Exercise & Fitness

Maintaining a Holistic Lifestyle During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a great period of time to consider new, holistic treatments. Things like aromatherapy, ginger teas and yogas are recommended for a healthy lifestyle during and after pregnancy.

Pregnancy is the ideal time to test out diet, exercise and relaxation techniques that can offer long-term benefits to both mother and child. “I love seeing pregnant women,” says Megan Schlick, N.D., a naturopathic physician at Shawnee Mission Holistic Care. “[Pregnant] women are willing to try new things to improve their health because they have another person to consider.”

Perhaps a prenatal yoga class will be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with this ancient form of mind-body exercise. Or you may discover that a certain scent or genre of music does wonders for your nerves. Local experts discuss their favorite mind-body practices for a natural, healthy nine-month journey—and beyond.

Aromatherapy for Momentary Relief

Treat your heightened sense of smell with soothing or invigorating scents depending on your needs.

“Lavender is my go-to scent for relaxation,” says Schlick. “I tell patients to put a couple of drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball and put it under their pillow at nighttime, or put a couple of drops in the bathtub.” Orange and peppermint are natural pick-me-ups, says certified nurse-midwife Cathy Gordon, founder of New Birth Company birth center in Overland Park. “If we have a mom who seems down, I might peel an orange and her spirits will rise,” she says.

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

The benefits of massage during pregnancy go far beyond relaxation. It also decreases blood pressure and enhances circulation, which can reduce swelling, says Gordon. Studies show prenatal massage can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression as well.

It’s important to be treated by a masseuse that specializes in pregnancy massage. “There are certain pressure points that can promote labor,” cautions Gordon. It’s generally agreed that the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Ask for recommendations from your OB or midwife or inquire at a chiropractic practice.

Water Therapy as an Anti-Swelling Aid

One of the most effective ways to reduce swelling and lower blood pressure—two important elements for a healthy pregnancy—is what’s called “immersion therapy.” “Soak in a tub or a pool for 30 minutes a day, as deep as you can get it,” says Gordon. The water temperature should be body temperature—97°F to 101°F.

Music and Meditation for a Calming Effect

“Our systems, heartbeat and breathing, want to be in tune with our environment,” explains Gordon. “We have to fight the noisy, fast-paced world we live in to create a better internal environment for ourselves and growing babies.”

One way to counteract our “go, go, go” culture is by listening to calming music or meditation exercises. At New Birth Co., soothing melodies featuring drums, flutes and violins, created by music therapist Janalea Hoffman, play in the background and are available for purchase.

iPhone apps featuring breathing exercises and visual imagery can also decrease stress and take only 10 minutes, says Schlick.

Morning Sickness Remedies

Nausea is one of the most common pregnancy complaints, especially in the first trimester. A natural remedy to try is ginger, says Schlick and Gordon. Fresh ginger can be shaved into warm water for a tea-like drink or you can buy ginger capsules and chews at natural food stores. Another tasty choice are Preggie Pop Drops, lozenges that contain B6, a vitamin known to stave off queasiness.

Alternatives to Toxins in Cleaning Products

Go back to basics when it comes to cleaning, Schlick suggests. “Anything that has a strong chemical fume could be potentially dangerous,” she says. The best choice? Make your own simple cleaning solution from baking soda, borax and vinegar.

A scentless toxin to avoid excessive exposure to during pregnancy is BPA, a chemical that has been linked to fetal reproductive development problems in animal studies. Pregnant women should avoid eating food from plastic containers or from cans, most of which are lined with a plastic resin made from BPA.

Make-up and skin care products with natural ingredients are good choices during pregnancy, Schlick advises. “Just be aware of what’s being absorbed by your skin,” she says.

Supplements as “Nutrient Insurance”

“Food is always the best source for nutrients,” says Schlick. “But I look at supplements as an insurance policy.” In addition to a high-quality prenatal vitamin, she often suggests that her non-fish-eating patients take a fish-oil supplement. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost visual, cardiovascular and brain health in mother and baby. She and Gordon also often recommend vitamin D supplement depending on a woman’s current level of vitamin D.

Yoga and Exercise as Preparation for Childbirth

Prenatal yoga is a safe way to prepare your mind and body for childbirth—even if you’ve never taken yoga before. Darling Yoga in Overland Park and Yoga Patch in Waldo are just two studios that cater to pregnant women.

In addition to prenatal yoga classes, Shawnee Mission Medical Center offers “Fit Mom 2Be” and “Fit Mom + Baby” exercise classes.