optimal fetal positioning.  Sit on the floor to open your hips.
  • Be diligent with posture, especially sitting postures, to ensure the best possible fetal position for labour and birth.
    • Sit tailor-style often – this strengthens the back
    • Sit straight up and on sitz-bones
    • Consider sitting on a ball, saddle seat, knee-chair, or sit-stand chair to ensure your knees stay below hips, and your back maintains healthy alignment following natural curves
    • Avoid slouching, reclining and upholstered furniture as much as possible

Exercise During Pregnancy 2

The rest of this article is a SPECIAL NOTE to those who are…

Extremely Fit / High Performance Athletes / and/or Living in Mountains

People in this category have a different reality.  The following are guidelines for those folks who have lived at high altitude longer than 6 months pre-pregnancy (and are therefore adapted to high altitude), are active in the mountains, accomplished in mountain or other extreme sports, addicted to Ashtanga yoga and/or super-fit compared to the general population.

Intense exercise is contraindicated in the last trimester and is correlated with lower birth weight babies.  It’s only 1 season in the grand scheme of life and could be an opportunity to try something new or softer.

The most important thing is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!!  If it feels good, keep going.  However there WILL come a point where you feel tired.  You may also feel a bit clumsy as your body changes.  There is no benefit to pushing through at that point.  You’re growing a whole person inside and your baby deserves your energy and nutrients.  Play in the mountains if it feels good but be willing to stop, modify or slow down.

Anyone who exercises compulsively is particularly at risk for ignoring their body’s subtle calls of distress.  Balance exercise during pregnancy with rest and relaxation.  If you’re super-muscular or muscle-bound then consider decreasing exercise and increasing relaxation time.  Take a class specific for un-exercising muscles.  You might feel stir crazy, but learning to loosen and relax your body will pay off greatly during the birth process and for post-partum recovery.

Do your sports partners know you’re pregnant?  Is it fair to either of you to keep this a secret?  During early pregnancy, before you “show”, you’re likely to be tired and possibly nauseated.  Your play partners may assume you’ll push through.  Do not push through.  Even if they know you’re pregnant they may not understand it actually does affect your performance.  A good conversation might be in order before setting out.  I strongly encourage you to tell them, or at least think about why you’re not telling them.  Then look at those reasons and decide if you should be relying on each other for life and safety out there.

For any endurance activities lasting longer than a yoga class, be prepared to nourish yourself.  Eat and drink constantly.  Use a health electrolyte drink.  Take breaks – yes, breaks – as in rest.

Tips for Mountain Activities in addition to the ones above (see “Exercise do’s”).  Remember that high-intensity exercise is contraindicated in the last trimester, and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!  You absolutely must take rests and eat/drink LOTS to safely participate in these activities.

  • Cycling – tone it down before when your clipless pedals start releasing due to knees-out position. Be careful of weight distribution changes, and consider switching to fire-roads or road-biking rather than single-track.
  • Climbing – when your harness no longer fits, stop. (OK – maybe stop before that.) Do not borrow a bigger harness!  Top-roping is safest.  If you must lead use lots of pro and be extra diligent about falls.  Seriously consider leading about 3 points back from your pre-pregnancy ability.  Make your climbing partner carry the ropes and half the pro.
  • Ice climbing presents cold weather challenges in addition to the extra risks over rock-climbing. Even more moisture is lost through respiration and staying warm in the cold, so drink even MORE WATER than recommended above.  Also pay extra attention to fingers & toes and frost-bite; your blood volume and distribution are changing.
  • Altitude – almost all prenatal books warn about high altitude. If you’ve lived at altitude for longer than 6 months, then your physiology will have adapted.  Continue going to places you went pre-pregnancy but allow more time to get there.
  • Hiking – be diligent about pack weight distribution, and take rests. Yes – rests!!  Don’t wait until you feel light headed.  Take lots of snack & water breaks.  Carry that bear spray because you’re now likely the slowest runner in the group J.  Make your hiking-mates carry the heavy stuff!
  • Skiing – if it feels 100% good, do it. Seriously watch for back-country avalanche bulletins.  Make your ski-buddies break trail and carry extra gear.  Consider spending more time on track-set or groomers.  If using lifts take a big drink on every ride.
  • Yoga – if and only if you’ve been a dedicated yogi for years and are very body-aware, then it’s possible to continue your regular practise, modifying as your body tells you.

Effects of Stress and Adrenaline on Unborn Babies

The emerging field of perinatal psychology has fascinating info.  Pregnant adrenaline junkies make adrenaline junkie babies – great for fun but also a special challenge on adrenal health later in life and appropriate stress-coping mechanisms.  One big way to help baby cope is to explain what you’re about to do, that it may feel scary, but that baby is safe.  When the stressful event or adrenaline rush is over tell baby all is will now, baby is safe, and scary event is over.

Imagine you’re blindfolded, wearing ear-plugs, and can’t talk.  Then someone drops you into the craziest roller-coaster ever but doesn’t tell you anything about it.  That’s what it’s like for baby to accompany you for any event that raises your adrenaline – sports, argument with partner, work-related stress, and near-miss car crash.

A word about “they say”:

People will have strong opinions about what you’re doing and will be more than willing to share those opinions.  It’s frustrating to hear that you’re irresponsible to be climbing, especially from a non-climbing, flat-lander, possibly couch potato, who doesn’t know how much you’ve already changed your practise!  It’s even more frustrating to hear it from a well-meaning local athlete.  Some people will refuse to play in the mountains with you, feeling they’re contributing to your “irrational” behaviour.  Others may take your partner aside to try to convince you both how risky your actions are.  Fortunately many others totally “get it”!  Play with people who understand and are willing to accommodate and be safe.

What are some of your favourite exercises to do during your pregnancy? Want to know more about my online prenatal classes or in need of birth support? Please contact me!

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Avoiding Post-Dates Pregnancy

Post-term or post-date pregnancy is one that exceeds 40-42 weeks gestation, depending where you live.  If a woman is healthy and well nourished then her placenta is likely to thrive and nourish the baby at any gestation.  If there are signs that mother or baby will be healthier with baby Earth-side, then induction is warranted; otherwise it’s a much overused intervention that leads to a Cascade of Intervention.