Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pregnancy and Travel

Traveling while pregnant is generally considered safe as long as you do not have any complications.  After 35 weeks, it is recommended to consult your healthcare provider before traveling to be sure that there are no concerns when traveling.  The ideal time to travel is during your second trimester as you are generally out of the morning sickness stage from the first trimester, and you are several weeks from third trimester where you are more easily fatigued.  My second pregnancy I traveled a lot, especially towards the end of pregnancy, because of our location in Japan at the time and my husband being away in California.  I had no big issues with traveling during that time, except fatigue, which is expected during international travel and with a toddler.

I have compiled some tips for traveling that may make things easier and safer as you travel during pregnancy.

Traveling On Land
-It is essential that you wear a seatbelt every time you ride in a car.  Be sure to use both the lap and shoulder belts for the best protection for both you and your baby.
-Keep the airbags turned on.  The safety benefits outweigh any potential risk to you and your baby.
-Buses tend to have narrow aisles and small restrooms, so it can prove to be more challenging.  Try to remain seated while the bus is moving.  If you have to get up, be sure to use the handrail or seats to keep your balance.
-Trains usually have more room to navigate and walk, but the restrooms are usually quite small.  Use the rails and seat backs to walk around while the train is moving.
-Try to limit the amount of time you are cooped up in the car, bus, or train.
-Use rest stops often to take short walks and to do stretches to keep the blood circulating.

Traveling By Air
-Most airlines allow pregnant women to travel through their eighth month.  Traveling during your ninth month is usually allowed if you have permission from your healthcare provider.  Check the airline policy to see what their cutoff is.  I did not have trouble finding an airline that let me fly when I wanted to and had a friend who was evacuated from Japan when she was 38 weeks, and she was able to fly internationally with no problems (although not all airlines would let you fly that late in pregnancy).
-Most airlines have narrow aisles and small bathrooms.  Make sure you are using seat backs and rails when walking around the airplane and using the restroom.  There is always potential for turbulence that could shake the plane.
-Choosing an aisle seat may be a good idea, so that you can get up and walk around more easily.  This way you can jump up to use the bathroom or stretch your legs or back more easily.
-Try to travel on major airlines with pressurized cabins and avoid smaller planes.  If you must ride in a smaller plane, avoid going above 7,000 feet.
-During your flight, try to walk around about every hour.  Stretching your legs will lessen your risk of blood clot formation and will also make you more comfortable.  This also decreases swelling that may happen from sitting for so long.
-Carry some light snacks to help prevent nausea.
-Take the time to eat healthy and balanced meals during your trip.  This will boost your energy level and keep you feeling good.  Lots of fiber and fluids is a good idea as constipation is a common traveling problem whether pregnant or not.
-Get plenty of sleep and rest often.

Traveling By Sea
-One thing to think about is that the motion of the boat may accentuate morning sickness or make you feel nauseous all over again.
-Make sure that the cruise line provides a healthcare provider on the ship in case of complications.
-Review the route and port-of-calls to identify if there is access to any medical facilities if needed.
-Double check any medications for seasickness and make sure they are approved for women who are pregnant and that there is no risk for baby.
-Seasickness bands use acupressure to help prevent upset stomach and may be a good alternative to medication.

Traveling Internationally
-The considerations used for international travel is pretty much the same as domestic, but there are a few more things to think about when overseas.  Discuss any factors you need to consider with your healthcare provider in order to keep yourself and your baby safe.
-Of course, right now, pregnant women should avoid going to areas where there is risk of Zika virus as this is very dangerous for pregnancy.  These areas include Mexico, The Caribbean, Central America, Pacific Islands, and South America.
-Discuss immunizations with your health care provider as well and carry a copy of your health records with you.
-With international travel, you may be exposed to diseases that are rare here in the U.S., but are common in the country you visit.  Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to find safety information along with immunization facts related to your travel.  ( Do your research!
-Diarrhea is a common concern when traveling overseas because you may not be used to the germs and organisms found in the food and water of other countries.  This can lead to a problem of dehydration.  Here are some tips to avoid diarrhea and help keep you safe:
   -Drink plenty of bottled water.
   -Used canned juices or soft drinks as alternatives
   -Make sure the milk is pasteurized
   -Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless they have been cooked or can be peeled (such as an orange or banana)
   -Make certain that all meat and fish has been cooked completely; if you are unsure, do not eat it
-I traveled a good amount internationally while pregnant as I lived in Japan during my second pregnancy.  Some of these tips do not apply to industrialized countries, but make sure you do your research and know about the country you are going into.

