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Healthy Body, Healthy Baby: Read Rachel's Story
Caring for your child begins with taking care of yourself.
“Some blood pressure medications are not safe during pregnancy, so communicate early if you’re on any…” – Michael Resnick, MD, FACOG
Date: 12/1/2008

One of the most fascinating things about pregnancy is how the body changes and adjusts to house precious cargo for nine months. However, your body is not completely on auto-pilot. Much of what you do prior to pregnancy — and everything you do during — can impact the health of your baby.

  Meet Joe & Rachael Balcewicz of Hamilton 

Hamilton residents Rachael and Joe Balcewicz received a very welcome holiday gift when they found out in December 2007 they were expecting their first child.


Prior to pregnancy, Rachael had been managing hypoglycemia, a pre-diabetic condition, as well as hypothyroidism.


“In the beginning, my pregnancy was normal, low-risk and I was in the care of a midwife,” says Rachael.


At 29 weeks, Rachael was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a condition in which a pregnant woman has high glucose levels, making hers a high-risk pregnancy. “At that point, my condition was out of the scope of my midwife’s care and I began to see an obstetrician within the practice,” she explains.


Faced with this concerning diagnosis, a new birth plan and a new practitioner, Rachael was beginning to feel overwhelmed. “I was relieved to find out the diagnosis was not the result of anything I’d done, but a side effect of pregnancy hormones. I quickly found out what it means to be a parent. The sense of responsibility for my child’s well-being was so strong,” she says.


Rachael began a strict diet to manage her diabetes diagnosis. Having been hypoglycemic prior to pregnancy, she was already accustomed to moderation, but pregnancy takes it to another level. “The range in which your blood sugar levels can fall during pregnancy is very finite. I have to be very careful with my choices and resist temptations,” she says.


“It’s not about me now. It’s about making sure I have a healthy baby and that I’m healthy to take care of her,” says Rachael.

Heart Rate

For women with previously diagnosed hypertension, or high blood pressure, it is important the condition is controlled prior to pregnancy, often with medication.

“Some blood pressure medications are not safe during pregnancy, so communicate early if you’re on any. We can then approach the plan of care in consult with your cardiologist to safely transition you to a different medication,” says Michael Resnick, MD, FACOG, obstetrician with the RWJ OB/GYN Group Hamilton.

Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy with conditions such as preeclampsia and eclampsia. These conditions complicate about 10 percent of pregnancies. An elevated heart rate in the mother can be dangerous for both she and her child. Once diagnosed, high blood pressure should be monitored closely by the obstetrician throughout the pregnancy.



There are many challenges for a pregnant woman with diabetes. Diabetes may have been diagnosed prior to pregnancy or, as in gestational diabetes, developed during the pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes affects more than four percent of pregnant women in the United States. Though the cause of gestational diabetes is still being researched, studies suggest it happens as a result of pregnancy hormones blocking the action of the mother’s natural insulin.

When diagnosed, a patient is instructed by her physician to begin a diabetic diet and regularly monitor blood sugar levels. “Most patients respond well to the diet,” says Dr. Resnick. “If a patient continues to have problems with her blood sugar levels, she will be prescribed insulin which is administered via injection one to four times daily.”


The Basics: Diet & Exercise

Diet plays a major role in how you feel during pregnancy and how your baby develops.

“We want our patients to eat healthy and to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into their diets and to drink plenty of water,” says Dr. Resnick.

Exercise during pregnancy is a healthy way to keep stress levels down, maintain healthy sleep patterns and help with tight, tired muscles. While moderate exercise can be wonderful for the mother-to-be, it’s important to avoid activities that can be unsafe.

Avoid activities in which you can sustain a blow to the abdomen, and any activity in which you will be lifting heavy weights.

“During pregnancy, a woman’s center of gravity is constantly changing making her susceptible to a dangerous fall,” says Dr. Resnick.

“Pregnancy is not an illness. It is an altered physiological state,” says Dr. Resnick. “It is a wonderful time in your life, so enjoy it.” Remember to make your health a priority and address any problems right away.


Smoking & Pregnancy: A Dangerous Combination 


Research indicates the incidence of smoking during pregnancy dropped from 37 percent in 1989, to 12.2 percent in 2000. Yet smoking continues to be the most important modifiable cause of poor pregnancy outcome in the United States.


"Smoking adversely affects every aspect of pregnancy," says Dr. Resnick. "It can contribute to a host of problems including low birth weight and abruption-where the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus."


Smoking cessation prior to pregnancy is the best approach because it gives a woman the opportunity to wean herself from the nicotine. However, if the pregnancy is unplanned, a mother should quit smoking immediately upon finding out to offer the healthiest environment in which her baby can grow.

Trying to kick the habit? Learn more about our Smoking Cessation Program.



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