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The scientific case for cutting long commutes for pregnant people (and the rest of us)

There are health benefits when pregnant women have shorter commutes.

The scientific case for cutting long commutes for pregnant people (and the rest of us)

Working a full day while pregnant can feel exhausting, particularly when you add a long commute to and from work to your day. And if recent research into pregnancy and commuting is any indication, employers may want to look twice at flexible and remote working situations if they want to attract and keep employees with growing families.

There are so many benefits to remote work for pretty much everyone, but there's a major benefit to pregnant employees. Cutting commutes can result in healthier pregnancies.

Now, don't be alarmed if you travel a short or moderate distance to work every day, but a new study, which appears in Economics & Human Biology, suggests that pregnant women who commute at least 50 miles are at greater risk of delivering low birth weight babies or experiencing restricted fetal growth.

This risk seems to increase for every additional 10 miles traveled, but due to the way the working world is currently structured, many mamas do have to commit to long commutes during pregnancy. Motherly co-founder Jill Koziol was one of them.

"I distinctly remember being pregnant with my first daughter and commuting two hours a day as a consultant in Washington, D.C. It was hard on my growing body, leading me to seek chiropractic care, and toward the end of my pregnancy, made me nervous to be so far from home and the hospital—but, that's the reality for many mamas," says Koziol.

While a long commute lead Koziol to seek chiropractic care, this new research suggests these journeys to and from work can actually decrease a mother's odds of getting proper prenatal care—moms with long commutes appear less likely to visit a doctor for a first trimester checkup or even throughout their pregnancies, probably because they are just so crunched for time (and tired).

It's important to remember that a long commute certainly doesn't mean you'll run into pregnancy complications, that's just the trend researchers observed in this particular population of pregnant commuters from New Jersey in 2014 and 2015. The average commute was 64 miles, and the commuters spent an average of 78 minutes traveling to work.

While most pregnant women make between 10 and 15 medical visits through their pregnancies, the moms in this sample attended 11 visits on average, and 15% did not make it to a first-trimester appointment at all.

Long commutes impact prenatal care 

"The finding that low birth weight might be associated with a source of stress like long-distance commuting is somewhat expected, since chronic strain has been found to be linked to adverse birth outcomes," says Muzhe Yang, Associate Professor of Economics at Lehigh University and co-author of the study. "However, it was surprising to find an association with under-use of prenatal care among pregnant women commuting long-distance."

The idea that stress may be behind this link probably doesn't shock many people. After all, we've all heard that pregnant women should avoid stress whenever possible — just like we all know this isn't always an option. We live in a society where stress and burnout are huge concerns, and these findings may add another layer to the ongoing conversation about the importance of workplace flexibility.

Remote work could benefit pregnant employees and employers 

The ability to work remotely, either full or part-time, is majorly attractive to most employees — but for new and expectant moms, it can be imperative. Contending with a daily commute can just make it that much harder for a pregnant woman to carve out time for her own health. It can force a mother who is placed on bed rest to start her maternity leave well before she delivers. It can be a factor in a new mom choosing to leave her job altogether.

This is bad news for employers because retaining talented, skilled workers helps minimize the costs associated with employee turnover.

And yes, commuting can be bad for expecting mothers, making a stressful time that much more stressful, and potentially contributing to the outcomes as outlined in this study.

Of course, not every pregnant woman has the ability to work remotely, and these findings may not even refer to expectant moms who have shorter commutes. But for those of us who can essentially get our jobs done from anywhere, should remote work be an option? Some employers are saying yes.

Motherly is  on the cutting edge of an important trend 

Modern companies appear more and more tapped into the value of workplace flexibility—take Bumble, for example. Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd reportedly began rethinking her own company's policies during her own pregnancy.

Meanwhile, at Motherly, Koziol and her co-founder, Liz Tenety, have created a company that is 100% remote. "With a growing team of more than 30, we've found that we are on the cutting edge of an important trend for workplaces. Research shows that companies with a substantial remote workforce have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles, which amounts to roughly four times as many women in CEO/founding roles than S&P 500 office-based companies."

Remote work is good for Motherly's employees and its bottom line—and no one has to commute, pregnant or otherwise.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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