The American Pregnancy Association is a national health organization committed to promoting reproductive and pregnancy wellness through education, support, advocacy, and community awareness. With pregnancy on the rise Presidential Style felt compelled to write an article dedicated to women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, are pregnant, recently delivered a baby, and beyond that. Education is the key and knowing what to expect when you are expecting can make a world of difference. From trying to conceive, development of the baby, and pregnancy wellness, to pregnancy concerns with unplanned pregnancies, and what is and isn’t safe during the pregnancy. Knowing what lies ahead for the birth and beyond can be essential especially for a first time conceiver, be they a couple or single. Below are some helpful tips while on your journey.
Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, pushed down the fallopian tube, and is available to be fertilized. Approximately every month an egg will mature within one of your ovaries. As it reaches maturity, the egg is released by the ovary where it enters the fallopian tube to make its way towards waiting sperm and the uterus.
The lining of the uterus has thickened to prepare for the fertilized egg. If no conception occurs, the uterine lining as well as blood will be shed. The shedding of an unfertilized egg and the uterine wall is the time of menstruation.
If you are trying to get pregnant, you should get a copy of the Essential Guide for Getting Pregnant. This ebook is filled with the most up to date resources, information and tips you need to get pregnant.
Getting pregnant is tied to ovulation and it is important to make sure that you are familiar with ovulation and how it all works. Take your time now and learn about ovulation, the signs, and how to track it so that you can get pregnant quicker and easier. If you are trying to conceive, here is the Essential Guide you need for getting pregnant quicker.
Again, it is important to note that ovulation symptoms vary woman to woman with some women experiencing no symptoms at all.
These 3 main signs of ovulation can be studied and learned so that you can accurately predict your time of ovulation. Using the Fertility Awareness Method many women have used these signs to prevent or achieve pregnancy.
There are other ovulation signs that women may experience in addition to the 3 main ovulation symptoms. These are called secondary signs and may not happen as consistently, if at all, for many women.
These ovulation symptoms may include:
Learning to track your ovulation and pay attention to your signs can be a challenge for some women at first. But over time, many women come to recognize these common signs very easily and are able to use them to gauge where they are in their cycle. Understanding your ovulation time can help you become more in tune with your body and be an active participant in what occurs each month.
Pregnancy symptoms differ from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy; however, one of the most significant pregnancy symptoms is a delayed or missed period.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of pregnancy is important because each symptom may be related to something other than pregnancy. You may experience signs or symptoms of pregnancy within a week of conception. However, it is possible you may not experience any symptoms for a few weeks.
Symptoms to watch for early on include a missed period,headaches, tender breasts, nausea and lower backaches. If you have been sexually active and are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to take a pregnancy test. Are you experiencing morning sickness or could it be something else?
There are usually many questions that come to mind when planning how to exercise during pregnancy. Physical exercise is bodily activity that improves or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. This type of exercise during pregnancy is important and can help with some common discomforts of pregnancy and even help prepare your body for labor and delivery.
Overall and in most cases, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You will usually find that it is even recommended. Usually the first rule of thumb is this. If you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely your healthcare provider will tell you that you can remain active as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.
Now is not the time to exercise for weight loss, however proper exercise during pregnancy will likely help with weight loss after delivery of your baby. Exercise does not put you at risk for miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. You should consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine. We have more information at exercise warning signs.
Being active with 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days can benefit your health during pregnancy. Exercise of just 20 minutes 3 or 4 days a week is still beneficial. The important note is that you want to seek to be active and get your blood flowing.
Here are some of the benefits from exercise during pregnancy that you may experience:
You can visit this page for more information about theeffects of exercise on pregnancy.
If you participated in a regular exercise activity prior to your pregnancy, it is probably fine to continue to participate during your pregnancy. There are many exercises that are safe to do during your pregnancy but it is important not to overdo it and to use caution.
Many people were uneasy when they discovered that Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings had received the “OK” from her obstetrician to play competitive volleyball while pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association would have cautioned against this because of the vulnerability of impact with another player, the ground, or parts of the surrounding court area. However it is important to highlight a key truth in the counsel her provider gave.
Your baby is surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus, which is surrounded by the organs, muscles and your physical body. This actually creates a rather safe environment for your developing baby. However even with this protection, it is recommended that you avoid exercise that leave you vulnerable for impact.
You will probably want to avoid these types of exercises during pregnancy:
You may want to include these basic guidelines in your planning exercise during pregnancy:
Please see this article for more information on exercise guidelines.
