"DON'T PUT YOUR FEET UP DEAR"
Today’s pregnant woman is an educated consumer. She reads all the right books, eats all the right foods, and cautiously avoids certain medications and household toxins. Pregnancy is a time when a woman is fully aware that her body is her baby’s temple.
One important element crucial to the building of that temple is exercise, however, it is often overlooked or minimized. It was not so long ago women were told to “put their feet up and take it easy”. No one can discount the merits of rest and relaxation for the mom-to-be but the merits of regular exercise are as equally compelling. It’s now time to dispel the myths.
Just as maintaining a healthy diet and getting a good nights sleep are important for mom-to-be and baby, regular exercise during pregnancy can optimize a woman’s body for pregnancy, birth and delivery. A pregnant woman’s body goes through many physiological changes that will vary her response to exercise during pregnancy. Research shows and I’ve found personally through the women that I train that those women who are active are able to tolerate these physiological changes better.
It has been said that giving birth is like running a marathon. Well I think you would be hard pressed to find a marathon runner who would show up for the event untrained and expect to fly across the finish line. The same should hold true for exercise during pregnancy. Why? Exercise increases a woman’s ability to endure the physical and cardiovascular demands of labour and deliver. Research also shows that the fetuses of exercising mothers are also able to endure labour better (Exercise During Pregnancy, Dr. James Clapp 3rd, 2002; Forward by Alan Sheinwald). When moms-to-be and babies are better able to endure labor, the births require less interventions such as vacuums,forceps and c-section often used when baby is not tolerating labor well. Exercise is also shown to lower the risk of postpartum depression and late pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension, and increase lean muscle mass of babies.
Despite the research that exists supporting the benefits of exercising during pregnancy, many women are reluctant to engage in physical activity or do very little. Clients tell me they often succumb to pressure from or heed the advice of their family members or caregivers to “ take it easy.” Other women tell me they are unsure of what to do and end up modifying and simplifying their routines to the point where they provide little benefit. The important thing to remember is that pregnancy is no longer a license to “put your feet up.” No matter what your fitness level, by working together with your physician or mid-wife and listening to your body, you can exercise during pregnancy. I’ve worked with women at all various fitness levels (from beginners to athletes) during their pregnancies, and I am always amazed and inspired by their performance. Motherhood truly does inspire greatness!
Common Pregnancy Exercise Myths;
Exercise during pregnancy causes miscarriage
There is no research that notes exercise as the cause of miscarriage. They are some conditions that increase a women’s risk of miscarriage that may be identified by her caregiver as a reason to stop exercise (contraindication to exercise)
Exercise causes babies to be small
Exercise in fact increases the lean muscle mass of babies, often increasing their birth weight. Babies born to mothers who have intrauterine growth retardation are at risk of low birth weight but this is not caused by exercise.
Running During Pregnancy is Not Safe
Many women continue to run during pregnancy, some until they are full term. It is not recommended that women begin running for the first time during pregnancy as it can stress the joints in the early stages. A beginner exerciser should also stick with non-impact exercises to avoid injury. The hormone relaxin creates laxity in the joints and ligaments to prepare a womens body for delivery of her baby. This means that some movements like rapid twisting and jumping could increase her risk of muscle and ligament strain particularly if she is a beginner. Again this is more a concern for mom then it is for baby.
Your heart rate should not go above 140 –150
Measuring heart rate is an inaccurate way of determining a safe level of exercise as a woman’s heart rate tends to vary during pregnancy. Measuring heart rate only also does not take into account age, genetics and previous fitness level, all of which can impact heart rate response to exercise. For instance, a heart rate of 150 could be too high for an untrained woman and too low for a well-trained woman. The “talk test” is the best way to determine the intensity of the workout. A woman should be able to talk comfortably for one to two minutes during exercise.
If you did not exercise prior to pregnancy, you should not start during pregnancy
Inactive pregnant women run the risk of excessive weight gain and health problems, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (preeclampsia). Not to mention little to no endurance for labor, an decreased ability to adjust to the structural changes of the body and increased discomfort
The benefits of starting far out way the risks. Obviously you should consult a professional with experience, and take things in moderation to start.
