Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy
A few modifications in your lifestyle can make all the difference in helping you have a healthy pregnancy, positive childbearing experience and easy recovery after delivery. The following tips offers you ideas for staying fit through all four trimesters of pregnancy. Yes, that’s right, the early stages after delivery is commonly referred to as the fourth trimester since so much is happening in the new mother’s body.
Having a baby is really a wonderful experience, and the better you take care of yourself, the more effective you will be in all areas of your life. So, take time to listen to your body and be good to yourself!
Getting Through the First Trimester
In the early months of pregnancy, many women experience fatigue and nausea. This is a result of the rise in pregnancy hormones. When the first trimester ends, all of these changes result in your baby having everything he or she needs to be a person. Everything you do needs to support fetal development. Prior to exercising during pregnancy, be sure to consult your health care provider.
If you are already exercising aerobically, i.e. walking, biking, jogging, etc., you can continue your regime provided you listen to your body. If you tire easily, stop exercising and take frequent rests. Some women find exercising for 15-20 minutes at a time twice a day more tolerable than trying to exercise 30-40 minutes at one time.
For women just beginning an exercise program, plan to walk 15 minutes at least twice a day. Research suggests that walking 15 minutes after each meal helps to significantly decrease excess weight gain.
In addition to aerobic exercise, practice exercises that help to strengthen and stretch the muscles that are affected by pregnancy including your abdomen, chest, buttocks, legs and pelvic floor. For weight lifters, plan to maintain tone rather than trying to make strength gains. Lower weights and increase repetitions. Avoid holding your breath during any exercises. Start practicing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent urinary incontinence (letting go of urine when you cough, laugh or sneeze) later in pregnancy and after delivery.
Performing a Kegel Exercise
Sit in a comfortable position. During exhalation, squeeze the muscles around the vaginal opening. While inhaling, release the muscles. Repeat at least 20 times, twice a day during pregnancy and after delivery.
Drink lots of water to maintain your hydration and keep your body temperature from rising too drastically. This is important in protecting your unborn child. Layer your clothing to prevent overheating and avoid exercising in hot, humid weather.
You don’t need to eat a lot of extra calories now since the baby is not growing in size yet, but getting recommended nutrients is important. Try to eat more fruits, vegetables, protein and foods rich in calcium. You also want to take a prenatal vitamin with iron and folic acid. Eating a balanced diet will keep your energy levels up and prepare your body for the increased nutrient needs of the second and third trimesters.
Staying Fit during the Second Trimester
By the beginning of the second trimester, hormones start to level off and women report feeling more energetic and more like their pre-pregnancy selves. Your baby is growing and so are you! As you gain weight, you may want to decrease the intensity of aerobic exercise. Exercise at a level that you can comfortably talk. Remember, if you are out-of-breath, chances are, so is your baby.
Continue practicing exercises that help you maintain strength and flexibility, but avoid exercising on your back as this can decrease blood flow to your baby. Your baby needs lots of oxygen and glucose to grow adequately.
In addition to exercising moderately, you need to eat to sustain glucose levels throughout the day. The best way to accomplish this is to eat small, frequent balanced meals. As an example: add a midmorning, midafternoon and before bedtime snack of nuts, cheese and crackers, fruit, ½ turkey sandwich, yogurt or glass of milk. All of these foods offer you and your baby recommended nutrients and help to keep glucose levels adequate. Be sure to eat something an hour or two before exercise to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you don’t have time, drink a glass of fruit juice.
Supporting Your Health during the Third Trimester
The third trimester is usually the most challenging with the baby growing at a rate of 3/4 to 1 pound per week. It’s amazing how carrying an extra 20 pounds affects your ability to exercise, especially when most of the weight is in your breasts and abdominal region.
As you continue to gain “baby” weight, just walking up a flight of stairs may make you feel like your heart is racing. Many runners modify their exercise by doing a walk/jog routine, always listening to their bodies and making sure they are not getting “out-of-breath.” As your breasts get bigger (yeah!) you may find that wearing a supportive bra gives you much needed relief. Some women wear two jogging bras especially during exercise.
Exercising in water is a perfect alternative to pounding the pavement at this time of your pregnancy. Water walking will help to maintain strength and flexibility while helping you feel “light on your feet.” The forces of the water against your body will also help to reduce swelling that is common in the third trimester. The hardest part of water exercises is getting out of the pool!
As labor and delivery become imminent, it is a good idea to practice more calming types of exercise like Yoga. Yoga trains the body for strength, flexibility, balance and focus, all are important aspects of preparing your body for the birthing experience. Motherwell® Yoga is a perfect complement to the other exercises you may be doing throughout your pregnancy and postpartum period.
Regaining Your Energy in the Fourth Trimester
The first three months after delivery are considered the fourth trimester. During this time, your body is recovering from the pregnancy, labor and delivery. It is an important time to bond with your baby and nurture your body.
Whether you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean, in the early weeks after delivery, you can practice stretching exercises, Kegel exercises and take frequent short walks throughout the day. The key is to gently resume exercise without putting too much stress on the body. Continue listening to your body and modify your daily routines according to how you feel.
If you are breastfeeding, be sure to drink lots of water and try to breastfeed prior to exercise, as this will help you be more comfortable. Eating nutritiously is especially important to help build up and sustain your milk supply.
Eventually, you will build up to your pre-pregnancy fitness routine without too much difficulty provided you exercise moderately and eat sensibly. Before resuming strenuous exercise, however, it is always a good idea to consult your health care provider.
Pregnancy can be a challenging time for both the athlete
and non-athletic woman, but with proper exercise, appropriate lifestyle modifications and a sensible eating plan, you can have a healthy pregnancy and positive childbirth experience. For more information about pregnancy fitness, visit www.motherwellfitness.com .
For more information about pregnancy fitness, visit www.motherwellfitness.com