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Health & Wellness

  • The Misconception of the “Mom Badge”

    You are so much more than a mom.

    Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    These days, there is a lot to be said about the roles of women. We’re taking a stand for who we are and what we’re deserving of. But I have found some of these conversations tricky to navigate, knowing that a lot of people see my Mom badge before they see any others.

    And yet, the role of mom encompasses so many things; I spend my days swapping between a teacher, advisor, chauffeur, chef, friend, co-worker, and yes, even butt-wiper. Although they are part of my experience as a mother, they were no doubt things I was doing before the blessed event that changed my life (well, with the exception of “butt-wiper”).

    We mothers are powerful and complicated creatures. We are layered and we are complex… just like we were before we had babies...

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  • 5 Healthy Habits to Boost Fertility

    Getting pregnant’s about more than just the sex.

    Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    Fertility isn’t just about having sex at the right time with the right person. It’s also about habits — healthy habits. That’s right, your fertility is an extension of your health, and when all the pillars of mental, emotional and physical health align, many people see a positive shift in their baby-making potential. So if you are having a hard time conceiving, you may just need to kick a couple of bad habits to the curb. Here are 5 habits you can adopt today to better your health and rejuvenate your fertility.

    1. Sleep enough. Study after study shows us that a lack of sleep affects our health indices on every level. When we don’t sleep enough, our body doesn’t have time to restore, nor does it feel...

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  • 9 Tips to Naturally Boost Your Immunity During Pregnancy

    Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to illness during pregnancy because of their compromised immune system. The stress that pregnancy puts on a pregnant body is intense, which means you need to be proactive about keeping your immune system strong. Fortunately, there are many ways to step up your immune system’s functioning while pregnant. Here are nine all-natural ways to stay healthy and vibrant during pregnancy.  

    Stay hydrated to keep your body’s systems in top shape. A pregnant woman needs about 2.5 liters of water of day to stay properly hydrated. When your body is hydrated, it means that your cells are getting the oxygen they need to perform well. Water also flushes toxins from your system and helps produce lymph, which circulates white blood cells and nutrients throughout your body.

    Go back to basics and remind yourself to wash your hands. Everyone always remembers to wash their hands, right? Whether or not you do, now is the time to be vigilant about hand-washing. Washing with soap and water will help remove the bacteria and germs that accumulate on your hands as you go about your day. Always wash after using the bathroom, preparing foods, eating meals, and moving through public spaces where you’re touching the same surfaces other people touch (like the subway or bus). If you’re on top of proper washing, you can ditch antibacterial soaps and harsh sanitizers.

    Sleep during pregnancy might be a dream, but try to get a decent night’s rest. As you progress in your pregnancy, your sleep is likely to be interrupted or difficult to come by, period. But try your best to get a proper night’s sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your immune system’s functioning, and over time, it can be hard to fully repair. For better sleep, choose one side to rest on (don’t sleep on your back), use a full body pillow, spring for a calming white noise machine, or take soothing warm baths before bedtime.

    Your immune system stays healthy with physical activity. Regular exercise does wonders for your entire body, and your immune system is no exception. Recent studies show that moderate exercise leads to an increase in white blood cells: the ones that circulate through your body to fight off infections. Aside from the immunity-boosting benefits, physical activity while pregnant is important to maintain a healthy weight, build stamina, and reduce stress.

    Have a good laugh for a healthier immune system. The saying goes that “laughter is the best medicine,” and research has shown that this advice might hold some weight. According to one study, “our physiology changes when we laugh. Our pulse and blood pressure go up, we breathe faster, and we send more oxygen to our tissues.” All of these effects have positive impacts on the immune system, so find a friend to giggle with or a silly movie to laugh over.

    Probiotics are the friendly bacteria to include in your diet. Find a food like yogurt, which contains probiotics, to add to your pregnancy diet. Probiotics aid your body in digestion and colon detoxification, both of which have an impact on a keeping your immune system healthy. Yogurt has other pregnancy health benefits, too, like a high serving of calcium and vitamin D.

    Up your garlic intake for a simple, natural immune boost. Garlic has a long history as a wonder-food for maintaining good health. Raw garlic is particularly potent: a single clove contains over 100 sulfuric compounds (along with a high dose of calcium and potassium), which can kill bacteria in the body. If you can’t stomach eating a clove of raw garlic, you can still reap its benefits by seasoning your favorite meals with the spice.

    Soak up sunshine for a healthier immune system. Aside from putting a smile of your face, a moderate dose of sunshine can benefit your health, too. The rays of the sun trigger your skin’s production of vitamin D, which is crucial to maintaining an immune system that can fight infections. It’s also important to note that when you’re pregnant, your skin is more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to limit full summer exposure to short bursts of 10-15 minutes and wear a natural, pregnancy-safe sunscreen.

