By Betsy Poos
The magnitude of change a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy and the postpartum period is enormous – mind blowing stuff really! It’s enough to qualify all mamas as super heroes, though truly feeling fit and healthy in mind and body to own your super hero status can be tricky.
Diet and exercise play a key role in a woman’s overall health during pregnancy. Eating well and exercising regularly help the fetus develop healthily and prepare the body for your ultimate workout – labor and delivery! Below are a few tips and tricks to being fit and healthy during pregnancy.
Information provided takes from popularly held advice throughout the stages of pregnancy. I recommend you consult with your health care provider and fitness professional directly about your specific areas of concern.
“Unless there are medical or pregnancy related problems, it is generally safe for women to continue with most of the physical activities they did before becoming pregnant. Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy. It maintains fitness, strengthens muscles, boosts circulation, and helps prevent varicose veins, constipation, and backache. However, strenuous exercise may be more difficult. Levels of fatigue and breathlessness are a good guide, as are previous levels of fitness – pregnancy is not the time to start a demanding regime.” – The Pregnant Body Book by Drs. Brewer, Bhattacharya, Davies, Meredith and Preston
The First Trimester
The first trimester may produce equal parts joy, stress, and nausea. Along with a supply of saltine crackers and water on your nightstand, I recommend adding a notecard with your intention to be fit and healthy. Read it regularly to make your first and last impression each day be for your health and well-being.
Develop a short (5 minutes or less) exercise routine now that can carry you throughout pregnancy. This can help to ease the stress and nausea now and alleviate body aches as pregnancy progresses.
- Minute 1 – Sit upright and breathe deeply in and out of the belly.
- Minute 2 – Slow head rolls (1-2 each direction).
- Minute 3 – Seated spinal twist (2-4 breaths each direction).
- Minute 4-5 – Move to all fours beside the bed and do cat and cow.
- Minute 1 – Hold onto something about hip height and walk back until your body makes an “L” shape from hands to hips and hips to heel. Stretch here. (downward facing dog is also a nice option).
- Minute 2 – Runner’s Lunge on each side.
- Minute 3-4 – Move to all fours beside the bed and do cat and cow.
- Minute 5 – Sit upright and breathe deeply in and out of the belly.
Outside of developing a new morning and evening routine you can maintain your typical exercise regime as much as feels comfortable during your first trimester, but don’t be surprised if your mind and body need more rest at this time.
The Second Trimester
This is often the sweet spot where the nausea (hopefully) has subsided; baby and belly are growing; and energy during pregnancy peaks. You can still continue most regular exercise with a few simple modifications.
- Modify any abdominal exercises that put pressure on your belly. Practice belly down backbends now with a blanket roll under your pelvis to create space for baby.
- Maintain a hug around baby during all exercises. If you can’t maintain a feeling of pulling baby and belly back to spine back off the exercise.
- Sorry mamas – It’s time to let go of your six-pack abs. Strengthen your transverse abdominals by doing single leg raises while laying down and seated breath work to expand breath into side ribs.
- Avoid deep abdominal twists.
- It’s time to get to know your pelvic floor! By the “middle and at the end of pregnancy you should perform exercises that increase the mobility of the pelvis. The muscles of the pelvic floor need to have both an elastic quality and muscular tonicity.” – The Female Pelvis by Blandine Calais-Germain
- Strengthen the kegel muscles. You can do this anytime and anywhere, but make a point of doing this on a regular occasion be it on your metro ride daily, while watching TV at night, or in those two extra minutes between your arrival and your Atlas class starting.
- Squat regularly. And I’m not talking your barbell squats from Strength 101. Stand feet just wider than hips and with legs slightly turned out then drop your bum as low as possible while keeping your feet flat on the ground. You can do this while sitting supported on the height of a yoga block.
The Third Trimester
As the body nears the end of pregnancy you’ll need to modify more exercises than not. If you are a runner, it’s likely time to slow to a jog or a brisk walk. If you enjoy strength training keep it up, but with lower weights. One of my fitness goals during my second pregnancy was to maintain my ability to do pushups. For me that meant I did at least one pushup every single day and I didn’t deter when it meant dropping to my knees for even that one pushup the last few weeks.
No need to wait until the third trimester, but this can be a great time to add yoga and meditation to your routine. The strength and stretch of yoga poses may give you more comfort day to day and will prepare your body for birth. Meditation and breath work – well that’s the super hero pixie dust. To learn more join me every Tuesday from 6-7pm for Yoga at Atlas. Class may be modified for prenatal and postnatal moms.
Betsy Poos is a Yoga Alliance registered prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT) with over 10 years of teaching experience (E-RYT 500). Betsy is also super mom to two strong girls, Stella (6) and Luna (8 months).