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The Narcissistic Parent

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“Fatty, fatty, two by four, couldn’t get through the open door.” That song still rings in my head daily. It’s what my mother, a narcissistic parent, sang to me in my childhood. It’s no surprise by the time I was 18, I had developed an eating disorder, and my weight plummeted down to 89 pounds. The thing was, however, that I wasn’t substantially overweight before I stopped eating. It was about achieving my mother’s view of unattainable perfection.

Being skinny was one of the outrageous standards she put in place for me as I was growing up. For narcissists, as you may know, it’s all about how it looks. Your dreams, desires, beliefs, natural-born talents, and other skills don’t matter. How you plan to make this world a better place doesn’t matter. It’s about how YOU make the NARCISSIST look to others, with your appearance and achievements.

In a healthy family, the parents meet the needs of the kids emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. In a toxic family, the unhealthy parent or parents reverse the roles. You are required to shine the light on the toxic parent. If you don’t? The narcissist uses shame as the sharpest weapon. Then, all hell breaks loose. Love is withheld. The toxic parent sparingly doles out attention. You may receive the silent treatment or be ignored for days or longer. Regardless, it hurts.

Children of narcissists can become stunted emotionally and physically. I remember not wanting to grow up because I didn’t want to leave what I thought was the security of my home. My mother had taught me that she did no wrong and the rest of the world was bad. If I stayed a “mini-me” version of her, life would be safe and tolerable. The family jokingly called these rules her “do-right rules.” (I still don’t think that’s funny. Not one bit).

Children of narcissists struggle with identity, because one day you will likely grow up and leave, yet you are still a little girl or boy inside, struggling with making the narcissistic parent happy. My career choice of being a television news anchor and personality was a decision I knew my mother would accept. Even the man I said yes to marrying was someone whom I knew my mother would approve of.

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What is Narcissism? PART FOUR

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What Causes Narcissism?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer because narcissists can come from such broadly diverse backgrounds.  Is it caused by nature or nurture?  

In some cases there has to be a genetically linked tendency.  Think, for instance, how some individuals have a natural bent toward mathematics, music, literary skills, and so on.  We often say, “It’s just in them to be that way.” Likewise some people have a natural bent toward tenderness, friendliness, or sociability.  It’s just how they are.

It also could be presumed that some people are more inclined toward troublesome trends. They can lack interest in emotions. They can be more naturally bossy.   Or perhaps they are relationally elusive. Those qualities, too, can be “just how they are.” So some of the inclination toward narcissism could be “nature.”

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What is Narcissism? PART THREE

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Types of Narcissism

Narcissism can be displayed in a very wide array of patterns.  Think of a hub of a wheel and the spokes that extend from that hub. The spokes represent the many patterns that can be offshoots of the core tendency toward narcissism.  

Following are some types of narcissism you might encounter, and while it is not an exhaustive list, it can give you and idea of how pervasive narcissism can be.  And yes, individuals can have combinations and degrees of these types:

The Bully:  Forceful, punishing, coercive, overbearing, demanding, prone to rage, willing to humiliate or shame, preys upon others’ weaknesses, user of people.

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What is Narcissism? PART TWO

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8 Primary Indicators Of Narcissism

Consistently, narcissists display most or all of eight identifiable tendencies:

  • An inability to empathize.  Narcissists do not feel the need to know and understand a person’s emotions or experiences.  Being self-enamored inhibits their concern for others.
  • A strong, persistent need for control.  Narcissists believe they should be the ones holding the reins of power in relationships and organizations.  Wherever they go, they have a fixed agenda regarding the ways life is supposed to unfold.  
  • An attitude of entitlement.  Though they show little concern about the needs of others, they routinely focus on satisfying their own needs and preferences.  When they do not get what they demand, anger is inevitable.
  • Manipulative, exploitive behaviors.  Being non-authentic people, they can give the appearance of friendliness or coordination, only to show later that they are users of people.  They are not honest or trustworthy.
  • An inability to receive direction.  Narcissists are pathologically defensive.  They have an image to maintain, and any discussion about flaws or mistakes will be met with strong denial, reversal, blame, or accusation.
  • A need for superiority.  Truly believing in their unique, lofty status, they are commonly critical and condescending.  They justify bullying and stubbornness by focusing on others’ inferiority.
  • An alternate reality.  Their lack of objectivity causes them to anchor upon a version of truth that does not match pitch with others.  They truly believe they hold distinct perspectives that others cannot learn. 
  • Ability to create favorable false impressions.  For a time, narcissists can appear charming, friendly, and agreeable.  Their yearning to be admired prompts them to present themselves as appealing and enviable.  But this charm inevitably is temporary and situational.