    Vitamin C is another superstar for immune health. Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and is an antioxidant that can protect your system from free radicals. Unlike some other vitamins, vitamin C is easy to find in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eating a vitamin C-rich diet will also give your body an abundance of other vitamins and minerals necessary for the healthy development of your baby.

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  • Crab Cake Recipe for Pregnancy

    There’s a new cookbook to feed your pregnancy symptoms away.

    Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    Every new mother-to-be gets a laundry list of things that she can’t eat when she’s pregnant. What about all the yummy things that she can (and should!) eat? Proper nutrition during pregnancy and after delivery is so critical — your body’s working so hard! Eating healthy foods not only makes sense, but also can lessen some major pregnancy discomforts, like nausea, water retention and cramping.

    Taking a “food-as-medicine” approach, Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh, nutrition experts for SELF Magazine and registered dieticians, have released a cookbook designed to help you take the guesswork out of what you’ll need to fuel up pre- and post-partum. The best part about Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook is that it’s organized by what you really care about: relieving those less than lovely pregnancy symptoms. I totally needed “Chapter One: I’m Gonna Hurl…But I’m Still Hungry” when I was pregnant — in fact, I probably could’ve written a book with the same title. Other chapters include “My Chest Is On Fire” (heartburn) and “I’m Officially a Walking Snack Machine” (for nursing mamas).

    I’m not much of a chef, so I really appreciated the fact that all of the 120-plus recipes in this book require just a handful of easy-to-find ingredients, are fairly quick to make, and don’t call for any fancy equipment or advanced cooking skills. Here’s one of my favorite recipes:

    Barley Crab Cakes (serves 4)

    6 teaspoons olive oil, divided
    ½ cup shredded carrots
    ½ cup shredded zucchini
    ½ cup shredded onion
    ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
    ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

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  • What to Expect from Prenatal Yoga

    Whether you’re a practicing yogi or you’ve never set foot inside a yoga studio, prenatal yoga is a fantastic way to stay active and relaxed while you’re pregnant. Many yoga studios offer special prenatal classes with specially trained instructors, and finding a good studio for the duration of your pregnancy is well worth it. Practicing yoga while expecting has numerous benefits both for you and your baby, though it can be intimidating if you’ve never been to a class, or if you’re feeling less-than-poised with your expanding belly. But put those reservations aside and find the nearest prenatal yoga class, after reading about what to expect.

    Prenatal yoga is a low-impact way to stay active. Maintaining your physical health during pregnancy is important, but it can be difficult to stay motivated when exhaustion, aches, and pains take over. Yoga is a less rigorous activity, but it still provides a gentle workout. It’s often a challenge to maintain a safe, healthy weight during pregnancy, and yoga can help you manage that. In addition, prenatal yoga increases your strength and flexibility, which is important for everyday health, and also for childbirth. Practicing yoga also improves your balance and circulation; can help decrease the pains that come with tight, overworked muscles; can help you beat headaches and shortness of breath; and can even ease the symptoms of morning sickness.

    Practicing yoga soothes away the stresses of pregnancy. Pregnancy can be an emotionally difficult time, and we’re always being told to manage stress and “just relax!” Prenatal yoga is a fantastic way to keep calm and cultivate some much-needed inner peace when everything, including your own body, feels out of balance. By centering yourself in the present moment, a yoga class can help you be more mindful, and with the focus on your body, you can create a strong connection to your own self that sticks long after class is over.

    Yoga lowers your blood pressure, the calming effects of which stay with you even after the practice is done. Another perk of joining a prenatal class is that you’ll meet other pregnant women and possibly expand your community to women who are in the same boat as you are.

    Prenatal yoga isn’t the same as your average yoga class. As your body changes and grows during pregnancy, so do your limitations. Many common yoga positions become too stressful for joints and the pelvic area when you’re pregnant, which is why a good prenatal class will go through modified positions. Instructors also usually supply props, like cushions and blocks, to make the poses easier. Stretches are milder and more moderate, and the poses are focused on supporting your body, not pushing it. During prenatal classes, you often find more of an emphasis on breathing exercises and strengthening poses that will help you prepare for labor. The breathing techniques you learn can be used during labor, too, to help you manage your breath and get through contractions.

    No matter your yoga level, you need a renewed focus on safety during prenatal practice. As with many activities, whether new or not, you’ll want to discuss practicing yoga with your doctor. Prenatal yoga is considered safe for most pregnancies, but wait until you get the official green light to do so. During your class, be sure you’re drinking enough water and staying hydrated. Also, this is not the time to try out hot yoga (Bikrim) or other intensive yoga classes; save those for after you’ve healed from childbirth.

    Additionally, if you’re taking a yoga class that’s not specifically labeled “prenatal,” tell the instructor that you’re expecting before class begins. That way, he or she can suggest modifications to poses, or tell you if there are poses you ought to avoid altogether. No matter the class, once you’re out of the first trimester, you’ll want to avoid poses that have you lying on your back. The weight of your growing baby will put too much pressure on your body, and can make you feel sick.

