Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Friday, 7 September 2007

Tips on staying fit and healthy in pregnancy

Okay, so my only qualifications for giving advice are I have an MD, I've delivered babies and helped perform c-sections, and I'm 17 weeks pregnant (which honestly is not much). But since this is an anonymous blog, I can be completely honest. So I won't waste your time with the "we don't really know what's safe in pregnancy, so you'd better not do it." Though it is true that there is little evidence for what is and what isn't completely safe during pregnancy, I have many opinions. Bear in mind this is coming from someone who finds physical activity to be of the utmost importance.

Here are three things I recommend (with long explanations underneath) for a happy and healthy pregnancy and delivery:

1. Love how wonderful and different your body is.
- You are going to get a big belly. SR looks at this as a beach ball, which does make it more fun for me.
- You're going to get big boobs, too. For someone such as myself who used to be called "skim milk" in junior high, this is quite thrilling.
- Your body is going to take over your normal activities in many ways. I find I can no longer run for long distances when it's hot, because my body just won't allow me to heat up, so I walk and run and walk and run. This is a downer, but an amazing defense for the baby. A good thing that has happened with my running is I seem incapable of falling. I used to trip and fall all of the time while running in the woods, but now I trip and somehow I am always able to catch myself. I do marvel again at our bodies' ability to protect the baby
- Finally, you will probably notice swelling in the perineum and clitoris. This can certainly be used to your advantage in bed or in a bathroom on a plane or wherever else you chose to have sex. You will be much more sensitive, so you have to be a bit more careful, but I have now found myself capable of having multiple orgasms in a row. Not bad, huh?



2. Discipline yourself
Okay, so it's not all fun. But disciplining yourself certainly does feel good in the long run.
- Weight gain: Many books I have read give guidelines for certain amounts of weight you should gain in pregnancy. I firmly believe that you do not need to gain much weight, if any during pregnancy (especially if you start out overweight). Although you do need to eat a healthy, varied diet. And don't forget to take folic acid and get your essential fatty acids (fish oil is a great source associated with good neurologic function in babies).
Women with hyperemesis gravidarum usually lose weight in the first half of pregnancy and they have completely normal babies. Also, a friend of my family lost 35 pounds during pregnancy and gave birth to a perfectly normal child (she was significantly overweight, though). I do believe that unless you start out underweight or malnourished (and these women can rarely conceive anyway), your baby will get what it needs from you whether or not you gain weight (again if you eat a good diet and include important supplements). But, if you want to maintain your weight, you will gain weight which is distributed as follows:


Baby = 7-8 pounds
Placenta = 1-2 pounds
Amniotic fluid = 2 pounds
Uterus = 2 pounds
Maternal breast tissue = 2 pounds
Maternal blood = 4 pounds
Fluids in maternal tissue = 4 pounds
= 22-24 pounds.
If you gain more than this (22-24 lbs), it will go to your fat stores, and this will be weight you need to lose after you deliver. If you gain less, I firmly believe your baby will be fine, you will just be thinner after.
Eating: One thing you will notice is that you will probably feel like eating all of the time. But resist the temptation! It is just as easy to gain extra weight when you are pregnant as when you are not. In fact, it's probably easier. Weigh yourself every morning to avoid gaining too much weight.
- on a personal note, I gained 5 pounds right away when I found out I was pregnant. I just wasn't used to feeling so hungry and I thought I should just obey my body. But in reality, the weight just went to my thighs and other areas I didn't want it. Since that time I have gained 1 pound (for a total of 6 lbs at 17 weeks along) and I feel great and we had an ultrasound which showed a baby that seemed happy.
I will also add that excess weight gain is associated with poor outcomes. The more weight you gain, the more likely you are to develop gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these can harm your baby. Plus, it is important to continue to take pride in how you look.
Exercise: Do cardiovascular workouts as much as possible. Do not use pregnancy as an excuse. You can exercise for hours (as women used to do when they were hunters and gatherers) and you will be in better shape for the delivery. But if it gets too strenuous, you will find yourself unable to continue, and that's okay. When your pregnant body says "no", there's really nothing you can do.
Also maintain or improve your core strength. Working on strengthening your abs has got to be beneficial when you are trying to flatten your belly after delivery. And don't forget to strengthen your pelvic muscles. This will help prevent incontinence and help you maintain the muscle tone in your vagina afterwards so sex feels as good for you and your partner (at least I'm hoping kegels will help with this!). Plus you will find delivery easier if you have well toned abdominal and pelvic muscles.
Another personal aside is that a lot of people tell me I exercise too much. They say "how can you take that risk?" But no one has shown a risk of exercising too much during pregnancy (at least not that I'm aware of) and there are plenty of risks to you and your baby if you get out of shape and overweight. And so I now ask the people who don't exercise "how can you take that risk?"


3. Be happy
Happiness in my mind is the key to good health. Everything else aside, if you can be happy, you will most likely be healthy (of course there are some exceptions to this).
- Think about the beautiful baby inside of you and what a miracle it is.
- Enjoy spending time with your partner and the (most likely) wonderful sex you can have. And talk to each other about the baby and the things you are both looking forward to you.
- Embrace this change in your life. It is a truly wonderful thing that many women are so fortunate to experience. Take pride in yourself and know you can continue to be you and be happy and have a successful pregnancy. Put on your sea legs and enjoy!

******And here are some songs to make you happy
Good song about pregnancy: Emporer's New Clothes by Sinead O'Connor
Good song for love making: Snow on the Sahara by Anggun
Good song about a happy couple: For the Actor by Mates of State

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