Why should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

Why should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

Exercise is of vital importance to the pregnant woman. It prevents many of the common discomforts of pregnancy. Increased circulation is one benefit, as it provides oxygenated blood to the extremities and prevents blood pooling. This prevents varicose veins and cramping. The increased blood flow eases muscular aches, tension and ligament pain. Exercise is a great way to prepare for the birth as it loosens the pelvis and tones the surrounding muscles. What you do during pregnancy facilitates healing after the birth as exercise facilitates organ tone and proper repositioning, preventing prolapse of the bladder, uterus, and intestines.

Kegel exercises are a great thing to incorporate into your exercise routine. This is a gentle contraction and relaxation of the perineal muscles. By exercising this area you increase blood flow and muscular tone in the area which facilitate healing post-partum. Kegels reduce recovery time after birth! You will also be learning how to relax the perineum, an important factor in birthing. We recommend doing 3 sets of 20 kegels during the course of a day. Do them in the car or while watching a movie. It’s easy!

Through exercise muscles are toned internally and externally, the organs function better, this can even relieve constipation. In general, exercise elevates your mood and prevents depression, especially if you choose an outdoor activity. You may choose a specific pregnancy oriented form of exercise, such as pre-natal yoga, that is designed to promote a smooth birth, teaching breathing and relaxation techniques as well. Yoga and stretching are excellent ways to relieve the discomforts of pregnancy such as an aching back or psiatic pain. Find a teacher who is used to dealing with pregnancy.

We develop body awareness through exercise by tuning into our own needs. A good rule to follow is that if you did it before pregnancy, you can do it during pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a good time to take up a new form of exercise that you have never tried before. Another tip is to avoid high impact exercise, like running, or anything that causes strain, like weight lifting. If you are used to being active before you became pregnant stay active, but adjust your activity level to accommodate your growing size and nutritional needs. You never want to burn more calories exercising than you are ingesting. That is a diet and pregnant women should not diet. If you were not active before pregnancy we recommend taking up walking and or dancing.  They are ideal forms of exercise for pregnancy as they both tone the pelvis, increases cardiovascular well being, and walking gets you out in the fresh air. Try a short walk of 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to start. You may find it makes you feel great and you will walk more.

If you would like more in formation on exercise in pregnancy try Aviva Rohm’s book The Natural Pregnancy, or search The Yoga Journal website for The Living Arts video series of Yoga for Pregnancy, or check out your local YWCA for indoor exercise.


Why should I Exercise During Pregnancy

Why Should I Choose Whole Foods?

Why Should I Choose Whole Foods?


The Adverse Effects of Refined Carbohydrates


Did you know?


  • The process of refining carbohydrates actually removes the vitamin and mineral content from whole grains, corn, and rice, rendering them useless “empty” calories. High temperatures and pressure result in “dead” food devoid of nutrition.
  • These foods such as white bread, processed cereals, or donuts enter the blood stream in a rush, causing a sudden increase in blood sugar. This rush results in increased amounts of insulin and other hormones to manage the influx of sugar. This assault on the system, if repeated, begins to wear down the glands and organs controlling assimilation of foods. Furthermore, because the food has no real nutritional content there is nothing gained from this process, causing further degradation.
  • In order to digest refined carbohydrates the body must draw from it’s stored supply of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes for proper metabolization, further depleting the system. So, not only do refined carbohydrates fail to add nutrition to the body…they actually take it away!
  • Foods that undergo refinement processes have been exposed to and contain toxic chemicals. Bromating and bleaching agents are used to bleach and refine grains and have never been considered safe.
  • When carbohydrates are refined they are stripped of their B Vitamins, which are necessary for proper digestion, rendering the food indigestible. Fiber is also removed to create a smooth and cake like texture. Fiber content is an important reason to eat whole grains and a crucial element of the digestion process.
  • Refined carbohydrates become nothing but pure sugar that wreck havoc on blood sugar levels. They are imbalanced sources of excessive sugar that is linked to tooth decay, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Breads and cereals made from whole grains do not have a long shelf life, but refined carbohydrates can last for ages. They are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals to prevent mold and decay and pumped with preservatives to ensure longevity. These chemicals have not been properly tested to prove safety.
  • Most refined carbohydrates begin with genetically modified grains that contain foreign proteins that are difficult to digest.