Types of Narcissism



What is Narcissism? PART ONE

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Narcissism is the pattern of life driven by self-absorption, control, and manipulation.  It can be understood as a pattern on a spectrum, with each of us having at least some capacity for it.

On the far end of the spectrum, narcissism is referred to as a personality disorder (NPD), a pathological manner so embedded and so dysfunctional that it renders the individual as one who surely contributes pain and strain in relationships.  People with NPD have an inflated sense of their self-importance, an excessive need for admiration or superiority, and a greatly diminished capacity for empathy.

Short of NPD, many people are sufficiently inclined toward self-impressed behaviors and poor empathy, so they too create exaggerated strain in their primary relationships.  Others may contain their narcissistic tendencies fairly well, yet they may also have moments when it comes to the fore. That’s life on the spectrum.

Narcissism In The Context Of Ancient History

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You might be a people pleaser if. . .

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You might be a people pleaser if you:

  • Try too hard to be nice

  • Hold onto hidden resentment

  • Measure your words more carefully than is really warranted

  • Give up on being understood or taken seriously

  • Have difficulty using the word "no"

  • Allow others to determine too much of your schedule

  • Become too deferential when someone else is angry

This webinar is definitely for you if:

  • You assume your needs are not as important as others' needs.
  • You have feelings of burnout because you don't prioritize your own self-care.
  • You take too much responsibility for others' happiness.
  • You suppress your difficult emotions so readily that you won't express them even when the time is right.


Register below for our webinar that will be LIVE on Tuesday, September 21st at 1pm CT. If you cannot make the live session and feel like this webinar would benefit you, still register! We will be sending out a recording to all who have registered to keep forever.


Try the 10 Positives Exercise

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  • We have a choice to see the positive or to see the negative in any given situation.
  • We can choose to interpret situations on the positive side to reduce our stress and anxiety.
  • Applying the 10 Positives exercise to various challenges can add deeper meaning to our lives.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people told me that they were feeling overwhelmed, lonely, and unfulfilled. Admittedly, the last year has been even more difficult and unprecedented on many levels, social, financial, and existential. This has led to increased stress, anxiety, and even despair, as people struggle to live meaningful lives in unstable conditions. We do, however, have a choice. We can choose a positive attitude no matter what is happening around us. We can choose to interpret situations on the positive side.


This exercise is called the 10 Positive Things or simply, 10 Positives. Here are three ways to apply this exercise:


An exercise to cope with challenges in relationships, work, and family situations

Think of a situation that is challenging in your personal relationship, your family, or your work. Write down your interpretation of the situation and then list 10 Positives that could result from this situation. Write down as many positives as you can without filtering them for realism or social acceptance. This exercise may help you move beyond your disappointment, frustration, stress, and even anger so that you can begin the process of forgiveness and healing.


An exercise to deal with a situation that is extremely stressful

When a situation is particularly stressful such as having a car accident, losing your job, or being diagnosed with an incurable disease, it is very important that you move into higher levels of optimism in order to maintain not only your physical health but your mental health. Starting to see the silver lining or hopeful side in something will also help you start to see the possible solutions or opportunities to address the situation, instead of repeating the same negative thoughts over and over, which is known as "loop thinking." (See my recent Psychology Today post How to Stop a Negative Cycle of Thoughts or Experiences.) 

In essence, we see what we want to see. Perception does not always mirror reality; oftentimes, however, it becomes our “reality.” When we believe that there isn’t enough of this or that in our lives, or when we see the negative in everything, we are blocking ourselves from living a full life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have in your life, or spending your time complaining about a situation, start looking for and be grateful for the positive that is in your life.


Steps to Happiness

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1. Do something nice for someone else.

Do acts of kindness for others (e.g., make someone else happier). She notes there is plenty of research evidence that doing things for others makes you happier, and I have reviewed some of it here and here.


2. Express gratitude on a regular basis.

This was the other bit of well-supported advice Lyubomirsky gave me in response to my query (and of course, I am grateful for that advice, Sonja!). After the first time I read her book, my wife suggested that we institute a nightly ritual of a “thankful list.” We have been doing that for over a decade now, before our son’s bedtime reading, and it’s one of the highlights of my day. In the book, Lyubomirsky lists several ways that gratitude boosts happiness, by helping you savor positive experiences, for example, as well as boosting your self-esteem, building social bonds, and disrupting your negative emotions.


3. Cultivate an optimistic outlook on life.

Lyubomirsky has done research with Laura King, who herself conducted interesting research in which people imagine their “best possible future selves.” What would you be doing in 10 years if everything went perfectly in your life? It’s worth trying yourself right now, because it’s fun, and King’s (2001) research suggests that imagining an ideal future self actually increases people’s inclination to persist toward their goals and to cope with setbacks.