Before you begin exercising, remember that it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you aren’t active or aren’t very active, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy. To do a squat stand with feet shoulder width apart and slowly lower into a squat position. You should keep your back straight, heels on the floor and your knees shouldn’t protrude in front of your feet. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds; you could rest your hands on your knees. Then slowly stand back up pushing up from your knees with your arms if you need to. Repeat this 5 times working up to more.
Pelvic tilts strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To do pelvic tilts get on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your back should slightly round. Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax without letting your back sag. Repeat a couple of times, working up to 10.
Please see this article for a closer look at recommended exercises during pregnancy.
There are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy. First, joints are more flexible from the hormones which cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy. Your center of gravity or equilibrium is shifted from the extra weight in the front as well as your shifting hips. This can affect your balance as you near your due date. The extra weight will also cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant.
All of these factors may affect how you exercise and what exercises you choose to do. Remember, it is always recommended that you consult your healthcare provider about exercises for your specific situation.
We know that fish can be very nutritious and are packed with great nutrients such as omega-3’s, the B vitamins and lean protein. But unfortunately, fish can also have some unhealthy contaminants. Mercury levels in fish is probably the greatest question of concern.
Mercury is a contaminant found in fish that can affect brain development and the nervous system. The FDA has released guidelines for children, women who are pregnant and women who are trying to become pregnant. These guidelines state that no more than 12 oz of low mercury fish should be consumed weekly. “Highest” mercury fish should be avoided and “high” mercury fish should be kept to only three 6-oz servings per month.
Scientific research is constantly expanding our knowledge of nutritional needs in pregnancy. Among the most recent developments in this field, is the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in both the development of a healthy baby and in the health of the mother.
Omega-3s are a family of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health and development. Unfortunately, these are not synthesized by the human body and therefore must be obtained from diet or supplementation. However, the typical American diet is greatly lacking in Omega—3′s.
Research indicates that the two most beneficial omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Although EPA and DHA naturally occur together and work together in the body, studies show that each fatty acid has unique benefits. EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response. DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system which is why it is uniquely important for pregnant and lactating women.
Adequate intake of Omega 3 fats is essential to maintaining the balanced production of the hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help regulate many important physiological functions including blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transmission, the inflammatory and allergic responses, the functions of the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract and the production of other hormones. Depending on the type of fatty acids in the diet, certain types of prostaglandins may be produced in large quantities, while others may not be produced at all. This prostaglandin imbalance can lead to disease.
The role of omega-3s in producing beneficial prostaglandins may explain why they have been shown to have so many health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease, improving cognitive function and the regulation of inflammation. High doses of omega-3s have been used to treat and prevent mood disorders and new studies are identifying their potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. However, the standard western diet is severely deficient in these critical nutrients. This omega-3 dietary deficiency is compounded by the fact that pregnant women become depleted in omega-3s, when the fetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development. Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk. With each subsequent pregnancy, mothers are further depleted. Research has confirmed that adding EPA and DHA to the diet of pregnant women has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the baby. Studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight. Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk fordepression. This may explain why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier with subsequent pregnancies.
In a 2006 national survey, over two-thirds of pregnant women and new mothers said that they had not received any information from their health care providers about the benefits that Omega-3 could provide during their pregnancy and in the postpartum time.
The best sources of EPA and DHA are cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. Many people are justifiably concerned about mercury and other toxins in fish, especially during pregnancy. For this reason, purified fish oil supplements are often the safest source of EPA and DHA. A high quality fish oil supplement from a reputable manufacturer delivers the health benefits of EPA and DHA without the risk of toxicity.
Many people think that flaxseed and/or flaxseed oil contains omega-3s. But flaxseed contains the shorter-chain omega-3, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is different from the longer-chain EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the omega-3s that the body needs for optimal health and development. While it was once thought that the human body could convert ALA to EPA and DHA, current research shows that such conversion rarely and inefficiently occurs. Fish oil is a more reliable source of EPA and DHA.
Quality fish oil is safe to take during pregnancy. Fresh fish (that is eaten) can often contain environmental toxins like mercury that accumulate during its life span. These toxins can be virtually eliminated during the manufacture and processing of fish oil, with the use of high quality raw materials and an advanced refining process.
Some brands of fish oil are of higher quality than others. A reputable fish oil manufacturer should be able to provide documentation of third-party lab results that show the purity levels of their fish oil, down to the particles per trillion level.
