The gentlebirth.org website is provided courtesy of
Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA
An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.
Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy
These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.
of Maternal Exercise on the Fetal Heart - New study shows
exercise-exposed fetuses have improved cardiovascular activity
Light Resistance Exercise During Pregnancy Does Not Affect Type of Delivery CME
News Author: Pauline Anderson
CME Author: Laurie Barclay, MD
Women stay on active fitness routine during pregnancy [1/9/06]
Here are some of the benefits associated with exercise during pregnancy according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
* Helps prepare a woman for labor and childbirth, keeping her body in shape and ready for the endurance needed during delivery.
* Helps new moms get back into shape after delivery.
* Can offer some relief to the fatigue, swelling and back pain associated with pregnancy.
* Can help prevent gestational diabetes.
* Helps expectant women sleep better.
* Helps women manage weight gain during pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy and After Pregnancy from BeFit-Mom.
pregnancy 'should be encouraged'
in Physical Activity, Fitness, and Strength [Medscape
registration is free]
physical activity on maternal plasma beta-endorphin levels and
perception of labor pain.
Varrassi G, Bazzano C, Edwards WT.
Am J Obstet Gynecol 1989 Mar;160(3):707-12
"Exercise conditioning during pregnancy seems to be beneficial in
reducing pain perception during labor . . . and in reducing stress
levels during labor."
Buffer Effects of Stress - [June 2, 2010] — Short bursts of
vigorous exercise -- the kind that makes you really break a sweat
and increases your heart rate -- may help buffer the devastating
effects that stress can have on cellular aging, a new study finds.
According to a new study, maternal exercise
during pregnancy has cardiovascular benefits for the developing
I especially like the approach offered in Julie Tupler's book, Maternal
Fitness. She also offers a Maternal Fitness
Program in some areas. Her Web sites has a nice page of exercise links.
[Her book makes frequent reference to a stretchy exercise
strap/band, called the Dyna-Band. You can also get the Thera-Band, a
non-latex version, in bulk rolls.]
I've heard a few rave recommendations for this prenatal yoga
video - "Baby & Mom Prenatal Yoga" - available from Acive
Postnatal Exercise Videos!
Evidence Basis for Exercise
Recommendations from someone who has studied both exercise
physiology and midwifery. She has some very useful insights
into group aerobics classes for
'Eutokia' is a Greek
word meaning happy childbirth. It is the application of the
Alexander Technique to pregnancy and childbirth
Full - Information about running while pregnant
With Child - Can You Still Play When You're Pregnant? - by
Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy - from the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health pages of the Muskoka-Parry Sound Health Unit in Canada
Exercise During Pregnancy - From an old article in the Endurance Training Journal
FitDay.com is an online diet
and fitness journal; there is a calorie and nutrition counter, a
weight loss tracker, an exercise log, analysis and reports.
One medical study by itself is not conclusive
but a 1998 American Journal of Public Health article reported
If a woman was is 'good physical shape' (i.e. conditioned) and did heavy exercise (> 2000 kilocalories/week) during pregnancy, she reduced her risk of a very preterm birth by 96%. (Maternal Leisure-Time Exercise and Timely Delivery, AJPH, Maureen Hatch ( email@example.com ), et al., 1998;88:1528-1533). What does 2000 kilocalories/week mean? Maureen Hatch informed me via email that this means about 7 hours/week of brisk walking. And they reported, "After term, conditioned heavy exercisers delivered faster than nonexercisers." If later studies confirm these findings, it offers more hope for women who believe in fitness.
in Women [Medscape registration is free] - This isn't about
pregnant women, but it offers a lot of information that might be
This is a fabulous article from Mothering Magazine:
Mamas: The Pleasure of Prenatal Yoga
By Jo Ann Baldinger
Issue 116, Jan/Feb 2003
Results All studies found that prenatal yoga provided significant
benefits, and no adverse effects were reported. Significant
findings from the randomized studies included an increase in
infant birth weight, lower incidence of pregnancy complications,
shorter duration of labor, and less pain among yoga practitioners.
