Archive for the ‘Healthy Pregnancy’ Category

Breathe Deeply! Tips for Being a Labor Coach

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Giving birth involves a mix of physical pain and emotional joy. During childbirth, the mother does all the work. But if she has a labor coach to help her, giving birth may be easier for her.

A labor coach helps the mom before the delivery and stays in the hospital room through the birth. This person can be a great source of comfort and support through childbirth. The expectant father or partner most often fills this role, but a relative or friend may step in instead.

Childbirth education classes may be the best way to learn how to fill the coach’s role. These classes teach expectant mothers and partners about labor, birth, breast-feeding, and infant care. You learn breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as how to manage labor at the hospital or birth center.

Getting educated
Taking classes gets the partner more involved in the pregnancy. Sessions can be a bonding experience between mom and her coach. Even for mothers who’ve already had a child, having a coach can still ease anxiety.

Birthing classes give expectant moms and labor coaches a forum to discuss:

•Fears about labor and birth
•Pain relief options like massage, relaxation, breathing, and medication
•How the baby will be monitored during labor and birth
•The role a partner plays in labor and birth
In seeking a class, the labor coach and expectant mother should ask about the program first.

•How big is the class?
•Is the instructor certified?
•What is the instructor’s philosophy about labor and birth?
•What method(s) of breathing and relaxation are taught?
•Will coping skills be taught to women seeking a medicated or medicine-free birth?
Classes may be offered through the education department of the hospital where the mother plans to give birth. Sessions may include a tour of the maternity department. You may also be able to talk with nurses there about what to expect on delivery day.

Planning ahead
The best labor coaches are ready to advocate for the mother. Know what she expects before she arrives for delivery. Make sure you’ve discussed:

•Breathing techniques
•The role of specific medical staff during birth
•Her wishes about pain medicine
•Things that may warrant a change in plans
A written statement of birth preferences will help clarify these decisions. But a long and painful labor may force a change of heart. Talk with the mom-to-be ahead of time about how she’ll tell you when she’s ready for a change in plans.

You can also help by preparing to bring these items to the hospital when it’s time for delivery:

•Card games
•Crossword puzzles
•Mom’s favorite music
•Extra pillows or cushions (good for when she needs to shift to relieve pain)
•Pictures of family members she can look at during contractions
During the birth
Take note of everyone’s role on the birth and delivery team. If the mother is in severe pain and wants medication, the coach needs to be able to find a nurse or doctor who can help.

Be prepared to:

•Help her sit, squat, lie sideways, crouch, or walk up and down hallways
•Give many massages, especially on the lower back and feet
•Help her take warm baths, showers, or whirlpool baths
•Apply cool compresses to her forehead
•Find distractions that can help shift the focus away from labor, such as looking at photos or talking about a restful vacation spot
Above all, labor coaches need to be supportive, flexible, and understanding. The mom may get so focused during contractions that she may ignore you or even get angry. Don’t take anything personally. Soon, a newborn will appear and labor will be a distant memory.

Cesareans: 10 Reasons Why You May Need a C-Section

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

One in three babies in the U.S. is born by a cesarean birth (or C-section). A C-section is the delivery of a baby through a surgical cut in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.

Why you may need a C-section
A C-section is usually done when a vaginal delivery is risky for you or your baby. In some instances, you may know early in your pregnancy that a C-section is likely. But most of the time, you will not know that a C-section may be safer and necessary until after labor has begun.

Reasons for a C-section may include:

1.Pregnant with multiples. It’s often safer for twins, triplets, or higher-order multiples to be delivered by C-section.
2.Birth defects. Babies with certain birth defects have better outcomes when delivered by C-section.
3.Previous C-section. Though many women are able to have a vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC), some should not. Talk to your doctor to see if VBAC is right for you.
4.Labor doesn’t progress as it should.
5.Fetal distress. If the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or has an abnormal heartbeat, doctors often suggest a C-section so the baby can be born right away.
6.Placenta problems. The placenta can block the baby’s way or could rupture (placenta previa). Or the placenta can separate from the uterine wall (placenta abruption). These conditions can cause heavy vaginal bleeding and can be fatal for you and your baby.
7.Breech presentation. This happens when the baby is not in head-first position, making a vaginal delivery difficult.
8.Prolapsed umbilical cord. A prolapsed cord drops through the vagina before the baby is born, cutting off the oxygen supply to the baby.
9.Medical problems with the mother. It’s sometimes safer for moms who have diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), or other health issues to give birth by C-section. For mothers who have an infection, such as HIV or active genital herpes, having a C-section may reduce the chance of passing the illness to the baby.
10.Baby too large for birth canal. Sometimes the birth canal is too narrow or the baby’s head is too large for a vaginal delivery. It may also be safer for a very large baby to be delivered by C-section.
There are other medical reasons for why a C-section may be needed. Talk to your doctor before labor starts and discuss in what other cases you might need to have a C-section.