4. Avoid invidious social comparisons.

Lyubomirsky’s own research suggests that happy people are pretty oblivious to other people who seem to be doing better than them. On the other side of the coin, materialistic attempts to keep up with the Joneses (or the Gateses) are actually a great way to make yourself more depressed (see Dittmar, Bond, Hurst, & Kasser, 2014).

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5. Nurture your relationships.

Make time to be with friends and family members (without your electronic devices), pay attention to them, let them know what you like about them, and when something good happens to them, be sure to share in their positive outcomes. Practice saying: “I see your point” if you have minor disagreements (about the news or who should wash the dishes for example).

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Will Narcissists Ever Get What They Deserve?

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Dr. Carter and I joined TikTok last week, and we have had fun packing in as much information as possible into 45 seconds or less. However, I noticed a strange occurrence: the video with the most interest was about making a narcissist miserable. Viewers want narcissists to have payback.

Keep in mind

I think it’s important to remember that narcissists are already miserable people due to their personality disorders. Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Research shows that narcissism can be caused by one or a combination of two factors: genes and the environment. Some narcissists report feeling like something isn’t right, such as their lack of empathy and emotions. They may understand that something in their childhood was “off,” teaching them not to bother when they inadvertently or purposefully hurt others.

Some narcissists admit faking empathy and feelings to get what they want from other people. This behavior exhausts narcissists, especially covert narcissists, because it’s challenging to keep up an entire persona for a significant amount of time. These narcissists need a break to reveal their true selves.

Will narcissists ever get what they deserve?

If you have left a narcissist, understand that you don’t need to seek revenge or hope for karma. The narcissist already leads an empty shell of a life, and they will not change. Can you imagine not being genuinely ecstatic at the birth of your child but instead worried the baby would take attention from you? Can you fathom watching a parent or best friend cry because you told them they were irrational about something they believe in or even fear? What a sad, meaningless existence. Narcissists will never truly feel happiness, joy, or wonder.

If you do want vengeance, the best way to enforce punishment is to build your best life. Don’t look back. Live each day in appreciation and gratitude for what you do have, including freedom from the narcissist. When a narcissist can’t take your peace and joy away permanently, you’ve won. That, my friend, is revenge.


Resilience Building

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Resilience is a person’s capacity for stress-related growth, and there are two key aspects to resilience.

The first is durability or hardiness – effectively managing life’s everyday stressors and challenges, such as running out of a meeting at the last minute to pick up your child from daycare or surviving the long TSA lines at the airport without flipping out.

The second is bouncing back – the capacity to effectively recover and grow from big life adversities, like death or divorce

Your resilience muscles get built when you focus on specific skills in the following three categories:

Think Differently

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10 Signs You're a People-Pleaser

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You'll never reach your goals if you're trying to be all things to all people.


Over the years, I’ve seen countless people-pleasers in my therapy office. But more often than not, people-pleasing wasn’t really their problem; their desire to make others happy was merely a symptom of a deeper issue.

For many, the eagerness to please stems from self-worth issues. They hope that saying yes to everything asked of them will help them feel accepted and liked. Other people-pleasers have a history of maltreatment, and somewhere along the way, they decided that their best hope for better treatment was to try to please the people who mistreated them. Over time, for them, people-pleasing became a way of life.


Many people-pleasers confuse pleasing people with kindness. When discussing their reluctance to turn down someone’s request for a favor, they say things like, “I don’t want to be selfish,” or “I just want to be a good person.” Consequently, they allow others to take advantage of them.

People-pleasing can be a serious problem, and it’s a hard habit to break. Here are 10 signs that you may be trying too hard to please everyone:

1. You pretend to agree with everyone.

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The 10 Worst Things People Say at the Start of Conversations

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Start a sentence with “It's none of my business but…” and watch people get pale.


  • The top-10 worst conversational openers all have something in common.
  • Narcissists are experts are sabotaging their conversational partners by seeming to ask questions that are actually attacks.
  • Asking "Do you remember what you said to me a long time ago that still genuinely hurts my feelings?" will probably not end in a hug and kiss.
  • You can stop these conversational sabotages before they explode into actual bad emotional eruptions. Learn to take back control of the dialogue.

1. “We should talk. For real."

2. "Are you sitting down?"

3. "In my humble opinion."

4. "No offense or anything."

5. "Look, there’s something you should know."

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The Narcissist Attitudes: 15 Condescending Attitudes PART TWO

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8. They will blame others for their flaws or mistakes even when all evidence indicates otherwise. This is part of their need to be superior.

