The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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There’s never been a better time to have a baby. The vast majority of infants in the United States are born healthy, most mothers experience no serious problems during pregnancy, and many, if not most, deliveries are medically uneventful. Folic acid has been proven to help prevent several serious birth defects, and doctors have even learned to successfully treat certain disorders in babies while they’re still in the womb. Unfortunately, not all the news is so good. For example, the percentage of babies born prematurely—at less than 37 weeks gestation—rose to 12 percent in 2002, the highest level in two decades and a 27 percent increase since 1982. Gestational diabetes is skyrocketing: In the past 10 years, this pregnancy complication has increased 35 percent. The news on Cesarean sections isn’t great, either—26 percent of babies are delivered by C-section now, compared with only 5.5 percent in 1970. While a growing number of those procedures are elective, many are unscheduled, unplanned and unwanted. Overall, however, we know more than ever about how to have healthy babies, happy pregnancies and (relatively) easy deliveries. Following is a wrap-up of the latest news and advice on how to make this happen to you.
The Perfect Exercise
If you’re looking for a workout to soothe your pregnant body and mind, try tai chi. A slow, graceful activity with a low risk of injury, tai chi reduces stress, sharpens coordination, builds leg strength and helps prevent back pain. It also creates a strong connection to your baby. This “taste of tai chi” was designed by Fit Pregnancy fitness editor Teri Hanson.
to start: Begin each move in Wu Chi Stance: With feet placed wider than hips, knees bent, arms resting at your sides, “sink” your weight into your legs. Then do each move slowly for 1 minute, rest for 30 seconds in Wu Chi, and go into the next move. As you progress, move in a “flow” sequence without resting. Finish with a final Dan Tien Connection.
Good news: Research is indicating that simple lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet can help prevent three growing pregnancy complications. The following are the best ways to do this, according to Siobhan Dolan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant medical director of the March of Dimes (MOD):
1) PREMATURE BIRTH Prematurity is the top cause of newborn death, and you can reduce your risk of early delivery by being in good health before you conceive. Have infections (including gum disease and sexually transmitted diseases) treated; get chronic health problems such as hypertension or diabetes under control; tell your doctor what medications you take; be in the best physical shape possible; try to achieve your ideal weight; stop smoking, drinking alcohol and/or using recreational drugs; and start taking folic acid supplements (400 micrograms daily). Uterine infections are commonly associated with preterm birth, and new research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association has identified proteins in a pregnant woman’s blood that can indicate the presence of such an infection and allow for early treatment with antibiotics. Some herbal remedies traditionally considered a natural way to relieve pregnancy discomforts are now under suspicion and should not be used without your obstetrician’s approval. For example, large amounts of some herbal teas, including peppermint and red raspberry leaf, may cause uterine contractions, increasing the risk of miscarriage or preterm labor, according to the MOD, which also warns against using herbal tablets, capsules and extract.