Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Ten things you can do to help reduce stress during pregnancy

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Stress is very common and affects everyone. During pregnancy, you may feel that your level of stress increases. It is understandable. Your body and many aspects of your life are changing at the same time. The anticipation, excitement and adjustments associated with having a baby can also influence how you feel and how you deal with stress. It is a good idea to find ways to reduce your levels of stress. Too much stress for a long time may cause problems like high blood pressure. It can also increase the chances of having a premature baby.

Here are 10 things you can do to help you reduce stress:

  • Figure out what’s making you stressed and talk to your partner, a friend or your health care provider about it.
  • Know that the discomforts of pregnancy are only temporary. Ask your provider how to handle these discomforts.
  • Stay healthy and fit. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep and exercise (with your provider’s OK). Exercise can help reduce stress and also helps prevent common pregnancy discomforts.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do.
  • Have a good support network, including your partner, family and friends. Ask your provider about resources in the community that may be able to help.
  • Ask for help from people you trust. Accept help when they offer. For example, you may need help cleaning the house, or you may want someone to go with you to your prenatal visits.
  • Try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation.
  • Take a childbirth education class so you know what to expect during pregnancy and when your baby arrives. Practice the breathing and relaxation techniques you learn in your class.
  • If you’re working, plan ahead to help you and your employer get ready for your time away from work.
  • If you think you may be depressed, talk to your provider right away. There are many ways to deal with depression. Getting treatment and counseling early may help.

You can also learn about other ways to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy. This may help ease your worries and help you enjoy this new stage in your life.

Visit for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

things to do I am not one who can easily relax. Usually, I need a brick wall in front of me to make me stop (or a cliff will do fine, too). Adrenaline runs through my veins. I am continually creating and updating my to-do lists (or as I call them, my must-do lists) and the I-don’t-have-time-to-relax attitude often overtakes me.

Now, I KNOW, that I need to relax, for the sake of good health and a clear mind. I KNOW I need sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. But, when the list of all that needs to be done is before my eyes, or in my hand, or on my phone, I have a very hard time turning away from it and shutting down my mind. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

As parents, we have the responsibility of providing for our children – financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way that they need. Parents of children with special needs face additional tasks to conquer, from appointments with specialists, to IEP meetings, to figuring out a system with continual twists, turns and dead ends. For pregnant women, stress related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Unless we purposefully have a method or a way to shut off the engine and refuel it, we risk burn-out and ill health.

But, easier said than done.

A few years ago, I took up yoga, as I knew that it offered health benefits. Among the benefits is a curious thing called “mindfulness.” Now, I am a science geek at heart, so the touchy-feely aspect was not really something I gravitated toward. But, I gave it a try anyway. What is this thing called “mindfulness?”

Well, it is a way to help shut out the noise of everything around you (and even your own busy mind), and just…be. At first I was not able to just sit and “be.” Be what? I am a do-er. Not a be-er. But, I kept going to yoga class thinking that there must be something to this, and to just give it time.

relaxing at workEventually, (after about a year!) I got comfortable and even good at sitting down on my mat, crossing my legs, uttering OOOOOOOMMMMMMM a few times, and becoming “present in the moment.” My yoga instructor would say “you have nowhere to be, nothing to do, but to be here, present.” I would concentrate on my breathing (never did that before!), and work on blocking everything out of my mind (much harder than it sounds).

During class, I give myself permission to put the world on hold for an hour. My must-do list will be there when I am done, and my noisy world will return, but for this one hour I honor myself, I rest my mind, I invigorate my body, and I …..relax. What a concept!

When my son was in first grade, he received a writing assignment; the topic was “my favorite thing to do.” He wrote “My favorite thing to do….is to relax. I like to go home, lie on the couch, put my feet up and just watch a movie.” (His teacher was not too happy, as she expected to hear he liked to play a sport or build a Lego creation, but I found it enlightening.) His favorite thing, was letting go, relaxing….just “be”ing. Hmmmm. Kids GET this.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so, as you rush around, going from appointment to appointment, crossing off items on your must-do list, remember that you can only go so far without re-fueling. The stop-rest-relax portion of your day is as important as the go-go-go part. It does not have to be through yoga, but find something that helps you relax your body AND mind. Then, when you pick up and go again, you will be refreshed and able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

So, try this as your new mantra for today:  stop – rest – relax.

And tomorrow?



For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.


Special moms need special care

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

two women meditatingA new study published in Pediatrics shows that groups led by other moms reduced stress in mothers of children with disabilities. It helped to improve “maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex developmental, physical, and behavioral needs.” These support groups were uniquely focused on learning specialized techniques to reduce stress.

Mothers of children with developmental disabilities experience stress, anxiety and depression more often and to a greater degree than mothers who parent children without disabilities. It is thought that the chronic stress and the associated poor health that often result may impact a mom’s ability to parent effectively.

