Being pregnant can be pretty confusing. What you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat, what activities you can do, what you can’t do, what size your bump should be (and is your bump, in fact, an open invitation to be touched by anyone who feels like it?). And not to mention all the choices about names, feeding, breastpumps, prams, cots, carriers, baby monitors…..the list goes on, and on, and on.
Already you know your life is about to change – it’s not really about you any more is it? But about that baby, what the baby needs and what will be best for them. Now, that’s obviously no bad thing. After all, you’re about to be fully responsible for a small, helpless being.
BUT in amongst all this, you mustn’t forget yourself. After all, how are you supposed to make all these decisions and be everything for this baby if you’re not also looking after yourself?
So here are my 5 top tips for a fit and healthy pregnancy. Nothing complicated, nothing confusing, just good, simple tips that will make sure you’re feeling your best (or as close to it as you can be when you’re waddling around and desperate for the loo every 27 minutes) and not only fit and healthy for now, with less pain, but more prepared for the birth and afterwards.
1. NOURISH YOUR BODY
Good, healthy food during pregnancy not only provides you and your baby with the nutrients you need, but has a whole host of other benefits too. It will give you more even energy and keep your system moving smoothly (goodbye constipation), and by developing really healthy habits now, it will be even easier to keep them going after the birth, therefore supporting your recovery at that stage.
Now, if you’re in the early stages and suffering morning sickness, I’m not about to start preaching about what you should be eating. I’ve been there myself and hated knowing about all the things I ‘should’ be doing when the only thing I could stomach most days was toast and soup. Of course, it still makes sense to try and get the key nutrients in where possible, but please don’t beat yourself up if you’re really struggling – eating anything at this stage can often be a triumph!
But if you’re not feeling sick, or you’ve started to move beyond that stage, there are a few key things that you should be including plenty of:
- Protein – with meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts – as these are the key building blocks for the body.
- Complex carbs for energy – through wholegrains, rye, brown rice and quinoa, for example.
- Good fats such as avocadoes, olive oil and nuts – for great sources of certain vitamins and minerals.
- A range of veg to get a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
- Plenty of fibre to keep your system moving smoothly – from wholegrains, vegetables and flaxseed.
If you can achieve a good mix of all of these types of foods each week (while not indulging too much in cake and chocolate!) you’ll definitely be on the right tracks. Really focus on what nutritious foods you can add into your diet gradually and please don’t expect to be perfect straight away. Choose one thing each week to focus on, such as more good fats and get that down before you move onto the next.
2. KEEP HYDRATED
We all know that drinking enough water is important. Not just in terms of keeping our bodies working efficiently, but also to keep constipation at bay and to help with our energy levels.
But as you get more pregnant it can be tempting to drink less to stop those toilet trips from becoming too frequent. So, tempting as it may be to start drinking less, do your absolute best to keep hydrated.
And if you’re not getting enough water already (around 2 litres a day) then start working on drinking more right now. Don’t suddenly increase it though as you really will be on the loo every 5 minutes, just gradually increase your water over a week or two. Keep a bottle with you all the time and have a couple around the house too. And make sure you stick to BPA free bottles, as those chemicals can affect your hormones…not ideal now, or after you’ve had your baby!
3. BE POSTURE AWARE
Carrying a bump does very few favours for your posture. Which starts to become more apparent if you are suffering from back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain….you name it pain. Of course, great posture is going to become more and more difficult as pregnancy progresses, and the fact is you may find it virtually impossible. However, there are a few things you can do that will help:
- Get support while you’re sitting. If you’re spending lots of time sitting at work, or on the sofa, keep yourself upright and supported. You want to make sure you have the natural curve in your lower back and that you are sitting up on your sit bones, rather than allowing yourself to slump.
- When you’re standing, make sure you’re not pushing your hips forward to support the weight of the bump…this will most certainly give you back ache! Instead, keep your weight evenly distributed between the heels, big toe and little toe.
- Also be aware of your foot position. May pregnant women walk with their toes turned out, particularly as they get bigger. Which isn’t ideal because it means your bum is switching off. And your bum is really, really important in posture, core and pelvic floor strength. A strong bum will support you so much better and help take the pressure off that poor back and knees.
4. MOVE EVERY DAY
Exercise during pregnancy can be something of a minefield, which means that many women avoid it altogether because they’re concerned about doing the wrong thing and hurting themselves or their baby. But by keeping moving, you’ll not only make yourself feel a whole lot better, but you will reduce those aches and pains and be in a better place for the birth.
While I wouldn’t personally recommend high impact activity during pregnancy, if you are a ‘sweat it or go home’ kind of girl, pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop altogether. However, you should definitely be reducing intensity and adapting moves to keep them more low impact.
The key reason for this is that hormones released during pregnancy make your connective tissue more stretchy, which means a much higher risk of damaging your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, injuring yourself or increasing back and joint pain and discomfort. Instead, try:
- Lots of exercises such as squats, lunges and wall press ups as they are low impact, but will keep you strong, can definitely get you sweating a little, and as a bonus get you well prepared for the birth.
- Walking – such a great exercise to keep you moving and keep your mood high.
- Release – while you should be careful while stretching (see above) and ensure that you’re not pushing yourself too far, some gentle release work can do wonders for how your body feels and can also help you to maintain good posture. The chest, shoulders, lower back and front of the hips are key areas to focus on.
If you want to know more about this, then sign up to my Optimal Nutrition During Pregnancy Guide, as after you sign up, you’ll also receive some great bonuses over the next couple of weeks, including my key moves for a fit pregnancy.
NB – if you have been advised not to exercise during pregnancy, are suffering with pelvic girdle pain, or any other unexplained pain or discomfort, then please seek advice from a professional.
5. MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY
Don’t forget, you are not merely a vessel for carrying a baby…you are a real person who needs looking after too! During pregnancy, your health and wellbeing have to be an absolute priority.
First off, go easy on yourself. Women tend to ask a lot of themselves, and particularly during pregnancy we can get really focused on preparing for the new arrival and making sure everything is exactly as it should be. So, just remind yourself that as long as that baby is loved, clothed and fed, then the specific type of suspension you have on your pram is unlikely to make any difference at all.
Secondly, treat yourself. Book yourself in for a de-stressing pregnancy massage, take a nap in the middle of the day, give meditation a try, spend a day with your feet up reading a good book, send the other half out for a few hours with your other kids. Anything you can do will contribute towards a calmer, happier, more relaxed you, and when you’re about to have a baby that can only be a good thing, right?!
Thirdly, get your support systems in place NOW. Don’t wait until the baby arrives. Make decisions about the kind of help you’ll need while you’re still well rested (and probably a teensy bit more rational than you may be with 3 hours sleep!). That will give you the comfort of knowing that during those first few weeks you have the right people around you to make your life as smooth and easy as it can be.
I know this is a long blog post, so well done if you’ve made it through to the end. But all of this stuff is so important. We all want a fit and healthy pregnancy and there are so many things we can do to make that a reality. None of it has to be hard, time consuming or confusing. It’s all about the little every day actions you can take to ease stress, feel better and look after yourself.