Pregnancy, Maternity and Health Tips for Expecting Parents

Love Sleep Play delivers content and articles about pregnancy, maternity, and the post natal care for your new baby

Pregnancy Tips for Easing Backaches

Back pain, alas, is one of the most common complaints of expectant new moms. So what’s going on to cause the aches? First, your center of gravity changes as your uterus expands with your new baby, which can affect posture and wreak havoc on your back. A burgeoning belly causes similar problems, stretching out the ab muscles that normally help support your spine. On top of this, a new mom’s body releases hormones to relax the ligaments in the pelvic joints, making them more flexible for labor but causing back pain if these joints get too supple. Luckily, in addition to ice and heating pads, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent or lessen the backaches of having a baby. 

Back relief pregnancy tip #1: Mind your posture. If you're an expectant mom, standing up straight isn’t just good manners: It also protects your back muscles. You may be tempted to slouch or lean back to compensate for the weight of your growing bump, but doing so may strain your lower back muscles. Instead, adhere to the principles of good posture and stand up straight with shoulders relaxed, holding your chest high. To help support the new baby in your belly, keep your feet wide apart and avoid standing upright for too long.

Back relief pregnancy tip #2: Sleep smart. While it’s important for expectant moms to get plenty of rest, it’s equally important to protect the back during sleep. Especially in the later months, avoid sleeping on your back -- those muscles need their rest, too! Instead, snooze on your side, bending one or both knees. For extra comfort, place a pillow or two between your legs for support.

A firm mattress may also help you avoid sore backs. But you don’t have to replace the bedroom set just because you’re having a baby: To add support to a softer bed, simply place a strong wood plank between your box spring and mattress.

Back relief pregnancy tip #3: Get active. Back-friendly exercises like swimming and walking provide a bevy of benefits for expectant moms. Strengthening and stretching both the back muscles and back-supporting muscles (such as your hips, abs, and legs) eases back pain and helps prepare you for labor. Simple stretches can also help release back tension, so consider signing up for a yoga class for feel-good back benefits. Be sure to check with your doctor before deciding which exercise regimen will work best for you.

If you back is causing you a considerable amount of pain or preventing you from going about your daily activities, talk to your doctor. Pregnancy may not always comfortable, but remember that you won’t be carrying the extra weight for much longer.

Four Off-Limit Foods for New Moms-to-Be

Meals should be a pleasure during pregnancy, not a problem. But certain foods can be risky when you’re eating for two. For your baby’s safety, steer clear of the following foods when expecting, and always ask your doctor if you have any questions on what you should -- and shouldn’t -- eat .

Fish high in mercury. Eating fish is an important part of your pregnancy diet because much of it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are super nutrients for your new baby’s brain development. But not every kind of fish is recommended. Some larger ones contain too much mercury, which can affect your baby’s nervous system. Steer clear of shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. And limit safer varieties of fish to 12 ounces a week.

Some raw and undercooked foods. The risk with anything raw is that you may contract a case of food poisoning. While it’s rare for this illness to affect your new baby, it’s not pleasant to deal with, whether you’re pregnant or not. To be on the safe side, cook eggs, seafood, shellfish, meat, and chicken fully. Skip raw fish and shellfish, smoked fish, refrigerated pate, and raw sprouts like radish, mung bean, and alfalfa.

Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juice. Unpasteurized products are off the menu when you’re expecting. Read labels carefully to be sure all milk and juice you drink has been pasteurized and the cheese you consume (especially soft varieties like Brie,  Camembert, and goat cheese,) is made with pasteurized, not raw, milk.

Deli meats. Listeriosis, a rather serious foodborne illness, is the concern for this category. It’s a good idea to avoid deli meats and hot dogs anyway as they aren’t a healthy choice (many are high in sodium). If you do indulge in deli items during pregnancy, be sure to heat all meats and franks until they are steaming.

Remember to practice good hygiene in the kitchen -- it’s smart whether you’re having a baby or not. Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating a meal, and wash produce well under running water, using a brush to scrub the outer layer of tough-skinned fruits and veggies. Knowing your diet is safe for your new baby will put any expectant mom at ease. Happy eating!

Photo by Michael Wave on Unsplash

Kegel Lessons for Expectant Moms

As a soon-to-be new mom, you know there are many beautiful parts of pregnancy -- and others that you could probably live without. High on that unwanted list is often urinary incontinence, or pelvic floor problems.

