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If your shoes no longer fit and your wedding ring came off long ago, you’re may be dealing with edema, most commonly known as pregnancy swelling. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to reduce the inflammation and keep comfortable until you reach the delivery room.
Where it starts Thank your burgeoning bump for the sudden swollenness. As the uterus expands, it puts pressure on the veins and in turn impairs circulation. Extra fluid volume combines with the weight of the increasing uterus compression on lower extremity veins, which slows down the pumping of blood as it returns to the heart. As a result, the parts of the body that are farthest away from the heart, including the face, hands, ankles and feet are most likely to be affected and swell.
What you can do Although you can’t entirely prevent swelling for the next nine months, there are triggers you can avoid that could make it worse: heat and salt. Heat and humidity make the veins expand and draw blood to the extremities. Staying indoors with the air conditioning on or cooling off in a pool are both beneficial. If you’re craving salty foods like pretzels or potato chips, know that sodium causes the body to retain extra fluid, which is the last thing a pregnant lady wants. Make sure to stay hydrated to help flush out excess salt intake, and try to get mild to moderate exercise each day for improved circulation.
If you need additional support, premium compression (or graduated) hosiery and garments like Sigvaris are designed to cover areas vulnerable to swelling and generate better blood flow. As a bonus, Sigvaris apparel may help reduce restless leg syndrome and varicose veins.
Tip: Severe swelling in the hands or feet could be a sign of a dangerous condition known as preeclampsia, or elevated blood pressure during pregnancy. Contact your health care provider right away if you notice sudden swelling or swollenness in only one leg, often accompanied with tenderness or pain, severe headaches, blurred vision or rapid weight gain.
When you’re trying to overhaul your diet and swap subpar snacks for healthier foods (and what greater motivation than harboring a tiny human who, for better or worse, eats what you eat), it might seem like a no-brainer to kick fats to the curb. But before you do, let’s chew the fat about, well, choosing the fats. Read on to learn the good, the bad and the ugly about dietary fats, so you know which to steer clear of and which to add to your shopping cart. Not only are they not all bad, but some—when consumed in moderation—could even be beneficial for your health, not to mention your budding babe’s as well.
1| Fat is essential
Dietary fats (aka fatty acids) are an important part of nutrition. Your body draws energy from fats, as well as proteins and carbohydrates, and some vitamins are fat soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
2| Moderation is key
What makes a fat good or bad depends on what type of fatty acids a food or oil is composed of. Still, too much fat of any kind can lead to weight gain because all fats are high in calories.
3| Less is more
There are two kinds of so-called “bad” fats that you’ll want to avoid—or at least eat sparingly: saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fats appear primarily in animal-based foods, such as fatty cuts of meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, ice cream and sour cream, as well as tropical oils, like coconut and palm oil. Trans fats are found in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, including fried foods, vegetable shortening, margarine, baked goods and processed snack foods (think chips and microwave popcorn). Both have been shown to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, but trans fats are often dubbed the worst fat for you because they increase the risk three times more than saturated fat.
4| Some good news
“Good” fats can also be divided into two types: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Find the former in nuts (including almonds, cashews, peanuts), peanut and almond butter, avocados, and olive, canola and peanut oils. For the latter, look to fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, herring), flaxseed, tofu, walnuts, roasted soybeans, some seeds (sesame, pumpkin and sunflower), and corn and sunflower oils. Research shows adding heart-healthy fats to your diet can improve your cholesterol level and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
5| The big O
For pregnant women, polyunsaturated fats are especially important as they contain a certain type of fat called omega-3 fatty acids, which plays a vital role in baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development, in addition to promoting a healthy immune system and inflammatory response. Furthermore, omega-3s are used postpartum in the making of breast milk. Unfortunately the average American diet is sorely lacking when it comes to this powerhouse fatty acid, but you can boost your stores by indulging in two or three servings of fatty fish per week. Just be sure to opt for low-mercury varieties, which means no swordfish, mackerel or tilefish.
