In a culture that rarely sees pregnancy as a journey to self-discovery, Body, Soul, and Baby offers a fresh perspective on this transformative life experience by showing women how to tune in to the cues offered by their bodies and souls—as well as by the babies growing within them—for a healthier pregnancy, a more fulfilling birth experience, and a deeper bond with their baby.
Drawing on the best of both complementary and conventional Western medicine, Dr. Gaudet has written a groundbreaking guide that shows you how to become an active participant in your pregnancy. By working with the natural processes of pregnancy, you can discover how to:
• Pick up important signals from within about what you need, what your body needs, and what is right for both you and your baby
• Tune in to cues that can alert you to early signs of problems
• Use the mind-body connection to reduce stress, explore this remarkable life change, and bond with your baby
• Nurture your whole self, including your evolving sexual and sensual needs
• Make informed and conscious choices that reflect both your personal feelings and the latest
• Collaborate with your doctor or midwife, and build a supportive health-care team
Empowering, inspiring, and respectful of the wisdom of the female body and spirit, this invaluable book also includes advice on eating right and staying active, and natural and alternative approaches to pain relief. Whether you’re already pregnant or preparing to be, the time to start listening to your inner wisdom is now, and the guide to doing it is here.
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Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D., is Executive Director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. The author of the highly acclaimed Consciously Female, Dr. Gaudet is a practicing, board-certified ob-gyn and the founding executive director of Dr. Andrew Weil’s Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She lives with her son Ryan in Durham, North Carolina.
Paula Spencer is a freelance writer whose eight books include The V Book and Momfidence!: An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting. Author of the “Momfidence!” column in Woman’s Day, she is also a contributing editor to Parenting and Baby Talk. She lives with her husband and four children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Your Pregnancy Self-Care Plan
How to nurture your health across your five Centers of Wellness
I wish I could offer you a magical formula for a perfect pregnancy and baby. But no such formula exists because “perfection” is a word that has no place in describing the human endeavor of childbearing. What’s more, differing backgrounds, histories, tastes, habits, starting points, and so on mean that no one-size-fits-all health plan can possibly have the same effect on every person. Every birth is different, too. Sure, all female bodies are designed to gestate and give birth, but while some lucky people can just step out of the way and let the body do its thing, more often challenges arise–nausea, anemia, preterm labor– where our attention and involvement can make a difference. In addition, certain aspects of birth simply fall beyond anyone’s control or understanding. We don’t know why some women develop preeclampsia or why some fetuses refuse to come out of a breech position, for example. Your goal should be to move toward a lifestyle that will support your pregnancy in an optimal way. And that’s something I can give you.
Whatever your starting point, this season of change is an ideal time to make some improvements in the way you take care of yourself. Whether you work to bring better balance into your life, shed unhealthy habits, or improve the good habits you already have, a child is the ultimate motivation. What’s more, these benefits reverberate well beyond pregnancy and childbirth. You can create new habits that persist long after your baby is born, setting yourself up for a healthier midlife and beyond. By modeling those behaviors in motherhood, you’ll send out powerful messages that shape your child’s health as she or he grows, too.
THE FIVE CENTERS OF WELLNESS
Good health consists of five different (but overlapping) domains that must be individually strong as well as balanced overall. These five Centers of Wellness are:
1. Nutrition: food, drink, and supplements.
2. Movement: exercise for fitness as well as movement that brings you joy.
3. Mind: the state of your mind, including your stressors and your perceptions.
4. Spirit: a feeling of connectedness to self, to other beings, and to an entity larger than yourself (such as God or nature), whether via spirituality, community, religion, or other vehicles.
5. Sensation: sensuality (the senses: touch, taste, vision, hearing, and smell) and sexuality.
It’s through these five centers that you nourish your body and soul. They’re listed in no particular order of importance, because all five are important! Conventional medicine tends to value the first two and give a nod to the third. The last two are rarely even considered in a medical setting. But I believe all five interconnect to impact your well-being. For example, when you are eating well, you often feel less depressed, more energetic and apt to exercise more, and your relationships are also better. When you are not managing stress well, you may overeat and stop exercising, and your relationships and sex life may suffer.
What’s so interesting is that your needs within a given center are constantly shifting–especially in pregnancy. The way you move, your appetites and food preferences, your stress level, your libido, your sense of connection to God or to your own mother or your friends–all will be impacted across the arc of this experience and all will vary from trimester to trimester, and even from day to day. That’s why paying attention to all five of your Centers of Wellness is so important, and why you need a flexible plan that changes as you do. The Basic Self-Care Plan for Pregnancy is simple and life-changing.
