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Joy to Your Baby

How your emotions affect the baby in your belly

Joy to Your Baby

Just as what we eat transforms into nourishment for the child growing in our womb, what we think and feel can become part of our developing baby. As a practitioner of Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM), I am trained to see how our emotional state affects every aspect of our lives—and, when we are pregnant this is no different. In fact, from a TOM perspective, when we are pregnant, emotions not only affect our health and wellness, they affect the health and wellness of the baby growing inside our belly. There are the negative emotions like fear, sadness, anxiety and just general worry. And then there are the positive emotions of courage, peace, ease and joy. They all affect both you and baby positively or negatively.

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In TOM theory, every organ in our body not only has a physiological function, but an emotional one as well. For instance, the positive emotional states of courage and will enhance and support the organ of the kidney, and the emotions of joy, love and peace affect the organ of the heart. So, when these emotions are experienced it is seen as not only supporting the proper function of the organs they correlate to but that these organs are in good health because their emotional states are balanced.

Similarly, the negative emotion of fear impairs the function of the kidney, just as anxiety and lack of joy negatively affect the function of the heart. When it comes to pregnancy all of the organs are important but the heart and the kidney are of most importance as these organs both have a direct line of communication with the uterus.

In TOM anatomy there are energetic channels—one running directly from the kidney to the uterus and one that runs directly from the heart to the uterus. In this vein, it is seen that the negative emotional states of these organs—namely, fear and anxiety have quite a negative impact of the emotional state of your child in utero.

In TOM, this is taken so seriously that women are told to not even watch scary movies or be around arguments or stressful events. They are only to be around joyous, happy and peaceful situations. I know that’s not always realistic in today’s world, as life happens. But we can take caution in protecting our pregnant selves from too much of these negative emotions because the emotions we experience on a daily, even moment-to-moment, basis, are penetrating our baby and becoming part of their emotional framework.

The biggest message I give to my patients (and that I try to embrace myself, as I am currently pregnant too!) is that we need to focus on joy and love in our lives. Do it not only for your own health and wellness, but for that of baby’s. Here are some easy ways to do this on a daily basis:

1. Practice gratitude. Each morning, upon waking, list 5 things (either write them down or just go over them in your head) that you are grateful for. A focus on gratitude shifts your focus from worry or stress to love and joy.

2. Meditate. Even if for only a few minutes each day. Doing this calms your nerves and baby’s too. This not only feels good for you but I’d venture to say it will create a more calm child (perhaps one that sleeps through the night from the beginning!).

3. Laugh as much as you can. Surround yourself with lighthearted friends, or read or watch something that makes you chuckle. Laughter sends waves of joy right from your heart to your uterus.

4. Make someone else happy. It is said that the best way to get more joy in your life is to make someone else happy. So do a good deed and fill your heart with love and feel that love warmly wrapping around your baby.

5. Be healthy selfish. Being selfish is often seen as being self centered or egotistical. However, I think being selfish can really benefit our health, especially when we’re pregnant. Not only do we now have to conserve more of our energy (because so much of it is going to baby) but we should be protective of our emotional energy. Avoid friends or family members that are draining or dramatic. Avoid watching the news or fear inducing television. Exercise healthy boundaries and say no to anything that doesn’t feel good.

Practicing these lifestyle tips will not only keep your health optimal but your emotional state happy and joyful. And, when you are feeling more joy that bliss is traveling from your heart right into your uterus and nourishing your growing baby with love and joy. Whether this makes sense to you or not, it can’t hurt, and who doesn’t want a loving and joyful baby?

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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