Significant findings from the non-randomized and qualitative
studies included decrease in pain, improved quality of sleep,
increased maternal confidence, and improved interpersonal
relationships among pregnant women who practiced yoga.
Yoga Moves For Pregnancy, Birth And Beyond
Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclining Bound Angel Pose - excellent for opening up the hips during pregnancy. Use bolsters!
Benefits: Frees energy flow in pelvic area
Increases vitality in digestive organs
Good for pregnant women in preparation for childbirth (use bolsters)
Quiets the mind
Relief from PMS and menopausal symptoms
Relief from mild depression
Stretches inner thighs and opens groins.
Prenatal Yoga May Result in Less Labor Pain, Shorter Labor
pregnancy: Effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 14(2), 105-115. [Abstract]
Chuntharapat, S., Petpichetchian, W., & Hatthakit, U. (2008)
Summary: In this trial conducted in Thailand, nulliparous pregnant women without previous yoga experience were randomly assigned to practice prenatal yoga (n=37) or to usual care (n=37). The yoga group attended a series of six 1-hour yoga classes every two weeks in the final trimester and were given a booklet and audio tape for self-study, which they were encouraged to practice at least three times per week. Daily diaries kept by participants and weekly phone contact from researchers helped ensure compliance. Participants in both groups completed a prenatal questionnaire to assess anxiety and collect demographic data.
Once in labor, pain and comfort were assessed every 2 hours in the first stage of labor (for a maximum of three measurements) and again 2 hours postpartum using multiple pain-measurement instruments that have previously been validated for use in laboring women. The researchers controlled for maternal age, marital status, education level, religion, income, and maternal trait anxiety.
Data were available for 33 of 37 women assigned to each group but the researchers provide no explanation for this attrition. Although this omission limits the reliability of the study, the strength and consistency of the researchers' findings suggest that attrition probably did not significantly alter results. The experimental group (yoga group) had significantly less pain and more comfort than the control group at each of the three measurement intervals during labor and at the postpartum measurement. This finding was consistent and significant across all three pain main measurement instruments used.
The researchers do not present data about mode of birth. However, the length of the first stage of labor and total duration of labor were significantly shorter in the yoga group (mean length of first stage = 520 minutes in yoga group versus 660 minutes in control group; mean total time in labor 559 minutes in yoga group versus 684 minutes in control group). There were no differences in length of second stage of labor, pethidine usage or dose given, augmentation of labor, newborn weight, or Apgar scores. Epidural analgesia was not mentioned so presumably it was not available.
Significance for Normal Birth: This study provides evidence that regular yoga practice in the last 10-12 weeks of pregnancy improves maternal comfort in labor and may facilitate labor progress. The researchers offer several theories for these effects. First, yoga involves synchronization of breathing awareness and muscle relaxation which decrease tension and the perception of pain. Second, yoga movements, breathing, and chanting may increase circulating endorphins and serotonin, "raising the threshold of mind-body relationship to pain" (p. 112). Third, practicing yoga postures over time alters pain pathways through the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing one's need to actively respond to unpleasant physical sensations.
Prenatal strategies that help women prepare emotionally and
physically for labor may help reduce pain and suffering and
optimize wellbeing in childbirth by providing coping skills and
increasing self-confidence and a sense of mastery. More research
is needed to confirm the findings of this study. However, yoga's
many health benefits and the lack of evidence that yoga is harmful
in pregnancy or birth provide justification for encouraging
interested women to incorporate yoga into their preparations for
Let the Whole Birth
Yoga Audio tape and CD guide you through a wonderfully
relaxing and rejuvenating hour of yoga and meditation especially
designed for pregnancy. Whole
Birth Yoga Resources with Robin Sale.
A Complete Home Practice for a Healthy Mother and Baby DVD -
this has 3 routines and 3 relaxation sessions. This is an
excellent balance of preparation.
