With more and more couples carefully planning the arrivals of their children, a woman can create a wellness program long before becoming pregnant, optimizing her experience throughout each pregnancy, each birth and beyond.
Preparing the body with a good diet and exercise program is crucial to creating a healthy environment for both mother and child. Like all people, women planning on conceiving should eat organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains and good fats, such as olive oil and avocado. Plenty of protein is also essential. Avoid all artificial sweeteners, highly processed foods, raw eggs, raw fish and alcohol. Limit consumption of ocean fish, which may contain mercury. And no smoking!
Begin taking high-quality prenatal vitamins three months before you anticipate getting pregnant, and continue the vitamins throughout the pregnancy. Eight-hundred mcgs a day of folic acid has been found to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Taking a daily DHA supplement can help keep the brain sharp and reduce the possibility of postpartum depression.
Once you are pregnant, check with your midwife or OB/GYN before starting an exercise regimen. Walking on a level surface with proper sneakers has numerous benefits including improving circulation, increasing muscle tone, lessening fatigue and promoting good sleep. Prenatal yoga promotes a fit pregnancy, helping to maintain muscle tone, especially for the back and pelvic muscles. Always inform your yoga teacher that you are expecting. Do not do twists or forward bends at the waist. And refrain from working out to exhaustion and exercising outside in extreme weather. Moderation is key.
Limiting exposure to harmful substances is especially important during pregnancy. Environmental toxins can harm both mother and child. Switch household cleansers, shampoos and soaps to greener and gentler products. Also, avoid paint and industrially cleaned rugs as both can emit toxic fumes.
Biomechanical changes such as extra weight bearing, shifts in the center of gravity, decreased muscle tone, hormonal changes and pelvic instability are the underlying causes of pregnancy discomfort. These changes often lead to sciatica, sacroiliac pain, knee pain, muscle spasms, headaches and swollen feet and ankles. Chiropractic care that uses gentle noninvasive adjustments, muscle work and aromatherapy can alleviate many of these common discomforts and is safe throughout the entire pregnancy. In one study, 91 percent of women reported pain relief as a result of regular chiropractic care during pregnancy.
Chiropractic care is particularly effective in aiding in the reversal of breech presentations. Pelvic instability can lead to distortions of ligaments around and attached to the uterus, creating a distortion in the position of the uterus. Once the position of the pelvic bones, the sacrum and the coccyx are corrected and the tautness of the round ligament is released, the uterus can properly suspend from its ligaments. This allows the baby to turn by itself and move into the correct birthing position in 95 percent of cases.
Other modalities effective in relieving common pregnancy symptoms include acupuncture, massage therapy (after the first trimester), craniosacral therapy and reflexology. And childbirth classes, such as in Bradley or Lamaze techniques, as well as doulas specializing in labor support and postnatal care, promote an easier, safer delivery. Consider starting La Leche classes, which help with breastfeeding, before giving birth.
Pregnancy is an extraordinary experience. With all the information and support available today, pregnancy can truly be a time to feel healthy and vital, as well as a time to celebrate. Enjoy it!
For additional guidance, go to the American Pregnancy Association Web site at www.americanpregnancy.org or the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association site at www.icpa4kids.com.
Checklist for a Healthy Pregnancy
- Stay hydrated. Water is best.
- Wear supportive shoes. Sneakers are good, but do not tie the laces too tightly.
- Try to distribute your weight evenly on both feet.
- Shift your weight from one foot to the other if you’re standing in one place for a long period of time.
- When sitting, do not cross your legs or dangle your feet.
- Elevate your feet whenever possible.
- When lifting, do not bend at the waist. Bend your knees, hold the object close and use the power of your legs to lift.
- Sleep on your side with a body pillow or a leg spacer between your knees to keep your pelvis neutral.
- Use a pillow under your head to keep the position of your head in the center of both shoulders.
- Use your arms, not your back muscles, to get out of bed.
- Pelvic tilts are a great way to relieve lower back pain. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly, raise your pelvis off the floor and tilt up while squeezing your gluteal muscles. Do not lie on your back for extended periods of time later in the pregnancy.
- Oxygen is fuel for your body. Take full deep breaths as you stretch your arms behind your back or above your head, clasping your fingers.
- Meditate for stress relief and relaxation.