Tip: Before you reach for foods touting “zero grams of trans fats” or “no trans fats” packaging, check the ingredient list. Labeling guidelines allow companies to round down, so it’s best to see for yourself and select non-hydrogenated options.
Building blocks The first step to being mindful about your iron count is understanding its role in the human body while expecting (especially late in pregnancy). Iron is a mineral that is an essential component of blood and muscle required for the transport of oxygen. Iron-rich blood can carry more oxygen to the organs and tissues, creating a healthy home for your budding baby. Your wee one also depends on you to supply enough iron before her birth day; she will enter the world with a special reserve used to help with brain growth and development.
Babies born with an iron deficiency (also referred to as iron deficiency anemia), may experience long-term neurodevelopmental and behavioral issues, some of which may be irreversible. Studies have also shown that anemia increases lead absorption, and the prevention of iron deficiency might also serve to reduce the likelihood of lead poisoning in children.
Pump some iron While the benefits of adequate iron are clear, it’s still a delicate balance of how much is needed and how to best obtain it. Pregnant women need at least 27 milligrams of iron every day. If planning to breastfeed, an additional 9 milligrams should be added to your diet to maintain a healthy level. Preterm and breastfed newbies may need additional iron (it’s best the check with your pediatrician), while most bottle-fed babes usually get enough iron from formula.
If the numbers have your head spinning (or you’re lost on how to make sure everyone gets what they need) consider using an iron supplement. Pharmics offers a variety of gentle, easily absorbed iron supplements in an oral tablet, chewable tablet and liquid. Unlike other brands, their products do not cause constipation while still containing a high mineral potency. It’s a safe, effective and simple way to restore balance, feel your best while pregnant and help your growing tot continue to thrive.
If you’re concerned you or your baby may be suffering from iron deficiency, talk with your health care provider before starting treatment.
You may be well versed in prenatal vitamins, the best sleep positions for your bump and staying hydrated during the nine-month stretch, but knowing what’s normal for your nether regions during pregnancy is equally important. Your personal pH tells a lot about your vaginal health and can fluctuate while you’re expecting, signaling an imbalance. Here’s what you need to know while looking out down below.
What is feminine pH? pH measures the acidity of a solution. Your body has many different pH levels that range in acidity (i.e. gastric acid in the stomach has a low pH vs. blood equalling a more moderate pH). A healthy vaginal pH is acidic and ranges from 3.5 to 4.5; this means there is a balance of good and bad bacteria.
How does it become “imbalanced”? Thanks to your changing hormones, your pH level can shift, losing equilibrium and causing an imbalance. This allows bad bacterial to grow and may produce irritation, infections such as bacterial vaginosis, as well as subtle changes in vaginal odor—which many women can be sensitive to while pregnant.
Are there pregnancy-safe treatments? Yes! Lifestyle choices such as reducing your sugar intake, eating yogurt, staying hydrated and avoiding perfumed hygiene sprays and sanitary products will help keep your vagina healthy. In addition, we recommend using The Honey Pot Co. mommy-to-be line of feminine wash, wipes and herbal pads. They work to balance your pH, banish bacteria and calm discomfort—all without the worry of chemicals, toxins or artificial fragrance. They’re safe for mom and her growing babe. (P.S. You can also use these products postpartum while your body recalibrates. Each one is great for whenever wild hormones are at play!)
When should I see a doctor? You’ll want to consult your doctor if you notice abnormal discharge (such as changes in consistency or gray, yellow or green in color), itchiness, burning while urinating or a fishy smelling odor. These can be signs of a more serious condition that requires a diagnosis and medical treatment.
This post was made in partnership with The Honey Pot Co., a line of woman-owned feminine products to best care for your lady parts.
Now that you’re eating for two, every bite counts, but simply piling your plate with a few more fruits and veggies isn’t going to cut it. “Expectant moms need only an extra 300 calories per day to provide for a healthy pregnancy,” says Marissa Lippert, MS, RD, nutritionist and owner of Nourish Kitchen + Table in New York City. “That’s really only an extra added snack or two throughout the day.”
