Healthy Mother Sanctum®

Planning your nutrition during the third trimester

In most of my labor and childbirth classes at Healthy Mother, moms- to-be are concerned about whether their baby is getting sufficient nutrition from their diet alone. At the same time, some of you are concerned about excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Both of these concerns can be taken care of, if you follow a well- balanced diet everyday.

As your baby’s nutritional needs increase during the final growth spurt of the last trimester, you may be more at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. Since nature intends that your baby’s extra nutritional needs are met before your own, you have to make sure that whatever food you eat is nutritious, and at the same time, provides the extra calories that you need. Also, the baby gains maximum immunities from the mother in the last trimester, so eating healthy will also lay the foundation for your baby’s good health in the long run.

In the last trimester, including sources of calcium and B vitamins in your diet becomes very important. Some good sources of vitamins B6 and B12 are:

Fortified bread ( I find that “7-Must” bread available in most Indian stores is a good source)

Brown rice

Baked potato (with skin)

Bananas, prune juice, carrot juice

Nuts (and peanut butter, for those who like its taste)

Chickpeas (Chana)

Fortified cereals are a great source of B-Vitamins. For those of you, who are concerned about excess weight gain, try a low-fat cereal (such as Kellogg’s Special K) with Slim Milk. This will give you the vitamins and calcium, minus the extra calories.

Eggs and dairy products

For non-vegetarians: beef, pork, lamb, fish and poultry can complement your food intake.

Some good sources of calcium are:

Dairy products. Yoghurt is an especially good source of calcium.

Paneer, soyabean and tofu

Almonds and other nuts

Sesame seeds

Figs (ripe or dried) are an excellent source of calcium.

Calcium is also present is small amounts in green leafy vegetables and oranges

In the last trimester, some of you may experience discomforts from bloating, constipation or heartburn. Eating foods rich in fiber, such as bran breakfast cereals, dried prunes, apples with skin, rice, whole wheat rotis, etc. can ease some of these discomforts. Also, eating small meals, at regular intervals, can help ease heartburn.

In the end, focus on getting servings from all food groups. One way of looking at good nutrition is by “Making your plate as colorful as possible”. By all means, grab those occasional French Fries if you crave for it. However, the best way to ensure that you don’t put on too much weight while you are pregnant is by eating sensibly and by keeping as active as possible.

As always, do write in your thoughts, queries and concerns.

Happy Father’s Day

June 15 was Father’s Day. World over, Father’s Day is celebrated by honoring dads and letting them know how important they are in our lives. India too is fast catching up to this celebration, in its own way. Today I will talk about that incredibly confusing and yet exhilarating time when a man is about to become a dad – his relationship with his wife or partner, and the avalanche of thoughts, questions, and feelings that go through his mind.

For some of you who are expecting your first child, this period can be one of great anticipation, as well as some nervousness. Well, you are not alone. Most dads-to-be feel this way at some time during the pregnancy months. And although it may be easy for moms to voice their feelings, dads may sometimes be unable to express them. You may be feeling a little left out, as mom is the one who is carrying the baby, and experiencing all the wonderful kicks and movements. However, she is also the one going through periods of backache, nausea, heartburn and fatigue. You may feel that you need to be at her beck and call to try and provide comfort when she has these concerns. But, you can also be an equal participant in this journey leading to the birth of your child. Stop for a moment, and feel mom’s belly, and experience those kicks for yourself. Help mom cook a meal – who knows, there may be a hidden master chef in you!

Some of you may be waiting in anticipation of mom going into labor any day now. You may wonder what your role in labor will be. You have undoubtedly heard of experiences of pain that the laboring woman goes through, and may wonder whether your wife will be able to cope with it. While T.V programs and movies show the wife cursing and screaming at her husband at times during labor, this is seldom the case in reality. Most women, especially if they know what to expect, go through labor with great poise! You will be surprised by their ability to bear the pain. AND, YOU will be the most important person to help mom-to-be deal with her pain. Your wife will depend on you for all the moral, emotional and physical support that she can get. You should be on hand to wipe the sweat off her face with a cold cloth, massage her back, help her through her breathing exercises, change positions and give her water, or simply to even just be beside her. Gently affirm her courage to go through this pain, and that she is almost there. You will be her pillar of strength, and she needs you more than she can ever tell you. We at Healthy MotherTM, during our sessions, discuss many of the things, that you as fathers can do during labor and be a complete partner in the birth of your baby.

