You've heard before about how healthy breast-feeding is for your baby. But what if it could aid your long-term health, too?

The latest findings published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggest that breast-feeding could reduce a mother's risk for developing a heart attack and stroke later in her life. Specifically, the Chinese study discovered breast-feeding mothers lowered their heart disease or stroke risk by approximately 10 percent.

It's important to note that the study was just observational (i.e. no cause-and-effect conclusions are available).

While short-term health benefits have been known – think weight loss and lower cholesterol – the long-term effects haven't been clear when it comes to cardiovascular diseases in mothers. University of Oxford, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking University researchers took into account data from 289,573 Chinese women, average age of 51, for the study. 

That data came from another study, where women (almost all were mothers, and none of them had cardiovascular disease) provided details regarding their reproductive history and lifestyle factors. There were 16,671 cases of coronary heart disease (including heart attacks) and 23,983 cases of stroke within eight years of follow-up. Mothers who breast-fed saw a 9 percent lower heart disease risk and an 8 percent lower stroke risk, all compared to those who had never breast-fed. Those who breast-fed for two years or more saw an 18 percent lower heart disease risk and 17 percent lower stroke risk.

Researchers accounted for cardiovascular disease risk factors like smoking, obesity and diabetes when putting together these results. Live Science notes the study couldn't account for factors like women's diet that might contribute to heart disease risk.

As for what researchers hope comes out of this? More breast-feeding.

"The findings should encourage more widespread breast-feeding for the benefit of the mother as well as the child," Zhengming Chen, senior study author and professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. "The study provides support for the World Health Organization's recommendation that mothers should breast-feed their babies exclusively for their first six months of life.

"Although there is increasing recognition of the importance of exclusive breast-feeding, genuine commitment from policy makers is needed to implement strategies in the healthcare system, communities and families and the work environment that promote and support every woman to breast-feed," the authors wrote.


Ensure that your body is ready to carry a baby by addressing before pregnancy any pain or problems associated with posture or weakness. Here are some physical therapist tips for helping to prepare your body for pregnancy and to guard against musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction during and after it.

1. Strengthen your pelvic muscles. To strengthen your muscles, use pelvic floor contractions (commonly referred to as Kegels), which involve gently squeezing the sphincter muscles (rather than the buttocks and thighs). These tightening exercises help prevent leakage when a woman sneezes, coughs, etc, and also can help reduce pelvic pain during pregnancy. However, many women do Kegels incorrectly (perhaps because muscles are too tight and need to be relaxed before strengthening). Doing Kegels incorrectly can worsen conditions such as incontinence, pelvic pain, and even low back pain. This is why it is important to consult a women’s health physical therapist before beginning an exercise program. Physical therapists who specialize in women’s health can instruct women in how to perform these exercises safely and correctly.

2. Prepare for "baby belly" by focusing on your core. Core exercises can help prevent diastasis recti —abdominal muscle separation. As your belly grows, the abdominal muscles that run vertically along either side of the belly button can be forced apart, like a zipper opening. If these abdominal muscles separate from each other too much, the result can be low back pain, pelvic pain, or other injuries as your body tries to compensate for its weaker core. This also can result in the postpregnancy "pooch" many women find undesirable.

Some exercises, such as sit ups, increase the likelihood of developing diastasis recti, incontinence, and back pain during and after pregnancy. It is important, therefore, to work with your physical therapist on the right exercise strategy for establishing a strong core.

3. Take a breath! Learning proper breathing and relaxation techniques from your physical therapist will help prepare your body and mind for a healthy pregnancy. It is important to learn to properly exhale before performing any exercise. With proper technique, your core and pelvic floor muscles will contract automatically, and this will lead to optimal stability and injury protection.

4. Begin a regular fitness routine. Exercise will help reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body and will boost your muscle and cardiovascular strength—strength you'll need to carry that extra baby weight. Once you become pregnant, consider engaging in relatively low-impact activities, such as swimming, walking on even surfaces, biking, or using an elliptical machine. Runners should be aware that loosening of their ligaments may make them more susceptible to knee and ankle injuries. Also, when the muscles and ligaments that support a woman's pelvic organs weaken, the repetitive jarring of running can cause these organs to descend. This is known as pelvic organ prolapse. Physical therapists strongly recommend that, to prevent this condition, women wear undergarments that offer pelvic floor support, or compression shorts that support the pelvic floor, both during and after pregnancy.