Why Should I Choose Whole Foods

Where does the weight go?

Where does the weight go?


  • You can expect an initial weight loss of 10-12 pounds! The birth of your baby, the placenta, and the release of amniotic fluid all add up to a large release of weight at birth. All of this occurs without dieting or exercise!
  • Regaining your pre-pregnant weight should not be a goal, but a pleasant surprise if it occurs. For some women, a return to the pre-pregnant weight becomes more difficult with each pregnancy. Hormonal shifts can permanently change the way your body holds weight. Also, decreased muscle tone in the abdominal region will be further reduced with each pregnancy. It is important to add strengthening exercises to your daily routine. You may notice that you show more and earlier with each baby.
  • If you were active before, during and after your pregnancy you are more likely to retain less weight than someone who is not active. So get out there and go for walks with your baby, swim laps, or take a yoga class.
  • Postpartal diaphoresis is the elimination of excess fluid and waste products through increased perspiration during the postpartum. Women may experience increased sweating at night, so much so that they are soaked when they wake. This contributes to weight loss and reduces the puffiness and swelling you may have experienced late in pregnancy. Your face and extremities will slim down due to this water loss.
  • Breastfeeding increases the demands on your body. You will be burning more calories in order to produce breast milk. In fact, you will need an additional 500-600 calories to promote healthy lactation. This is much less than you needed while pregnant, but does not allow for dieting or regaining your pre-pregnant weight right away. Adequate food and water intake are essential to the production of milk.
  • Although the weight may fade away quickly many women notice a lack of tone and muscular integrity. Exercise is the key to regaining the firmness you may have lost. Walking, yoga, weight training, and kegels can be excellent additions to your routine.


Where does the weight go

Vitamin and Mineral needs for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Vitamin and Mineral needs for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Note: I eliminated phosphorous to keep this to three pages, but it is also very important


Folic Acid – helps form red blood cells and anti-bodies that prevent infection, crucial for healthy brain development because it is used in the assimilation of proteins, very important in larger amounts during pregnancy because it prevents anemia, miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects

-too little results in anemia and neural tube defects in the baby

-too much may mask the symptoms of b12 related anemia or b12 deficiency and higher levels may actually lower b12 levels or result in gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, malaise, and     irritability.

-found in green, leafy vegetables, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, eggs, whole grains, lentils, nuts, milk, and liver

-it is lost in cooking, so eating some raw sources is important


Vitamin A – prevents and fights infections, promotes healthy skin and mucous membranes, strong bones, rich blood, and good eyesight, allows for proper digestion of proteins

-too much can cause nausea, vomiting, dry skin, hair loss, dry, itchy skin

-too little can cause colds and respiratory problems, sinus trouble, rough skin, acne, dandruff and night blindness

-body absorbs it best when mashed, cooked, or pureed and can be drawn out of the body when mineral oil is ingested

-found in yellow and orange fruits, yellow, dark green, and orange vegetables, dairy products, egg yolks and liver


Vitamin B Complex

B1 – needed for healthy nervous system, good muscle tone in heart, stomach and intestines, assists the conversion of glucose into energy and balances the appetite and blood sugar through the utilization of starches and sugars

-too little results in constipation, loss of appetite, digestive problems, apathy, nervousness and poor memory

-excess of this vitamin is rare due to oral intake, there is no known toxicity, overdoses of injected b1 has been known to cause edema or trauma

-this vitamin can be lost in the refinement processes of grains and is destroyed by heat, oxidation and alkaline substances

-sources include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, nutritional yeast, bananas, and avocados

B2 – needed for assimilation and digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, aids in cell respiration, and maintenance of skin, nails, hair, and vision