    An important rule of thumb is to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it and don’t push yourself. No one will care if you’re not following the flow down to the exact letter.

    Don’t twist yourself into knots choosing a class. First and foremost, look for classes that are labeled “prenatal.” If you can’t find any, then choose a beginner class and call ahead to mention that you’re pregnant, and make sure you find out how the instructor will accommodate you. If there are several prenatal classes in your area, get to know the yoga studio to figure out if it’s a good fit. Yoga studios can have vastly different vibes, from the fitness-focused to the spiritual havens. Check to see if you can observe a class ahead of time, so you can make a better judgement. Every yoga instructor has her or his own style, and every studio is a little bit different. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable wherever you go.

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  • What You Need to Know About Mercury and Pregnancy

    Mercury exposure is a major concern during pregnancy because of the damage it can do to a developing fetus. Coming in contact with higher than recommended levels of mercury while pregnant can cause lasting damage to a baby’s brain and nervous system. With stakes as high as these, it’s important to understand how we come into contact with mercury, and what we can do to be mindful of mercury exposure while expecting.

    Mercury is a metal neurotoxin that’s a real concern no matter what your condition. It’s especially critical to be wary of it when you’re expecting. You can be exposed to mercury in a variety of ways: by touching it, breathing it in, or eating it via foods in your diet. The most common way that a pregnant woman is exposed to mercury is through the seafood she eats. And while there are guidelines around fish consumption while pregnant, almost no one is advocating for full seafood abstinence. So how can you safely consume fish, and steer clear of other mercury exposure?

    Watching your seafood intake is critical. Mercury collects in streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans and also collects in the systems of the fish that inhabit these bodies of water. It will be passed on to you, and your growing baby, if you eat those exposed fish. Of course, many fish also contain brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and have other benefits for your health. The FDA states that eating fish is the best way to get healthy fatty acids, while also loading up on lean protein, iodine, and vitamin D. In that case, what’s the safest option? According to the most recent recommendations by the FDA, women can eat 8-12 ounces of seafood a week. However, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that pregnant and nursing women consume 1-2 four-ounce servings of designated “safe” fish each week. It’s important to note that serving size isn’t the only thing to watch: the type of seafood you eat is just as relevant as the amount you eat per week.

    The seafood sweet spot is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. As a pregnant woman, you are officially on Seafood Watch. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help in determining the best seafood to eat. EWG has created a fantastic digital tool called the Seafood Calculator. It takes in a few pieces of information like age and weight, and serves you a highly detailed, custom seafood list. It gives you the kind of fish, the recommended quantity per week of that fish, the projected mercury amount, and the omega-3 amount and shows you the Best Bets food for your diet.

    Another helpful tool is the Seafood Watch mobile app, which gives you the most up-to-date advice on eating varieties of fish. Overall, the best choices for your high omega-3/low mercury ratio will be salmon (specifically wild, not farm-raised), sardines, rainbow trout, and pollock.

    Memorize the seafood-to-avoid list while pregnant. Fish like swordfish, marlin, shark, and tuna should not make it onto your plate during pregnancy. These fish are larger and higher on the food chain, so they tend to collect more mercury than other fish. Tuna steak is on the list, and the safety of canned tuna is debated back and forth. The FDA places canned tuna on the “good choice” list for pregnant women, meaning that one serving per week is deemed safe. However, EWG urges pregnant women to avoid canned tuna completely. And if you’re eating fish that’s been caught from local waters, you should look up the local advisories. If you can’t find that information, then limit your intake of local-water fish to 6 ounces or less per week.   

    Make sure you’re up on your omega-3’s. A big concern about pregnant women avoiding seafood is that their omega-3 fatty acid intake will be too low. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can promote baby's brain development.” Omega-3 fatty acids have immense benefits, and there are other ways to hit your daily amount without loading up on seafood. Foods like flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and edamame are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods like eggs, milk, and yogurt may be fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, too, so read the labels on these products when you’re shopping. Fish oil supplements are another choice during pregnancy, but be sure to talk with your doctor before you start taking anything supplemental. It’s also important to note that fish liver supplements, like cod liver oil, are not pregnancy safe, so pay close attention to what you’re bringing home.

    While other mercury exposure is rare, it’s still important to note. Elemental mercury can be found in the inside of fever thermometers; some antique clocks, barometers, or mirrors; some button cell batteries; and some jewelry (primarily not made in the U.S.). Be extra-aware of what you’re touching and exposing yourself to while you’re expecting. Dental fillings made from amalgam also contain mercury and other metals, so if you need a tooth filled while pregnant, be sure to discuss it with your dentist and doctor.

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