The holidays are fast approaching and I for one am going to try to monitor my eating this year. With all of the holiday parties, candies, sweets and good cheer, it’s not hard to wake up in the new year with more than a little “new you”. So I am upping my exercise and doing my best to monitor my caloric intake.
Now from your vantage point of bed rest, you may be saying, “That’s easy for you to do/say. You can actually exercise and move around. I’m stuck in this bed! I deserve these (cookies, candies, etc…)! But the reality is that it is very important for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest, just as it is for all other pregnant women, to make wise food choices.
Since I am no nutrition expert, I have asked Kathryn Flynn to “weigh in” on the best ways for mamas on bed rest to manage their weight-especially during the holiday season.
Kathryn Flynn, BEd. is the founder of FertileFoods.com a website intended to educate men and women about food and lifestyle habits to support a healthy pregnancy. She studied with PaulPitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods and has worked extensively with Dr. Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure and The Way of the Fertile Soul, to develop the Fertile Soul’s integrative nutrition program for reproductive health. For the past four years, she has led group lectures in nutrition education, five-element phase diagnosis, self-treatment through acupressure and fertility yoga. She provides individual nutritional counseling to men and women worldwide, with the intention of enhancing reproductive capacity naturally through a holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, exercise and healing foods. Kathryn is the author of Cooking for Fertility: Foods to Nourish Your Fertile Soul and is currently developing a line of Moontime Tea’s to help women balance their menstrual cycles.
DTL: Karen, We hear so much about “acceptable” weight gain during pregnancy; 25-35 lbs for normal weight women, up to 45lbs for underweight women and just 15-25 lbs for overweight women. How can a woman on prescribed bed rest manage her weight?
KF: Managing your weight on bed rest is a three fold process that involves a close look at your relaxation habits, physical activity and what you are eating.
1. Though it may seem like bed rest would imply restfulness and relaxation, the true experience can be anything but stress relieving. Many women feel contained, restless and impatient when they are unable to go about their daily activities. Training oneself to consciously relax involves introducing activities that truly bring you a sense of peace and calm such as meditation, deep belly breathing, uplifting reading and getting adequate rest. When the nervous system is able to relax, we can manage our weight with greater ease by becoming more mindful of our cravings. Emotions play a big role in directing what we put in our mouths, so relaxation is a great place to start to set the stage for moderating weight gain.
2. Physical activity may also seem contradictory when one talks about bed rest, but there are in fact many stretches and gentle movements that can be incorporated. Changing your concept of exercise is important and you may consider trying different yoga, tai chi and qi gong videos and zoning in on the floor postures. Of course videos that specialize in bed rest like The Bedrest Fitness DVD* are ideal because all of the exercises are streamlined so you won’t have to improvise. The key here is to get fresh blood flow and oxygen through all the organs which is essential for preventing blood clots, maintaining weight and managing your mood. The feel good endorphins are essential for every aspect of our well being and especially keeping your spirits up.
3. Finally, it is important to eat a colorful nutrient rich diet. So often, I talk to women who are feeling a little down about being on bed rest and the first thing they reach for are “treats” usually in the form of simple carbohydrates and sugary sweets. While this may solve the blues temporarily, it creates a vicious cycle where you need more and more “treats” to boost your serotonin. They key here is to eat small and frequent protein, carbohydrate balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to moderate your blood sugar levels, keeping your insulin levels, mood and weight gain stable. By choosing colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and organic protein sources you are giving your body the nutrients it needs. It’s also important to treat yourself from time to time to avoid the feeling of restriction and the potential of bingeing. I would recommend stocking your fridge full of healthy foods to avoid too much temptation and focusing on the delicious healthful alternatives.
DTL: What dietary tips would you recommend for women on prescribed bed rest?
1. Eat small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day to stabilize energy levels
2. Combine a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat at every meal and snack for blood sugar balance
3. Eat a colorful organic diet of predominantly of fruits and vegetables with some grains and hormone free proteins
4. Avoid simple white carbohydrates and sugars that have little nutritional value
5. Practice mindful eating: turn the tv off while you eat, chewing slowly to taste each bite
6. Continue to take a quality prenatal and add fish oil if you haven’t already to support the neural development of your baby and your mood
7. Stock your fridge with delicious healthy foods and get rid of any “junk food”
8. Indulge in decadent healthful treats from time to time to avoid feeling restricted, but don’t make them a staple
I’d like to thank Kathryn for her insight into healthy eating and nutrition. Talk to your doctor or midwife about incorporating Kathryn’s expert nutrition tips into your own diet.