-found in whole grains, dried beans and peas, seeds, leafy greens, cottage cheese, milk, and organ meats

-large quantities of this vitamin have been known to result in the loss of other b vitamins

-too little causes digestive or skin and eye problems, cracking at the corners of the mouth, hair loss, poor lactation, sluggishness, slow growth, dizziness, trembling, vaginal itching, bloating and urinary difficulty

B6 – needed for healthy nervous system, utilization of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, required for production of antibodies and red blood cells, helps regulate body fluids, and assists in healthy muscle formation and functioning, and hormone balancing

-too little may cause nausea, leg cramping and depression especially in pregnancy

-excessive doses have been associated with peripheral neuritis

-is destroyed by heat and ultra-violet light

-found in brown rice, wheat germ and bran, blackstrap molasses, nutritional yeast, bananas, salmon, and organ meats

B12 – needed to prevent anemia and nervous disorders as well as to maintain fertility and promote normal growth and development

– too little may cause irrational anger

– only found in animal foods


Vitamin D – aids in absorption of calcium and phosphorous which are necessary for bone formation, helps maintain a normal heart, nervous system, and blood clotting capabilities

-sources are exposure to sunlight, fatty fish, fish liver oils, butter, egg yolks, and milk from grazed cows

-too little can lead to bone deformities

-too much can lead to dizziness, nausea, weakness, similar to overexposure to the sun


Vitamin C – required for production of collagen and in healing wounds and burns, needed for healthy placenta,capillaries, and cell walls and prevents varicosities and hemorrhage, aids in assimilation of other nutrients

-too little may result in scurvy, deficiencies are associated with alcoholics, psychiatric patients, fatigue, various infections, depression, allergies, ulcers, and many other medical conditions

-too much (over 2,000mg)can cause miscarriage in early pregnancy and scurvy in the newborn from a resulting Vitamin C dependency

-is destroyed by heat, air, and light and can be “cooked out”

-found in raw or lightly cooked kale and collard greens, strawberries, citrus fruits, peppers, cantaloupe,alfalfa sprouts, and tomatoes




Iodine – aids in healthy function of thyroid gland, which controls metabolism, growth, development, and mental balance

-too little can result in weakness, frequent infections, nervous system problems

-found in seafood, fish, sea vegetables, iodized salt and sea salt


Iron – in combination with other nutrients creates hemoglobin, builds the blood, increases resistance and immunity to disease and stress, and allows for muscular contraction and protein metabolism, improves respiration and prevents hemorrhage

-too much results in constipation

-too little causes weakness, low energy, weak blood and birth defects

-found in leafy dark vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, sea vegetables, dried beans, legumes, whole grains, eggs, red meat, liver


Calcium – needed to form baby’s bones and teeth and maintain them in the mother, controls coagulation of the blood, contraction and release of muscles, maintains healthy nerves, normal metabolism, mineral balance, and a regular heartbeat, used for nerve and muscle relaxation and is therefore said to increase the pain threshold and reduce insomnia.

-too much results in calcium deposits

-too little causes irritability, insomnia and leg cramps

-metabolism is dependent on balance of phosphorous and the presence magnesium

-found in milk, hard cheeses, yogurt, leafy greens, almonds, sea vegetables, salmon, and blackstrap molasses


Zinc – healthy immune system and hormone production, organ development, healthy reproduction and release of Vitamin A from the liver, protects bones and joints.

-deficiency is associated with many problems including, acne, depression, prostate cancer, infections, and psoriasis.

-too much may result in immune suppression, premature heartbeats, dizziness, drowsiness, alcohol intolerance, increased sweating, hallucinations, and anemia

-found in oysters, shellfish, herring, nuts, seeds, beef, eggs, chicken, turkey, fruits, vegetables


Sodium – maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, prevents muscular irritability

-too little may lead to swelling and toxemia

-too much may result in hypertension, toxemia and pre-menstrual problems

-sea salt is best source, but many foods contain it, avoid junk food as a source


Vitamin E – is required for a normal birth, it prevents the destruction of cells and nutrients and enables the body to function with less oxygen, thus increasing endurance and stamina, aids in cell division, the healing of body tissue, normal blood clotting, and certain types of metabolism, increases the pain threshold.