This study looked at what would happen if a program were put in place specifically for moms of children with disabilities (or what I will call “Special Moms”).  Researchers randomly assigned 243 Special Moms into two groups to attend a program led by peer mentors (eg. other Special Moms who received training to lead the groups).

One group learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques while the other group learned Positive Adult Development (PAD) techniques. MBSR and PAD are evidence-based practices, which mean that they have been shown, through research, to be beneficial.

The MBSR group learned meditation, breathing and movement techniques and the relaxation response. The PAD group learned ways to “temper emotions such as guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and recruiting character strengths and virtues…and by exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.” All the moms attended weekly group sessions and practiced what they learned at home on a daily basis.

What were the results?

According to the study, the moms in both groups experienced less stress, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and life satisfaction.  After 6 months, these improvements continued. There were some differences between the two groups that related to whether they received the MBSR or PAD practice, but the important take-away from this study is that both treatments proved beneficial to the moms.

There are programs in place to help children with disabilities, but few programs exist to help their parents, especially when the stress causes mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Moms often become anxious or depressed, which does not help them as they face the intense daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability. This study shows the positive effect of proven stress reduction techniques when taught in a peer-mentored program.

The authors conclude that “future studies should be done on how trained mentors and professionals can address the mental health needs of mothers of children with developmental disabilities since doing so can improve maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex needs.”

Bottom line

If you are a Special Mom, your personal take-away message from this study is to try to include a stress reduction program into your daily life, such as meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique. If you can do so with a group of other Special Moms, all the better!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Keep up with your yoga

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

yogaYoga is tremendously popular throughout the world. If you have been taking yoga classes and now are pregnant, you will have to make some modifications but there probably is no need to quit.

Many places where yoga is taught have prenatal yoga classes, called hatha yoga.  This type of yoga offers pregnant women many benefits.
• Meditation and relaxation techniques reduce tension; this allows you to sleep better.
• Yoga increases the flexibility and strength of the muscles involved in delivery.
• Yoga may help reduce normal back pain
• The breathing techniques you learn in yoga class may help you breathe better during pregnancy and may help you handle labor pains in the future.

It really is important, however, to speak with your doctor before starting a yoga class. If you have had a loss, are at risk for a premature birth, have a heart condition or chronic back pain, it might not be best for you to do yoga.

Consider the following when trying to pick a yoga class:
• Before registering for a class, ask if you can watch a session. That way you will become familiar with what goes on during a class.
• Look for a class taught by an instructor who has experience teaching pregnant women. If in your local yoga school there is no class specifically designed for pregnant women, ask the instructor what experience she has in this area.  A good instructor will help you modify exercises and positions so they do not represent a risk for you or your baby. As your pregnancy advances, she will continue to modify the positions and will teach you how to use blankets and cushions so you can feel more comfortable.
• Start slowly and don’t try to assume postures you find uncomfortable. Be aware of any discomfort in your body.  If you start feeling shortness of breath, reduce the number of positions and exercises.
• Make sure you don’t feel too hot. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated.
• As with any exercise, if you should start to bleed, feel contractions, or think your baby is moving less, stop doing yoga and call your doctor.

Even if you have been practicing yoga for a while, once you are pregnant verify with your doctor that it is all right to continue. Remember that even if you are a yoga expert, certain postures are not recommended during pregnancy, such as lying on your back or your belly, doing deep forward or backward bends, twisting or inverse positions.

Meeting other moms

Monday, October 19th, 2009

60516849_thbOn most days it’s just me and my 9 month old. My husband works long hours. We moved about a year ago and I’m further away from my friends. Needless to say, I’m feeling a little isolated. And with winter approaching it’s only going to get worse. I don’t want the majority of our outings spent roaming around a shopping mall or grocery store. I need to branch out and get to know other moms. After having a new baby, what are some ways for new moms to network and meet other new moms in their area? Please help!

Exercise during pregnancy – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

pregnant-exerciseIt used to be that pregnancy finally offered a good reason to sit down and put your feet up. But times have changed.  Most pregnant women in good health should try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, dancing) on most, if not all, days. Dang!  No excuse to snooze here!

Most of us are aware of the many benefits of exercise, but when you’re pregnant and feeling wiped out?  Actually, regular exercise gives you a healthy buzz helping you feel better physically and emotionally, and the calories burned help prevent outrageous weight gain.  Exercise can relieve stress (what stress?) and build up stamina needed for labor and delivery.  It can help prevent gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. It can also help women cope during the postpartum period (did someone say stress again?) Exercise can help new moms keep the “baby blues” at bay, regain their energy and lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. All good stuff, so go for it!

