The Benefits of Movement and Guidelines for Exercise While Growing Another Human
I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.
Congratulations! You are pregnant. You’ve boarded the train and there is no getting off. The journey is a hard but rewarding one. The love that I feel for my children has absolutely no comparison to the love I have for anyone else. Surely this is because they were a part of me for nine months and then relied on me exclusively for nutrition for the next six months. This is a huge responsibility and it is hard. Plath’s poem acknowledges that her body is no longer her own, her identity has changed forever, she is “a means, a stage.” You may love being pregnant, you may feel fairly ambivalent about it. Like all things it doesn’t last long and no matter how you feel about the process - the pregnant body is a freaking miracle - well done you are growing a whole person!
Even though pregnancy isn’t easy it doesn’t give you permission to go to bed, read and eat chocolate for nine months. In fact exercise is going to help make your pregnancy and labour easier. Of course you can read and eat chocolates you just have to move as well. And what’s so great about exercise?
In the first trimester - the bit where you grow an entire extremely miniature human body in just 12 weeks - light exercise helps with blood circulation and hormone fluctuations and helps ease morning/afternoon/all day sickness. According to Stacy T Sims For the entire pregnancy gentle exercise will contribute to: boosting your mood, improving your strength and balance and helping you sleep better. It should help prevent excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes while also preparing your body for labour. It keeps your blood vessels healthy and your blood circulating which improves the health of your foetus’s endocrine system and metabolism while stimulating placenta growth and function. Brilliant! You just need to remember
1. Take a drink bottle because you will need to drink lots, your body has a much greater demand for fluid because of the amniotic fluid that now fills your uterus and the increase in your blood plasma volume of between one to one and a half litres. Drinking also helps to cool you down and it’s important not to get too hot when you are pregnant as it is a risk to the foetus - don’t google this. You will be fine, just listen to your body and take it easy.
2. Rise slowly to avoid feeling dizzy from a sudden drop in blood pressure. Your resting heart rate is higher now because it is pumping more blood with every beat.
3. Avoid exercising on your back to prevent the weight of the foetus compressing the blood supply to your heart.
4. Bring a snack to eat within half an hour of exercising this (protein and carbohydrate) recovery snack should help keep your blood sugar stable.
Your exercise focus will shift through your pregnancy as well. In the first trimester you may want to look for classes that use gentle whole body movements, while doing them it would be useful for you focus on getting your pelvis and all of the muscles that attach to it strong and balanced. The length of ligaments and muscles around the mother’s uterus influences the position of the baby. The baby accommodates the space it is given.
For most women this means strengthening their inner thighs and bottom and not letting your quads do all of the work. it also means stretching your hip flexors, calves and thighs to keep your pelvis well aligned and available to be fully open.
In the second trimester which tends to be the strongest stage of pregnancy, you should think about strengthening your pelvic floor along with your upper and lower body for picking up baby and training for all the getting up and down from the floor your life will soon require. Your centre of gravity shifts as the weight at the front of your body increases and so your balance and coordination will be affected. You will need to think about your posture more as you move.
In the third trimester your body gets more mobile to prepare you for labour. As long as you don’t have symphysis pubis disfunction or pelvic girdle pain this is a good time to be checking in on your deep squats, are your hips, knees and ankles able to get you safely into and out of this position? This is a time to be aware of labour techniques and positions, along with some reassuring positive meditations as you get closer to your baby’s arrival. At the end of my class I sometimes use an image of a protective shield of light that bathes you in confidence, peace, warmth and security while deflecting fear and negativity.
So - welcome to the club of mothers, it’s lovely to have you join our community. When you exercise just remember: movement is good, balancing the pelvis is essential, eat regularly, keep hydrated and rise slowly. I have another blog for you to read - it is exercise homework for pregnant women. My model went into labour early (and has a beautiful, healthy son) so I’m just lining up someone else. Until then lunge, calf stretch and squat, balance on one leg and do gentle thoracic rotation exercises. Pictures and a blog will follow.