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  • Safe Ab Work For Pregnancy – PROnatal Fitness

    Written by Brittany Citron, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and a pre/postnatal exercise specialist. She is also the founder of PROnatal Fitness,  which offers prenatal and postpartum group fitness classes, personal training, and Diastasis Recti rehabilitation — all developed with input from experts in the fitness, medical, and healthcare fields. Brittany lives in Manhattan with her husband and 3-year old son, and a little girl on the way!

    Thinking you should avoid any sort of core work during pregnancy because of that bump? Actually the opposite is true. Proper core training during pregnancy can be the key to less pain and injuries during pregnancy, an easier labor, and faster recovery! There is a right and wrong way to train your core, though. Follow these tips to help you strengthen your core in the most effective way during pregnancy. Of course, as with any activity during pregnancy, always check with your doctor first!

    What to Focus On
    The key to proper core training during pregnancy is to focus on your innermost core muscles – with the #1 most important muscle being your transverse abdominis (AKA your body’s “inner girdle”). This muscle wraps around your entire mid-section — literally like a girdle — and is responsible for supporting your back (which means less low back pain!) and stabilizing your entire body (which means less chance for pregnancy-induced pains and injuries).

    It’s also the muscle you’ll use to push your baby out (which could mean an easier labor with less chance of needing a C-section). Beyond all this, the stronger your transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle is, the less likely you are to develop Diastasis Recti (a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle that can often occur during pregnancy).

    The other important core muscles to strengthen are the often forgotten muscles of your pelvic floor (AKA, the “floor of your core”). These muscles form a sling at the bottom of your core and are responsible for not only controlling when you pee, but also for holding up all your pelvic organs — including your uterus, which will expand to about 500 times its original size! Obviously your pelvic floor muscles get a great deal of pressure placed on them over 9 months, which can weaken them — leading to things like incontinence (that accidental peeing during coughing, laughing, or sneezing), or not-fun pregnancy pains like sacroiliac joint pain, sciatica, or pubic symphysis dysfunction. Strong pelvic floor muscles help to stabilize your hips and back, prevent pains and injuries, and of course, prevent that annoying accidental peeing.

    What to Avoid
    During your first 3-4 months of pregnancy, you can typically maintain any traditional abdominal work you had been doing prior to pregnancy, as long as it feels ok. However, once you begin to develop an obvious belly (usually around the 5th month), you should avoid the following 4 things:

    1. Crunching or twisting movements: These movements place excessive pressure on your outer abdominal wall and could increase your chance of getting Diastasis Recti. This means not only avoiding those sit-ups and crunches, but also avoiding crunching or twisting movements in your everyday life! So, try to remember to sit up straight (slouching is crunching!), role to your side first when transitioning from sitting up to lying down (and vice versa), and strive to keep your back flat when you bend over.
    2. Lying flat on your belly: Ok this is a pretty obvious one. You probably don’t need to be told this, as it would be pretty uncomfortable anyway!
    3.  Lying still and flat on your back: Your doctor has probably told you this one. You can always use a wedge or stability ball to place you at more of an angle.
    4.  Full planks (once belly is larger): Planks can be a great core exercise IF you have the strength to keep your core properly engaged (belly button drawing into the spine) the entire time you hold them.  If you perform planks without proper core engagement, they do more damage than good — putting a lot of strain on your back.  If you have good core strength, you may be able to perform full planks for a while into your pregnancy.  However, once your belly is large, it becomes extremely hard to engage your core in a full plank (not to mention your belly gets in the way!).  To modify, try placing your knees on the ground, or pull back to the All 4s hands and knees position.  HINT: When doing any abdominal work, be on the lookout for a vertical “torpedo-like” protrusion (almost like a mountain) down the center of your abdomen.  If you see this, this is a sign of Diastasis Recti, so you’ll need to pull back from whatever movement that causes you to see this (and instead focus on exercises #1 and #2 below!).

    Here’s one exercise to try now: Belly Breathing & TVA Holds.

    Before you begin any core work, it’s important to first master the technique of how to engage your TVA muscle (because any core exercise performed without engaging your TVA is ineffective at best, or potentially even damaging). To practice the technique of engaging your TVA, try this move (or actually combination of 2 moves).

    How to do it:

    • Sit up tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulders rolled down and back.
    • Take a deep inhale through your nose, allowing your belly and your rib cage to expand with air (not your chest!). Then, exhale through pursed lips as you draw your belly button back in toward your spine as far as you can – staying lifted and tall.
    • Repeat this “Belly Breathing” technique a few times through slowly (taking 2-3 seconds to inhale and 3-4 seconds to exhale).
    • After about 5-7 slow breaths, take another inhale, but this time on the exhale, hold your belly button into your spine for 15 – 30 seconds. Continue to breathe lightly through your nose as you keep your belly button engaged and pulled into your spine.
    • Work to where you can hold this position up to 30 seconds. This is a “TVA Hold.” As these holds get easier, you can progress to doing them standing, and even while walking.

    For more details on this technique as well as a progression of 6 other highly beneficial prenatal and postpartum core exercises, try these moves for a stronger core!

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  • Things We’ve Read: Week of April 6th, 2015

    Mothers’ Exercise May Lower Heart Risks in Newborns (New York Times): A study conducted on mice revealed that exercise lessens the risk that a pregnant mother’s baby will be born with heart defects. While there is no data yet regarding humans, scientists recommend women stay fit before and after pregnancy, but especially during.

    How Pregnancy and Birth Overseas is So Different Than in the U.S. (Washington Post): An American expat recounts her experience with home birth in the Netherlands, where her Dutch insurance company sent her all the essentials.

    A War Photographer’s Journey to Motherhood (The Guardian): A review of New York Times and National Geographic photojournalist Lynsey Addario’s memoir. Addario recounts her experience war reporting and how she balances a complicated professional life with motherhood.

    Eating Junk Food During Pregnancy Dooms Kids to Sugar Addiction (The Australian): Recent studies conducted at the University of Adelaide found during late pregnancy, mothers who ate junk food may be programming babies to be addicted to a high-fat and high-sugar diet.

    What To Do When Parenting Styles Don’t Align (Washington Post): Mother of three and certified parenting coach offers some advice on how mothers and fathers can work together. Both parenting approaches matter, even if they differ.

    Do You Really Have to Give Your Kids ‘Everything’? (New York Magazine): Should we rethink the notion that parenting means giving up everything? Maybe we need to expand the cultural conversation and emphasize the balance between the hard job of being a parent and maintaining your sense of self.

    Women in Business Q&A: Lindsay Powers, Editorial Director, Yahoo Parenting (Huffington Post): Editor of Yahoo Parenting Lindsay Powers discusses how being a woman, a mentor, and a mother has informed her career. Powers tries to explain her work/life balance and responds to the stereotypes of women in the workplace.

    The Best Pregnancy Style at the Academy Awards (Elle): 15 stunning photos of beautiful celebrity moms-to-be. These ladies show off their chic maternity style.

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  • Keep Diaper Bag Organized – ToteSavvy

    This article is conceived with love by Lauren Kutting, mom of 3, and courtesy of Life in Play. Why ToteSavvy? For it’s fabulous features and sleek design that doesn’t take away from the aesthetic of your handbag. Designed with moms (and dads!) in mind, ToteSavvy offers the utility you expect from a highly functional diaper bag while giving you infinite baby bag options.
    Every January we have the best intentions to stick to our resolution to make our lives a little more organized. This year ensure your diaper bag will stay organized and fabulous year-round with these top 4 tips!

    TIP #1 {Lay out the essential items}. Only pack what you know you’ll actually use and try to avoid overpacking. It can be tempting to pack everything (and the kitchen sink) but then you’ll be lugging around a 10lb diaper bag. Stick with the basics like diapers (2-4), wipes (1 full pack), a pacifier (or 2), teether/toy, bottle & formula (1 per every 2 hours you’ll be away), small blanket or swaddle, and a change of clothing. You’ll likely have room to add a few of your own essentials like a wallet, keys, sunglasses, lipstick, and phone.

    diaper bag essentialtotesavvy

    TIP #2 {Organize inside your diaper bag or handbag with ToteSavvy}.Utilizing ToteSavvy offers extra organization because it holds each item securely in place while making it easily accessible by just reaching into your handbag. It may seem simple to quickly unzip a pouch, or unsnap buttons to get what you need. However, when you have a crabby baby who wants her paci or toy immediately, taking that extra step to unbutton, unzip, or unroll can add unnecessary stress and land you in baby meltdown territory.