How can you make sure the bun in your oven gets all the nutrients he needs to grow with just a few extra snacks? The answer is simple: You can’t. Every mama-to-be needs a prenatal vitamin to fill in any nutritional gaps. But there are a lot of ingredients and options to consider—here’s what you need to know about finding the right one-a-day for you.
On the pill
Regardless of your eating habits and exercise routine, every pregnant mama needs the added dose of nutrients that a daily prenatal vitamin offers. “A healthy diet is always important,” says Lippert. “Prenatal vitamins are an added insurance policy and ensure that mom and baby are getting all the nutrients they both require for a healthy pregnancy.”
So even if you’re in the best shape of your life, you’ll still want to find a vitamin to make up for any deficiencies in your diet—because as Christopher E. Bassil, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN in Atlanta, points out, what constitutes a “healthy diet” can vary from person to person. Instead, Bassil says the food on your plate works together with your vitamin to give baby the healthiest possible start. “Prenatal vitamins are geared toward optimizing health and nutrients in the preconception and perinatal period,” he says. “The analogy I share with my patients is, ‘you can’t build a house without the bricks.’”
That also means that while your supplement friend packs a nutritional punch, you can’t indulge every potato chip and ice cream craving only to depend on a vitamin to meet your babe-to-be’s developmental needs. Maintaining a healthy diet will not only help your bambino grow, but it can also lessen the impact of pregnancy’s discomforts—nausea and lethargy included.
Although strolling down the fully stocked supplement aisle could easily send any mom-to-be’s brain into a tailspin—so many choices, ingredients you’ve never heard of (niacin, anyone?) and abbreviations you don’t understand—remember, options are a good thing.
“There is a large variety of prenatal vitamins available to the population; much like buying a car, you may need to test drive a few before you find your optimal match,” says Bassil.
With so many selections at your fingertips, from chewable gummies to sippable drinks, you’re bound to find a prenatal suited to your health and lifestyle. You’ll want to make sure your prenatal hits all the recommended daily values for folic acid, calcium, iron, copper, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin D.
Every ingredient on the lineup plays a key role in making sure your babe is as healthy as possible. Folic acid is crucial for DNA development during the first trimester and aids in preventing neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), while iron promotes good blood flow through the placenta. Calcium and vitamin D are particularly important during the third trimester, when your little one’s bones are growing at a rapid pace.
But more isn’t always better; even vitamins have their limits. “There are fat- soluble vitamins that in excess can actually be harmful to a developing fetus,” says Bassil. So don’t feel the need to double up if you miss a day—or if your lunch wasn’t as nutritious as it could have been.
Finding the right amount of vitamins and minerals for your body is a delicate process, one you should have your doctor weigh in on. For example, too little iron puts women at risk for going into preterm labor and delivering babies with low birth weights. But too much iron can lead to problems with constipation. Every mother and every pregnancy is unique, so talk to your health care provider about your specific needs.
1| Lamaze: One of the oldest and most commonly taught practices, this technique focuses on rhythmic breathing, different birthing positions and avoiding unnecessary medical interventions.
2| Alexander: Education is key for this tuned-in method that teaches posture and movement techniques for strengthening pelvic muscles and improving balance, coordination, back pain and breathing.
3| Bradley: This tactic encourages self-awareness and relaxation to help reduce anxiety and create a calm atmosphere during labor. Expectant mamas practice deep breathing, abdominal relaxation movements, good prenatal nutrition and regular exercise.
4| Hypnobirthing: Mind, body and spirit are at play to give expectant ladies a positive birth experience with the use of self-hypnosis, music, visualization and verbal encouragement to help control pain reactions.
5| Water birth: As its name suggests, the use of warm water promotes efficient uterine contractions, increased blood circulation and (fingers crossed) less pain during childbirth. It also gives newborns a gentle introduction to the world, eliminating the stress of exiting the birth canal and reducing complications from labor.
