[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eing someone who lives, eats and breathes fitness, having a baby was a huge decision and I was completely unaware of what to expect. being fit would make pregnancy easier, but as you will read over the next three weeks, maybe not, although fitness definitely helped me keep the weight off and work up to my due date comfortably.
Generally some people believe “Don’t exercise in pregnancy”, “Enjoy getting fat” and “It’s a time to be lazy”. These are far from the truth and exercise and healthy eating become more important than ever during pregnancy.
Scientific research (ACOG & RCOG) suggest exercise can:
- Improve aerobic and muscular strength
- Maintain fitness
- Reduce loss of balance
- Help limit pelvic floor loss
- Reduce swelling and improve circulation
- Limit weight gain
- Improve labour pains and complications
- Help recovery
So to help you understand the science behind changes in pregnancy, problems you may encounter along with exercise and diet advice, here is my advice to exercising in pregnancy.
I managed to keep the rest of my body the same size apart from my stomach even with a 2 stone weight gain, avoid stretch marks and train the whole way through pregnancy along with return to my fitness rather quickly and so can you if you are sensible. Most importantly I measured small around my waist the whole way but had a very healthy weight baby.
Overall for me this was the worst of all trimesters, feeling bloated, sick and tired and not being able to talk to anyone. This is also the anxious stage where until 12 weeks the pregnancy is very unstable and many miscarriages occur. We decided to have a private scan at 6 and 8 weeks to ease my anxiety and make sure everything was ok. At 11 weeks we also had an early scan due to bleeding, which you may be happy to know is very common and can be either “implantation” or the body creating a fake monthly cycle at the same time you would normally have a bleed.
During this phase the main problem is generally “Vascular underfill” which is where your blood vessels increase in size ready for the increase in blood volume. However blood volume stays the same, leading to a reduction in blood flow pressure due to extra space. This leads to nausea, along with tiredness and light headedness.For me, this made my usual 5am pre work morning exercise routine fuelled on caffeine tough and exercise became an afternoon affair which mainly consisted of weights due to cardio making me light headed and weak.
Average weight gain is different for everyone and those with a lower body fat percentage tend to gain more. Generally in this stage is 3-5kg is suggested. Personally I gained no weight, however I feel with the loss of muscle and gain in fat it may have been balanced out.
- Liver dysfunction which is common in most pregnancies, leading to an itchy skin rash that covered my arms and legs. This was reduced with help of mild steroid cream and keeping the skin well moisturised.
- Having tight abdominals also led to ligament pains in my hips as early as 6 weeks due to stretching especially when sneezing or getting up to quick.
- Acid reflux/ nasel congestion is common due to the change in hormones and the baby taking all the goodness. Gaviscon is aloud along with saline nasel sprays but generally sleeping sitting up and staying hydrated will combat both.
- Water retention is very common leading to “the bloat” and a feeling of fatness. The best way to combat this is to wear baggier clothes and drink lots of water.
In this first three months, it is advised that your exercise patterns do not need to change if you feel well enough. Generally cardio exercise should be long duration and steady state where the Heart Rate is kept below 70% of your maximum along with avoided sweating and becoming out of breathe. The general rule of thumb is to be able to keep a conversation whilst exercising. When resistance training, weights should be kept low and repetitions higher to maintain strength rather than try to “gain” any fitness/ strength.
- Avoid runny eggs, sushi, rare or undercooked meat, pate, cured meats, veined or soft cheese, alcohol & smoking (of course), energy drinks, caffeine!
- Coffee!!! This is something I truly missed. Watch your coffee intake… you are aloud 200mg caffeine a day which is generally 4 cups of normal tea/ coffee. However new barista coffee and coffee stores have more. For example “Costa” reportedly has 175mg of caffeine in each shot therefore meaning a 2 shot medium coffee is 1.5 over the limit for the day! So switch to decaf and have just a 1 shot coffee when out.
- Set an alarm early, eat breakfast (which leads to nausea) and head back to bed for a few hours before work. By the time you wake up again you should have balanced blood sugar and feel fine.
- Start to use coconut oil for skin, hair and nails along with bath in bio oil as soon as you know as the main “maternal fat” gain stage is in the first three months particularly in the chest area which leads to stretch marks.
- Invest in a supportive non wired sports bra (or two!)