-large doses may result in nausea, diarrhea, or flatulence, toxicity is rare

-found in whole grains, nuts, oils, eggs, wheat germ, legumes, and green leafy

-too much can cause abnormal attachment of the placenta and can be dangerous if there is a pre-existing heart or blood pressure condition


Vitamin and Mineral needs for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Red Raspberry Leaf In My Tea?

Red Raspberry Leaf In My Tea?

 Red Raspberry Leaf is one of the best herbs for pregnant women.

It is a must for pregnancy and should be added to any pregnancy tea combination. It is uplifting emotionally, physically, and nutritionally!

Rubus idaeus  Cultivated Variety

Rubus strigosus  Wild Variety – has a stronger potency


  • Tones and relaxes the pelvic and uterine muscles.
  • High in calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamins B, C, and E. The iron in this herb is naturally chelated making it easy to assimilate, without constipation.
  • Astringent properties are beneficial in reducing excessive bleeding during menstruation and postpartum.
  • Relieves fevers and lowers blood sugar levels.
  • High levels of tannins are beneficial for relieving diarrhea.
  • Calcium content helps build strong bones and teeth.
  • Acts as a uterine tonic with adaptive qualities. The herb simultaneously relaxes and stimulates the uterus without causing contractions, making it safe for pregnancy. It has a tonifying quality that is balancing to the female reproductive system. Its anti-abortive and anti-spasmodic qualities facilitate delivery while preventing miscarriage. These actions also aid in the removal of afterbirth.
  • Acts as a galactagogue.
  • Has an uplifting great taste!



Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Nutrition During Pregnancy

Nutrition During Pregnancy


General requirements for daily dietary intake while pregnant:

  • A total of about 2,400 calories
  • 4 servings equaling about 75-100 grams of protein
  • 2 servings of Vitamin C rich foods
  • 4 servings of Calcium rich foods
  • 3 servings of green leafy vegetables and yellow fruits and vegetables
  • 1-2 servings of other vegetables and fruits
  • 4-6 servings of whole grains and other complex carbohydrates
  • some iron rich foods daily
  • 2 servings of high fat foods
  • salt to taste
  • 6-8 glasses of water per day, in addition to juices or teas
  • supplements should include an herbal pregnancy tea with red raspberry leaf, a wholesome prenatal vitamin, calcium/magnesium, and any other herbs you find useful during pregnancy


Keys to Optimal Nutrition:

  • Get as many of your vitamins and minerals from food sources.
  • Do not overcook vegetables, steaming until they soften but do not lose their vibrant color is ideal.
  • Try new foods and eat a wide variety of foods.
  • Let your intuition guide you, if you were a vegetarian but your body says it needs meat, go for it!
  • Pay attention to how you feel (physically and emotionally) before and after you eat certain foods.
  • Never allow yourself to be “starving”. Carry snacks with you wherever you go!
  • Eat organic or all-natural products when possible. Choose whole foods, not processed.
  • Avoid the “whites”: white sugar, white flour, white rice, and anything prepared with them.


Nutrition During Pregnancy

What You Need and How to Get It:


