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Women's Health

Taking Care of You Before and After Baby

Improving Health Important for Baby and Mother

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When a woman becomes pregnant, her maternal instinct kicks in and she's focused on what's best for the Health of the young life growing inside her. Yet, with so much information and advice out there today, it's easy to become overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.

Although advice may vary depending on a woman's age and personal health, Adrienne D'Angelo, a health and fitness specialist with the St.Vincent Center for Women's Health, says there are things women of all ages can do to improve their health, both before and after pregnancy.

Eating for two

For a long time, there's been a perception that a pregnant woman can eat whatever she wants because she's eating for two. While you need to make sure you eat enough for both of you, assuming you have a license to eat whatever you want could cause havoc as you try to lose "baby weight" after delivery—not to mention shortchange your baby of a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients during the early stages of development.

D'Angelo says there are definite dos and don'ts:

• Do drink water—and lots of it, particularly if you're breastfeeding. Experts recommend 8-10 glasses of water daily.

• Do eat high fiber foods: fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods

• Do eat healthy sources of fat like olive oil, almonds, walnuts or avocado.

• Do have 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy items daily.

• Don't take in too much food with saturated fats—the more saturated fats, the higher your likelihood for morning sickness.

• Don't eat foods high in sodium—it contributes to constipation.

• Don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. (The FDA advises eating less than 12oz per week of cooked fish. You should also avoid undercooked chicken or beef, soft cheeses [risk of listeria], and undercooked eggs.)

• Don't drink alcohol during pregnancy or if you're breastfeeding.

Physical and mental benefits of exercising

While many women think about exercising for the sole purpose of losing their "baby fat," exercising provides benefits that help you improve your health—both physically, as well as mentally and emotionally.

Easier delivery and recovery: Weight-bearing exercise (walking, resistance weight training and water-aerobics, etc.) provides many benefits for expectant moms. "Weight bearing exercise prevents the deposit of extra body fat, aids in positive body image and helps labor and delivery to be less complicated," explains D'Angelo. "It also helps women recover more rapidly, particularly compared to those who stopped exercising or did not exercise at all."

Regularity: Exercise also assists in stimulating bowel movement—and reducing constipation, a common side effect of being pregnant.

Long-term control: It's not a secret that vaginal delivery stretches the pelvic muscles. Before, during and after pregnancy, women should practice their "kegels" 20 times twice a day to prevent urine linkage and help restore muscle tone.

D'Angelo encourages moms of all ages to exercise for many other reasons. It:

• Helps maintain emotional stability

• Reduces hot flashes

• Restores normal ovarian function

• Provides personal time and restores a positive attitude

• Improves self body image


How do I get started?

If you don't exercise regularly or routinely watch what you eat, the thought of starting to do that may be overwhelming. Adrienne D'Angelo with the St.Vincent Center for Women's Health is offering free 30-minute consultations to both expectant and new moms to help get started with a nutrition and exercise plan. The 30-minute consultation allows women to ask direct questions and share about their specific situation. To schedule a free consultation, call 338-4HER.

Tags: Health, Infant & Baby, Maternity, Parenting

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