ISSFAL (the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids) has established the following recommended minimum dosage chart:
0-15 lbs: 32 mg/lb EPA+DHA
15 mg/lb EPA+DHA
500 mg EPA+DHA
(with a minimum of 220 mg EPA and 220 mg DHA)
300 mg DHA daily
Questions regarding paternity during pregnancy are more common than you think. Seeking answers and resolving your concerns has physical, emotional and financial benefits for both you and your unborn child.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends paternity testing from a laboratory accredited by the AABB. The AABB Relationship Testing Accreditation Program is based on standards for the performance of tests and require laboratories to achieve quality performance. The American Pregnancy Association endorses DDC, DNA Diagnostics Center because of their long-standing accreditation by the AABB and their commitment to quality and service.
You can contact DDC at 1-800-798-0580 and discuss your options with a paternity professional. They can answer your questions and guide you through the process.
Establishing paternity is important to ensure a child’s well being. It can also help protect his or her future.
Determining a biological relationship is important for several reasons:
If you are pregnant, most states have laws that require an Acknowledgment of Paternity form to be completed at the hospital to legally establish who the father is. After the AOP is signed, couples have a limited amount of time, depending on the state, to request DNA paternity test and amend the AOP. This form is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics and is a legally binding document. If the time allowed for amending this form expires, the father listed as the AOP and birth certificate could be held legally responsible for the child, even if he later proves he is not the biological father.
Some states require an unmarried couple to have a paternity test to list a father’s name on the birth certificate. If the mother is married to someone other than the father of the child, the husband can be presumed to be the father and listed on the birth certificate as the legal father, unless otherwise disputed by a paternity test.
If you need a paternity test to ensure the right man is named as the father, call DNA Diagnostics Center at 1-800-798-0580.
Postnatal testing, after a child’s birth, is done through an umbilical cord collection at the time of delivery or a sample collected at a lab after the baby is released from the hospital. Either a buccal (cheek swab) or a blood collection can be performed.
If you need to establish paternity or have questions, please contact the DDC at 1-800-798-0580.
For prenatal testing, or testing done during pregnancy, there are several options to choose from:
How soon can we start the testing process? DNA testing can be done as early as the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, starting in the 10th week by the CVS procedure or week 9 with the SNP microarray procedure.
Are test results kept completely confidential? It is a rule of most DNA laboratories to keep your results completely confidential. Speak with each laboratory individually on their policies concerning confidentiality.
What risk does DNA testing pose to the mother and the developing baby? Testing conducted after a baby’s birth involves no known risks. Historically, prenatal DNA testing done in conjunction with other prenatal testing involves some risk associated with how the testing is conducted, whether amniocentesis or CVS. These tests are often discouraged for the sole reason of seeking paternity because of the increased miscarriage risks. However, the non-invasive SNP microarray procedure poses little risk to mom or the baby.
Can an exact date of conception be determined accurately without a paternity test? Many women have questions about the date of possible conception, and unfortunately figuring this out is not always so easy. The assumption is that if a woman has pretty regularmenstrual cycles, then she will be ovulating during a certain time of the month. Ovulation is the time when conception can take place because that is when an egg is made available.
The problem is that most women do not ovulate on an exact date each month, and many women have a different ovulation day from month to month. If you also take into account that sperm can live in the body 3-5 days after intercourse has taken place, this can make figuring out conception very difficult.
Most doctors use the first day of the last period (LMP) and ultrasound measurements to gage the gestational age of a baby and determine when the baby was conceived. But these are just tools used to estimate the dates—it is very hard to tell what the exact date of conception really is. Most people do not realize that ultrasounds can be off up to 5-7 days in early pregnancy and up to a couple weeks off if the first ultrasounds are done farther into the second trimester or beyond.
Due dates are not an accurate tool for determining conception since they also are only an estimation date (only 5% of women give birth on their due dates).
If you are seeking the estimated date of conception for paternity reasons, and intercourse with two different partners took place within 10 days of each other, we strongly encourage that paternity testing be done; this testing can be done during pregnancy or after the baby is born. This is the only way to accurately know who the father is.
How much does it cost to establish paternity? Costs will vary dependent on which types of procedures are performed. Prices can range from $400.00 to $2,000.00. Prenatal testing is often more costly than testing done after a baby is born because of the additional doctor and hospital-related fees. Some testing sites offer lower cost testing that is non-court-approved, or “curiosity testing.” Most centers offer payment plans and will require full payment before they release the results to you. The new SNP microarray procedure will cost approximately $1,600. You can reach the DNA Diagnostics Center at 1-800-798-0580 to discuss any of the options and find more specific costs.