  • Protein: dairy products, meat, fish or chicken, soybean products, nut butters
  • Carbohydrates: whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat and oats; starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, and beets
  • Fats: nuts, butter, dairy, vegetable oils, flax seeds
  • Vitamin A: yellow and orange fruits, carrots, egg yolks, yellow dock, red raspberry leaf
  • Vitamin B-Complex…
  • B1: whole grains, peas, bananas, avocados, and dandelion
  • B2: cottage cheese, leafy greens, organ meats
  • B6: blackstrap molasses, salmon, wheat bran and germ
  • B12: dairy products and meat, tempeh, miso, and nutritional yeast
  • Folic Acid: eggs, lentils, nuts, raw green, leafy vegetables
  • Vitamin C: strawberries, citrus, alfalfa sprouts, cantaloupe
  • Vitamin D: fatty fish, grazed cows milk, egg yolks
  • Vitamin E: eggs, wheat germ, legumes, oils
  • Calcium: almonds, dairy products, salmon, blackstrap molasses
  • Iron: raisins, figs, cherries, red meat, dried beans, prunes
  • Iodine: sea salt, fish, sea vegetables, watercress
  • Phosphorus: alfalfa, dandelion, red raspberry
  • Zinc: herring, nuts, beef, turkey, chicken, seeds
  • Sodium: sea salt
  • Essential Fatty Acids: tuna, cod, avocados, walnuts, evening primrose oil


Special Considerations for Vegetarians and Vegans:

  • Main concern is getting enough protein or calcium if dairy is not eaten. Dark green vegetables must be plentiful if there is no dairy in the diet. Hard cheeses, goat’s milk cheese and yogurt and dairy yogurt are recommended.
  • Food combining is essential for the pregnant vegetarian to receive the complete proteins and B complex required. Combine grains with beans, such as black beans and rice or barley and lentil soup. Combining grains with dairy products such as a quinoa chowder with feta cheese and vegetables. Nuts or seeds may be combined with beans or legumes such as a fresh pesto with     walnuts, pine nuts, basil, and white beans.
  • Complete proteins may be reached by eating…macaroni and cheese, granola, tofu spread on toast, or whole wheat bread with peanut butter. Dairy foods are complete proteins.
  • Be a great vegetarian. Eat a wide array of foods to get the nutrients you need. Don’t fill up on empty calories such as fruit juices and try to avoid processed foods completely.


Nutrition During Pregnancy
















Protein Counter


1 cup Milk 8 gm                                  1 oz. Cheese 7 gm                   ½ cup Cottage Cheese 12 gm

1 cup Ice Cream 6 gm                                    1 Egg 6 gm                              1 tbsp. Butter 0.1 gm

8 oz. Plain Yogurt 12 gm                     3 oz. Beef 20 gm                     3 oz. Chicken 25 gm

3 oz. Turkey 27 gm                             3 oz. Pork 21 gm                     3 oz. Salmon 17 gm

3.5 oz. Halibut 26 gm                          3 oz. Haddock 16 gm              medium Potato 2 gm

1 cup Brown Rice 6 gm                       1 cup Corn 5 gm                     1 cup Pasta 6 gm

medium Sweet Potato 2 gm               1 slice Bread 2 gm                  4 Crackers 1 gm

16 Potato Chips 0.8 gm                       1 Tortilla 1.2 gm                     1 cup CousCous 22 gm

¼ cup Granola 4 gm                            1 Tbsp. Wheat Germ 2 gm     1 tbsp. Peanut Butter 4 gm

2/3 cup Shredded Wheat 3 gm           ¼ cup Peanuts 9 gm                ¼ cup Walnuts 6 gm

1 cup Vegetable Broth 3 gm               1 cup Beef Broth 5 gm            Chili w/ Beans 18 gm

1 cup Chicken Noodle Soup 3.4 gm                          1 slice Pizza w/ cheese, meat & veggies 13 gm

1 patty Tofu/Meat Substitute 14 gm           Most Fruit Juices and Fruits per serving less than 2 gm

Most Vegetables and Vegetable Juices less than 1 gm         ½ cup Pinto/Kidney/Navy Beans 7 gm