GETTING FIT FOR BIRTH TIPS
1. Check with your caregiver before beginning any exercise program during pregnancy. Also introduce your caregiver to information that you have come across to review with you.
2. Educate yourself so you can make more informed decisions. The internet is a good place to start, but beware of outdated articles.
3. Work with your caregiver and fitness professional to create a fitness regime that’s right for you.
4. Educate family members about the benefits of exercise so that everyone involved can feel positive about your exercise choices.
5. Remember pregnancy is not an illness. It is a state of change in which your body assists in the creation of life. Feed it, strengthen it, nurture it and celebrate your bodies making of a miracle!
Exercise During Pregnancy, BY Dr James Clapp 3rd 2002.
The Physician and Sports Medicine, Exercise During Pregnancy, Raul Artal,with Carl Sherman, Vol 27-No 8 –August, 1999
Andrea Page is President and founder of FITMOM, Ontario’s premier fitness company specializing in fitness, wellness and childbirth preparation programs for moms and moms-to-be.
Cool Spring Fashions for Hot Mamas!
Spring ’05 brings us a sunny palette of pastel yellows, pinks, blues and greens. The look is bohemian and free, think – walking barefoot on the beach, your sarong flowing in the wind….
Okay, back to reality. Fortunately this cool sea of colour works just as well for the city girl, whether she’s at the office or at home with the little one(s). Oh, and pregnant!
The perfect fitted blazer is a MUST this season, and works as a great transitional piece from day to evening. Look for light colours like beige or stone that will mix well with brighter hues and bold stripes. Wear it with everything from jeans, cropped pants or capris, to flirty floral skirts.
Be adventurous and try out some new colours this season, like apple green paired with stone grey, aqua blue and crisp white, pastel yellow and hot pink. The only fashion rule to follow is to have fun. Look for interesting basics such as capris and pants with fun cargo pockets or folded-up cuffs. Blouses should be flowy and cool, in solids or stripes. Casual mini skirts with cargo-style pockets are spring’s chic alternative to shorts. And, don’t forget your exercise/yoga wear made in the softest cottons with fun pink accents.
No matter your style, no matter your shape, Spring 2005 has something to make every mom-to-be feel great about her changing body.
What you MUST have for spring ‘05
-A tailored fitted blazer in any colour or fabric
-A bohemian-style flowy blouse
-Pants and capris with fun details
-A chiffon floral skirt
-Tops and tanks in a variety of pastel colours
For a terrific selection of Spring ’05 maternity fashions at great prices, check out Modern Maternity’s web site (beginning on February 15) at www.modernmaternity.com. To place an early order for Modern Maternity’s Spring catalogue, call 416.322.6565.
To crawl or not to crawl, that is the question. It seems like there’s such a controversy around whether crawling is a necessary part of infant development. Just hop on any parenting forum on the web and bring up the topic of crawling and instantly you have a very emotionally charged conversation going.
You’ll see both sides of the issue represented. You’ll read comments like “My baby didn’t crawl and now he’s 7 years old and just fine.” Then you read, “My 7 year-old didn’t crawl and is having trouble with reading now.” Is there a connection? How important is crawling to your infant’s development?
Each stage of your baby’s development serves a purpose. Rolling over helps develop whole body coordination. Sitting up strengthens core muscles and helps your baby develop spatial awareness. And crawling helps integrate left and right brain hemispheres and in turn left and right sides of the body. How?
Each brain hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body. The left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body. The right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body. When your baby crawls, both sides of the body are activated simultaneously. This switches on both brain hemispheres at the same time. So why is this important for brain development and later learning?
The brain’s left and right hemispheres are specialized for different things. The logic brain (usually in the left hemisphere) is responsible for analysis, step-by-step processing, logic and the understanding of details to be put into a larger context, or the “big picture.”
The gestalt brain (usually in the right hemisphere) is responsible for intuition, gestalt or “whole picture” processing, emotional content and the understanding of the big picture in which to put details.