5. Practice good posture. Poor posture can have a major effect on every part of your body, particularly with regard to pain during pregnancy. A physical therapist can evaluate your posture and suggest muscle-strengthening exercises and lifestyle education (such as not sitting at a desk for long periods, and carrying grocery bags properly). Establishing healthy posture habits—pre-baby—will better prepare your body for the extra weight of pregnancy and lessen your chances of low back and pelvic pain.

Acknowledgement: Marianne Ryan, PT, OCS


The fact that you are carrying more than one baby does place you in a special category in the eyes of obstetricians. Many would call a twin pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy, but don’t be scared by this categorization. High risk does not automatically translate into your pregnancy having problems. Rather, high risk can be translated as, “We will need to follow this pregnancy more closely.” Also in the high-risk category are mothers with diabetes, those with a history of preterm labor with prior pregnancies, or those who have other major health issues themselves. The majority of twin pregnancies progress smoothly, and the odds of a healthy pregnancy increase if you take better care of yourself.

The most important step to care for your pregnancy is proper nutrition. Ideally, pregnant mothers should take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid starting from 3 months prior to conception. Folic acid has definitively been proven to reduce the chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. If you haven’t started taking the vitamin daily yet, don’t fret about the missed time—but do start now. Take the vitamin with food to reduce nausea, and applaud yourself for taking yet another step to keep your babies as healthy as possible. Moms of twins don’t need 2 prenatal vitamins a day—one is enough.

Eating the proper foods and the right amount of calories is critical in a twin pregnancy. Whereas single-born pregnancies require 300 extra calories a day, most experts agree that twin pregnancies need around 1,000 extra calories a day. Frequent and healthy snacks can help you reach your caloric goals each day. Morning sickness—or in most women’s cases, all-day sickness—can be eased by eating small snacks frequently. Keeping a little something in your stomach at all times can help take the edge off of the nausea. Low-fat yogurt, fruit, smoothies, crackers, and protein shakes are all good snack options.

In addition to the extra calories, it is important to sip on water throughout the day. Keeping well hydrated may drive you crazy in later months when it seems like you’re running to the bathroom every 5 minutes; however, your babies’ extra blood flow and removal of wastes depends on it! It may help to drink more water earlier in the day and then stop after 8:00 pm so that you can sleep longer stretches at night between bathroom breaks.

Proper nutrition and hydration is important for your twin pregnancy, as is listening to your body. Any new pregnancy symptoms you notice must be brought to your obstetrician’s attention; seemingly minor things could be a sign of something more serious.

Because twins have an increased chance of being born early, any symptoms or concerns must be addressed for the safety of your babies. Bleeding or vaginal discharge, contractions that are becoming more frequent, pressure in the pelvis or lower back, or even diarrhea can all be signs of preterm labor. And while early bleeding in the first trimester could be the normal phenomenon of the twins implanting in the uterine wall, you should call your obstetrician if you experience bleeding at any point.

Twin pregnancies can also increase the chances of preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother has increased blood pressureprotein in the urine (detectable by urinalysis), and more swelling than is normal in pregnancy. If you notice rapid weight gain or headaches, alert your obstetrician so you may be examined as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the situation, treatment may range from bed rest, to hospital-administered medications, to immediate delivery of the babies (the only “cure” for preeclampsia).

An optimistic yet careful attitude during your pregnancy will help your mental state and hence help your babies thrive during pregnancy as long as possible. Take things one day at a time and one week at a time. Eat well and pay attention to what your body and your twins are telling you. Every extra day that your babies spend inside the womb will help them once delivery day arrives. The bigger your belly gets, the bigger your smile should be, since you’re creating 2 miracles!


Attached above is a wonderful link provided by the APTA, or the American Physical Therapy Association, for women just like you to help prevent/manage back pain during pregnancy! Let us know what you think! 


A recent study published in The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy suggests that pregnancy causes biomechanical changes to a runner's stride that can linger after childbirth.

As reported in the New York Times (How Pregnancy Changes a Runner's Body - June 10, 2013), these changes have the potential to cause injury, although some runners participating in the study reported no pain as a result of the changes.

In an August 8, 2013 episode of Move Forward Radio, physical therapists involved in the study discussed their findings and provided tips for women hoping to run during or after pregnancy.