How to have Optimal Health in Pregnancy

How to have Optimal Health in Pregnancy 

  • Eat A Varied Diet – with an emphasis on fresh greens, sprouted grains and seeds, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat Locally Grown Organic Foods when available.
  • Try to drink a gallon of water a day, which makes 4-32 ounce bottles!
  • Salt to taste to encourage proper blood volume expansion.
  • Exercise and stretch regularly and balance with enough rest.
  • Supply your body with necessary vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids each day, try to get these from food and herbal sources, using supplements when necessary.
  • Supply your body with enough Folic Acid before and during pregnancy
  • Eat foods rich in Omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids for baby’s brain development
  • Reduce stress, address problems with communication. It’s okay to ask for help…you are growing a baby!
  • Reduce exposure to toxins in your work and living environment by using natural products when available. Avoid painting and hazardous cleaning or finishing products. Have someone else change the litter box for your cat.
  • Eat whole foods that are nutrient rich and avoid empty calories from refined foods.
  • Avoid preservatives, additives, colorings, and bleaches in your food.
  • Avoid the whites! White flour, white sugar and white rice have no nutritional value. Whole grains are better, go for the browns.
  • Take your supplements, herbs work. Use what works to treat discomforts naturally, enjoy pregnancy!
  • Depending on your size you should be getting roughly 75-90 grams of protein per day and 2,400 calories. It is a full time job feeding yourself and your baby.


How to have Optimal Health in Pregnancy

Effects of Pregnancy on Body Systems

Effects of Pregnancy on Body Systems

These are some changes you may notice during your pregnancy.  If you have any questions about any changes check with your midwife.


Integumentary System: The skin in influenced by the increased hormones of pregnancy.  Some pregnant women perspire more than usual and their odor can change. Oiliness of the skin increases due to pregnancy and the hair can appear to grow faster. The skin starts to stretch and stretch marks may appear on the enlarging breasts, abdomen and thighs.  In some women increased pigmentation of the skin occurs.  You may find a dark line called lina negra from above the naval down to the boarder of the pubic hair.  The areola and vulva may darken as well.  Facial discoloration my appear as tanned, bronzed, or freckled blotches called cholasma.


Skeletal System: The absorption of calcium increases in the small intestines during early pregnancy.  Calcium absorption has doubled by the beginning of the third trimester and remains elevated during postpartum. It is important to take plenty of calcium during this time. Maternal bones utilize what the fetus does not.  Bone content can diminish during breastfeeding if calcium and phosphorus intake is inadequate.  A change in the woman’s gait is often noticeable as pregnancy advances.  The enlarge uterus causes the balance of the body to be altered; the shoulders are thrown back and the lumbar curve is increased, which along with relaxation of the pelvic joints and ligaments during the later weeks of pregnancy, may lead to backaches.


Muscular System: During pregnancy the muscles, tendons and ligaments are influenced to relax by the action of progesterone and relaxin.  This allows maximum opening of the pelvic bones during birth.  It is much easier to pull muscles or cause damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments during pregnancy.  Women should be conscious of this tendency when exercising, or engaging in strenuous activity.


The senses: Visual alterations during pregnancy vary widely from woman to woman due to hormonal and fluid balance changes.  Tear production decreases which can lead to nearsightedness and can reduce corneal sensitivity.  These changes reverse themselves after the birth.  Taste is generally dulled during pregnancy and the sense of smell is usually heightened.  Touch can be heightened as well and some parts of the body may become extremely sensitive.


Endocrine System: The elevated estrogen of pregnancy causes Thyroid Binding Globulin levels to double at about 12 weeks and return to normal around 6 weeks postpartum.  The concentration of hormones secreted from the parathyroid gland and the size of the glands increase in order to meet fetal calcium requirements.  The pituitary gland enlarges during pregnancy and returns to normal size after birth.  Estrogen is secreted by the ovaries and adrenal cortex levels increase 1000-fold in pregnancy, which influences the growth and function of the uterus and breast.  External genital changes and increases the pliability of connective tissue.  It decreases gastric secretions, increases skin pigmentation as well as sodium and water retention and increases the clotting ability of fibrinogen.  I may also influence the emotional mood swings of pregnancy.  Progesterone production increases ten-fold during pregnancy.  It is responsible for the development of the decidual cells in the endometrium, decreases the contractibility of the pregnant uterus and helps develop the lobes of the alveolar system of the breast.  It influences the hypothalamus to cause extensive fat storage in the mother, stimulates the respiratory center, increases the basal body temperature, increases the amount of sodium excreted by the kidneys, relaxes smooth muscle, and decreases gastrointestinal motality as well as the muscle tone of the bladder and uterus.  Prostaglandins are produced by the mother’s body as well as the fetus and placenta.  They help to soften the cervix and prime the body for labor.  Prolactin is produced by the fetal and maternal pituitary glands and by the uterus.  It helps to sustain milk production and regulate milk composition during lactation, and enhances the mother’s ability to attach emotionally to her newborn.  Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and sent to the pituitary gland for release.  It stimulates uterine contractions as well as milk let down and ejection.  Distention of the cervix and yoni stimulates the release of oxytocin and prostaglandins.