Hemispheric integration is key. Although the brain will choose one hemisphere in which to be dominant, your baby will function at a much higher level if he can easily access both brain hemispheres. Bare in mind, this has little to do with intelligence. If your baby doesn’t crawl it doesn’t mean he won’t be smart. It may mean however that there will be challenges in the learning process. The brain patterning facilitated by crawling creates ease of learning.
Crawling also enhances communication between brain hemispheres. There is a communication pathway between brain hemispheres called the Corpus Callosum. It acts to relay messages from one hemisphere to another. When your baby crawls more neural connections across the Corpus Callosum are made and enforced thus creating ease of communication between the cerebral hemispheres. Then the left and right hemispheres can communicate easily with the parts of the body on their opposite sides, whether arms, legs, ears, eyes, hands or feet. It is this communication that is essential for seeing, listening, writing and whole body coordination—essential skills for all learning.
Seeing that crawling is an important developmental stage, what can you do to support it?
q Limit time spent in exersaucers, jolly jumpers and playpens. Any apparatus that inhibits the natural movement of your baby can interfere with his learning to crawl. Granted, these things do afford you time to get necessary tasks done. Yet use them sparingly. Your baby will fare much better in the long run.
q Floor time. Create time each day where you can spend some time exploring movement down on the floor. Let baby explore bare-footed. This allows your baby to experience different textures and grip the floor much easier than if he was wearing socks or shoes. If you have hard wood flooring in your house, put down a mat for your baby to play on.
q Tummy Time. In order to feel comfortable crawling, babies must have strong upper bodies and neck strength. Time spent on the tummy teaches your baby’s body how to defy gravity and push up her head and upper body to look around and propel herself to move.
To encourage tummy time:
1. Get down on the floor with your baby and place one hand on her back so she knows you’re there. This helps baby feel safe.
2. Give baby a moment to settle in. Often babies will cry when placed on their tummies because they need to adjust their breathing and this can, at first, be uncomfortable. Again, soothe baby with your warm touch and calm words reassuring your baby that she is safe.
3. Place toys around baby. One toy directly in front. And one to either side of your baby so she can turn to reach for them. As your baby becomes more comfortable with tummy time, move the toys just out of reach, so she will learn how to reach and move towards them.
4. Continue to talk with your baby while she explores the tummy position. As she plays with a toy tell her about it. “I see you like the colourful ball. It’s red and green and blue.”
What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?
Often safety is the factor that keeps babies from feeling comfortable on their tummies. As mentioned, the breathing is different when your baby is on his tummy and until it’s mastered, tummy time can be new and scary.
One thing that you can do to lessen this fear response is to place your baby on your chest so his tummy is resting against you. Spend some time just snuggling together. Your reassuring heartbeat and voice will create the safety needed to be in this position.
When your baby is on the floor you can roll up a blanket and place it under your baby’s chest so his arms come out and over the blanket roll. This lifts the head and supports the upper body so he can see and in turn feel safe in the tummy position. The roll should just be big enough to fill the gap that would naturally exist if your baby were up on his elbows.
The key here is to work with your baby to find a way to help him to feel comfortable on his tummy. Let your baby spend some time on his tummy each day. Gradually increase the time spent on the tummy.
**Tummy time is for babies that are awake, alert and comfortable. Don’t leave your baby unattended while on his tummy.**
Support crawling. As your baby becomes accustomed to being on his tummy you will notice that he will begin to push off with his feet and reach for things. Support this movement by placing your hands at the soles of his feet to provide resistance for him to push off.
As you notice him begin to grab with one hand, give resistance to the opposite foot. This will begin to activate the opposite movements required for your baby to crawl. Stick with the process. In time, your baby will be crawling and loving it!
Edythe-Anne Colangelo is an Infant Development Coach and Certified Brain Gym® Consultant and Instructor. She is a Professional Member of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation of Ventura, California. Edythe-Anne offers instructional classes on infant and child development, learning challenges and general wellness. She is available for in-home consultations in the Toronto area to aid new parents in assisting their infant to move through developmental stages easily. Also, she works with learners of all ages to overcome learning challenges.
You can reach Edythe-Anne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Kew Beach Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto at 416-690-6168.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation