Staying strong and active during pregnancy. (BIGSTOCK)
Staying fit with a growing belly
“Prenatal Pilates” by Caroline Sandry

Many experts recommend regular exercise as part of a prenatal routine. And there are plenty of programs, from yoga and dance to strength training and fitness classes, specifically tailored for pregnant women.

If you liked Pilates before you got pregnant, you now have an option for pursuing it at home with an instructor who knows where you’re coming from: “Prenatal Pilates: Strengthen & Sculpt,” taught by Pilates instructor Caroline Sandry, who in the DVD is 17 weeks pregnant. Sandry leads women through three 20-minute sessions — including a standing workout and a floor workout — that can be mixed and matched according to different stages of pregnancy.

The DVD is designed to build strength and stamina for pregnancy, labor and postnatal recovery. The movements, Sandry says, will help address changes to women’s posture during pregnancy. The DVD also includes tips for issues such as swollen ankles, aching backs and legs, and anxiety. A follow-up to “Prenatal Pilates” focusing on postnatal recovery is set for release this autumn.

Medical History
Mercury, eel bile and treatments for the lovelorn, from 200 years ago
“Can Onions Cure Ear-ache? Medical Advice from 1769” by William Buchan

Eel bile to cure deafness. A poultice of leeks fried in butter to treat hemorrhoids. A swig of brandy to ward off nightmares. These are some of the odd recommendations found in “Domestic Medicine,” a self-help book published in 1769 by Scottish physician William Buchan for people who couldn’t access or afford medical care.

The manual, renamed and republished as a historic collection of 18th-century medical advice, includes recommendations gleaned from both the folklore and emerging science of the era.

Buchan, who took a holistic approach to health, stressed balance and moderation in diet and lifestyle, and he wrote at length about the importance of regular exercise. (His favorite activities included walking, running and digging in the garden.) Good so far.

He recommended that people make their own breads and liquors to ensure that these dietary staples were “sound and wholesome.” Buchan also advised against trying to use clothing to “mend” the body, describing corsets, girdles and the like as especially dangerous due to “squeezing the stomach and bowels into as narrow a compass as possible to procure, what is falsely called, a fine shape.” (Needless to say, Buchan probably would not have approved of Spanx.)

But many of the recommendations range from humorous to what we now know is downright dangerous. Pills containing mercury, a highly toxic element, were prescribed to cure blindness, while applying mercury to the skin was believed to shrink cancerous tumors. When injecting linseed tea in the urethra failed to cure gonorrhea, rubbing mercury on the inner thighs was considered a good last resort.

Buchan also promoted bleeding: Opening a vein was recommended for fevers, broken bones and even difficult childbirth.

Interestingly, the book includes a “treatment” for the lovelorn, specifically for a man eyeing a woman out of his league. “He ought immediately to flee the company of the beloved object,” Buchan advised, “to apply his mind attentively to business or study; to take every kind of amusement; and above all, to endeavor, if possible, to find another object which may engage his affections, and which it may be in his power to obtain.”