Pregnancy Tips

Hormonal changes bring a risk of gingivitis-keep up on your oral hygiene! 

Over the course of your pregnancy, your baby must grow and develop from the size of a single cell to a wailing, wonderful seven-pounder (give or take). Nine months may seem interminably long to you, but your body must undergo countless changes in preparation for the big event. Here are some ways to keep comfortable while you wait:

Get Enough Water

You think about every morsel you put into your mouth - whether it's to wonder, "Is this good for my baby?" or "If I eat this, will I ever lose the 'baby fat'?" Are you drinking enough water? Although it has no calories or vitamins, water isn't the same as nothing. It transports nutrients through your blood to your baby; keeps your urine diluted to prevent bladder infections, which are common during pregnancy; helps prevent constipation and therefore helps prevent hemorrhoids; and dissipates body heat through your sweat and breathing. How much water is adequate? About eight glasses a day plus a cup for each hour of light activity.

Do Pelvic Tilts

As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles are stretched, and more and more stress is placed on your lower back. Pelvic tilts relieve lower-back pain and, when done at least once a day, even help prevent backaches.

Here's how to do tilts in the all-fours position: Get down on your hands and knees. Keeping your back flat, curve the bottom of your pelvis forward, like a puppy curling his tail under. Hold for a count of five, then return to the neutral position. Do ten per session.

Keep Up With Your Kegels

Your vagina, bladder, rectum, and other structures in your pelvic area are supported by a "sling" of muscles called the pubococcygeal (PC) muscles. (They're what you'd use to stop the flow of urine in midstream.) Among the many potential benefits of strong PC muscles: an easier delivery and recovery, prevention of hemorrhoids and urinary incontinence, and enhanced circulation in your pelvic area. The best way to strengthen your PC muscle is to do Kegel exercises every day.

Here's one way to "Kegel": Gradually squeeze your PC harder and harder until you can't increase the squeeze; hold for up to ten seconds. Slowly release. Do 25 repetitions four times a day. You can Kegel anytime, anywhere, and no one needs to know.

Don't Forget Your Feet

You may not like hearing this, but most women's feet grow throughout pregnancy. Several factors contribute to this: normal secretion of the hormone relaxin loosens all the joints in the body, including those in the feet; extra fluid in the tissue means swelling in the feet; and excessive weight gain adds fat to the feet. If you stick with your usual shoe size, you'll probably be uncomfortable, especially in your last trimester. Your best bet is to be measured by a reputable shoe salesman, and buy one or two pairs of shoes that fit you well - preferably with heels no higher than an inch or so. You won't feel good unless your feet do.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Because of the hormonal changes in pregnancy, many women notice "pink toothbrush" - that is, their gums bleed slightly and may be puffy and sensitive. If you neglect these early warning signs of gingivitis, you may wind up paying for it later on. The best tack to take? Prevention. See your dentist for a cleaning at least once during your pregnancy (some experts suggest going at least once per trimester); floss and brush religiously; and, to prevent cavities, avoid sticky and starchy foods.

Take a Hike

A moderate amount of exercise is recommended for most expectant mothers. It will keep you fit - including, most important, your heart and lungs - and some experts believe a steady program of moderate exercise during pregnancy may even help shorten labor. Your doctor or midwife can recommend which exercises, and how much, are safe for you. Walking is safe for most pregnant women. Warm up first by strolling slowly for ten minutes, then stride hard enough to make conversation difficult, though not impossible. Afterward give yourself a five-minute cooldown - that is, walk at a slow pace to allow your heart rate to return to normal. Your goal should be to work up to 15 minutes of strenuous exercise three to five times a week. Your clothing - especially your shoes - should be comfortable. Don't exercise if it's humid or uncomfortably warm.

Eat Often, or "Graze"

You need plenty of calories to nourish yourself and your baby, but your best bet is to have five or six smaller, though healthful, meals, instead of the three large ones you're probably accustomed to. In the early months, grazing will help stave off morning sickness, because a woozy stomach is likely to be an empty stomach. As your pregnancy progresses and your growing baby crowds your stomach, you simply won't have much room for food - so much so that in the eighth and ninth months, grazing becomes a necessity, because eating too much at a sitting may force food and digestive juices up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.

Urinate Frequently

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common during pregnancy. To avoid them, drink plenty of fluids so you urinate frequently and keep your urine diluted; avoid "holding it in," which can increase your chances of UTI; urinate before and after intercourse; and always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. When you urinate, lean forward to empty your bladder completely.

What's the most soothing balm for pregnancy discomfort? Keeping in mind your reward: a beautiful, brand-new baby!