Let’s be honest: Being the pregnant lady at the dinner party is not a lot of fun. As everyone else digs into the cheese plate and downs libations, you are likely left searching for a glass of ginger ale and longing for dessert.
But worry not—just because you are expecting doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. With thirst-quenching mocktails, veggie sushi platters and sharp cheese to look forward to, your pregnancy diet is shaping up.
Do this, not that At your first prenatal appointment, your doctor probably gave you a list of foods and drinks to avoid for the safety of your growing babe. Although it might be tempting to sneak a forbidden item on occasion (especially over the holiday season when you’re surrounded by goodies!) it’s important to try to stay on track, says Carolyn O’Neil, RD.
“While eating a varied diet of healthy foods during pregnancy is vital for the health of your baby, it’s also super important to pay attention to foods you should avoid, as pregnant women are considered a high-risk group when it comes to food safety,” she notes. “Pregnancy affects the immune system, making you and your unborn baby more susceptible to food-borne illness.”
Although the harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens found in raw seafood, unpasteurized milk, undercooked eggs and meats can cause sickness in all people, they can be especially dangerous for expecting ladies. Be sure to carefully read labels and cook food thoroughly (invest in a food thermometer if necessary) to avoid consequences. When eating out or attending dinner at a friend’s house, try to plan ahead and memorize (or keep in your phone) a list of foods to steer clear of.
To avoid feeling deprived, be on the lookout for alternatives to your favorite foods. In the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you get started.
Shaken or stirred As grandma’s spiked eggnog gets passed around and friends open the “good bottle” of champagne, this time of year can understandably feel like a drag if you’re expecting, says Natalie Bovis, mixologist and author of Preggatinis, Mixology for the Mom-To-Be. But just because you aren’t drinking alcohol doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a round of toasts; a well-mixed mocktail is a great way to quench your thirst.
Instead of offering to bring a dish to share at your next get-together, Bovis says it’s a great idea to bring your own drink ingredients. “Bringing your own ‘mocktail mix’ makes you look like a rock star because people who aren’t into booze can have something delicious to sip. A tasty juice recipe is also a great base for those who want to shake it up with a little liquor,” she notes. Freshly squeezed juices (think watermelon or lemon) and market fresh ingredients, like the clove syrup used to make festive sangrias are key for creating the perfect concoction, she says.
Roll with the homies Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll want to eat plenty of fish and seafood for the omega-3s, which help with healthy brain development. In fact, the FDA now recommends that women consume at least 8 ounces of fish each week while expecting.
Unfortunately, most varieties of sushi are off-limits, as raw fish/seafood and mercury-filled options can be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid your favorite Japanese restaurant—just be careful when placing your order. “Yes, you can still go to a sushi place with friends while you’re pregnant, but choose the cooked seafood items, such as cooked shrimp or mock crab, instead of raw fish to avoid the risk of consuming parasites or bacteria,” recommends O’Neil.
Safe sushi choices might include heart-healthy avocado rolls, California rolls, or as an alternative, a well-done salmon served on top of rice to satisfy your craving.
Say, cheese When shopping the cheese aisle, you can still indulge, but remember to avoid fresh, soft varieties, advises Colleen Levine, mom of two and co-founder of the blog Cheese and Champagne.
“The rules may seem confusing, but there are many cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy,” she says. “While rare, listeria contamination is most often found in young cheeses, like feta or queso, but when it comes to hard, aged cheeses, they are aged well beyond the point where listeria bacteria can survive.”
Keep your eye out for varieties of cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan. “If you want to err on the side of caution and stick to pasteurized versions, they can be easily identified by checking the label or consulting a cheese monger,” notes Levine. Some of her favorite pregnancy-safe picks include Cypress Grove Creamery’s Humboldt Fog, a creamy goat milk cheese made from pasteurized milk, and Drunken Goat, a wine-washed aged cheese that she says lets you get “just a hint” of the wine you’re abstaining from. With options this delicious, you can stay on the party train and still play it safe—live it up, ladies!