Elective C-section
An elective C-section is one that is planned ahead of time, well before labor begins, and is scheduled for a time when the baby has grown enough to survive outside the womb. If you’re pregnant with one baby and have no urgent complications, the C-section should be scheduled for a time when the unborn baby is 39 weeks or older. But sometimes a baby’s gestational age can be hard to pinpoint. There’s a chance the baby can be delivered too early and have problems breathing, feeding, or keeping a safe temperature.

A C-section is major abdominal surgery, and like any surgery, it comes with risks to both the mother and baby. It generally takes longer to heal from a C-section than it does from a vaginal birth.

If you’re considering an elective C-section, discuss the risks with your doctor.

The Best Ab Exercises to Tone Your Tummy

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dread doing endless sit-ups? You’re in luck. Experts say that classic sit-ups are not the best way to strengthen your abs. Try the following exercises to tone up your abdomen.

Remember that abdominal exercises can help tighten your tummy, but they may not make your stomach flatter. For a healthy-looking midsection, you need to combine ab work, a healthy diet, and regular aerobic exercise.

Top tummy toners
Most experts recommend the following exercises as being safer and more effective than sit-ups for tummy toning:

•Bicycle maneuver. Lie on the floor on your back. With your arms on the floor, bend your elbows and put your fingers under your head. Bring your legs straight up toward the ceiling and bend your knees to a 45-degree angle. Then begin to move your legs as though you are pedaling a bicycle. As your right knee comes toward your head, touch your left elbow to it, then touch your right elbow to your left knee as it comes forward. Breathe evenly throughout the exercise.
•Crunch on an exercise ball. Slowly lie back on an exercise ball with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Make sure the ball is firmly under your lower back and your thighs and torso are parallel to the floor. Fold your arms across your chest. Tuck your chin toward your chest. Tighten your abs to raise your torso (but no more than 45 degrees). To improve your balance, place your feet farther apart. Keeping your feet close together will help work your oblique (side) muscles. Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower your torso.
•Captain’s chair. This piece of equipment, found in most gyms, is among the best for building the stomach muscles. To do the exercise, stand with your back against the back pad and grab the handholds. Use your arms to hold your body up. Slowly bend your knees, bringing your legs toward your chest. Make the movement slow and controlled as you raise your knees and then lower them again.
The proper crunch
Crunches – not to be confused with sit-ups – are excellent for toning your midsection, too. Doing a vertical crunch or a reverse crunch may be your best bet because these moves put less stress on your back than regular crunches.

•Vertical crunch. Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your elbows and put your hands behind your head. Cross your legs at the ankles. Then bring your legs up with the knees slightly bent. At the same time tighten your abdominal muscles to raise your torso toward your knees. Keep your chin off your chest. Lower your legs and torso. Repeat.
•Reverse crunch. Lie on the floor on your back. Put your hands under your head or stretch them out at your sides with palms on the floor. Cross your legs at the ankles. Raise your feet off the ground, and bend your knees until your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body. Tighten your abs to bring your hips up off the floor. This is a small, rocking movement. Don’t swing the legs.
Ab machines: to buy or not to buy?
Many abdominal exercise machines are no better or only slightly better than doing crunches, experts say.

Combining strategies
Note that you need to do abdominal exercises more often than strength training to get toned. Even 5 minutes of ab exercises each day can make the difference. Building ab strength can improve your posture and may help you avoid low back pain.

Note: These exercises are not for everyone, especially those with bone conditions like osteoporosis. And not everyone can do every exercise. It depends on your fitness level and coordination. Always check with your doctor before you start any workout.

Miscarriage: About Early Pregnancy Loss

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Losing a pregnancy is one of the most devastating events a couple can endure. Though you may feel alone, confused or even at fault, know that most of the time the loss could not have been prevented.

In fact, pregnancy loss is quite common. It is estimated that about 15 percent to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in loss. Pregnancy loss is called:

•Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) if it happens before 20 weeks gestation
•Stillbirth if it occurs after 20 weeks
Most losses occur early on, within the first trimester (the first 13 weeks of pregnancy). Many happen before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.

Reasons for the loss
Usually, a miscarriage is nature’s way of ending a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is not developing normally, and wouldn’t survive. It can occur for these reasons:

•Genetic factors. Half of all miscarriages in the first trimester are due to chromosomal abnormalities. Chromosome problems are usually not caused by the parents’ health (but they can be). They often just occur by chance, and are often not likely to happen again in a future pregnancy. But be aware that the chance of chromosome issues goes up as a woman ages.
•Maternal health issues. Some medical problems with the mother can cause miscarriage:
◦Hormonal imbalances. When pregnancy hormones aren’t at normal levels – for example, when progesterone is too low – miscarriage can occur. Your doctor may be able to help treat these imbalances if found early.
◦Problems with the uterus or cervix. An abnormally shaped uterus or incompetent cervix (when the cervix opens too early) can lead to pregnancy loss.
◦Infection. An infection of the uterus or unborn baby can cause the pregnancy to end.
◦Illnesses. Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or high blood sugar levels from diabetes have a higher risk for miscarriage. Work with your doctor to get your blood sugar in check before you get pregnant. Women with thyroid disease, lupus and other auto immune diseases also have a higher risk of miscarriage.
•Lifestyle factors. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs raises the chance of miscarriage. Don’t use any of these substances if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive.
Most of the time, miscarriages happen for unknown reasons. And there is nothing the mother could have done to stop the loss. Note that exercising, having sex or using birth control pills does not raise the risk for miscarriage.

