Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Once considered off-limits during pregnancy, exercise is now considered a must for expectant women, thanks in part to Raul Artal, M.D., professor and chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. His work, along with that of James F. Clapp III, M.D., and Michelle Mottola, Ph.D., has shown both the benefits and the safety of prenatal exercise.
Starting in the early 1970s, Ina May Gaskin inspired the revival of midwifery as well as the modern home-birth movement in this country, thanks in part to the popularity of her book, Spiritual Midwifery (Book Publishing Company). As the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tenn., she has attended more than 1,200 births, with remarkably good outcomes: A 1992 study in the Journal of the American Public Health Association showed that only 2 percent of women who gave birth with the help of Farm midwives required interventions such as forceps, vacuum extractors or C-sections, compared with 26 percent of those who gave birth in a hospital.
In November 2006, Emily Gillette was kicked off a Delta Airlines flight for breastfeeding her 22-month-old daughter, River, despite doing so discreetly next to the window in the second-to-last row. The flight attendant asked Gillette to cover up, telling her she was being offensive. When Gillette refused, citing her legal right to breastfeed in public, she was removed from the plane. The incident sparked outrage from breastfeeding activists, aka lactivists, and before long, women were staging "nurse-ins" at airports across the country. Gillette's case is still pending.
James McKenna, Ph.D., director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., is a pioneer in sleep research and a leading proponent of co-sleeping, or having babies sleep close to their parents. His research has shown that the incidence of SIDS is lowest in cultures that follow the practice. Bucking recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, McKenna believes the safest and most nurturing arrangement is to sleep next to your child (observing precautions such as avoiding soft mattresses, loose bedding and gaps between the bed and wall) and to breastfeed instead of offering a pacifier.
Folic acid is the Big Daddy of all pregnancy nutrients. Getting at least 400 micrograms daily of the B vitamin folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of serious neural-tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly by 70 percent. The link was established in 1991 by Nicholas Wald, F.R.C.P., a professor at the Medical College of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. Thanks to his groundbreaking research, pregnant women—and those planning on having children someday—have a safe, inexpensive way to increase their odds of delivering a healthy baby.
Celebrity moms with a mission Cheers to Demi Moore for posing nude while seven months pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, to Brooke Shields for publicly sharing her battle with postpartum depression, and to actress Keely Shaye Smith for nursing her and husband Pierce Brosnan's baby on the cover of Redbook in 1997.
Jill Youse When Jill Youse of Rochester, Minn., said she was producing enough milk to feed babies in Africa, she wasn't kidding. Realizing that many other moms probably had milk to spare, Youse created the International Breast Milk Project to help mothers donate their breast milk to African children orphaned by HIV. breastmilkproject.org.