Face wash: It may be tempting to see your mama-to-be glow and not want to rock the boat with a change to your facial regimen, but many cleansers designed to help with breakouts or dullness often contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, neither of which are considered safe during pregnancy. Instead, opt for a gentle wash rich in antioxidants that won’t irritate or dry out the skin.
Tip: If you suffer from acne and are afraid to go all-natural, you can still use a facial cleanser that contains no more than 2 percent salicylic acid. Make sure to verify the percentage on the label and run it by your doctor beforehand.
Deodorant: This is a big one, ladies. Many deodorants are packed with harmful toxins that have no business being applied to the skin daily. Elements like aluminum (most commonly found in antiperspirants), parabens, triclosan, artificial fragrances and more are lurking in each stick, so it’s imperative you kick yours to the curb if it’s not specially formulated with both mom and baby in mind.
The dermatologist tested deodorant by Earth Mama Organics is the perfect blend of clean, organic ingredients that actually work (we promise you won’t smell!) and yummy essential oils that give it the freshest scent with every use. We’ve tested it on our own all-day errands with our babies and can attest to its hardworking formula! What’s more, it’s also breastfeeding safe and gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Don’t waste any time on this, mamas—it’s that important!
Dry shampoo: If you don’t use it yet, you most likely will once baby arrives. Easy to use and fast-acting, dry shampoos are a go-to for busy moms who can’t grab a shower. Look for one in powder form versus an aerosol can (which is bad for you and the ozone layer). You can look for the USDA Organic symbol on the packaging if not sure which brand to pick, and when in doubt, you can always rely on a good ol’ fashioned scrub later on.
Utilize alone time During bumphood it’s natural to focus on preparing for your little one’s arrival, but don’t neglect your relationship during this special time. These are the last few months you will spend as just the two of you, so make a point to shower your partner with extra affection when the mood strikes and squeeze in as many extra date nights as the calendar allows. You won’t regret it.
Discuss expectations It’s no secret, you both have them (whether you know it or not), and after birth is not the best time to bring potentially sore subjects to the table. Talk about the hot topics such as the division of house- hold chores and who will do what. (While you both tackle the to-do list, make sure to thank each other every day!) Figure out how you will carve out time—specifically time out, together or completely alone—to pour into other things. It’s also a good idea to map out your foreseeable expenses now and earmark what you can for savings and unexpected costs. By planning ahead, you can jointly decide how to manage your finances and prepare for each purchase. Once the lines of communication are wide open, don’t be afraid to introduce topics like sex, parenting styles and grandparents. The more you talk now, the better.
Practice positivity As difficult as it may be in the moment, adopting an optimistic outlook on things can really help smooth over bumps in the road. When you’re sleep deprived and surrounded by clutter and piles of dirty clothes, try focusing on something positive (such as a clean and fed baby) versus the things that weigh you down physically and emotionally. And if you find yourself in the middle of a spat (it happens!), remember you are not alone, and strain on new-parent relationships is totally normal. Give each other the benefit of the doubt, and do your best to just enjoy every minute with your new crew.
Early on in my pregnancy, my thoughts about birth were strictly limited to the physicality of how to get a baby out of my body. I watched videos on proper pushing technique and read up on mom-approved pain management methods. I was focused on my body and my baby. Back then if you’d asked me what kind of ambiance or mood I had envisioned for the delivery room, I might have laughed. I had more important things to worry about, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in my birthing class that I realized the environment in which you labor can play a vital role in how you bring your child into the world. I vividly remember my instructor suddenly stopping mid-sentence to ask the four sets of parents-to-be in the room if we’d heard something. She went on to describe in great detail (we’re talking full-on sound effects and everything) an imaginary cat in labor right at our feet. Thankfully, that invisible cat didn’t stick around long because I was struggling to not crack a smile; according to our teacher, the cat retreated from the roomful of strangers to birth her litter in a dark, cozy closet under the stairs. My husband and I left the class joking about our new feline friend, but my instructor’s quirky approach hit home a key lesson that stuck with me: Other mammals instinctively know what they need to deliver their babies. They look for a place that is safe, private, warm, quiet and dark.