9. They strongly dislike to apologize, and when they do, it is shallow.  They cannot bear feeling subordinate.

10. They will punish via silence and physical withdrawal.  They convey an “I’ll show you who’s in charge” attitude.

11. They feel victimized easily.  Your lack of agreement leads to the conclusion: “You’re making my life miserable.”

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The Narcissist Attitudes: 15 Condescending Attitudes PART ONE

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Often times when we are dealing with a narcissist, it is hard understand the narcissist’s attitudes. They are extremely condescending.

Here are the 15 Condescending Attitudes That Indicate Disdain Toward You:

1. They make low attempts to connect with you. The implication is: “You’re not worth the effort.”

2. They can be overly sensitive in their emotional reactions to you.  This implies, “My feelings are the only feelings that matters.  You shouldn’t feel differently from me.”

3. They have little regard to your emotions.  Since they are so enamored with the ways they feel, it stands to reason that they make no effort to know how you feel.  Their self absorption results in very low empathy.

4. They will over-interpret your emotions to make it all about them.  They might ask: “Why are you doing this to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”  This happens despite indications that your emotions are a separate matter.

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Dating Strategies Used by Narcissists PART TWO

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4.Push and pull (intermittent reinforcement)

This is one of the most painful strategies a narcissist uses to solidify the new partner’s devotion to them. Push and pull or intermittent reinforcement is the tactic when the narcissist will say or do things to push the new partner away, such as taking hours or even days to respond to a phone call or text. Then, a narcissist might call the partner and act as if nothing is wrong.

The partner feels, rightly so, that the narcissist isn’t invested in the relationship anymore. The victim then begins to work harder to prove their worth to this individual. It is a terrible place to be for a new partner. But it’s precisely where the narcissist wants them. Questioning. Losing sleep. Stressed out.

5.Blame and shame

Narcissists seldom have empathy. If they do, it’s a pretend game for appearance’s sake or to get something they want. Without genuine empathy, they are quick to blame or shame others for their behavior.

For example, maybe they were out too late at a bar when they promised to be home for dinner. Their partner may be unhappy to have worked at cooking a nice meal for them to miss it. When they ask the narcissist why, the narcissist blames them for being needy and always wanting them around for meals. The victim is left feeling bad for asking for the bare minimum of respect: a phone call or an initial no.

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Dating Strategies Used by Narcissists PART ONE

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It can be easy to get duped by a narcissist, especially if you are a people pleaser or co-dependent. Narcissists can be charismatic, charming chameleons. They adeptly learn what you want and appeal to that side of you. It’s easy to miss the red flags because there’s chemistry between you and your potential partner. My coach/counselor tells me often, “Laura, come down from your love cloud and see what’s right in front of you.”

She’s right. We need to open our eyes to protect ourselves (and our hearts). Below are some strategies that narcissists use because toxic people make dating a game of control and conquests.

1.Future faking

We’ve all heard people say, “He told me what our life would be like together” or “He painted a dream life of our future.” Now this action has a name assigned to it: future faking.

Future faking is tactic narcissists use to hook you. They elaborate on details of your future together. What makes it “fake” is that it’s not likely ever to happen. That’s because narcissists see a person they want to pursue, work hard to make that person fall in love, then decide if they’re going to love that person back.

It’s also improbable that this rosy outlook won’t happen because the narcissist is often making things up on the fly, from an emotional state of excitement or neediness. For example, the narcissist hasn’t thought about who will pay for the giant beach house? Who will pay for the dinner out at the expensive new restaurant?

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Is it safe to take antibiotics during pregnancy?

Answer From Mary Marnach, M.D.

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed during pregnancy. However, the specific type of medication must be chosen carefully. Some antibiotics are OK to take during pregnancy, while others are not. Safety depends on various factors, including the type of antibiotic, when in your pregnancy you take the antibiotic and for how long, how much you take, and the possible effects it might have on your pregnancy.


Here's a sampling of antibiotics generally considered safe during pregnancy:

  • Penicillins, including amoxicillin (Amoxil, Larotid) and ampicillin
  • Cephalosporins, including cefaclor and cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Clindamycin (Cleocin, Clinda-Derm, Clindagel)

Certain other antibiotics are believed to pose risks during pregnancy. For example, tetracyclines can affect bone development and discolor a developing baby's teeth. Tetracyclines aren't recommended for use after the fifth week of pregnancy. Sulfonamides might pose a small risk of heart conditions, cleft lip or palate, and jaundice. Sulfonamides are generally avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy and near the time of delivery.

