Will you be having a baby in 2016? As the belly grows, so does the freely dispensed advice from every “expert” she meets: like the random women in the produce aisle or the well-meaning man on the bus. The best advice may be to read a lot and google not. Here’s a short list of other advice, for pregnant families to consider:
Be Gentle With Yourself! Women aren’t given the magic wand of perfect self-care the day they get the positive pregnancy test. Do your best and be compassionate when you indulge in an occasional sweet treat. Having empathy towards self prevents the pregnant woman from piling shame on top of the supposed unhealthy action. What animates you? The best prescription is to do healthy activities that give you your greatest joy.
Allow Genuine Emotional Expression Be open with the range of feelings you are experiencing. No emotion is wrong. The little one in the belly will do fine if Mom is having a sad day with a lot of tears. He or she can also feel your joy and lives inside the place where belly laughs originate. Laugh often! Join a mother support group, like the Seasonal Mama’s Groups at Alma Education and Movement Space, across from Revolution Hall. Remember that Postpartum Mood Disorder (PPMD) can occur in pregnancy, if occasional blues become anxiety or depression, tell your practitioner and get a referral to a mental health care provider.
Meditate Evidence is growing about the health benefits of meditation. An added effect to those who meditate in pregnancy is the potential to cope better with the contractions of labor and the ups & downs of parenting. The idea isn’t to calmly sit smiling like Buddha in labor. But like life, where difficulty comes in surges (contractions) with periods of calm (phase between contractions), meditation prepares women to fully rest in the calm and to greet the contractions without labeling them as painful, bad or too much. Physically, meditation increases circulation to the baby and can reduce complications like hypertension.
Move Dance, hike, walk, swim or join a pregnancy yoga class. Most exercise is safe in pregnancy and reduces risk of gestational diabetes, increases the immune system, promotes a positive mood, minimizes hypertension and when Mom takes a deep breath of fresh air, so does baby.
Nourish Health happens in the kitchen! Keep it simple: Eat all the colors of the produce rainbow, add a protein source, toss in a healthy fat, choose whole grains wisely and you have the foundation for each meal. Graze on healthy snacks throughout the day. Avoid letting yourself get too hungry. The word “hangry” describes most pregnant women who wait too long between meals. Did you know that by keeping blood sugar levels in the normal range women can reduce diabetes for herself and the child she is carrying? Find a midwife or OBGyn who asks specific diet questions, offers food journaling, recommends evidenced based supplementation and understands food is medicine. Science is beginning to understand the importance of the bacteria that we all house. It is our biome. A balanced gut means inflammation lowers, blood sugar spikes are reduced, infections (especially yeast & BV) become infrequent, preterm labor is decreased and overall health is improved. Probiotics are safe for most individuals. Good bacteria are found in yogurt and other cultured foods. Each healthy bite is nourishing a whole new person whom, potentially could still be walking on this planet in eighty to one hundred years! No pressure though, just have fun with all the glorious food Portland offers. The WIC program helps low income women nourish themselves and can even be used at the Farmer’s Markets. Fetuses are mostly water and they are floating in water and the maternal blood volume nearly doubles…so drink a lot of water each day.
Be well and be kind to yourself as you gestate the class of 2034!
Laura Erickson has been attending births as a midwife since 1984; is the mother of four grown-up people, and is the owner-director of Alma Midwifery Birth Center and the Alma Education and Movement Space.