Some yoga DVDs I like:
- Complete Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga & Short Forms 2 DVD Set - Jennifer Wolfe
- Sara Holliday: Prenatal Yoga Series - Sara Holliday
- Element: Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga - Elena Brower
- Prenatal Yoga - Shiva Rea
I would say the first two above are a bit more energetic than some of the slower paced prenatal yoga DVDs. I find going to most prenatal yoga classes is a good way to meet other pregnant Mamas, but pretty dull when it comes to the actual yoga. I may change my mind as I am further along in my pregnancy though (now at 23 weeks) and need to slow down the pace a bit.
You could have a look at the reviews
Amazon for each of the above DVDs to get a feel for the yoga
practiced in each one.
I have been using Shiva Rae's CD's for several years and I love
them, so I decided to purchase her prenatal
DVD. I haven't done any other prenatal yoga so I can't
compare, but I'm enjoying this one.
Warrior - The breathing practice of yoga (pranayama) can
become one of your greatest tools during labor helping you to
relax through contractions, find relief from discomforts and put
you in a place of feeling stronger and more present with your
Yoga Cards - The Prenatal Yoga Deck features 10 Breath
Cards, a Healthy Sitting Reference Card, 5 Warm-Ups, 24 Posture
Cards, and 10 Meditation Cards, all designed specifically for
from Tara Women's Healing and
Pregnancy Yoga Exercise Sets
My reference to avoiding deep squatting in the last 4-6 weeks
came from Janet Balaskas' book Easy Exercises for Pregnancy,
although there is no explanation. It is also mentioned in Teaching
& Understanding Optimal Foetal Positioning by Jean
Sutton and Pauline Scott, with a little explanation;
basically (as I understand it) that a deep squat temporarily
increases the angle between the spine and the pelvic brim
enough for the head of a baby which is not aligned correctly
to enter the pelvis in the wrong (e.g.: posterior) position.
If I understand what you said correctly, this can be
corrected providing the posterior positioning is picked up
and the baby encouraged to disengage and turn to the correct
position, but it seems that in many areas here not much
emphasis is placed on encouraging the baby to position
itself correctly beforehand and if the head was engaged in a
posterior position it probably would not turn on its own
before labour started.
Thanks for the reference.
Basically, a posterior baby that isn't held in place by cord entanglement or some odd placement of limbs is fairly easy to move to an anterior position anytime before 4cm dilation. Given the tremendous potential advantage of squatting during labor and pushing, it seems odd to discourage squatting simply because it might cause something that is easily undone.
It may be that if a woman is working with a care provider who doesn't pay any attention to posterior positions, she might be better off not doing anything that could possibly get her into trouble with a posterior baby. But babies turn posterior all the time - one very common cause is any semi-reclining position.
Maybe there's something big that I'm just not getting here, but if their concern about squatting is the issue of posterior, why don't they spend a little time on teaching an awareness of the baby's position and making sure the baby isn't posterior before practicing squatting?
Anyway, this injunction just doesn't make any sense to me.
In fact, I think squatting is one of the ways that nature helps
babies come on time; before we had chairs, people mostly rested in
a squatting position. This happens to be a great way of
making sure the baby's head goes INTO the pelvis when it fits
easily - if it happens not to come out again because it's a snug
fit, then it will help form the forebag and help baby come while
the head is still flexible and IN the pelvis.
Imagine that you are out for a night on the town with your husband's boss and his wife. You are dressed up in a very slim fitting, tight dress. And you have gas! You have to hold it in, but because of the tight dress, everyone's going to see you tense up your tummy and legs, so you squeeze only the one muscle in your bottom that will hold in the gas without everyone seeing.
The basic idea is to squeeze it without assisting it with other
muscles. A lot of women will assist the kegel muscle by tensing
their butt, thighs abdomen, etc. If you are doing that, your not
working the kegel muscle effectively. It is easiest to isolate
this motion while sitting in a recliner.
Our local PT recommends that women imagine cinching all the
apertures in the pelvic floor, i.e. the urethra, vagina and anus.
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