Don’t do this. Eat that. Rest as much as possible. Do not go to the gym. A pregnant woman is constantly bombarded by pieces of advice, and dos and don’ts. If you’re one of them, sit down and take a deep breath, we’ve got help!
“Pregnancy can be a beautiful journey, full of memorable moments. But it can be complicated at the same time – morning sickness, back pain, tiredness, and much more. This phase brings with it a new set of nutritional needs and safety concerns, too. Begin by listening to your body, taking good care of yourself, and staying active,” shares Sucheta Pal, ambassador of Zumba® Fitness India, postnatal fitness specialist, and founder, Mom.bod.strong postnatal program.
Here, she shares with us tips that helped her stay energised and active in the period, and helped her feel her personal best during this milestone of a phase.
1. Educate yourself
Ask as many questions and clear your doubts regarding pregnancy and childbirth, but ensure you rely on an expert, and not depend on the internet for answers. It is also important to choose your gynaecologist wisely. “Mine was a planned pregnancy, so I researched and took a good amount of time to choose my gynaecologist. I wanted someone who would understand me and who I could speak openly to,” Sucheta says.
2. Exercising is key
Regular exercise is beneficial for both, the mother and the baby. She advises taking it slow during the first trimester. “A woman has to be extra cautious because that’s when the base of the baby is being built and you don’t want to disrupt that process.” Even after that, Sucheta suggests, you speak to your doctor and ensure there are no medical complications before getting into a full-fledged fitness routine in the second trimester. The most helpful during this phase are the core and pelvic floor (a wide sling of muscles at the base of a woman’s pelvis) strengthening exercises since pregnancy hormones can cause your pelvic floor muscles to soften and slacken slightly.
Talking about her exercise routine during the trimesters, Sucheta says, “I did everything from strength training, Zumba (for cardio benefits) to mobility exercises during my pregnancy. But I reduced it to 30 per cent of what my capacity was before pregnancy. For strength, I reduced the weights and opted for more repetitions to avoid exhausting myself. As for Zumba, I did more of the upper body movements and put less pressure on my feet. These were combined with prenatal yoga moves, a form of mobility, which helped my body relax and move in different directions because pregnancy makes your body stiff.”
3. Stay hydrated at all times
During this phase, your blood is supplying oxygen to the baby through the placenta and this means that your blood volume increases to manage this additional activity. You need to drink more water and stay hydrated to support this activity. Plus, the baby is floating in the amniotic fluid in the body, and dehydration may decrease the level of this fluid.
4. Do not exhaust yourself
An important point pregnant women need to understand is that while you can practice strength training and cardio exercises during this period, this isn't the time to start building muscles or go on a weight loss plan. So, don’t overexert yourself. “Remember, there’s a medical reason why you can’t do such exercises during pregnancy otherwise the doctor will never ask you to avoid them.”
You can’t be exhausted or out of breath because that may affect the oxygen supply to the foetus. “Try out the talk test. If you can talk while working out, then it’s fine, but if you can’t finish a sentence or talk at all, then you need to sit down, breathe in and breathe out, and start your workout again,” explains the fitness expert.
5. Maintain optimal body temperature
Ensure that you’re in a well-ventilated room or space – whether you are working out or just resting – and don’t let your body temperature increase too much. This is to avoid heat stress to you and your baby.
6. Avoid movements that involve balancing on one leg
In the third trimester, your baby is growing so your centre of gravity shifts to the front. Hence, during this time, you must avoid any kind of movement that involves balancing on one leg or too much movement that involves needing both the legs like a jump because there is a risk of you falling forward.
Prepare for post-partum fitness
“While the medical fraternity says women are ready to exercise six weeks after childbirth; in all honesty, we are not. Give yourself three to four months to regain strength. And when you do, include cardio, strength training and mobility exercises to help build that stamina and muscle mass back,” Sucheta points out. She learnt about this after the birth of her son, and today, she is spreading awareness about post-partum fitness via her Instagram profile. The fitness expert has even launched a first of its kind post-partum fitness program called Mom.Bod.Strong to help women regain strength after delivering their little ones.
“Please understand what has happened to your body and the changes it has gone through, and decide your next steps carefully. And if you decide to exercise, please do so under the guidance of an expert,” she explains. “Postnatal exercise is essential for all women, but it must be safe, effective and appropriate. There are some exercises that can help you heal and others that may have a negative effect on your body and delay your progress. Especially, if you jump right back into your regular fitness routine without first rehabilitating. You must know what might help and what to avoid. There are many pieces of contradictory advice out there, and learning from a postnatal specialist is a must.”
Continue with the core and pelvic floor exercises you started during pregnancy, or start afresh. This is essential to help deal with urinary incontinence, back pain, knee pain and other issues that the new mother may be dealing with, and to train, heal and strengthen that core and pelvic floor, and bring them back to their functional capacity. These movements are essential to understand the deep core stability system, too.