Most ladies ponder on how to stay in shape during pregnancy, considering how quickly and significantly their body is going to change. But merely looking lean is not the same as staying fit during pregnancy. It is in reaching that perfect balance between gaining enough weight to keep your baby healthy but not going overboard.
Also, note that each pregnancy is different, just like every woman is different. Every week of your pregnancy will impose a new set of rules, and you will need to adjust.
Staying fit during pregnancy: what does it involve?
It may require a different combo of practices for every lady, but they revolve around a few simple rules:
- Consult your physician about your nutrition and possible workouts. If there are any medical complications, you may not be allowed to exercise, even if you did before pregnancy.
- Even if you don’t have a high-risk pregnancy, do not force yourself to exercise. Remain active and comfortable, listen to your body, and adapt your routine as the pregnancy progresses. You can reach your fitness goals even during this time without intense workouts.
- Mental and emotional peace stem from a good night’s rest. Sleep is necessary to recharge for regular daily activities, so establish a relaxing bedtime routine and ease your mind.
- Take exceptional care of your diet. An optimal number of calories, regular meals with high nutritional value, a sufficient amount of water; it is all equally important. Avoid sweetened drinks and junk food, and try to control your cravings. Each craving is a sign that the body lacks a nutrient, and every single one has a healthy substitute.
When you take all these things into account, you realize how vital it is to refocus on healthy living during this critical period.
Calories and BMI
You have certainly already heard of body mass index or BMI, a measure of body fat derived from a person’s mass and height. The American Congress of OB-GYNs has designed guidelines that use a woman’s BMI at the beginning of pregnancy as a starting point to calculate how much weight she should ideally gain. However, even though there are many BMI calculators online, healthy weight gain should be discussed with a physician.
In general, a typical healthy woman with an average body mass index, who also regularly exercises, should slowly increase her calory intake by:
- 1800 kcal in the first trimester
- followed by 2200 kcal in the second trimester and
- 2400 kcal in the third trimester of pregnancy.
It’s vital to include all five food groups (fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, proteins) in a well-balanced diet and complement it with light to medium exercise.
Working out during pregnancy: Yes or no?
Only those with a high-risk pregnancy should stick to light exercise. Ideally, a healthy woman should exercise before pregnancy to strengthen the muscles she will rely on during and after this period. The best way to overcome any fear of exercise during pregnancy is to learn about the do’s and don’ts and get a green light from the physician.
Depending on your previous workout habits, the intensity of exercise may vary, but so will your mood and energy. Start slowly and stick to the recommended activities:
- Walking, swimming, pilates, prenatal yoga, running, and even biking and weight training are perfectly acceptable in the first trimester.
- Swimming, walking, prenatal yoga, and running are still safe workout options in the second trimester.
- Walking, low-impact forms, aqua sports, jogging, and toning can help you remain fit even in the third semester.
If you find it challenging to choose the right option for you in a foreign country, like Dubai, for example, try joining a prenatal yoga class first, as it is bound to center you, make you feel comfortable and safe, relax you, strengthen your abdomen muscles and teach you how to breathe correctly. Speaking of breathing, being able to hold a conversation during a workout is a good sign. If you are gasping for air, so is your baby. Staying fit throughout pregnancy should never be done at the risk of injury or oxygen deficiency.
Focus on diet and rest
Avoiding obesity during pregnancy should not be your only goal, but it is a good start. Staying fit is not simply a set of tasks but a lifestyle. Those ladies who developed healthy (eating) habits before pregnancy will stick to them more easily throughout the pregnancy. These habits involve:
- drinking plenty of water, limiting caffeine and juices, and avoiding alcohol and soda drinks.
- staying away from processed sugars and food like deli meats, offal, and soft, unpasteurized cheeses.
- eating small portions frequently helps battle nausea, overeating, and heartburn.
Don’t panic if you can stomach only one type of food in the first trimester; once your morning sickness subsides, most of your food aversions will too.
Pregnancy is a time when sleep often eludes women, with all the worries piling up as the due date gets closer. If your body suggests that taking a nap or going to bed early is a good idea, you should listen. If you have difficulties falling asleep in the evening, meditation and yoga relaxation techniques can help.
A short summary
Even though the importance of exercise and proper diet can’t be disputed, it is essential to emphasize that weight gain must be managed in a way that is healthy and safe for both mother and baby. Every mom-to-be should seek only professional advice regarding her health, nutrition, and recommended exercise.
The most effective workouts during pregnancy will only partly depend on your previous fitness level. Pregnancy can affect women in numerous ways. Even the fittest ladies may go through morning sickness, food aversions, and low-energy phases, making exercise a chore rather than a pleasure. The best workout is the one you can make yourself start and finish while feeling fine.
As long as you eat nutritious food moderately and regularly, stay hydrated, remain active, and get enough sleep, you’re on the road to staying fit during and after pregnancy.
© Sally Norton