David M. Fredette | The Daily Star

Women have been having babies since well before time has been recorded.

It is not always easy becoming pregnant and giving birth. Advances in medicine and understanding the prenatal body have contributed to safer deliveries, but there are things prospective mothers can do to make the experience an easier one.

When Sarah and Dain Hood of Downsville decided to become pregnant, there were considerations to make in their lifestyle.

“Pregnancy is an ideal time for lifestyle modifications, including increasing physical activity and eating a more healthy diet,” said Dr. Bryan Evanczyk, obstetrician and gynecologist at A.O. Fox Hospital. “Exercise during pregnancy can maintain or improve fitness. In addition, exercise may improve some pregnancy outcomes, including reduction in risk of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure), and reduction in macrosomia (large birth-weight babies).”

For Sarah, owner of Head to Toe Fitness Studio, maintaining a fit body is part of her job. Becoming pregnant meant she had to make some modifications to her exercise routine, think about her diet and listen to her body.

“I always tell my students to ‘honor your body and don’t do anything that feels wrong,’” Sarah said. “I really enjoy exercising, and I will continue to do it until I cannot physically do it any more, or until the doctor tells me I can’t.”

Sarah has just begun her second trimester and, as her belly has grown, she has noticed a difference in her ability to move.

“There are some things I can’t do right now,” Sarah said. “When we do those exercises, I will move around and spot the class, or make suggestions to individuals.”

Many health care providers say that a moderate amount of exercise is good for mother and if the pregnancy is without complications.

According to Evanczyk, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology guidelines say that a healthy pregnant women may exercise at a moderate level for 30 minutes or more per day on most, if not all, days of the week.

Evanczyk recommends that a thorough clinical evaluation is done before a pregnant woman begins a new exercise program. However, most women should be able to continue existing recreational activities, or modify them as pregnancy conditions change.

“Exercise should activate large muscle groups in rhythmic and continuous fashion — for example, walking, aerobic dance, swimming, cycling, rowing, and skiing,” Evanczyk said . “A typical exercise session should include warm-ups and stretching for five to 10 minutes, the exercise program for 30 to 45 minutes, and finish with a cool down for 5 to 10 minutes.”

Eating healthy and taking prenatal vitamins are another way many health care providers suggest women maintain a healthy body while pregnant. Because the mother’s nutrition affects the growing baby, it is important to be aware of what is being consumed. Intake of alcohol and drugs, as well as sugar, caffeine and processed foods, should be lessened or avoided all together.

“Caffeine was the hardest thing to give up,” Sarah said. “I am drinking decaffeinated coffee now.”

Eating for two is often an excuse for eating more, but according to Becky Drake, registered dietitian and outpatient nutrition services coordinator for A.O. Fox Hospital Hospital and FoxCare, that does not necessarily mean a tremendous amount of calorie intake.

“A healthy diet during pregnancy is essential for both the baby’s and the mother’s health,” Drake said. “A healthy pregnancy diet includes a slightly higher calorie intake than normal, but does require an increase in a number of important nutrients, i.e. protein, folic acid, calcium and iron. To meet these needs without excesses, most women have to improve the content of their usual diet and add only 300 additional calories. An example of these additional calories may be an additional glass of milk and half a sandwich.”

There are several things that pregnant women should avoid eating because of the possible adverse affect on the baby.

“Avoid fish high in mercury — shark, swordfish, tilefish, mackerel,” Drake said. “Limit other fish to 12 ounces weekly. Avoid raw seafood, soft cheeses, uncooked processed meats (such as) hot dogs, cold cuts (which) may contain listeria (or) other bacteria that can increase the risk of life-threatening infections in pregnant women and (the) fetus. Avoid alcohol — excess consumption may result in fetal alcohol syndrome; (and) limit caffeine — excess consumption may result in low birth weight.”

Pregnant women will notice a change in their body that can sometimes cause discomfort. As the pregnancy progresses and the abdomen enlarges, it can cause pressure on the organs and pain in the back. Gentle treatments can help alleviate these symptoms for some. 

“Acupuncture and massage therapy are wonderful options for pregnant women,” said Laura Reyda, licensed massage therapist and Diplomat of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. “These techniques help the body regulate itself.

“We are very effective at treating stubborn nausea and combating fatigue. We can treat low back and hip pain as the pregnancy progresses. There are various studies showing that we can turn a breech baby with a totally noninvasive technique. We can also help the woman prepare physically and mentally to give birth.”

Most health care providers agree, preparing mentally as well as physically for the birth of a child is a tremendous part of a healthy pregnancy.

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