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Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
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Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
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Breast-feeding Might Shield Women From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
Tips to Ease an Aching Back
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Omega-3 May Safely Treat Precancerous Bowel Polyps
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Many Ignore Symptoms of Bladder Trouble
CAREGIVING
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
DIABETES
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Blueberry Drink Protects Mice From Obesity, Diabetes
Herb Shows Potential for Rheumatoid Arthriti
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
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Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
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Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Staying Slim Is Good for the Environment
EYE CARE, VISION
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Autistic Children Make Limited Eye Contact
FITNESS
Go To Work But Skip The Car
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day? Who Knew!
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Week of Historic Senate Hearings on Integrative Medicine May Open New Doors
Dr Churchill & Ashley Pelton Interview 1 of 4
Hidden Salt in Diet Haunts Many With Heart Failure
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
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Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Lack of Vitamin D Linked to High Blood Pressure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
MEN'S HEALTH
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
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Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise

SUNDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- It's natural that a woman might be skeptical about exercising while she's pregnant. So many changes are occurring in her body, it makes sense to have second thoughts about whether exercise might harm her or her unborn child.

But it turns out that a thoughtful exercise program is good for both mother and child, according to medical experts.

"We know that women who exercise during pregnancy have less chance of developing certain conditions like gestational diabetes," said Dr. Raul Artal, chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health for the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "Not only that, exercise maintains musculoskeletal fitness. Women can cope with the anatomical and physiological changes of pregnancy better when they're in good shape. They also tolerate labor better and recover more quickly from delivery."

The baby also benefits. One study found that when an expectant mother works out, her fetus reaps cardiac benefits in the form of lower fetal heart rates.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day most days of the week. First, though, all women should consult a doctor to make sure it's OK.

When choosing what sort of exercise to pursue, a woman should take into account the shape she was in before becoming pregnant, said Dr. Thomas Wang, a family practitioner for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

"A lot of things depend on the level of fitness they had before," Wang said. A mom-to-be should pursue activities that will provide a good level of exertion without testing the limits of her body's current conditioning. If she's just starting a fitness program to improve her health during pregnancy, she should start out slowly and be careful not to overexert herself.

But there are certain activities that should at least be undertaken with caution, if not avoided altogether. Pregnant women, for instance, should not go scuba diving, as that activity exposes the fetus to a risk of developing decompression sickness, also known as the bends.

Women also should think twice before engaging in activities where the risk of falling is higher, such as gymnastics, horseback riding, downhill skiing and high-intensity racquet sports. And they should avoid contact sports such as ice hockey, soccer and basketball.

"Anything that involves impact or the chance of abdominal trauma, they should try to avoid," Wang explained.

Exercise that's perfectly safe for expectant mothers includes Kegel exercises, swimming, walking, light dancing and yoga. Riding a stationary bicycle or working out on aerobic gym equipment -- elliptical or stair-climbing machines, for instance -- is also fairly safe, as long as care is taken to prevent a fall.

Most pregnant women also can take part in jogging, running and aerobics, especially if those were exercises they regularly performed before pregnancy.

Pregnant women who are doing weight training should emphasize improving their muscle tone, particularly in the upper body and abdominal area, according to the American Pregnancy Association. They should avoid lifting weights above their heads and performing exercises that strain the lower back muscles.

"There have been some studies that show heavy lifting causes a temporary drop in the baby's heart rate," Wang said. "It usually corrects pretty quickly, but they might want to be careful."

Other things to keep in mind if exercising while pregnant:

* Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness, as that could affect the oxygen supply to the fetus.
* Avoid overheating, which can affect the baby's development. Don't exercise in hot weather.
* During the second and third trimesters, avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back as this decreases blood flow to the womb.

Though that might seem like a lot of cautions for something that's supposed to be safe, doctors insist that women can and should engage in a well-thought-out fitness program during their pregnancy.

"By and large, if there are no medical complications of pregnancy, women can continue engaging in the same type of activities," Artal said. "Women should be encouraged to continue living an active lifestyle."