Pregnancy is an indescribable experience. You find yourself surrendering to internal and external changes as your body creates new life. But while relinquishing control can be liberating, it can also leave your body feeling like a stranger (especially after bub is born). The good news is, from pre-natal to post-natal, it is possible to gain a little control back.
The wild physiological ride of pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, there are many changes beyond your growing belly and boobs. Your heart beats faster, blood pressure fluctuates and, as a result, many women experience light headedness, fainting or breathlessness.
With all these physiological changes taking place, keeping active is more important that ever. Regular exercise can help with:
Weight gain. A pregnant woman’s weight alone is not a good indicator of how well her baby is doing – and not even of how fast her baby is growing, which is why most health professionals will not be monitoring the sales. Plus, it may create unwanted hysteria (for some women) around weight gain , which is inevitable when you’re pregnant.
However, women who gain a lot of weight in pregnancy have a higher risk of certain health problems and complications during childbirth, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), or macrosomia (giving birth to a very big child).
On top eating a balanced diet, staying active is a great way to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. As long as it is at a level at which you are comfortable, exercise will not harm your baby and can actually help you to cope with pregnancy and childbirth.
Labour. Sorry, this isn’t a given. But having conditioned abs and cardio can help you push out bub with a little less grief.
Pelvic floor. It’s not surprising that fit women tend to bounce back a little quicker after giving birth. If you start training your pelvic floor muscles from pregnancy, you’ll be less likely to have post-pregnancy issues like bladder weakness.
Reducing gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes (GDM) is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting thousands of pregnant women. Between 12% and 14% of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes and this usually occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. The good news is, GDM can often be managed with healthy eating, such as low GI carbs and regular physical activity.
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, during pregnancy helps your body use insulin better, which helps control your blood sugar level. Aim to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise each week.
Body After Baby
As a new mum, exercise quickly can fall off the to-do list. No judgments here!
But keeping active – be it walking, swimming or just aiming for 20 squats a day – is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your new baby. It can help you:
Love your body again.There’s no point comparing your pre-and post-baby body or putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. But incorporating exercise into your day-to-day will get you on track to feeling fit and fabulous again.
Get shut eye. If you’ve got a new born, you’ve probably given up on trying to get a good night’s sleep. But exercise and sleep go hand in hand. This is because it helps to relieve anxiety and slow your heart rate. In the early sleep-deprived stages of motherhood, anything that promotes sleep is a winner.
Manage stress. You can read every book out there, but nothing can really prepare you for the whirlwind that is having a baby. And yep, it’s a little on the stressful side. Getting your body moving releasesendorphins, which are naturally soothing ‘happy’ chemicals. They’re shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and wellbeing, and aid in sleep.