By Beth Donnelly Cabán
Summer is a great time to road-trip out of the city so here are a few tips to keep your travels smooth and stress-free while you’re pregnant. If you’re too far along to get away from the city, you’ll find some ideas below for ways to stay cool while you await the arrival of your baby.
Travel - if you’re traveling by car, plan to make frequent stops so you can change positions, walk around, and stretch your body. Take a 5-minute walk to get blood flowing to your legs, hips, and pelvis. Move your arms, shoulders, and hands. Do a few yoga poses. Use the side of the car for a forward bend to stretch hamstrings and calves and extend your spine; sway your hips, keep your abdominal muscles engaged so your belly doesn’t hang down toward the ground. In the car, flex and extend feet and ankles, hands and wrists. Movement is essential for promoting circulation of blood, oxygen, and lymph, and for preventing swelling. Always wear your seatbelt and use airbags. Have someone else pump the gas or go to full service center so you don’t have to breathe gas fumes.
Hydrate! Consistent hydration is the rule to remember especially during pregnancy, and particularly in the summer. When you’re pregnant, all of your metabolic processes are revved up and working harder. You’re breathing deeper and faster so it’s easier to become dehydrated. Adequate hydration helps keep the uterine muscles relaxed until it’s time for labor. There’s a definite link between preterm uterine contractions and dehydration so avoid that by staying well hydrated. Infuse your water with lemon, lime, mint or cucumber to give it that summer flavor.
Nourish yourself! Summer is great time to eat fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Visit the Farmers Markets to get produce straight from the farmer, but be sure to wash your food before eating. Pregnancy is not the time to eat rich foods and overdo it. Be mindful of some of the staples in your diet that provide you with the nutrients you need and go down easily. Watch out for heartburn - eat a few hours before going to bed; avoid acidic foods like orange juice and tomatoes. Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks like trail mix, nuts, vegetables, fruits, whole grain crackers and easy-to-eat proteins like hard boiled eggs, hummus, cheese, greek yogurt and tofu for your travels and daily outings.
Nourish and Protect Your Skin - Your skin drinks in anything you put on it so be sure to get a sunscreen that protects you from the sun’s UVA rays without the addition of harmful chemicals. You’ll also want to start looking into sunscreen for infants because once your baby is over 6 months old, you can apply sunscreen to your baby. Before 6 months of age, avoid direct exposure to sunlight and use others forms of protection like shade and clothing. The Environmental Working Group updates a list of sunscreens every year: http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/
Swim - swimming is a great way to move the entire body while you are completely buoyant. Your joints will relax as they get a break from supporting the extra weight of pregnancy. Swimming is great for circulation, oxygenation, and muscle tone. Swimming helps ward off fatigue and depression. It will make you more relaxed in your body while toning muscles at the same time. If you are swimming in a chlorinated pool, shower after you swim. And, don’t stay in the sun too long. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Pack those extra pillows - In order to get a good night’s sleep or at least a few hours of rest, remember to pack those extra pillows that you’ve been using at home to make your comfortable nest. Be mindful of your posture when you sleep, aligning the spine from neck to pelvis. Pillows are the key when you are sleeping in a side-lying position. Place a pillow between the knees, shins, and feet to support the top leg, keep the hips in alignment, and relieve any pressure on nerves. Hug a pillow in toward your chest to support the top arm. Keep the head and neck well supported on a few pillows. Try a breathing practice if you can’t get to sleep: breathe in for the count of 3 and breathe out for the count of 6.
If you are too far along in your pregnancy to travel far this summer, here are a few ways to stay cool and distract yourself in the city: The Red Hook Pool is an enormous swimming pool that you will want to take your baby to someday, so you might as well start now. Check out the rules, regulations and hours here: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/red-hook-park/facilities/outdoor-pools/red-hook-pool.
Take an early morning walk in one of the parks before the heat builds up (Prospect Park, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park). Visit the library - they’re air-conditioned! Go to a matinee but be sure to sit in the back or on the side where can easily get up and stretch, move, shift, and go to the bathroom. And remember to stay well hydrated!
Beth Donnelly Cabán is a veteran Hatha Yoga teacher and a Registered Nurse who has specialized in the therapeutic application of yoga to pregnancy, labor, and postpartum for nearly twenty years. She is a certified Midwife Assistant, labor support doula, and childbirth educator. Her prenatal yoga video is available here: http://jbrownyogavideo.com/beth-prenatal