In each of your five Centers of Wellness, I’ve mapped out a handful of daily goals. These are the minimum steps necessary to bring consciousness to that aspect of your health each day. Then I’ve listed a number of suggestions as to how you can attain each goal. Although the following summary of base-plan goals may sound like small steps, the ways you meet them, which I’ll outline in the following pages, add up to big health changes.
BASIC SELF-CARE PLAN FOR PREGNANCY
Mind Center goals
• Try to bring awareness to your level of stress every day.
• Trigger the relaxation response at least once a day.
• Explore ways to use mind-body techniques to support the specific needs of your body and your soul.
Nutrition Center goals
• Explore and understand your relationship with food.
• Bring meal-by-meal consciousness to your food choices.
• Eliminate substances that are known dangers.
• Shift to a more pregnancy-friendly, balanced diet, with:
oMore essential nutrients
oMore fruits and vegetables
oHealthier fats, especially omega-3s
oMore whole grains
oFewer empty calories
Movement Center goals
• Make conscious choices about the kinds of activity that your body needs and enjoys every day.
• Do a low-impact aerobic activity that you enjoy at least three times a week on nonconsecutive days.
• Strength-train at least three times a week nonconsecutive days.
• Stretch every day.
Spirit Center goals
• Think about your sense of your life’s meaning and purpose.
• Build a “sacred time” into each day.
• Do one thing every day to fuel or feed a relationship that you care about.
Sensation Center goals
• Pay attention to which of your senses you are most nurtured by.
• Actively nurture the full range of your senses and sensuality each day.
• Explore and support your sexuality as it evolves throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
THE MIND CENTER
Your mind is the interface between reality (the world, your outer life) and your body’s response. I look forward to the day when this powerful connection is more routinely woven into the fabric of pregnancy care, because it so clearly impacts the health of the mother and her baby.We now know the state of your mind can influence your reproductive hormones, your blood pressure, your glucose levels, and the time and progress of your labor, among other things. Your body responds not to the reality of the circumstances you are in but to your perception of those realities. If you’re resting on the sofa with your feet up and a glass of lemonade in your hands after a long workday, but you’re ruminating about the dish-throwing argument you just had with your husband and what shape your unsettled marriage will be in by the time the baby arrives, your body responds as if still in the middle of the fight. Your brain goes on alert and the fight or-flight response built into your system kicks in, poising your body for action. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline jump, your blood pressure and heart rate increase, muscles tense, and glucose and cholesterol are released to provide quick energy. These changes are collectively known as the stress response.
On the other hand, you could be in the stressful throes of labor and yet, if your thoughts and breathing are aligned to a calm, relaxed mode, your body will respond accordingly and relax. This physiologic reaction is called the relaxation response. It can happen naturally–say, because you are actually lying there drinking lemonade and enjoying it–or you can use mind-body tools to trigger this response to counter stress.
Relaxation is to the mind what sleep is to the body. Sleep is a time when the body can truly unplug and be at rest.Your mind needs rest, too. And yet, when push comes to shove in a busy day, this center is one of the first my patients seem to ignore. Failure to relax can impact the likelihood of conceiving or of carrying a healthy baby to term. The following are some ways to nurture this center and achieve the basic mental goals of pregnancy. (Trimester-specific advice appears in the chapters that follow.)
GOAL: Try to bring awareness to your level of stress every day.
• Reflect on your stress level. Whether pregnant or not, we grow accustomed to chronic stress. Our bodies adapt to it and our minds begin to consider this state normal. Over time, we keep setting our baseline a little higher and higher, so that eventually we don’t even notice how stressed out we really are. Stop and bring a level of awareness to what you’re feeling each day.
• Reflect on your stress points. Your stress points are how stress manifests itself. Notice how and where your body holds stress. Reflect on which body systems or parts of you are most affected by stress. Do you get headaches or backaches? Are you more likely to get sick? Are you simply tired or fatigued under stress? Does your gastrointestinal system take the hit (for example, changed bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea, or indigestion)? Do you get depressed? Do your relationships suffer? Often an individual’s stress points change or intensify while on the Fertility Pathway. Places in your musculoskeletal system that previously manifested stress–the lower back, for example–may be even more vulnerable, while areas that might never have given you much of problem–your GI system, for example–may start responding noticeably to stress. Reflect on whether and how your stress responses have changed.
• Be conscious about how much sleep you’re needing and getting. The average nonpregnant woman needs eight hours of sleep a night–and one-quarter of us don’t sleep enough to be fully alert the next day. Now add in the demands of gestation. At various points in pregnancy, your body may require more sleep than what you’re used to. Be a...
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