I’ve been a pregnancy and post natal Pilates and exercise expert for close to 12 years. Throughout this time I’ve trained women privately and in groups. I’ve coached group prenatal fitness but mainly prenatal Pilates. I’ve seen nearly 500 pregnancies, fairly up close and personal (as well has two of my own) and above the obvious exercise prescription, I’m often the recipient of questions. Lots and lots of questions. And whilst I’m not a medical professional and would always follow any discussions with the words ‘if you are at all worried please call your midwife’ the questions usually relate to stuff I’ve seen or have been asked many times before.
So here are my top ten bits of advice for any mum to be, mainly exercise related but a bit of mental exercise and emotional weirdness thrown in here too.
- Food and rest come first. You are growing a person. A teeny tiny person but a human being nonetheless. Every cell, organ, follicle and blood vessel is your responsibility for at least the duration of your pregnancy, more if you breast feed. So above all you need food and rest.
- Exercise is primarily for you and your body. Yes there’s evidence to say babies get an endorphin rush from your workout and that women who exercise have leaner babies but it’s about optimising your workouts for you rather than your unborn baby. And when I say optimising that means finding something that makes your mind and body feel good, which you look forward to and which doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted.
- Do find a class which enables you to focus on your mother journey, especially if you are not a natural earth mother or this is not your first baby. This may sound a bit woo woo but spending time connecting with your pregnancy and your unborn baby is precious and may just be what you need to get you through challenging days of pregnancy, birth or the early days.
- Do take time to learn about your pelvic floor. Even if you are having a planned C-section, pregnancy will put a strain on your pelvic floor. Learn how to work it and how to work it out. It’s a muscle like any other, it can be trained or it can be left to go a bit flabby and given your pelvic floor has a big part to play in sexual pleasure, I’d really recommend you go with the former.
- Do get to know your posture and how to carry your baby better. I see a lot of women who have the beginnings of diastasis recti (split abdominals) because their backs have got a bit saggy. Think about connecting your bottom rib to the top of your pelvis (what feels like your hip bone), something as simple as this can really help minimise the risk of diastasis recti.
- Do learn about optimal baby positioning. There’s so much you can do to help baby into the best position for birth to make both the end of pregnancy and birth easier and quicker. Head down, back out and to the left.
- Keep as active as possible. Even when you are struggling at the end with a waddle or a clicky hip! Unless medical professionals have told you to give up and rest up, keep moving. It really will help pregnancy and labour progress.
- You have choices. From where you give birth to how you choose to give birth. You can always ask for a second opinion, even during labour. Listen to your midwife though, chances are she’s seen it all before and it’s a vocation, not a job. They want to help you.
- Up and down days will come. From extreme fear and anxiety to days when you are full of emotions. Ride the rollercoaster, there are more extremes to come. But if you are struggling and aren’t happy, talk it through with your doctor or at least a friend.
- If you can’t treasure the whole lot (if you have your head in a bucket I’m talking to you) then treasure little bits. I still remember feeling my little boy breath in my tummy and my baby girl sigh. It’s these moments that become etched into your soul, even when they are having out in the world temper tantrums!!
Karen is a pre and post natal Pilates instructor based in Epping and online.
This is an excerpt from Karen’s forthcoming book, The Pilates Instructor’s Guide to Preganancy.