Being there when your baby is born is an unforgettable experience that you will cherish for the rest of your lives. You will start bonding with your wife and baby in ways that you would have never imagined, and will start your wonderful journey into fatherhood. Hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day …

As always do write in with your comments, thoughts and concerns.

What about C-section?

One of the oft repeated questions that would-be moms in my ante-natal programs ask is: What is the chance of my having a Caesarean Section (C- Section), and will I be able to deal with it?

While this is not an easy question to answer, research, clinical studies and reported rates of C-sections in hospitals across many countries show that the most common reasons for Caesareans are:

Failure of labor to progress, due to improper positioning of the baby’s head, as a result of which the baby’s head appears too large to pass through the pelvis

Breech positioning of the baby, i.e., when the baby is positioned to come out feet, knees or buttocks first.

Fetal distress picked up by electronic fetal monitoring.

Amniotic fluid tinged with meconium (the baby’s first stools), when the bag of waters is ruptured. Under these circumstances, some obstetricians may also choose to speed up labor by using a drug called Pitocin first, and then opt for C-Section, if the labor still does not progress satisfactorily.

Maternal diseases such as active herpes, severe hypertension or kidney disease.

Sometimes, C- Sections are planned to avoid the pain of labor, or because they can be conveniently scheduled. While one cannot avoid C-sections done in medically necessary situations, it is important for would-be moms to know that a Caesarean is a major surgical operation. It takes at least six weeks to recover and involves cutting through abdominal muscles that tend to bulge and sag afterwards. When these muscles are then not properly strengthened after recovery, it is likely that the woman may suffer from backache at a later stage.

In the US, the most usual reason for a Caesarean is diagnosis of prolonged labor. However, many studies have found that a long labor does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong. In fact, when women in long labors were cared for by family members and labor support persons, and when they managed contractions throughout labor with breathing, massages, and were well hydrated, they were likely to have a normal birthing experience. If everyone is patient and has confidence in the mother and her body’s ability to give birth, the mother is more likely to deliver normally, with better outcomes for both herself and her baby.

What can you do? Wellness and birthing programs such as Healthy MotherTM are a good option to enroll in. Remain active throughout your pregnancy. Follow the exercise programs and practice the positions that are recommended and taught to you in your childbirth education program. Some of these exercises and positions, actually assist in helping the baby settle into your pelvis and moving the baby down the birth canal, once your labor starts. This in turn, facilitates labor and reduces your pain perception. Along with the breathing and relaxation techniques that you have learnt, you are then able to handle the labor pain with more confidence and ease.

Learn as much as possible about what birth is like in the hospital or health care facility that you have chosen. Pregnancy wellness and childbirth education programs such as Healthy MotherTM, provide you information about various aspects of medical interventions during labor including Caesareans, and engage you in conversations about pain relief in labor. They empower you to talk to your obstetrician about your preferences, and to ask them about the possible advantages and disadvantages of any recommended medical procedures, including Caesareans. Let your obstetrician know, that if a Caesarean does become medically necessary, you would still like to be involved in the decisions regarding your care, as much as possible. Understand that even with the best planning and care, labor and birth do not always go as expected. Under these circumstances, a healthy baby and healthy mother become the most important outcome. Once you are mentally prepared, you will perhaps feel more in control of the circumstances surrounding the birth of your baby, and be able to celebrate the most important event in your life.

As usual, please send in your comments, questions or experiences.

Early pregnancy

When did you realize that you were pregnant? Perhaps you missed a period, or maybe you were feeling extraordinarily lethargic, or perhaps you felt that there was something “just different” going on with your body.

Once you confirm that you are pregnant, you may have started observing your body closely. This is just one of the many ways that you will navigate this entire journey called pregnancy. Being mindful of your body’s needs and responding to it, becomes vital to having a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy.

Even before your embryo (this is what your baby is called at eight weeks) implants in your uterus, your hormone levels start to shift. A hormone called the HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone, which is detectable using pregnancy tests, starts to rise. These hormonal shifts along with your growing baby change your body in amazing ways throughout your pregnancy.

You may experience nausea in the mornings – about two-thirds of all pregnant women do. Thankfully, it does go away somewhere between the third and fourth month. Think of this nausea as wellness insurance as described by one researcher. Pregnancy nausea protects the mother and the baby from harmful chemicals and food-borne illness. Conversely, her cravings may be for foods that are rich in nutrients in order to develop a strong and healthy baby. What can you do? Eat small, regular meals that are comforting and easily digestible. Most of the expectant moms in my program tell me that carbohydrates seem to work for them to quell the nausea, at least temporarily. You can also try tangy or salty foods.