*Order your copy of The Bedrest Fitness DVD here
The United States has some of the highest rates of preterm labor, prematurity and infant mortality of any industrialized nation and poor rates than many “less prosperous” nations in the world. Yet, when many American parents experience preterm labor and have a premature infant, they are completely blindsided by the events and overwhelmed by the intensive care needed for their child. This discussion focuses on what US clinicians can do help parents prepare for the unmentionable and how moms themselves may be able to help lower their risk for going into preterm labor and delivering a premature infant.
According the the March of Dimes, in the United States today more than 1,400 babies in the U.S. (one out of every eight) will be born prematurely. Considering that this is one of the richest nations in the world touting an exceptional health care system, this is unacceptable. How can we be losing so many babies? Why is this happening?
There are a myriad of reasons that preterm labor (labor that begins before 37 weeks gestation) occurs and we have discussed many of them already because they are the reasons that many women end up on prescribed bed rest. Just to review:
- uterine and cervical abnormalities
- High blood pressure or pre-eclampsioa
- placental issues
- multiple gestation
- older mom
- fertility issues
Unfortunately, these problems represent only part of the picture. Several social and cultural factors also increase the risk of babies being born prematurely.
My daughter was born at 36 weeks and 6 days and weighed only 5 lbs 3 oz. By clinical definition she was premature (born before 37 weeks gestation-even if it was only by 4 hours!) and low birth weight (she weighed less than 5 lbs 5 oz). One would think this strange given that I had excellent prenatal care, was very healthy before I had her (although I had had fibroids removed just before I conceived her), was well nourished, in a stable relationship and an in a middle to upper middle class socioeconomic bracket. By all accounts, I should have had a healthy full term baby. Yet, like so many other African American and Afro-Caribbean women in the United States and Great Britain, I had a preemie.
African American and Afro- Caribbean women have a 15 to 18% increased risk of having a premature baby as compared to Caucasian, Asian or Latina women. Infant mortality amongst African American Women and Afro-Caribbean women in the United States and Great Britain is nearly double that of white babies and the disparity cuts across all socioeconomic levels. As an African American woman, this is alarming news to me. Equally alarming is the fact that immigrant African and Caribbean women who come to this country have healthy babies while their daughters, born and raised here, are more likely to have infants that are premature, low birth rate, and have other medical issues.
There is little to no explanation given for this discrepancy. One may want to cite the fact that black women have higher rates of obesity than women of other races and obesity increases the risk of preterm labor. Obesity also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes, also risk factors for preterm labor and premature birth. African American women and Afro-Caribbean women in the United States and Great Britain have higher rates of poverty, higher rates of teen pregnancy, poorer access to health care, poorer nutrition and more problems with drugs, alcohol and violent crime than women of other races. As a result, their infants have poorer outcomes. But even the most educated and well to do black women are still having premature and low birth weight babies so social standing alone cannot account for these disparities.
With prompting from the World Health Organization, researchers internationally are finally starting to examine why the disparities between black women and women of other races exist in the US and the UK. Why don’t black women in other nations have high rates of preterm labor and prematurity? What is so different for black women in the US and UK that when they have children their children are at risk of being born too soon, born too little and dying too soon. (Oh yeah, did I mention that black women in the US and UK also have the highest rates of infant mortality, nearly double that of women of other races?? Yes, even now in the 21st century!) Until now such analysis has been taboo; no one really wanted to tackle the issue because it promises to have some controversial roots. But I believe it’s time that we really look at the disparities and at any latent messages, actions or discrimination that may be taking place.
As a black woman who had a preemie (and a healthy term baby as well!) I really want to know what is causing black women to deliver early and to have small babies at greater risk for death. What is it about our western society that appears lethal to us? I want to unearth the cause, expose it and then get rid of it because that same influence may some day cause my daughter, my preemie, to give birth to a preemie. It’s time to break this cycle of prematurity.