Circulatory/cardiovascular Systems: During pregnancy the blood volume and cardiac output both increase.  The number if endometrial blood vessels is greatly increased as the uterus enlarges and the placenta becomes a highly vascular structure. Cardiac output (how much blood the heart pumps) rises during the first few weeks and in 30-45% above non pregnant levels by the 20th week where it remains until term.  The enlarging uterus causes the diaphragm to rise.  This displaces the heart to the left and upward.  In late pregnancy the uterus partially impairs venous return from the inferior vena cava, accounting for the lower cardiac output that can be measured when the woman lies on her back.  Cardiac demands increase significantly during labor and delivery.  Pain increases sympathetic muscle tone, and uterine contractions induce wide swings in systemic venous return.  Evidence of these changes include full and bounding pulses or, in some women, and overall rise in blood pressure.  It is common for the mother’s pulse rate to rise 10 to 15 points and pregnancy advances.  Some shortness of breath and edema may occur.


Immune system: Once the pregnancy is established, placental and hormonal factors combine to prevent the maternal system from rejecting the fetus.  Although there may be changes in the maternal immune system, women have no predisposition to infectious disease during pregnancy, with the exception of a few viral illnesses.


Respiratory System: During pregnancy, oxygen consumption rises 15 to 20%.  Roughly one-third of this increase is necessary for the metabolism of the fetus and placenta.  The remainder is used to support the increased maternal metabolism.  Breathlessness is a normal finding in most pregnant women.  This may be due to the combination of the lungs’ slight displacement upwards as the growing uterus encroaches on the thorax and restricts free movement of the diaphragm, and the deeper respirations necessary to ensure increased oxygen consumption.  In comparison to the heart, pregnancy puts little stress on the respiratory system.


Digestive System: In increase in dental caries has been traced to elevated levels of acidophilic organisms in the mouth due to the hormones of pregnancy.  Gum tissue may become softer and bleed more easily which is partially mediated by hormonal changes but also indicates the need for more vitamin C and bioflavinoids.  Most women experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy due to the sudden increase in hormones in conjunction with hypoglycemia.  Food cravings and sensitivities to smell are also common and may aggravate gastrointestinal discomfort.  As pregnancy advances, the intestines are displaced to either side of and behind the uterus.  The stomach is displaced upwards to the diaphragm,  Heartburn may occur because the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus is relaxed by the hormones of pregnancy, causing stomach acids to more easily backwash into the lower esophagus.  Gastric emptying time and intestinal motility are decreased, which may cause increased bloating and constipation in some women.



Urinary System: The ureters are liable to be compressed by the uterus as it rises out of the pelvis.  This, in combination with the increased hormones which cause laxity of all the muscles, reduces peristalsis in the ureters.  Stasis of urine can occur as it gets caught in bends or dialated areas which may develop in the ureters causing pregnant women to be more susceptible to the growth of urinary tract bacteria.  Frequency of urination is common during pregnancy, beginning as early as the sixth week.  The uterus is still within the pelvic cavity and becomes slightly more antiflexed with the weight of the pregnancy.  This produces pressure on the bladder, simultaneously stretching the bladder base, thus stimulating the urge to urinate.  In late pregnancy the uterus again presses on the bladder.


Effects of Pregnancy on Body Systems