Exercise - Nutrition - Stress-free
For the successful prenatal development of a child, a pregnant woman can positively influence the development by making simple life choices including what she eats, how much she exercises, the amount of stress she has in her life. If she is happy and her body and mind are healthy, it will increase the baby's chances of being healthy.
For the fetus' healthy development, the mother-to-be is strongly encouraged to maintain an active lifestyle (Santrock, 2019). Exercising regularly increases the release of endorphins and decreases the mother's chance of becoming overwhelmed with depression and/or stress (Santrock, 2019, p.88). Exercise can help a mother avoid excessive weight gain, and maintain a strong circulatory system (Santrock, 2019). A healthy circulatory system and strong immune system help protect the fetus from possible teratogens, "agent[s] that can potentially cause a birth defect" (Santrock, 2019, p.80). A mother's active lifestyle has also been linked to more successful neonatal brain development (Santrock, 2019, p.88).
There are incredible stories from female hand-balancers who have continued training their handstands while pregnant. The inversions on one's hands require the stomach to continue engaging. As the pregnancy advances, and the baby develops, the handstanding mother can continue to access the smaller muscles in her pelvis and teach the body to adjust its center of balance around the fetus. When she gives birth, her core muscles and pelvic floor are hyper-aware of the baby's presence, and ready to support child-birth easily.
A fetus depends on the nourishment from its mother's blood to grow (Santrock, 2019, p.85). A healthy diet decreases the chance of a baby being malformed at birth (Santrock, 2019). The fetus, directly affected by the mother's caloric and mineral intake, has been shown to benefit from a diet rich in folic acid (Santrock, 2019, p.86). Sufficient amounts of this B-vitamin promote healthy development of the spine and neural tubes (decreasing the chance of defects like Spina Bifida) and also have been show to increase the likelihood of a full-term birth (Santrock, 2019). Spinach and orange juice are both great choices if you're looking to increase your folic acid intake.
In the Bay Area, healthy food is often equated with socio-economic class. For all young mothers in lower income brackets, I just discovered that food stamps are easily available if you can provide an address and a social security number. These food stamps can be used at most local farmer's markets. The Berkeley and Oakland farmer's markets will match your first $10 spent with food stamps, allowing you to have $20 of produce free. There is no limit to how many times you can go back to the market during the week. Though this may not be accessible to all women because it requires the SSN and the address, it makes healthy local food available for free to many, and could be a great option for a young mother-to-be.
Zen for the win!
Another wonderful way to encourage the fetus' healthy development is to decrease stress factors in the mother's life (Santrock, 2019). During the pregnancy, maternal stress has been linked to pre-term birth (Santrock, 2019). It has been shown that mothers who experienced depression during the pregnancy are more likely to have children who struggle self-regulating in the first 2 years of life (Santrock, 2019, p. 87). In fact, studies by Pearson & others in 2013 conclude that a mother's high level of stress/depression during pregnancy increases the child of struggling with depression when they are 18 years old (Santrock, 2019, p.87).
Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.