These Healthy Choices During Pregnancy Help Both Mom and Baby

Pregnant woman walking for exercise
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Every healthy decision a pregnant mother makes — from staying active to eating right — strengthens her body, mind and spirit. Because her baby is sharing her body for nine months, each of these decisions helps him or her, too.

Kathleen Chastain, an OB educator at AdventHealth Waterman, believes educating and supporting moms-to-be empowers them to make these healthy choices.

The hospital will soon celebrate the opening of a four-story patient tower, the second floor of which will be a state-of-the-art women’s and children’s center.The tower, which opens May 3, offers a welcoming and healing environment to moms in the Lake County area.

Meanwhile, this support extends beyond the hospital’s walls as Chastain and others help pregnant women do all they can to ensure a healthy birth. Getting in the habit of being active can help strengthen a mom’s body and nurture her spirit.

How to Get Active

The benefits of an active lifestyle to a pregnant mom’s heart and lungs extends to the baby as well, Chastain explains. Better circulation and cardiovascular health can reduce a mom’s risk of the following conditions:

Pre-eclampsia: A common complication of pregnancy, pre-eclampsia involves high blood pressure and can lead to damage of the mother’s other organs. It can also cause premature birth.

Gestational Diabetes: When women develop high blood sugar during pregnancy, they are said to have gestational diabetes. This can lead to large babies and puts those babies at risk for having blood sugar issues following birth. These babies are also at increased risk for childhood obesity and the moms are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Staying active isn’t just about avoiding problems. It can also brighten our days and give us the following benefits:

  • Improved energy level
  • Improved endurance (to better cope with birth)
  • Easier recovery after birth and return to pre-pregnancy fitness
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved sleep
  • Better digestion with less constipation
  • Reduced backache and muscle/joint soreness
  • Fewer emotional ups and downs

Activity doesn’t just mean heading to the gym every day.

“It’s a great start to just walk 20 to 30 minutes a day,” Chastain says. “Make sure with the Florida heat, you’re well hydrated.”

She recommends that pregnant women talk with their doctor before starting a new exercise routine, walking included.

Chastain will soon begin teaching a new holistic fitness class for pregnant moms called Dancing for BirthTM. It’s filled with great stretching and low-impact dance moves that anyone can do, even someone who’s never danced before.

The class, which continues after birth to help moms return to a healthy weight, also offers women a way to connect with others on the same journey. Discussions about healthy lifestyle choices are also mixed into the class.

Eating right is a big part of these discussions.

Not ‘Eating for Two’

It’s a common myth, Chastain explains, that because pregnant moms are “eating for two” that they can eat whatever they wish without consequences. Overeating can raise a mom’s risk for gestational diabetes and obesity, making it harder for her to lose weight after birth.

Of course, some weight gain is normal in pregnancy, but how much is healthy depends on the mother’s weight before pregnancy. A woman who begins her pregnancy overweight then starts to eat healthy and exercise may not gain any weight.

Here are some foods pregnant moms should seek out:

  • Whole grains
  • Skim or low-fat milk
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Lean meats
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

Chastain also recommends pregnant moms avoid foods that pose a risk of infection with listeria or other bacteria, including:

  • Raw fish and sushi
  • Undercooked meats and eggs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unpasteurized products
  • Fish with a high mercury content

Some food we normally eat without a second thought, like deli meat, should be cooked for pregnant women, Chastain says.

Moms who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are counseled to make major changes to what they eat and limit the amount of carbs in their diet.

A woman’s doctor will typically prescribe a prenatal vitamin that gives them the vitamins and minerals their growing baby needs. Some women complain that they have trouble swallowing these pills or that they cause nausea. Chastain recommends these women talk to their physicians and try different vitamins until they find one that works for them.

Finding Support

Being healthy in body, mind and spirit is important during pregnancy.Surround yourself with a good support system that you can lean on for strength and inspiration.

“I recommend pregnant moms get a great support system and surround themselves with people who are experiencing the same things they are,” Chastain says. “This provides an opportunity for moms to have others to talk to about problems they may encounter in an addition to being able to celebrate each other’s successes.”

Dancing for Birth will soon be one great option for Lake County moms to meet and socialize with other moms. Other options include prenatal classes, moms’ groups, and church groups.

AdventHealth Waterman’s new women’s and children’s center symbolizes its commitment to providing the most advanced and specialized care that’s close to home. That dedication also extends beyond our walls, as educators like Chastain help pregnant moms feel whole.

To request an appointment at AdventHealth Waterman, visit our website or call Call352-253-3367.

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