If an antibiotic is the best way to treat your condition, your doctor will prescribe the safest antibiotic and dosage. If you have questions or concerns about the use of an antibiotic during pregnancy, talk to your doctor.



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Is it safe to fly during pregnancy?

Answer From Tatnai Burnett, M.D.

Generally, commercial air travel before week 36 of pregnancy is considered safe if you have a healthy pregnancy. Still, if you're pregnant, check with your health care provider before you fly.

Your health care provider might caution against air travel if you're experiencing pregnancy complications that might be worsened by air travel or require emergency care. The duration of the flight also should be considered. Similarly, your health care provider and many airlines might restrict travel after 36 weeks of pregnancy.


If your health care provider approves air travel and your plans are flexible, the best time to fly might be during your second trimester. This is when the risks of common pregnancy emergencies are the lowest.

When you fly:

  • Check the airline's policy. Guidelines for pregnant women might vary by carrier and destination.
  • Buckle up. During the trip, fasten the lap belt under your abdomen.
  • Promote circulation. Take occasional walks up and down the aisle. If you must remain seated, flex and extend your ankles periodically. Also, avoid wearing tightfitting clothing. Use of compression stockings might help.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Low humidity in the cabin can lead to dehydration.
  • Avoid gassy foods and drinks preflight. Entrapped gases expand at altitude, which can cause discomfort. Examples include broccoli and carbonated drinks.
  • Make a contingency plan. Consider how, if necessary, you'll obtain obstetric care during your trip.

Radiation exposure associated with air travel at high altitudes isn't thought to be problematic for most who fly during pregnancy. However, pilots, flight attendants and other frequent fliers might be exposed to a level of cosmic radiation that raises questions during pregnancy. If you must fly frequently during your pregnancy, discuss it with your health care provider. He or she might recommend limiting your total flight time during pregnancy.


Back pain during pregnancy: 7 tips for relief

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Back pain during pregnancy isn't surprising, but it still deserves attention. Consider seven ways to relieve back pain during pregnancy — from good posture and physical activity to complementary therapies.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Back pain during pregnancy is a common complaint — and it's no wonder. You're gaining weight, your center of gravity changes, and your hormones are relaxing the ligaments in the joints of your pelvis. Often, however, you can prevent or ease back pain during pregnancy. Consider seven ways to give pregnancy back pain the boot.


1. Practice good posture

 As your baby grows, your center of gravity shifts forward. To avoid falling forward, you might compensate by leaning back — which can strain the muscles in your lower back and contribute to back pain during pregnancy. Keep these principles of good posture in mind:
  • Stand up straight and tall.
  • Hold your chest high.
  • Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.
  • Don't lock your knees.

When you stand, use a comfortably wide stance for the best support. If you must stand for long periods of time, rest one foot on a low step stool — and take time for frequent breaks.

Good posture also means sitting with care. Choose a chair that supports your back, or place a small pillow behind your lower back.

2. Get the right gear

 Wear low-heeled — not flat — shoes with good arch support. Avoid high heels, which can further shift your balance forward and cause you to fall.

You might also consider wearing a maternity support belt. Although research on the effectiveness of maternity support belts is limited, some women find the additional support helpful.

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Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let's move! Part Two

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Activities to approach with care

If you're not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, check with your health care provider. Consider avoiding:

  • Any exercises that force you to lie flat on your back after your first trimester
  • Scuba diving, which could put your baby at risk of decompression sickness
  • Contact sports, such as ice hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball
  • Activities that pose a high risk of falling — such as downhill skiing, in-line skating, gymnastics, and horseback riding
  • Activities that could cause you to hit water with great force, such as water skiing, surfing and diving

Other activities to avoid include:

  • Exercise at high altitude
  • Activities that could cause you to experience direct trauma to the abdomen, such as kickboxing
  • Hot yoga or hot Pilates

If you do exercise at a high altitude, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache, fatigue and nausea. If you experience symptoms of altitude sickness, return to a lower altitude as soon as possible and seek medical care.

Staying motivated

You're more likely to stick with an exercise plan if it involves activities you enjoy and fits into your daily schedule. Consider these simple tips:

  • Start small. You don't need to join a gym or wear expensive workout clothes to get in shape. Just get moving. Try a daily walk through your neighborhood or walk the perimeter of the grocery store a few times. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Find a partner. Exercise can be more interesting if you use the time to chat with a friend. Better yet, involve the whole family.
  • Try a class. Many fitness centers and hospitals offer classes, such as prenatal yoga, designed for pregnant women. Choose one that fits your interests and schedule.

Listen to your body

As important as it is to exercise, it's also important to watch for signs of a problem. Stop exercising and contact your health care provider if you have:

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