General Traveling Tips
-Dress comfortably in loose cotton clothing and wear comfortable shoes.
-Take your favorite pillow.
-Plan for plenty of rest stops, restroom breaks, and stretches.
-Carry snack foods with you.
-If you are traveling any distance, make sure to carry a copy of your prenatal records.
-Wear your seatbelt and take other safety measures.
-Enjoy your trip!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Suggested Exercises for Pregnancy

Now that I am pregnant myself, I am enjoying doing more research and reminding myself about this stuff.  Exercise is something that I do not usually enjoy getting myself to do, but I know that it is beneficial, so this is a great reminder for me to get moving despite feeling icky.  Many times it can ultimately make you feel better (nudging myself).

Exercises to Try

What type of exercise you do depends on what interests you and what your doctor advises.  Many women enjoy dancing, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, or walking.  Swimming can be especially appealing, as it gives you welcome buoyancy, relieving some of that extra weight you are carrying around.  Try bringing in a combination of cardio, strength and flexibility exercises, and avoid bouncing.

One of the most recommended forms of exercise is walking.  Anyone can do it, you can make it harder or easier by varying the pace or adding hills and distance.  If you are just starting, begin with a moderately brisk pace for a mile, 3 days a week.  Add a couple minutes every week, pick up the pace a bit, and eventually add hills to your route.  Whether you are a pro or a novice, go slowly for the first 5 minutes to warm up and use the last 5 minutes to cool down.

If you were a runner before you were pregnant, in many cases, you can continue running during your pregnancy, although you may have to modify your routine.

Whatever exercise you decide to pursue, the key is to listen to your body's warnings.  Many women, for example, become dizzy early in their pregnancy, and as the baby grows, their center of gravity changes.  So it may be easy for you to lose your balance, especially in the last trimester.

Your energy level may also vary greatly from day to day.  And as your baby grows and pushes up on your lungs, you will have more difficulty breathing in more air when exercising.  If your body says, "Stop!", stop!  This is not the time to push yourself to the max.

Your body is telling you that it's had enough if you feel:
-heart palpitations (your heart pounds in your chest)
-shortness of breath
-pain in your back or pelvis

And if you cannot talk while you are exercising, you are going too hard.

It can also be dangerous for your baby if you become overheated because temperatures greater than 102.6 degrees F (39 degrees C) could cause problems with the developing baby, especially in the first trimester, that can lead to birth defects.  So be careful to not overdo it on hot days.  When the weather is hot, try avoiding exercising outside during the hottest part of the day (from about 10am to 3pm) or exercise in an air-conditioned place.  Also remember that swimming makes it more difficult for you to notice your body heating up because the water makes you feel cooler.

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are great exercises to do when pregnant.  Since you cannot see them being done from the outside, you can do them anywhere.  They are used to reduce incontinence (the leakage of urine) caused by the weight of the baby on the bladder.  Kegels help to strengthen the "pelvic floor muscles" (the muscles that aid in controlling urination and supports the weight of everything on the pelvic floor).

Kegels are easy, and you can do them any time you have a few seconds such as sitting in your car, at your desk, or standing in line at the store.  No one will even know you're doing them!  To find the correct muscles, pretend you are trying to stop urinating.  Squeeze those muscles for a few seconds, then relax.  You are using the correct muscles if you feel a pull.  Or place a finger inside your vagina and feel it tighten when you squeeze.  Your doctor can also help you identify the correct muscles.

When you perform Kegel exercises, do not tighten other muscles (stomach or legs) at the same time.  You want to focus on the muscles you are exercising.  Do not hold your breath while you do them because it is important that your body and muscles continue to receive oxygen while you do any type of exercise.  Do not practice doing Kegels while urinating, as this can lead to incomplete emptying of your bladder, which increases the risk for a urinary tract infection.

Exercises to Avoid

Most doctors recommend that pregnant women in second and third trimesters avoid any exercises that involve them lying flat on their backs.  Unless you receive other advice from your doctor, it is best to avoid any activities that include: bouncing, jarring (anything with a lot of up and down movement), leaping, a sudden change of direction, or a risk of abdominal injury.

