Pregnancy and Postpartum Support (Holistic)Skip to the navigation
About This Condition
Enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy. A healthy baby begins with a healthy mom, so start as soon as possible to prepare your body and mind for motherhood. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
About This Condition
Pregnancy, the period during which a woman's fertilized egg (embryo) gestates and becomes a fetus, lasts an average of 40 weeks from the date of the last menstrual period to delivery of the infant.
In the first trimester (13 weeks), many pregnant women experience nausea. Usually these women report that they feel best during the second trimester. During the third (final) trimester, the increasing size of the fetus begins to place mechanical strains on the expectant mother, often causing back pain , leg swelling, and other health problems.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
A woman can reduce her risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery by avoiding harmful substances, such as alcohol, caffeine , nicotine, recreational drugs, and some prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Even minimal alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of hyperactivity , short attention span, and emotional problems in the child.1 Pregnant women should, therefore, avoid alcohol completely.
Cigarette smoking during pregnancy causes lower birth weights and smaller-sized newborns. The rate of miscarriage in smokers is twice as high as that in nonsmokers,2 and babies born to mothers who smoke have more than twice the risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).3
Weight Gain in Pregnancy
No single maternal weight gain target meets the needs of all women. The amount of weight a woman optimally gains varies with her height, age, plans to breast feed, and whether she is delivering twins. However, a few basic guidelines are generally accepted:4 Women who enter pregnancy at more than 120% of standard weight still have an obligatory weight gain of 15-25 pounds at a rate of about 0.7 pounds per week. Women who are at ideal body weight and are not going to nurse have a target of gaining about 22 pounds overall at a rate of 0.8 pounds per week. Women who enter pregnancy between 90% and 110% of ideal body weight and plan to nurse have a target weight gain of 25-35 pounds overall at a rate of 0.9 pounds per week during the second and third trimesters. Physically immature adolescents and women less than 90% of ideal body weight have a target weight gain of 32 (28-40) pounds at a rate of 1.1 pounds per week. Women who know they are going to have twins have a target weight gain of 40 (35-45) pounds with a weekly rate of 1.4 pounds during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Another way to determine the appropriate weight gain for pregnancy is by using the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is calculated by dividing your body weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters). (A kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds; a meter is equal to about 39 inches.) According to the standard set in 1990 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences,5 a woman with a low BMI (less than 19.8) should gain a total of 12.5-18 kg (27.5-39.7 pounds) during pregnancy; a woman with a normal BMI (19.8-26) should gain a total of 11.5-16 kg (25.4-35.3 pounds) during pregnancy; a woman with a high BMI (greater than 26.0-29.0) should gain a total of 7-11.5 kg (15.4-25.4 pounds) during pregnancy. Adolescents and black women should strive for gains at the upper end of the recommended range. Short women (less than five feet) should strive for gains at the lower end of this range. Obese women (BMI greater than 29) have a separate recommended target weight gain of about 6 kg (13.2 pounds). Published studies suggest that only 30-40% of American women actually have weight gains within the IOM's recommended ranges.6 , 7 , 8
Although the IOM's national recommendations concerning pregnancy weight gain have been widely adopted, they have not been universally accepted.9 The amount of weight gain during pregnancy varies considerably among women with good pregnancy outcomes.10 , 11 For that reason, weight gain alone is not likely to be a perfect screening tool for pregnancy complications. Nevertheless, weight gains outside the IOM's recommended ranges are associated with twice as many poor pregnancy outcomes than are weight gains within the ranges. A systematic review of all studies published between 1990 and 1997 that specifically examined fetal and maternal outcomes showed that weight gain within the IOM's recommended ranges is associated with the best outcome for both mothers and infants.12
Weight loss programs are not generally recommended during pregnancy. Nevertheless, it should be noted that being overweight while pregnant increases the incidence of various conditions in both the mother and the fetus, such as gestational diabetes and blood pressure problems . The risk is proportional to the amount of excess weight. Overweight women have a higher risk of cesarean deliveries and a higher incidence of anesthetic and post-operative complications in these deliveries. Poor responsiveness in the newborn, large head, and some birth defects are more frequent in infants of obese mothers. Maternal obesity increases the risk of newborn death. The average cost of hospital prenatal and postnatal care is higher for overweight mothers than for normal-weight mothers. Infants of overweight mothers require admission into intensive care units more often than do infants of normal-weight mothers.13
Some women will be concerned that the IOM's recommended weight gain will result in too much weight gain or more weight retention after the baby is born, but there is no evidence to support this concern. Although there are risks associated with being overweight during pregnancy, dieting during pregnancy can seriously endanger the health of the fetus. A low rate of pregnancy weight gain has been shown, in most studies, to increase the risk of premature delivery.14 There is no evidence that restricting normal weight gain in pregnancy is either safe or beneficial.15
In one preliminary study, acupuncture relieved pain and diminished disability in the low back during pregnancy better than physiotherapy.16
A controlled trial found that acupuncture significantly reduced symptoms in women with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy that usually requires hospitalization.17 Treatment consisted of acupuncture at a single point on the forearm three times daily for two consecutive days. Acupressure (in which pressure, rather than needles, is used to stimulate acupuncture points) has also been found in several preliminary trials to be mildly effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.18 , 19 , 20
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
What Are Star Ratings?
Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
1. Gold S, Sherry L. Hyperactivity, learning disabilities and alcohol. J Learn Disabil 1984;17:3-6.
2. Northrup C. Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. New York: Bantam, 1994, 613.
3. Haglund B, Cnattingius S. Cigarette smoking as a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome. Am J Public Health 1990;80:29-32.
4. Adapted from McGanity WJ, Dawson EB, Van Hook JW. Maternal nutrition. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1999, 811-38.
5. Institute of Medicine. Nutrition during pregnancy, weight gain and nutrient supplements. Report of the Subcommittee on Nutritional Status and weight Gain during Pregnancy, Subcommittee on Dietary Intake and Nutrient Supplements during Pregnancy, Committee on Nutritional Status during Pregnancy and Lactation, Food and Nutrition Board. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1990, 1-233.
6. Caulfield LE, Witter FR, Stoltzfus RJ. Determinants of gestational weight gain outside the recommended ranges among black and white women. Obstet Gynecol 1996;87:760-6.
7. Hickey CA, Cliver SP, Goldenberg RL, et al. Prenatal weight gain, term birth weight, and fetal growth retardation among high-risk multiparous black and white women. Obstet Gynecol 1993;81:529-35.
8. Parker JD, Abrams B. Prenatal weight gain advice: an examination of the recent prenatal weight gain recommendations of the Institute of Medicine. Obstet Gynecol 1992;79:664-9.
9. Johnson JW, Yancey MK. A critique of the new recommendations for weight gain in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1996;174(1 Pt 1):254-8 [review].
10. Abrams B, Parker JD. Maternal weight gain in women with good pregnancy outcome. Obstet Gynecol 1990;76:1-7.
11. Carmichael S, Abrams B, Selvin S. The pattern of maternal weight gain in women with good pregnancy outcomes. Am J Public Health 1997;87:1984-8.
12. Abrams B, Altman SL, Pickett KE. Pregnancy weight gain: still controversial. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(5 Suppl):1233S-41S [review].
13. Galtier-Dereure F, Boegner C, Bringer J. Obesity and pregnancy: complications and cost. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(5 Suppl):1242S-8S [review].
14. Carmichael SL, Abrams B. A critical review of the relationship between gestational weight gain and preterm delivery. Obstet Gynecol 1997;89:865-73 [review].
15. Abrams B, Altman SL, Pickett KE. Pregnancy weight gain: still controversial. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(5 Suppl):1233S-41S [review].
16. Wedenberg K, Moen B, Norling A. A prospective randomized study comparing acupuncture with physiotherapy for low-back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2000;79:331-5.
17. Carlsson CPO, Axemo P, Bodin A, et al. Manual acupuncture reduces hyperemesis gravidarum: a placebo-controlled, randomized, single-blind, crossover study. J Pain Symptom Manage 2000;20:273-9.
18. Stainton MC, Neff EJ. The efficacy of SeaBands for the control of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Health Care Women Int 1994;15:563-75.
19. Belluomini J, Litt RC, Lee KA, Katz M. Acupressure for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a randomized, blinded study. Obstet Gynecol 1994;84:245-8.
20. Hyde E. Acupressure therapy for morning sickness. A controlled clinical trial. J Nurse Midwifery 1989;34:171-8.
21. Frezza M, Surrenti C, Manzillo G, et al. Oral S-adenosylmethionine in the symptomatic treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Gastroenterology 1990;99:211-5.
22. Frezza M, Centini G, Cammareri G, et al. S-adenosylmethionine for the treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Results of a controlled clinical trial. Hepatogastroenterology 1990;37 Suppl 2:122-5.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
Copyright © 2017 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. www.healthnotes.com
The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.