We train our bodies for fun runs, eat healthier for a bikini body, and study for exams, so why don’t we prepare our bodies and minds for pregnancy and labour? Why don’t we get our bodies ‘baby fit’?
When you set a goal to run a 5km fun run, you train for it. You need to prepare your body for the event by running several times a week, eating healthy and maybe even doing some cross-training (weights/swimming/pilates).
When summer is looming and you are conscious of those few extra kilos you put on over winter (your ‘winter coat’), you eat healthier, exercise more regularly and drink more water to shed those extra kilos
When it comes to exams, you prepare by studying several weeks or months before. You research different theories and practice possible exam questions to reduce your anxiety.
Now just imagine doing all of these things without the proper training and preparation?
Pregnancy and labour have been compared to running a marathon? Imagine running a marathon without the physical and mental readiness? It is unimaginable because it is largely unachievable, yet this is what many women expect of themselves and their bodies when they don’t prepare themselves. And this is just the beginning… you then have a new baby that is needing all of your time, your love and for breastfeeding mums, the nutrients from your body. You have to be physically strong to lift bub up 1000 times a day from the bottom of their cot or from a tricky angle from their car seat. They will b exhausting as your whole sleep routine changes, night becomes day and day becomes night.
During pregnancy, your body goes through some massive changes at a physical level that impacts you physically and mentally. Your body produces pregnancy hormones that make you sick, stretch your ligaments and change your body in a way that you wouldn’t think possible. Your centre of gravity changes, you become more clumsy, your hips may begin to hurt and your posture changes as your boobs grow and hunch your shoulders forward. And I’m not even going to talk about how emotionally you will be feelings. Although these changes are natural and your body goes through the process automatically, it does take a toll on your daily functioning and well being. Imagine going through all of this unprepared?
During labour, your body will be going through some pretty rapid physical changes over a short period of time, your pelvis expands, your uterus muscles contract, your pelvic floor and vagina muscles push the baby out. You really will be amazed at what your body is able to achieve. And mentally, you will be in a highly intense and stressful situation from anywhere from one hour to 40 hours plus, and you have to keep focused with full concentration to achieve your most important job – giving birth to a healthy baby. Again, imagine going through all those hormonal and physical changes without a strong mindset and physical preparation?
So how do you prepare for pregnancy and child birth?
By getting your body ‘baby fit’ of course! Here’s how:
1. Take Folate at least one month prior to conception, or if you have any unplanned pregnancy, take it as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
2. Take a Multivitamin at least one month prior to conception, or if unplanned, see above.
3. Cardio Exercise
- Walking, running, jogging, x-training, swimming – whatever it is that you enjoy, do it! Get your body cardio fit so you can cope with the endurance.
- Get started prior to pregnancy because you’re not supposed to start new exercises once you’re pregnant, and you will want to have a good foundation of cardio fitness.
- Remember to drink plenty of water during your exercises.
- Best cardio exercises pre-pregnancy: swimming, x-training, walking
- Best cardo exercises during pregnancy and postpartum: walking and swimming
4. Lift Weights
- Strengthen your back – it will need to keep you strong when your boobs and tummy get bigger and your centre of gravity changes and change your posture. After bub is born, a strong upper body will help you lift and carry bub with ease.
- Strengthen your legs and hips – you may be put into some unusual positions during labour, so you need to be flexible, plus the relaxin (pregnancy hormone) will be stretching your ligaments so strong legs and hips will help stabilise them. After bub is born you will be doing a lot of lifting and squatting (you will drop things and need strong legs to squat and pick them up with a bub in your arms) so having strong legs will help with this.
- Best weights exercise for preparing for pregnancy: bent over rows and back extensions; squats and lunges; planks and side planks.
5. Pilates, Yoga and body weight exercises
- These exercises will help with your hip flexibility, core strength and pelvic floor. Strong core strength and pelvic floor is crucial for everyone, not just pregnant women and new mums. But it is so important during pregnancy to have good core strength as the relaxin can make you unstable, your body weight distribution changes so you may be a little off balance and then you will be doing lots of heavy lifting after bub is born so you need good core strength to ensure you don’t pull any muscles. See more about how to work your Pelvic Floor here.
- Best exercises for pregnancy: hip flexor stretches; planks (lots of them); leg and back stretches.
6. Healthy Eating
- Hand in hand with exercise is healthy eating. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, meat/legumes, whole grains, dairy etc. Minimise caffeine, and certainly don’t smoke.
- Some research suggests alcoholic beverages are harmful to unborn babies, so it is probably best to cease drinking too.
- Drink lots of water.
- It is not only important to get 8+ hours of sleep a night to ensure that you are fully rested, but you won’t be getting much sleep during your pregnancy and especially after bub is born, so make the most of it!
8. Drink more water
- Have I said this already? Are you sick of everyone telling you to drink more water? The reason why everyone tells you do it is because it’s so damn good for you. It flushes toxins from your body and in this respect it gives you a clean slate to start baby making! If you’re already pregnant, water helps keep your amniotic fluid (what your bub is floating around in and ingests) levels high and clear. Water not only is good for you, but it is really good for your baby.
- It is my belief that a strong mind is crucial for labour. You can develop a strong mind by meditating and being in the moment with your bub. Meditation helps reduces stress levels, which is important for your baby’s neural development, and helps your mentally prepare for labour. See my OMG I”m Pregnant book for more information.
10. Practice labour positions
- As strange as you may feel doing this in your living room, I strongly recommend you practice positions so you know which ones are most comfortable for you. Get your birthing partner involved too, they need to know what you will want during labour just as much as you do.
One of the most important things to get your body ‘baby fit’ is to enjoy your pregnancy and child birth journey. There is no guarantee that you will definitely get a breezy pregnancy and delivery, but by following these ten points you are setting yourself and your baby up with the best chance of a healthy pregnancy and birth.
How do you get your body baby fit?
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