Warning signs
Vaginal bleeding is the most common sign of miscarriage. Yet, many women have some spotting in pregnancy and go on to give birth to healthy babies. If you have bleeding in early pregnancy, your doctor may call it a “threatened miscarriage” but it does not mean the pregnancy is bound to fail.

These symptoms could signal a miscarriage. Call your doctor if you have:

•Heavy vaginal bleeding with clots, stomach pain or cramps
•A gush of fluid from your vagina.
•Passed fetal tissue. If you pass what you think is fetal tissue, put it in a clear container and take it with you to the doctor so that it can be tested. The results may help future pregnancies be successful.
Your doctor will do blood tests, a pelvic exam and an ultrasound to confirm if you’ve had a miscarriage.

You may not need any treatment if the loss occurred early in the pregnancy. The fetal tissue may empty from the uterus on its own and look like a heavy period.

This doesn’t always happen naturally, though, so a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure may be needed. This surgery is done to clean the tissue out of the uterus. Or, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help your body pass the tissue.

Miscarriages are fairly common, so your doctor likely won’t do any tests to find out why it happened unless you’ve had more than one.

Physical recovery
Your body will take from a few weeks to months to recover from miscarriage. It depends on how far along you were at the time of miscarriage. Your doctor may suggest avoiding vaginal intercourse or strenuous exercise until you’re fully healed. Recovery from miscarriage usually takes about four weeks.

Most women get their period within four to six weeks after a miscarriage. It’s possible to ovulate and get pregnant again two weeks after your loss. But your doctor may advise you wait a few cycles before trying to get pregnant again. And it may take a bit longer for you to be emotionally ready to try to conceive.

Emotional healing
It’s normal to feel intense sadness, anger, numbness and guilt after your loss. Take time to grieve with your partner. Seeing a counselor or joining a pregnancy loss support group can help. Ask your doctor to suggest one.

Diabetes During Pregnancy: Will I Need a C-Section?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

If you have diabetes during pregnancy, you are more likely than other women to have a large baby. When a baby is too large, both the mother and baby are at increased risk for having problems during delivery. For example, there’s an increased chance that the baby’s shoulders could get stuck in the birth canal (called shoulder dystocia). This can deprive the baby of oxygen.

If your baby is very large as your due date nears, your doctor may suggest you have your delivery by cesarean section, or C-section. For a C-section, the doctor delivers the baby through an incision in your belly. For some large babies, this may be the safest (and sometimes the only) way to be born.

How will my doctor decide if I need a C-section?
Your doctor will estimate the size of your baby by measuring the height of your uterus. This measurement, combined with the number of weeks of pregnancy (gestational age), gives a sense of how large the baby is.

It can be hard to know a baby’s weight before it is born. The doctor may do ultrasounds in the last trimester to estimate how large your baby is getting. A planned C-section may be recommended if the doctor thinks the baby may weigh more than 4,000 g (8 lbs 13 oz.).

Instead of C-section, a doctor might decide to induce labor a week or two before the baby is full term (full term is 40 weeks). In this way, the baby may be born before it gets too large for a safe vaginal delivery. Amniocentesis may be done first to make sure the baby’s lungs are mature enough. If not, this can cause a whole different set of problems.

In another case, an emergency C-section may be needed if you go into labor and it is long and slow or the fetal monitor shows that your baby seems to be in distress.

What are the risks of C-section?
Having a C-section will help you avoid a problem, such as the baby’s shoulders getting stuck. But a C-section is major surgery. While it is generally safe, it does have some risks.

•The mother has an increased risk of infection, bleeding and other complications of surgery. It will also take longer to recover.
•The baby has an increased chance of having breathing problems at birth, although these problems do not usually last long.
How can I help keep my baby healthy?
Taking good care of yourself during pregnancy will give you and your baby the best chance to avoid problems during delivery and afterwards.

•Keep your blood sugar under control. Test your blood sugar as often as your doctor tells you, and take your insulin shots as directed.
•Manage your weight gain. Your doctor can tell you how much weight you should gain each week. After the first trimester, this is usually one-half to one pound a week. Gaining too much weight increases the chance that your baby will be too large for a vaginal delivery.
•Eat a healthy, balanced diet. As a pregnant woman with diabetes, you need to pay special attention to what you eat.Your doctor or a dietitian can help you learn how to make good food choices.
•Be physically active. Being active will help you control your blood sugar. Brisk walking or swimming is safe for many women. But talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program.