By incorporating these same elements into your own labor and delivery environment, you can set a calm and confident tone for your baby’s birth, whether it takes place in your home, at a birth center or in a hospital. Here’s how …
1| Bring people you trust
The best way to ensure you feel continuously supported during labor is by having a birthing team that you can depend on. Beyond your doctor or midwife, this could include your partner, mother, sister, friend or doula. You may even choose to have more than one person by your side. Having a doula meant my husband could step out and grab lunch or just take a breather when he needed it. (No offense to him, but she also gave way better hip squeezes because she’d done them countless times before.) These are the people you know you can count on to speak up for you and your baby.
2| Dim the lights
Bright lights aren’t naturally conducive to creating a serene setting, so turn them down or off altogether. Pull the curtains closed. Reach for lamps instead of harsh overhead bulbs. If you’re at home, you can light a few candles or plug in a string of fairy lights. If you’re at a birth center or hospital, flames are out, but you can bring battery-operated alternatives that offer a soft glow.
3| Get cozy
Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable, do it. Move around the room. Find a position that provides some relief or helps you work through contractions (squatting, leaning on the kitchen island, draped over the end of the bed, etc.). Run a warm shower. Rock on a birthing ball. Strip down to your skivvies or nothing at all. Surround yourself with ample cushions and pillows—for coziness and literal support.
4| Warm things up
This doesn’t mean the thermostat must be set to a balmy 85 degrees, but you don’t want to be too hot or too cold. (Full disclosure: I was sweating so much during labor that I only had my hospital gown on around my waist, and my doula was keeping a steady stream of cold washcloths on my back.) The good news is many rooms have individual units, so you can control the temperature to suit your preference. Hot and cool compresses also work wonders.
5| Adjust the volume
Plan ahead and put together a playlist of mood music for the occasion. Some mamas want peaceful melodies; others would rather hear more upbeat tunes to keep their energy levels high. I had two playlists because I didn’t know which might sound appealing in the moment or if the mood would shift as labor progressed. (Tip: It’s helpful having some background noise as many women find vocalizations, think moaning and groaning, helpful when coping with contractions. You’ll be less worried about who can hear you if there are other sounds present.)
6| Block any distractions
Diversions at certain times can be beneficial. My doula had a wonderful sense of humor, and that was one of the main reasons I hired her. Her jokes kept my mind from worrying too much. But as contractions intensify, they’re going to require a great deal of focus. Privacy doesn’t just mean limiting the number of people in your room; it also means you can work through labor undisturbed. So, shut the door. Ask people to quiet their chitchat or silence their cell phones. And, if it helps, cover up that ticking clock.
7| Opt for soothing scents
Let’s not forget about the sense of smell. Studies have also shown that aromatherapy is effective in minimizing labor fear, anxiety and even pain, so you might want to consider adding a few essential oils to your hospital bag. Frankincense and lavender can calm nerves, while peppermint oil can aid in alleviating exhaustion and nausea. (Tip: Instead of using a diffuser, try putting a drop or two on a tissue and keeping it nearby. This way, if you suddenly find floral scents stomach-churning, you can dispose of it and clear the air quickly.)
8| Recreate the magic
If all else fails and you can’t recall the necessary elements of a tranquil birth environment or you accidentally forget the flameless candles, simply remember this: Set the mood for meeting baby the same way you would for making a baby. You’d probably appreciate some ambient lighting and music, and—most importantly—in both situations you want to feel safe and supported. After all, oxytocin, the same hormone that’s released when falling in love, is what triggers the uterine contractions that bring you closer to meeting your babe … and falling in love all over again.