Urinary incontinence occurs when a person is no longer able to hold urine in the urethra, causing leaks from time to time. This problem is common among pregnant women and new moms, since unborn babies push down on the bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor muscles, weakening support and causing leaks. Labor then further complicates the issue by additionally weakening pelvic floor support, and potentially even damaging the nerves that control the bladder.

Luckily, Kegel exercises have been proven to help strengthen pelvic floor muscles. (Keep in mind that most bladder or urinary tract issues caused by pregnancy and delivery go away within six months of giving birth. If yours don’t, see your doctor for additional treatment or help.) If you’re ready to start strengthening, follow these tips:

1.    Identify your pelvic muscles. In order to get the most out of the exercises, begin by identifying the correct muscles. To do this, try stopping your urination midstream. The muscles that you use to stop the flow are the same ones you’ll want to work in your Kegel exercises.

2.    Get comfortable. Before starting the exercise, be sure your bladder is empty, and find a comfortable place where you can lie on your back. Then, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, holding the contraction for five seconds. Repeat this tightening and releasing in five-second increments four or five times in a row. For best results, try working up to exercises where you are able to hold the muscles for 10 seconds at a time, and then relax for 10 seconds at a time.

3.    Practice makes perfect. One Kegel exercise session won’t be enough to help. For optimal results, try to perform 10 repetitions at least three times a day.

Don’t worry if it takes a while to get used to the exercises -- that’s perfectly normal. Just don’t give up. If you continue with the exercises on a routine basis, you may see results within just a few months of starting. And one less thing to worry about as a new mom is always welcome when you have a newborn!

The Reality of Being a New Dad

To say I was excited when my wife was pregnant with our first child, Morgan, would be a gross understatement. While this overwhelming sense of joy continued to grow along with her belly, I could never have prepared myself for the days and months ahead as a new dad. I imagined fatherhood as one thing, and turns out, my thoughts and emotions were pretty spot on -- times 100.

Expectations: What I Thought I Felt

During my wife’s pregnancy, I wasn’t nervous; just extremely excited. I looked forward to knowing there was someone who would come to understand they could turn to me for anything in life. The only nerves I had as a dad-to-be, were tied to ensuring my baby was a healthy one, and knowing how to respond in different situations. Now I like to think of myself as a smart guy and efficient problem solver, making unplanned decisions every minute of my workday. I constantly get thrown curveballs, and am able to use knowledge and reasoning to figure out the best solution. Why should a baby be much different?

I felt like I did everything new dads are told to do to prepare: read The Expectant Father, talked to other parents. They helped me understand my wife’s experience, -- physically and emotionally -- my own experience, and what was in store once the baby made her first appearance. I looked forward to all the firsts, and to share my favorite things with our child.

What didn’t make me jump for joy was the actual birth part, as I knew I had to be strong for my wife, but having a sensitive stomach, I felt queasy at the thought of watching this oozy miracle happen before my eyes.

 

Reality: What I Feel Now

When my wife was pushing out our child, all queasiness left the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I was witnessing our creation come into this world. The minute my wife held our child, I was pleasantly surprised at what a natural she is. All of her nerves went out the room and her maternal instincts kicked into high gear. From day one, my wife showed confidence, love, knowledge, and connection as a mother.

I, on the other hand, began questioning everything. I had difficulty advising my wife on decisions, solutions and actions. I simply didn’t know the answers (maybe Google would?) I was surprised by how much more cautious and nervous I felt, when in my head I thought I would always be a cool and collected new dad. Did she eat enough? She’s hungry again? Why is she crying? Why isn’t she crying!

Despite the worry, the overwhelming joy I thought I felt during my wife’s pregnancy was put to shame each time I looked at my baby. I felt extreme pride at Morgan’s firsts -- lifting her head during tummy time, smiling, playing with toys on her own. I couldn’t believe I felt excited and relieved at each poop, each burp, knowing everything was functioning properly. I felt happy when Morgan slept, knowing she was getting the rest she needed, and happy when she woke, knowing she wanted to eat (and was still breathing!)

Watching a baby experience and learn something new every day is fascinating. Hearing ‘dada’ for the first time and watching Morgan take her first steps as she walked into my arms created incomparable pride. I knew being a dad would be great. Yet there is no way your expectations of greatness are in line with how truly remarkable the experience is watching a helpless thing grow into an independent mover and shaker.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash