Being pregnant is about the mom and the baby. It's not about how much weight you gain or how long it'll take to get the baby weight off. It's about having a healthy baby and healthy mom. Our society has so much pressure to look good or look like “fill in the blank”, that we forget that our bodies are going to look and grow differently. A healthy mom that gains 30 pounds during her pregnancy can be just as healthy or healthier than a mom that gained 15. Although we should not be obsessed with weight gain, it does play a part in the health of the baby, so we should not undermine it's importance, but we should not make it the end all.
So how does one stay “fit” during her pregnancy? It starts with the basics of health which are nutrition, moving more and staying hydrated.
It's never too late (or early) to clean up your diet. Many pregnant women will use the I'm pregnant! excuse to take every opportunity to indulge in anything and everything the body is “craving.” The fact is that, when our bodies are craving certain foods, it's usually because we are malnourished in vitamins and nutrients (and possibly low on certain neurotransmitters.) Craving fried foods like ice cream, pizza, burger and fries? You may be in need of more fats that trigger acetylcholine such as eggs, avocado, seeds and nuts. Craving bread, pasta, and chips? You may be low on serotonin. Foods rich in Tryptophan like turkey, chicken, pork, duck and cocoa would help with serotonin deficiencies.
I get it though, sometimes when you're craving something, you gotta have it. (This is why a spoon was left in the fridge with the Ben & Jerry's during my third pregnancy.) But the best way to tackle these cravings is to have to have balanced meals (protein, vegetables & fruits, starches) before the cravings have a chance to become a monster that needs to be fed.
This goes both ways, though. If a mom is not eating enough food or fatty foods because she is afraid of gaining weight, there will be cravings and lack of nutrient for mom and growing baby.
Exercising while pregnant may be the most taboo topic because no one wants to be liable for any complications that may arise during a pregnancy. Our society has put so much fear into the things that you can not or should not do during pregnancy that exercise (something that is proven to be helpful to a healthy mom, baby and recovery) is often avoided just because of fear. According to Dr. James F. Clapp, world's leading authority on exercise during pregnancy and author of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, exercise is nothing but beneficial for a healthy pregnant mom and fetus. His studies showed that exercising mom and baby enjoyed these benefits:
• Women who exercise have 7 pounds and 3% less fat compared to women who do not exercise.
• Infants of exercising women do significantly better on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID), used to diagnose infections for cognitive, motor and behavioral development
• Exercising moms enjoy these benefits:
• 35% reduction in need for pain relief
• 50% decrease in need to induce or stimulate labor,
• 50% reduction in need to intervene because of abnormalities in fetal heart rate,
• 55% reduction in need for episiotomy
• 75% reduction in need for operative intervention
• Exercise is not solely for the purpose of mom staying thin, but for a better chance at a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth.
Every time a cell gives rise to a daughter cell, 75 percent or more of its volume has to be filled with water. In short, growth depends on the availability of water.
-F. Batmanghelidij, MD
According to F. Batmanghelidij, MD (renounced researcher and author) of Our Body's Many Cries for Water and Water for Health, for Healing, for Life, a pregnant women needs even more water than the average individual. “By the time it grows to be a full term baby, about a trillion cell divisions will have taken place.”
It is vital for a pregnant mom to drink her water. It's often times overlooked as nauseousness is a symptom of many pregnancies, and ginger-ale can feel more refreshing or coffee can give more energy, but according to Dr. B, morning sickness and nauseous itself can be a symptom of dehydration. What does it take for a pregnant mom to stay hydrated? Perhaps it means to keep a full water bottle with her through the day. She can set a timer at the top of every hour and drink 8-16oz. Maybe it means to take a nice long leisurely walk with a Camel strapped to her back.
If a woman was sedentary prior to becoming pregnant, she was probably told to not do any exercises she did not do before. Of course there are safety precautions to take to not over exercise or put strain on your body, but if a woman is healthy, and with her doctor's approval, there is certainly room for training. The rule of thumb is to stay under a 7 or 8 intensity on a scale of 1-10, and also to train with a knowledgeable trainer who has studied prenatal exercise. You have a growing weight strapped to you for nine months. There's no shame in safely using it to train for another type of marathon – birth!