Pregnancy, Exercise and Nutrition

If you have been exercising regularly in the lead up to pregnancy, there are more reasons to continue your exercise regime (albeit slightly modified) than stopping. A stronger, fitter, healthy body is what we want generally, and so why would we not want the same during pregnancy? If you’re new to exercise and wish to start during pregnancy, it’s advisable to consult with your GP before embarking on a programme.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Staying active during pregnancy will help keep your body stronger and more supple. You will have fewer problems with your joints, tendons, intestines, stomach and circulation. Exercise will make it easier for you to avoid gaining more weight than the average 10-12kg (22-26lb). If you’re wondering or even worried where this weight comes from, the below is an average breakdown;

– 7.5 pounds: average baby’s weight
– 7 pounds: extra stored protein, fat, and other nutrients
– 4 pounds: extra blood
– 4 pounds: other extra body fluids
– 2 pounds: breast enlargement
– 2 pounds: enlargement of your uterus
– 2 pounds: amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
– 1.5 pounds: the placenta

It can also make it easier to regain pre-pregnancy fitness levels, and weight, after the birth. Many women have also found that exercising before and during pregnancy have helped with shorter labour times.

Weights and fitness work

Weight training improves muscle tone and builds stamina which will pay off during labour. The main risks are putting too much strain on the joints, as they loosen during pregnancy, with the release of the hormone relaxin. You also need to be careful that you don’t raise your heart rate too high, for too long a period. Likewise overheating can become and issue, especially during the Summer months. Working out vigorously can be dangerous because of the extra strain this will put on your body and heart. This will cause stress for your baby and make you feel unwell. You should also avoid excessive training on your back during the 2nd trimester, as it places the uterus onto the Vena Cava, which in turn will limit blood flow back to the heart, and could cause dizziness. From the second trimester, sit down more often to lift weights. Also avoid jumps, and sharp changes in direction, as this can place additional stress on the joints.

Primarily your work should be geared towards maintaining cardiovascular fitness (albeit at a lower intensity), and working on the postural muscles which will be affected during the 9 months, including the glutes, lower back and legs. In the early stages core work is still possible and essential.

In the later stages where certain movements can become uncomfortable, you could look to add or increase swimming, or stationary cycling to your regime. Both are non weight bearing but have further benefits with flexibility, leg strength, and cardiovascularly.

Eating during pregnancy

You need about 300 extra calories a day — especially later in your pregnancy, when your baby grows quickly — those calories should come from nutritious foods so they can contribute to your baby’s growth and development.

The key is to eat foods from the different food groups in approximately the recommended proportions. Although it’s generally recommended that a woman of normal weight gain approximately 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy (most gain 4 to 6 pounds during the first trimester and 1 pound a week during the second and third trimesters), don’t fixate on the scale. Instead, focus on eating a good variety and balance of nutritious foods to keep both you and your baby healthy.
– plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or a glass of juice). Aim for at least five portions of a variety each day
– foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes – try to choose wholegrain options
– foods rich in protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish (aim for at least two servings of fish a week, including one of oily fish), eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils). These foods are also good sources of iron

– plenty of fibre. This helps prevent constipation and is found in wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, pulses and fruit and vegetables
– dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium.

It’s also a good idea to cut down on foods such as cakes and biscuits, because these are high in fat and sugar. This can also help you to avoid putting on too much weight during pregnancy.

What to avoid
There are certain foods that you should avoid when you’re pregnant, because they might make you ill or harm your baby:

– Avoid cheeses such as Camembert, Brie or chevre (a type of goats’ cheese), or others that have a similar rind. You should also avoid soft blue cheeses. These cheeses are made with mould and they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that could harm your unborn baby.

– Pâté Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable. This is because pate can contain listeria.

– Avoid eating raw eggs and food containing raw or partially-cooked eggs. Only eat eggs cooked enough for both the white and yolk to be solid. This is to avoid the risk of salmonella, which causes a type of food poisoning.

– Raw or undercooked meat. Make sure you only eat meat that has been well cooked. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers. Make sure these are cooked until they are piping hot all the way through and no pink meat is left.

-Liver products and supplements containing vitamin A. Make sure you don’t have too much vitamin A. This means you should avoid eating liver and liver products such as pâté and avoid taking supplements containing vitamin A or fish liver oils (which contain high levels of vitamin A). You need some vitamin A, but having too much means that levels could build up and may harm your unborn baby.

– You can eat most types of fish when you’re pregnant. But there are a few types you should avoid and some others where you should limit the amount you eat. Avoid eating any shark, swordfish and marlin. Limit the amount of tuna you eat to no more than two tuna steaks a week (weighing about 140g cooked or 170g raw). This is because of the levels of mercury in these fish. At high levels, mercury can harm a baby’s developing nervous system. Have no more than two portions of oily fish a week.

– Avoid raw shellfish when you’re pregnant. This is because raw shellfish can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses that could cause food poisoning.

A pregnancy multivitamin can be beneficial during pregnancy, but if in doubt, again check with your GP.
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One Response

  1. Cool now all I have to do is go against Mother Nture and create a miracle HAHAHA

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