You may also experience extreme tiredness and or mood-swings. Listen to your body and rest when you can. One mother-to-be told me recently – “I would wake up at 7:00 a.m. and be ready to be in bed again by 9:00 a.m.” It is okay to rest – the earlier you respond to your body’s signals, the more likely you will feel rested and ready to take the next steps with your baby in this wonderful journey of the next 9 months. I will talk about C-section in my next post, as this is the one topic that is topmost in the minds of would-be-moms in my program.

I invite you to share your experiences, thoughts, questions and concerns in this forum

Happy Mother’s Day

Today (May 11) is Mother’s Day. What is Mothers Day for anyway? Do we really need a specific day in the year to celebrate Mother’s Day? As I see mothers all over the world juggle between multiple responsibilities to bring up their kids, I wonder where do they get their strength? Is it due to some “motherhood” gene in their DNA that is hardwired into their brain?

No matter what it is, motherhood is special… whether you are a mother to your kids, or to your pets, or to your elderly parents or dependents. As one mother to another, I salute you all.

Here is something that I received from a dear friend, a wonderful mother herself:

This is for all mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up puke, “It’s okay honey, Mommy (or Amma) is here”;

For all mothers who have sat in rocking chairs for hours on end soothing crying babies who can’t be comforted;

This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse;

For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the mothers who DON’T;

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes;

This is for the mothers whose priceless art collections are hanging on their refrigerator doors;

And for all the mothers who endured the sweltering sun at football , hockey or cricket games instead of watching from the air conditioned comfort of their cars, so that when their kids asked, “Did you see me, Mom?” they could say, “Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” and mean it;

This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair when they stomp their feet and scream for ice cream before dinner. And for all the mothers who count to ten instead, but realize how child abuse happens;

This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the (grand) mothers who wanted to, but just couldn’t find the words;

This is for all the mothers who go hungry, so their children can eat;

For all the mothers who read “Goodnight, Moon” twice a night for a year. And then read it again. “Just one more time”;

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead;

This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot;

This is for every mother whose head turns automatically when a little voice calls “Mom?” in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home — or even away at college;

This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can’t find the words to reach them;

For all the mothers who bite their lips until they bleed when their 14 year olds dye their hair green;

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful, and now pray they come home safely from a war;

What makes a good Mother anyway?

Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time?

Or is it in her heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone, climbing the bus for the very first time, or entering the school gate with tears in their eyes when they look back?

The jolt that it takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 A.M. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby?

The panic, years later, that comes again at 2 A.M. when you just want to hear their key in the door and know they are safe again in your home?

Or the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a child dying?

The emotions of motherhood are universal and so our thoughts are for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation…

And mature mothers learning to let go.

For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

Single mothers and married mothers.

Mothers with money, mothers without.

This is for you all and for all of us.

Hang in there. In the end we can only do the best we can. Tell them every day that we love them. And pray.

Healthy Pregnancy and Healthy Childbirth

Our older son turned 10 the other day. Phew!! it has been an exhilarating, and fulfilling 10 years.While I was carrying him we did not know much about what childbirth entailed, both from a physical and psychological perspective. Though our doctor and nurses at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center (in Nashua, NH, USA) were very helpful, actually experiencing those emotions and physical changes was nothing like what we had heard and read (especially in books such as “What to expect….”).

After our older one was delivered via emergency c-section, I was determined to have our next child the normal way. Believe me, it took a lot of effort in terms of being mentally and physically prepared. But I finally succeeded with our younger son. We now have two adorable and active kids who are a constant source of joy.

As I started to practice physical therapy again after our older son was born, I had a chance to work a lot with mothers-to-be. That kindled an interest in applying my training to helping would-be-mothers to prepare for the childbirth process and to help them understand that it is a normal process.

All expectant parents want the same thing: a healthy baby. But, what are the steps to having a healthy baby? The Healthy Mother(TM) Program believes that a healthy baby begins with a healthy pregnancy and normal birth. It builds upon the well-established principles of Lamaze International to promote, support and protect normal birth through a mix of hands-on wellness programs, as well as by providing reliable, vital information to expectant parents about what is perhaps the single-most important event in their life.

Childbirth is a wonderful, joyous journey. When parents are prepared and well-informed about this natural process, the woman’s confidence in her ability to go through labor and childbirth increases dramatically, and she is able to enjoy this incredible phase in her life!

Watch out for my next post on early pregnancy. Until then, feel free to join in, and discuss anything that’s important to you about your pregnancy and childbirth. Share your experiences and ask questions. I will try to answer as accurately as possible