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6. Don't begin any exercise that you are not already doing prior to pregnancy.
Myth. Like most myths, this one has some basis in fact. It is meant to protect the newly pregnant woman from injury. Pregnancy does more to a woman's physiology than change her center of gravity. From the earliest days, hormones are adapting the ligaments and muscles to become more flexible and to expand. This makes them a bit more prone to injury.
It's important to start a pregnancy exercise program carefully and seek the advice of your care provider. Pregnancy and labor represent some of the most difficult and rewarding work a woman will ever do. It makes sense to prepare oneself physically. If you haven't been participating in a regular program of exercise, walking is a good place to start. Begin with a five-minute warmup with slow gradual stretching of all muscles. Find a nice path and some walking buddies or some good music and walk at a brisk pace for 30 to 40 minutes every day. Finish with five minutes of a slower pace or stretching, which should help you "cool down." Or, consider joining a prenatal exercise or yoga class and build it into a support group and even future playgroup. So ignore the myth about not starting a program and begin working out when you are planning a pregnancy or even if pregnancy is already advanced.
Very few women should not exercise in pregnancy, but always consult your care provider prior to starting any regimen.
7. Giving birth: It's better to cut than tear.
Myth. This myth refers to the use of episiotomy at the time of birth. The term "tearing" conjures up images that most women would rather not consider. Actually, tears often are small and do not extend into the muscle. When an episiotomy is cut, several layers of tissue and muscle are cut. Tears also tend to heal more comfortably than episiotomies. This may be because the skin has separated down anatomical lines and the tissue has not been crushed, as it is when a scissors is used.
To prevent lacerations, it is important to listen to the midwife or doctor carefully and to give small controlled pushes. Occasionally, the mother may be asked to push between contractions so the force of the contraction does not cause her to push with such force.
If the baby shows signs of distress, or if the midwife or doctor believes that a tear into the deep muscle or into the rectum is inevitable, an episiotomy will generally be cut. But research has demonstrated that the highest incidence of rectal sphincter and rectal lacerations occurs when an episiotomy has been cut.
Many variables go into the decision whether or not to cut an episiotomy and how to support the perineum at the time of birth. The best advice is to choose a care provider or a type of care provider who will work with you, listen to you, and minimize the use of routine procedures in their practice.