But before you go out and run a marathon, talk with your health care provider. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if they are at risk of preterm labor or suffer from a serious ailment, such as heart or lung disease. So check with your doc or midwife before you start an exercise program.

Next, pick things you think you’ll like. Who’s going to stick with a routine that’s a total drag, even if it is good for you?  Make it fun – try several things. Check out running, hiking or dancing, if you like.  (Belly dancing for pregnant women is an absolute hoot!)  Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more is an excellent way to get the aerobic benefits of exercise, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. I found swimming at the local YWCA a great sport, especially in the third trimester when my knees were hurting me. The water supports the weight of your growing body, protects your joints and provides resistance that helps bring your heart rate up. Our colleague Anne got a real charge out of yoga classes designed for pregnant women. You may find that a variety of activities helps keep you motivated to continue exercising throughout your pregnancy – and beyond.

Be careful when choosing a sport. Avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as horseback riding or downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as ice hockey, kickboxing or soccer. Especially after the third month, avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back. Lying on your back can restrict the flow of blood to the uterus and endanger your baby. Finally, never scuba dive. As great as the water feels to you, this sport may lead to dangerous gas bubbles in the baby’s circulatory system.

When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel. Don’t overdo it—try to build up your level of fitness gradually. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, decreased fetal movement or contractions, stop exercising and contact your health care provider immediately.

With a little bit of caution, you can achieve or maintain a level of fitness that would shock your grandmother. You’ll feel and look better. And yes, you can still put your feet up—after you’ve come back from your walk.

For more information, read the March of Dimes fact sheet Fitness for Two.

Alternative medicine and children

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Acupuncture, herbal supplements, massage, yoga, hypnosis and more . . . The list of alternative therapies is long! Which ones are OK for children? The American Academy of Pediatrics just issued a new report on this topic.

This is a complicated area. Some alternative treatments can help. Example: Studies have found that acupuncture may help relieve certain kinds of headaches. But other types of alternative medicine can be harmful. Example: The weight loss drug fen-phen has been linked to serious heart problems.

But for many alternative therapies (if not most), we simply don’t know whether they hurt, help or do nothing. Research has been very limited. And many of these treatments can be costly.

If you’re using or thinking about using an alternative treatment for your child, check with a doctor or nurse first. If you’re pregnant, do the same (see Drugs, Herbs & Dietary Supplements for more info). Together, you can talk about the pro’s and con’s of alternative medicine and decide what’s best.

A word of caution about herbal supplements: Again, we don’t have a lot of research about many of them. The March of Dimes does not support the use of herbal or dietary supplements by women who can become pregnant, by pregnant women, or by children, without approval by a health care provider. While some supplements and herbal ingredients have been tested extensively, many have not been shown to be safe or effective.

For more on this topic, check out the Web site of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. And what do you think about alternative medicine?

Ice cream cake and fried calamari

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I’m so glad to be back at work today. I usually love long, holiday weekends, but I’m exhausted and I ate horribly the entire time. Saturday we celebrated my niece’s birthday with burgers and ice cream cake. Sunday night my husband and I rented a movie and ordered a pizza. For Labor Day we went to my sister-in-law’s. We spent the day on the beach (I didn’t drink enough water) and went to a seafood place for dinner. Every single thing on the menu was deep fried.

I have a headache and my tummy feels awful. My midwife would not be happy. Her practice is very nutrition-centered and I usually try to be, too. I’m chugging water and can’t wait to go to my Yoga class tonight. I had a small apple and multi-grain toast for breakfast. I’m planning to have a big green salad for lunch. I don’t know about dinner yet, but I’m thinking a light soup. I brought two snacks with me: low-fat yogurt and carrot sticks. I need to get back on track.

It’s amazing how food impacts the way I feel. Do you know what I mean?

Yoga during pregnancy

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

 I’m giving Yoga a second shot. The first time I explored the idea was in my early-twenties. My sister dragged me to a class after I had been out the night before celebrating the fact that it was Thursday. It was almost the weekend…woo hoo! Anyway, we went to this Yoga studio where I immediately felt self-conscience and very, very warm. I wasn’t wearing trendy work-out clothes like the other women (I opted for baggy shorts and an over-sized t-shirt) and the room was set to 110 degrees. Ugh. As the lights dimmed and the instructor chanted her first “ohm”, I got a wicked case of the giggles and had to leave the class. Or was I asked to leave? Either way, I promise I’ve matured since.

I’ve attended classes 3 times a week for the past month and it’s going really well so far. This is a Korean form of Yoga that focuses on balance, flexibility and relaxation — minus the really hot room. It’s something I plan to continue for as long as I’m able. It’s low impact, soothing and the personalized attention is wonderful. My doc thinks it’s an ideal type of exercise for me. My sister thinks it’s funny, though. She never let’s me live stuff down! LOL!