    TIP #3 {Replenish what was used BEFORE your next outing}. After returning home from your excursion quickly grab a few more diapers, a clean bib, and maybe even another change of clothing for your diaper bag. By making sure your ToteSavvy is always stocked, you’ll eliminate the last minute rush to grab everything you need. Undoubtedly you’ll forget that very important item in the midst of rushing out of the house. Mommy brain is no joke and always pops up at the worst times.

    totesavvy

    totesavvy

    TIP #4 {Use ToteSavvy to switch diaper bags easily and with confidence}. If you’re the type of woman who regularly changes your handbag to compliment your outfit, you’ll love using ToteSavvy as your diaper bag insert. ToteSavvy easily slips in and out of different totes giving you infinite options for your baby bag. Follow tip #3 to assure your ToteSavvy is always stocked and ready to be slipped into your handbag of choice.

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  • Things We’ve Read: Week of Feb. 9th, 2015

    Is your shampoo full of harmful chemicals? (The Guardian): The details on the harmful ingredients in your hair products, and what to avoid and why.

    Doulas, a Growing Force in Maternity Culture, Seek Greater Acceptance (NYT):
    Doulas play an increasingly larger role in maternity, providing women with a range of services from emotional support to assist with pain management during birth, however due to resistance from the medical profession they are still a small part of the system.

    How Online Interaction Shapes Everything From Baby Name Trends To Revolutions (HuffPost): New research suggests that the structure of large social networks with increased interaction are most likely to determine social norms, and how wide-scale communication provided by social networks influences attitudes and beliefs.

    A Mom Let Her Toddler Style Her For A Week And The Results Are Crazy Adorable (BuzzFeed): The adorable creations that result when these moms let their toddlers act as their personal stylists for a week.

    9 Ways to Respond When Co-Workers Call Your Maternity Leave ‘Vacation’ (Yahoo): Ways to use humor to respond to coworkers who misunderstand the reasons behind maternity leave.

    Bethany Hamilton is pregnant! See her cute bump go surfing (USA Today): The famous surfer who survived a nearly fatal shark attack in 2003 is expecting her first child, a son.

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  • Things We’ve Read: Week of Dec. 21st, 2015

    New Research Raises More Questions About Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy (NY Times): So much research and information – but it’s always important to first discuss with your doctors about medications and options.

    ‘Lactivism,’ by Courtney Jung (NY Times): One mom’s exploration into the history and rise of lactivism & breastfeeding.

    The US Needs Paid Family Leave – For the Sake of its Future (Ted): “It is time to recognize the economic, physical and psychological costs of our approach to working mothers and their babies.”

    Hot Mamas: How Six Models Stay in Shape Pre- and Post-Baby (Vogue): Workout inspiration from these runway mamas.

    The Hottest Baby Names of 2015? Instagram Filters (Vogue): Insta-inspired names are on the rise.

    If Holiday Cards Were Really Honest (Huff Post): Holidays cards – the unfiltered version.

    One Mom’s Battle to Bring Breast Milk On a Flight (Parents): One mom’s frustration with Delta Airlines.

    Why I’m Raising My Sons Like Daughters (Huff Post): “We have to teach them the only choice that has real value is the choice that will bring them personal fulfillment [and that] they can be whatever they want to be…”

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  • BabyCenter: Nine Naturals Belly Butter, the Perfect Pregnancy Gift!

    Baby Center brings us its top 12 Holiday Gift Ideas for Pregnancy and was sure to include the Nine Naturals Vanilla + Geranium Regenerative Belly Butter. It wrote,

    “Help her soothe itchy pregnancy skin with a rich body butter that’s baby-friendly. Nine Naturals uses only natural and organic ingredients, so expecting moms don’t have to read the label with a magnifying glass. The brand’s non-greasy belly butter is great for a growing bump – or anywhere her skin could use some calming. Bonus: The vanilla scent is pretty but not overpowering.”

    We couldn’t agree more! The Regenerative Belly Butter is perfect for soothing dry skin in the winter and helping to reduce the appearance of stretch marks on your beautiful, growing belly! Not-so-secret power-ingredient, cupuaçu butter, contains phytosterols that help regulate your skin’s health, and shea butter heals skin and restores its supple nature! Get it as a stuffing stocker for that special mama-to-be.

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