Can I use the DNA test results in court? Many centers now offer court-approved tests, but also lower cost “curiosity testing.” If you aren’t sure if you will need the results for a court case, it is probably worth the extra cost to go ahead and have a court-approved test done.
Who do I call for Paternity Testing? There are a number of DNA and paternity testing facilities around the country. You want to make sure you use a facility accredited by the AABB. You may be interested in comparing different testing facilities.
DNA Diagnostics Center is the official paternity testing organization of the American Pregnancy Association. They are actively involved with the AABB and receive APA’s endorsement for their quality services.
You can visit DNA Diagnostics Center for more information or call 1-800-798-0580.
Caffeine is one of the most loved stimulants in America! But now that you are pregnant, you may need to lighten up on the daily intake of your favorite drinks and treats.
Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy. Caffeine also increases the frequency of urination. This causes reduction in your body fluid levels and can lead to dehydration.
Caffeine crosses the placenta to your baby. Although you may be able to handle the amounts of caffeine you feed your body, your baby cannot. Your baby’s metabolism is still maturing and cannot fully metabolize the caffeine. Any amount of caffeine can also cause changes in your baby’s sleep pattern or normal movement pattern in the later stages of pregnancy. Remember, caffeine is a stimulant and can keep both you and your baby awake.
Caffeine is found in more than just coffee. Caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in tea, soda, chocolate, and even some over-the-counter medications that relieve headaches. Be aware of what you consume.
Statement: Caffeine causes birth defects in humans.
Facts: Numerous studies on animals have shown that caffeine can cause birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, and increase the risk of low-birth weight offspring and other reproductive problems. There have not been any conclusive studies done on humans though. It is still better to play it safe when it comes to inconclusive studies.
Statement: Caffeine causes infertility.
Facts: Some studies have shown a link between high levels of caffeine consumption and delayed conception.
Statement: Caffeine causes miscarriages.
Facts: In 2008, two studies on the effects of caffeine related to miscarriage showed significantly different outcomes. In one study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
it was found that women who consume 200mg or more of caffeine daily, are twice as likely to have a miscarriage as those who do not consume any caffeine. In another study released by Epidemiology, there was no increased risk in women who drank a minimal amount of coffee daily ( between 200-350mg per day.)
Due to conflicting conclusions from numerous studies, the March of Dimes states that until more conclusive studies are done, pregnant women should limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day. This is equal to about one 12 oz cup of coffee.
Statement: A pregnant woman should not consume ANY caffeine.
Facts: Experts have stated that moderate levels of caffeine have not been found to have a negative effect on pregnancy. The definition of moderate varies anywhere from 150 mg – 300 mg a day.
The less caffeine you consume, the better. Some experts say more than 150 mg of caffeine a day is too much, while others say more than 300 mg a day is too much. Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is your safest course of action. If you must get your fix, it is best to discuss this with your health care provider to make the healthiest choice for you and your baby.
Nausea during pregnancy is typically one of the most experienced and complained about symptoms that women report. Up to 70 percent of expectant mothers experience nausea at some point during early pregnancy. Not only is it known to be one of the early signs of pregnancy, but it is a symptom which is common throughout the first trimester, and sometimes even longer. While nausea is definitely an uncomfortable feeling, the good news is that it is not harmful to you or your baby and it is often perceived as an indication of a healthy pregnancy. Nausea is a key part of the common concern referred to as morning sickness.
The cause of nausea during pregnancy is not completely understood. However, it does appear to be linked to the production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone. Commonly referred to as the pregnancy hormone, this is the hormone which the body begins to produce once the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. Again, how it contributes to nausea is unknown, but because they both peak around the same time, they’re assumed to have a clear connection.
There are other theories as to what causes nausea during pregnancy, as well. Some other contributing factors might be:
Nausea during pregnancy typically starts within four to eight weeks of gestation and is expected to subside between 13 and 14 weeks. However it can start earlier and can last longer. Not every woman will experience nausea the entire duration of the first trimester. It could last only a couple of weeks or come and go throughout the first few months. Many refer to nausea during pregnancy as morning sickness, leading women to believe they will only experience nausea in the mornings. In fact, research shows that “morning sickness” actually occurs more often throughout the entire day than just in the early hours.
Treatment for, and prevention of, nausea during pregnancy are truly synonymous in regards to everyday self-care and home remedies. The following suggestions are beneficial to begin trying as soon as you find out you are pregnant or if you are already pregnant and just looking for some relief. Look at the steps below and also explore our guide to managing morning sickness.