See a pelvic floor specialist of physical therapy here at CHAMPION to learn how to strengthen the pelvic muscles affected by pregnancy, or an orthopedic physical therapist here at CHAMPION for a running analysis. 


Sir Hartzell Leo is in the 95th and above percentile for height, weight, and head circumference at age 3 months (September 14th!) 

Too cute for words? We know. It's no secret - It's those little thigh rolls that make him extra adorable. 

Check out some of our photos from the holiday party, who do you think he looks more like? Hope or Nick? 



Exercising While Pregnant: Safety, Benefits & Guidelines

There are usually many questions that come to mind when planning how to exercise during pregnancy. Physical exercise is bodily activity that improves or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. This type of exercise during pregnancy is important and can help with some common discomforts of pregnancy and even help prepare your body for labor and delivery.

Is exercise during pregnancy safe?

Overall and in most cases, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You will usually find it is even recommended. Typically, the first rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely, your healthcare provider will tell you to remain active, as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.

Find a Prenatal Exercise Class in your area

Now is not the time to exercise for weight loss, however, proper exercise during pregnancy will likely help with weight loss after the delivery of your baby. Exercise does not put you at risk for miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. You should consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine. We have more information at exercise warning signs.

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

Exercising for 30 minutes on most, or all, days can benefit your health during pregnancy. Exercising for just 20 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week, is still beneficial, as well. The important thing is to be active and get your blood flowing.

To have success in completing exercises during pregnancy, it is a good idea to plan the days and times during the week when you will exercise. As shown in the photo above, prenatal yoga is a great, low impact exercise that can be highly beneficial for pregnant women.

Here are some of the benefits from exercise during pregnancy you may experience:

  • Helps reduce backachesconstipation, bloating, and swelling
  • May help prevent, or treat, gestational diabetes
  • Increases your energy
  • Improves your mood
  • Improves your posture
  • Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your baby is born.

You can visit this page for more information about the effects of exercise on pregnancy.

Guidelines for choosing an exercise during pregnancy

If you participated in a regular exercise activity prior to becoming pregnant, it is probably fine to continue to participate during your pregnancy. There are many exercises that are safe to do during your pregnancy, but it is important not to overdo it and to use caution.

Many people were uneasy when they discovered that Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings had received the “OK” from her obstetrician to play competitive volleyball while pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association would have cautioned against this because of the vulnerability of impact with another player, the ground, or parts of the surrounding court area. However, it is important to highlight a key truth in the counsel her healthcare provider gave.

Your baby is surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus, which is surrounded by the organs, muscles and your physical body. This actually creates a rather safe environment for your developing baby. However, even with this protection, it is recommended you avoid high-impact exercise .

You will probably want to avoid these types of exercises during pregnancy:

  • Activities where falling is more likely
  • Exercise that may cause any abdominal trauma, including activities that with jarring motions, contact sports or rapid changes in direction
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing
  • Bouncing while stretching
  • Waist twisting movements while standing
  • Intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity
  • Exercise in hot, humid weather
  • Do not hold your breath for an extended period of time
  • Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion

You may want to include these basic guidelines in planning exercise during pregnancy:

  • Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as, a good supportive bra.
  • Choose well-fitting shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you are doing.
  • Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
  • Eat enough healthy calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy, as well as, your exercise program.
  • Finish eating at least one hour before exercising, see also pregnancy nutrition.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
  • After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.

Which exercises during pregnancy are beneficial

Before you begin exercising, remember it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you typically get little or no activity, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy. To do a squat, stand with feet shoulder width apart and slowly lower into a squat position. You should keep your back straight, heels on the floor and your knees shouldn’t protrude in front of your feet. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds; you can rest your hands on your knees.

Then slowly stand back up, pushing up from your knees with your arms, if you need to. Repeat this 5 times working up to more.

Pelvic tilts strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To do pelvic tilts get on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your back should slightly round. Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax without letting your back sag. Repeat a couple of times, working up to 10.

Body changes that affect exercise during pregnancy

There are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy.  First, joints are more flexible from the hormones which cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy.  Your center of gravity or equilibrium is shifted from the extra weight in the front, as well as, your shifting hips.

This can affect your balance as you near your due date. The extra weight will also cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant.

All of these factors may affect how you exercise and what exercises you choose to do.  Remember, it is always recommended you consult your healthcare provider about exercises for your specific situation.