Thursday, January 1, 2009

Staying Healthy During your Pregnancy

Ah, the radiance of pregnancy: With new curves, a glowing complexion, and thick, lustrous hair, there are plenty of changes to celebrate during those nine transitional months. For many women, though, the transformation becomes a double-edged sword as the scale registers a steady weight increase. While it’s perfectly normal—and healthy—to pack on some extra pounds during pregnancy, the combination of a heartier appetite and higher levels of fatigue can make it all too easy to gain too much, making it difficult to regain your pre-baby body after delivery. Fortunately, there are some smart strategies to help you stay fit, active, and healthy while expecting. Incorporating these tips into your daily routine will not only make it easier to lose your baby weight, they’ll also help to ensure an easier labor and a quicker recovery.

Get moving! Pregnancy takes a lot out of you. Especially during the first trimester, it can be tempting to come home after a long day and head straight for the couch. Although rest is important, so is maintaining a healthy level of activity. Plan a regular exercise routine—most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes a day, 4-7 days a week—and stick to it. Some examples of safe workouts include brisk walking, water aerobics, elliptical training, and stationary cycling. In addition to burning calories, moderate cardio workouts help to decrease bloating, promote digestive health, reduce aches and pains, and improve your overall sense of well-being. Be sure to check with your doctor or midwife to make sure there are no mitigating factors that may prevent you from participating in a regular fitness regimen.

Do what you did before. While pregnancy isn’t the time to embark on a radical new activity, you don’t necessarily have to curtail the ones you enjoyed prior to conception. For instance, if you were a regular runner before getting pregnant, you should be able to continue a moderate running schedule, at least during the first and second trimesters. As always, listen to your body: any pain should be construed as a sign to slow down or take a break.

Avoid high-impact activities. The previous rule does have some exceptions. There are certain high-risk activities and contact sports, such as horseback riding, skiing, tennis, soccer, and hockey, which should be avoided during your baby’s development. Scuba diving is also a no-no, as the high water pressure can impact the fetus.

Add some strength training. You’ll get more out of your cardio workout if you target core muscle groups with some light weight resistance training. If you haven’t lifted weights before, start light—get a pair of 5 or 10 lb. dumbbells and use them to work your biceps, triceps, shoulders, quads, and calves. Search the Internet for some introductory routines that are safe during pregnancy. Most doctors recommend refraining from any exercises that call for lying on your back during the third trimester, as these can inhibit the flow of blood and oxygen to the fetus.

Warm up and cool down. Especially during pregnancy, starting or stopping an exercise too abruptly can be a shock to your system. To help prevent injury, ease into a workout with a few minutes of light stretching and walking. Cooling down with more of the same afterward will help speed up recovery and prevent muscle tightness.

Drink plenty of fluids. This is an all-day rule, although it especially applies during exercise to prevent the body from overheating. Strive for drinking eight glasses of water or juice per day. Staying hydrated is more important than ever when you’re supporting a growing fetus.

Know the warning signs. When exercising during pregnancy, it’s more important than ever to heed your body’s cues to slow down or stop. Signals that should never be ignored include chest pain, vaginal bleeding or leakage, and faintness or dizziness. While pregnant, you shouldn’t exercise to the point of exhaustion of discomfort. Periodically during your workout, pause and check for fetal movement. If you ever note a marked decrease in movement, contact your doctor or midwife.

Eat right. Your appetite may be bigger than ever, with your growing baby requiring approximately 500 additional calories per day, but that doesn’t mean you should indulge in greasy fast foods, sweets, or three helpings of whatever’s for dinner. Eating unhealthy foods can make you feel sluggish, lethargic, and can cause indigestion and heartburn. Plan a nutritious, well-balanced diet consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Be sure your menu includes lean meats, leafy vegetables, and fruits. There are certain foods, such as tuna fish and raw eggs, that should be limited during pregnancy. Check with your doctor for nutritional advice.

Join other mommies-to-be. If you’re having trouble getting motivated to exercise regularly, consider joining a fitness program designed for expectant mothers. Check your local gym or YMCA for pregnancy yoga, spinning, Pilates, and other classes. Working out with other moms-to-be can help reduce any anxiety or insecurity about your changing physique, and it’s a great way to make new friends at your same stage of life.

Look for opportunities to move. At the mall, intentionally park farther than you usually would to allow for a brisk 5-minute walk. Opt for the stairs rather than the elevator. Instead of sending a co-worker an email, walk across the office for a face-to-face chat. Over the course of the day, several of these mini-exercises can add up to significant calorie burning.

Monitor your weight. Although it’s not healthy to become obsessed with the scale, it is a good idea to keep track of the amount you’ve gained over the course of your pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife can help you identify a recommended amount of total weight gain for your body type. Substantially exceeding that amount can result in a more difficult pregnancy and labor, as well as a slower recovery period and a bigger challenge to lose the weight after baby’s arrival.

Following these tips will help you stay healthy and fit during pregnancy, allowing you to revel in your changing body rather than agonize about it.


Pregnancy Resources said...

I believed that paying due attention to mental health during pregnancy is as important as paying attention to physical health. The pregnant lady should be emotionally healthy, eat well, eat nutritious food, get regular checkups and stay active all through these 9 months. Moreover, if the spouse/partner is supportive that can add to the joy of this blissful period.


Diet during Pregnancy said...

While you are strictly following the prescribed diet, don’t forget to bond with your baby too. Yes, that’s possible - because70% of the baby’s brain growthoccurs in the womb itself. Watch this video for more.

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