Some typical limitations include contact sports, downhill skiing, scuba diving, and horseback riding because of the risk of injury they pose.  Also, because your abdomen is stretched so much already, it is best to avoid crunches or sit-ups as well. 

Although some doctors say step aerobics workouts are acceptable if you can lower the height of your step as your pregnancy progresses, others caution that a changing center of gravity makes falls much more likely.  If you do choose to do aerobics, just make sure to avoid becoming extremely winded or exercising to the point of exhaustion.

You may want to contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during exercise:
-vaginal bleeding
-unusual pain
-dizziness or lightheadedness
-unusual shortness of breath
-racing heartbeat or chest pain
-fluid leaking from your vagina
-uterine contractions

Exercise is great for your pregnant body.  There are a variety of things you can do to keep your body fit and healthy.  But it is also important to pay attention to your body and to not push yourself too hard.  Your body is different during this time and reacts to exercise differently because of that.  Get moving and talk to your doctor about safe exercise or concerns.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Exercise During Pregnancy

Although you may not feel like running a marathon, most women benefit greatly from exercising throughout their pregnancies.  During that time, you will need to discuss your exercise plans with your healthcare provider to make sure it fits with your health status and with your pregnancy.  Your level of recommended exercise will depend somewhat on your level of fitness prior to pregnancy.


It's pretty common knowledge that exercise is good for you, and it is good for your baby too.  As long as complications do not limit your ability to exercise, please do!

*It can help you feel better when your body is acting all weird.  It can boost your energy level and increase your sense of control over your out-of-control body.  Just the endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in the brain) can make you feel like a new woman.  But that's not all!

-Exercise can relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and thighs.

-Exercise can reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestine.

-Exercise can prevent wear and tear on your joints (which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes) by activating the lubricating fluid in your joints.

-Exercise can also help you sleep better because you are able to release the stress and anxiety that could make you restless at night.

*It can help you look better too!  Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin, which gives you a beautiful glow.

*It can help your body prepare for birth.  Strong muscles and a strong heart can greatly ease labor and delivery and lower risks.  The health of your lungs and practice controlling your breathing can help you manage pain.  And in the event of a long labor, the endurance from exercise can be a great help as well.

*It can help you regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly.  If you are regularly exercising throughout your pregnancy, you will gain less fat weight.  But do not expect or try to lose weight by exercising while you are pregnant.  For most women, the goal should be to maintain their fitness level throughout their pregnancy.

* Studies have shown that by 5 years of age, the children of women who exercised during pregnancy remain leaner and continue to have slightly better neurodevelopment than children of non-exercisers (Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland).  They also found that sedentary women who began moderate weight-bearing exercise early in pregnancy had babies significantly bigger than those who didn't exercise.

What's a Safe Exercise Plan During Pregnancy?

It depends on when you start exercising and whether your pregnancy is complicated.  If you exercised prior to becoming pregnant, go ahead and keep doing what you were doing before, with modifications if you need them.

If you were not fit before pregnancy, don't be discouraged!  You can do it!  Begin slowly and build gradually as you become stronger.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes (that's 2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for healthy women who are not already highly active or doing vigorous-intensity activity.  If you are healthy, the risks of moderate-intensity activity during pregnancy are very low, and do not increase risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, or early pregnancy loss.

But it is good to remember that before you continue your old routine or begin something new, you should talk to your healthcare provider about exercising while you're pregnant.  Discuss concerns you may have and take some recommendations from them.

You may need to limit your exercise if you have/had:
-pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
-early contractions/preterm labor
-vaginal bleeding

Getting Started

If you are not sure where to start in an exercise routine, start with the above prenatal exercise suggestions.  These strengthen important muscles and are also tailored specifically for pregnancy.

1.  Start gradually.  Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you have been inactive.  Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.

2.  Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothing and wear a supportive bra.

3.  Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating (temperature above 102.6 degrees F could cause problems for the baby) and dehydration.

4.  Skip your exercises if you are sick.

5.  On hot, humid days, opt for a walk in an air-conditioned mall.

6.  Above all, listen to your body!!!

Next time, I am going to talk more specifically about different exercises to try and ones to avoid.  Let me know in the comments if there is something I am missing or something you are interested in hearing about in the future.  I'd love to get your feedback!  Thanks for reading!