Pregnancy has been on my mind a lot lately because, well, I’m expecting. What I find so interesting is how much misinformation on pregnancy is out there. Some of it is cultural, some religious, but some stems from “science” that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you have health complications. So I thought I’d write a post on what I know to be fact vs. fiction with regards to pregnancy.
PLEASE NOTE: I’m not a health expert or doctor. What I say comes from personal experience and the fitness training I have received. ALWAYS see your doctor to discuss your own pregnancy, as each person and baby have their own unique needs. What I say here are generalizations.
First of all, for new mothers who lead a sedentary lifestyle, never begin a new fitness regimen or diet during the pregnancy unless guided by your doctor. Pregnancy often makes women want to get in shape and healthy, but the reality is that the baby is placing special demands upon your body and by starting up a new routine, you are depriving your child of oxygen and nutrients. However, everyone can walk! Our bodies were made to walk! Unless directed otherwise by your doctor, walk often at a moderate pace, hydrating and replenishing your body’s energy stores (within reason; a pregnancy only needs 300 more calories/day than one who is not pregnant).
For moms who are already active, perhaps highly active, remember to monitor and moderate your activities. I know that I found myself breathless just climbing my home’s stairs very soon after the pregnancy took root. Many recommend not letting the heart rate exceed 130 beats per minute (BPM) when pregnancy due to lack of oxygen to the baby. I also know that some women can run marathons while pregnant. The best thing is to know, and listen to, your body. If you feel breathless, faint, or like you’re just plain working too hard, heed the warnings. It will keep both you and the baby safe. For example: i normally work out very hard before I teach my classes, but since becoming pregnant, I pretty much do cardio when I can (30 min at a time) and teach, and that’s all…and I haven’t put on excessive weight!
One of the biggest myths out there is that a mother ought not workout through her first trimester. To me, this defies common sense. Women have been working (and working out) throughout pregnancies since the dawn of time, often times doing hard tasks. If humanity was that fragile, I think we’d have gone extinct.
With that said, however, once you know that you’re pregnant, it is wise to ease up on your routine. Slow down a little. Allow for the time to rest. Your body is undergoing a whole lot of changes–everything is shifting in preparation for birth and motherhood!
Realize also that it is necessary to limit movements. This weekend, I found myself a bit frustrated that I couldn’t do some of the yoga poses that I was learning. Granted, it isn’t comfortable (or smart) to lie on my stomach any longer, and lower belly twists need to be minimized; and frankly I have a great reason to be careful. But it’s hard to limit oneself when you’re used to striving for the next step. The thing is, it’s absolutely necessary. As your body changes, it undergoes a lot of stress. Things like huge back extensions or inversions could cause more damage rather than health. If unsure, always back off from extremes and use common sense. It’s your body. When you take care of it, you take care of that precious baby.
On a dietary note, many women find themselves eating differently. I know I have. The gluten-free diet that I normally adhere to went out the window when I started vomiting. I’ve heard the same thing said about lactose intolerance, etc. The thing is, the baby needs specific things and will demand those from you. Keep in touch with your doctor as things progress but realize that your usual diet might be on hold for nine months until that bundle of joy arrives.
There tends to be a lot of nerves and anxiety in mothers-to-be too. This is perfectly acceptable. However, I’ll say that these things translate into the womb. Your baby gets a dose of anxiety when you grow overly anxious. Therefore, consider meditating on things like gratitude (it can be for anything or anyone) and love, using deep breathing techniques to calm both body and mind. The infant will get much-needed oxygen and both mother and child will receive a boost as these things help them connect on a deeper level.
I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned thus far, however, is that it’s okay to feel crappy, and to say so. There are huge societal pressures upon expecting mothers. People tend to think that you ought to be in the throes of joy and exultation, when in reality you might barely be making it through the day without throwing up and biting off your boss’s head. I’m honest when asked: this pregnancy’s been rough. It’s a blessing, to be sure, but it’s been a long, hard road to the halfway point (to which I’m approaching).
Remember: it’s okay. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel tired. It’s okay to think it’s highly unfair that you’re sick and half the pregnant ladies around you aren’t.
Take some deep breaths. Sleep. Spend time connecting with the growing life within you. Remember that however rough the pregnancy is, it’s no a permanent situation. It does end and the real job begins, motherhood. Pregnancy is a preparatory time. Use it not only to nest but to prepare yourself mentally for the joys yet to come.