To help prevent and treat nausea during pregnancy, try:
Many women will find that natural or home remedies are not helping. It could be that some relief is experienced by you want more. The good news is that you can talk to your doctor and get a prescription that is specifically designed for your nausea.
If you are experiencing severe nausea and vomiting and the above treatments do not appear to be helping, contact your doctor for further suggestions. While nausea during pregnancy can be normal, it can also point to a problem which needs to be addressed.
Examples of potential problems seen with severe nausea are:
Chiropractic care is health maintenance of the spinal column, discs, related nerves and bone geometry without drugs or surgery. It involves the art and science of adjusting misaligned joints of the body, especially of the spine, which reduces spinal nerve stress and therefore promotes health throughout the body.
There are no known contraindications to chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. All chiropractors are trained to work with women who are pregnant. Investing in the fertility and pregnancy wellness of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is a routine care for most chiropractors.
Some chiropractors take a specific interest in prenatal and postnatal care and seek additional training. Below represents designations of chiropractors who have taken advanced steps in working with infertility and pregnancy wellness.
Chiropractors that have been trained to work with pregnant women may use tables that adjust for a pregnant woman’s body, and they will use techniques that avoid unneeded pressure on the abdomen.
A chiropractor who is trained in the needs of women who are pregnant will also provide you with exercises and stretches that are safe to use during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, there are several physiological and endocrinological changes that occur in preparation for creating the environment for the developing baby. The following changes could result in a misaligned spine or joints:
Establishing pelvic balance and alignment is another reason to obtain chiropractic care during pregnancy. When the pelvis is misaligned it may reduce the amount of room available for the developing baby. This restriction is called intrauterine constraint. A misaligned pelvis may also make it difficult for the baby to get into the best possible position for delivery. This can affect the mother’s ability to have a natural, non-invasive birth. Breech and posterior positions can interfere with the natural ease of labor and lead to interventions such as c-sections.
The nervous system is the master communication system to all the body systems including the reproductive system. Keeping the spine aligned helps the entire body work more effectively.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy can provide benefits for women who are pregnant. Potential benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy include:
The late Larry Webster, D.C., Founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association(ICPA), developed a specific chiropractic analysis and adjustment which enables chiropractors to establish balance in the pregnant woman’s pelvis and reduce undue stress to her uterus and supporting ligaments. This balanced state in the pelvis has been clinically shown to allow for optimal fetal positioning. The technique is known as the Webster Technique.
It is considered normal by some for a baby to present breech until the third trimester. Most birth practitioners are not concerned with breech presentations until a patient is 37 weeks along. Approximately 4% of all pregnancies result in a breech presentation.
The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported in the July/August 2002 issue an 82% success rate of babies turning vertex when doctors of chiropractic used the Webster Technique. Further, the results from the study suggest that it may be beneficial to perform the Webster Technique as soon as the 8th month of pregnancy when a woman has a breech presentation.
Currently, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) recommends that women receive chiropractic care throughout pregnancy to establish pelvic balance and optimize the room a baby has for development throughout pregnancy. With a balanced pelvis, babies have a greater chance of moving into the correct position for birth, and the crisis and worry associated with breech and posterior presentations may be avoided altogether. Optimal baby positioning at the time of birth also eliminates the potential for dystocia (difficult labor) and therefore results in easier and safer deliveries for both the mother and baby.
As more women are seeking the benefits of chiropractic care throughout pregnancy, more health care providers are seeking trained doctors of chiropractic in their communities to refer their pregnant patients to. Discuss these options with your health care provider. If they are not yet familiar with chiropractic care in pregnancy, ask them to find out more about its many benefits. Most importantly, seek options that support your body’s natural abilities to function and find a team of providers who are respectful of your choices.
Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massage and pregnancy has often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding the safety and purpose of massage during pregnancy. Modern investigation and research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be a very instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration.
Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage. The APA does work with some massage therapists who are trained to work with pregnant women, but it is still important to ask about qualifications.
Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.
Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish Massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.
Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:
As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.
Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. Consult your massage therapist before your first appointment to verify what position they place their clients in during the massage.
It is important to seek care from a certified prenatal massage therapist. Certified therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage therapists and know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs and sensitive areas of the body.
Trained prenatal massage therapists are aware of pressure points on the ankles and wrists that can gently stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus. Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure to these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided completely.
Women with the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester because of the increased statistics for miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
Most often the term doula refers to the birth doula, or labor support companion. However, there are also antepartum doulas and postpartum doulas. Most of the following information relates to the labor doula. Doulas can also be referred to as labor companions, labor support specialists, labor support professionals, birth assistants or labor assistants.
Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship where the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and takes an active role in creating a birth plan. Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or explain any developments that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labor and delivery. Consequently, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications of late pregnancy or delivery.
During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires that she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an un-medicated birth or cesarean.
After the birth, many labor doulas will spend some time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members.
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience1.Find a Doula Now.
Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60%2.
Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream, causing uterine contractions, and to the brain, resulting in a feelings of well being, drowsiness and higher pain threshold. By contrast, because synthetic IV oxytocin cannot cross into both the blood stream and the brain, it increases contractions without the positive psychological benefits of natural oxytocin.
The role of the doula is never to take the place of husbands or partners in labor, but to compliment and enhance their experience. Today, more husbands are an active role in the birth process. However, some partners prefer to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labor coach. By having a doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever he chooses. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and can step in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labor and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in childbirth class!
The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula. But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth. For women who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional support, informational support and comfort measures through labor and the administration of medications. Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help them deal with possible side effects and other needs where medication might be inadquate, because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.
For a mother facing a cesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean results from an unexpected situation leaving mothers feeling unprepared, disappointed and lonely. A doula can be attentive to mothers at all times throughout the cesarean, letting them know what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery if there are complications.
There are three types of doulas: the Antepartum Doula, the Labor Doula and the Postpartum Doula:
Antepartum Doulas provide help and support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical and practical support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing and emotionally draining.
Postpartum Doulas provide help and support in the first weeks after becoming a mother. They provide informational support about feeding and caring for the baby. They provide physical support by cleaning, cooking meals and filling in when a new mother needs a break. They provide emotional support by encouraging a mother during those times when she might be feeling overwhelmed.
Some doulas have training in more than one area and are able to serve as more than one type of doula.
The most important thing in choosing a doula is to find a person with whom you feel comfortable and who gives you confidence. Most doulas do not charge for an initial consultation and interview, so take the time to interview as many as necessary until you one that meets your needs. Find a Doula Here.
Questions to Ask a Potential Doula:
A midwife is a health care professional who provides an array of health care services for women that can include medical histories and gynecological examinations, contraceptive counseling, prescriptions, and labor and delivery care. Providing expert care during labor, delivery, and after birth is a specialty of midwives that makes them unique.
The services of a midwife depend on the certification and licensing credentials obtained and the practice restrictions of each state. Because of the additional licensure in nursing, a nurse-midwife can offer the most comprehensive array of health care services to women.
These services include annual gynecological exams, family planning and preconception care, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, newborn care, and menopausal management. Midwives generally provide reproductive education in fertility, nutrition and exercise, contraception, pregnancy health, breastfeeding, and quality infant care. Midwives often function as a quality economical option for birthing care.Find a local midwife.
Midwives are qualified health care providers who go through comprehensive training and examinations for certification. Certification is offered by the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) and the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). The practice and credentials related to midwifery differ throughout the United States. Below is a brief description of each of type of midwife:
Midwives believe in facilitating a natural childbirth as much as possible. Accordingly, it is common to receive care from a midwife in a private and comfortable birthing center or in your own home. Because of their professionalism and expertise, midwives are often part of a labor and delivery team associated with the local hospital. You can choose to use the services of a midwife whether you elect to give birth at home, a birthing center, or at a hospital.
One of the main reasons that women elect to use a midwife is to experience childbirth as naturally as possible.
Available options is another benefit associated with having a midwife. Midwives often offer payment plans, sliding fees, and are willing to accept most insurance plans including Medicaid.
According to the doctoral research conducted by Peter Schlenzka, the choice of using a nurse-midwife and natural delivery can result in the following benefits:
Electing to use a nurse-midwife is appropriate for low risk pregnancies which constitute 60 to 80% of all pregnancies. In Schlenzka’s review of over 800,000 births, he reports there are no advantages of a standard obstetric hospital approach over a nurse-midwife setting inside or outside of the hospital.
Low risk pregnancies make up 60 to 80% of all pregnancies. This means that between 20 to 40% of pregnancies could have potential complications. There are times when either the mother or the baby will require medical interventions that are outside the scope of services offered by a midwife. Midwives routinely consult with obstetricians, perinatologists, and other healthcare professionals and will refer women to appropriate medical professionals if complications arise.
If complications are anticipated, it is recommended that women elect a hospital setting with more convenient access to obstetricians, perinatologists, and other professionals trained to deal with complications affecting either the mother or baby.