3 ways women who have struggled with unwanted weight gain can create a new experience for their baby while pregnant
Many of us struggle with staying the course when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. This could be because you believe that a diet and exercise are a punishment and isolating or because you soothe with food when life throws fireball triggers at you. No matter what you grew up thinking and believing, could you now consider that your pregnancy is an opportunity for you to question the beliefs you have and subsequently bring your new baby into a completely different and healthy way of existing?
As women, we have all been conditioned to believe certain things about our bodies and how we should act and look by our families, friends, and our culture. Some of these ideas have perhaps served you well, while others have caused you pain. Body shaming and severe criticism never does anyone a favor, so if you experienced that growing up, there is no doubt that you want to raise your child differently.
One of the most exciting parts about becoming a new mom is implementing new ideas and practices that directly and positively impact your unborn baby, you, and perhaps your entire family unit. I like to call it the 2 for 1 deal, meaning that when you are healthy and happy as a pregnant woman, your baby is sharing that same experience.
As we all know, the human gestation period lasts usually between 9 and 10 months. Science has repeatedly demonstrated, through multiple studies, that the lifestyle of the pregnant woman can and usually does impact her baby's health for the long term. The best part about this is that your actions don't have to be extreme (e.g., extreme dieting, exercise, etc.). The following 3 ways can gently steer you and your baby toward lasting healthy changes:
1.) Hold your mind in healthy possibility (as opposed to fear that your child will struggle with weight related issues). The mind influences the body so if we are focused on avoiding something, such as putting on a few extra pounds, instead of the idea that your reality has infinite potential and can be shifted at any time in the direction you desire, then that is where your focus remains and is all you will see. A subtle, yet profound shift, as the way you think will be the driver in your actions.
2.) Make daily activity a part of your health plan (always but especially when pregnant). In other words, start moving and shaking regularly; it doesn't even have to be traditional exercise (although traditional exercise is wonderful for pregnant women). If you love to dance, do it. If swimming is you thing, jump in the pool. If you love nature, take a scenic hike. Women who have gestational diabetes and/or who are overweight during their pregnancy are more likely to birth babies who will experience those same conditions. Although there are some exercises that pregnant women should avoid (e.g., boxing) because of greater risk of injury, most exercises are complementary and encouraged.
3.) Get involved with a like-minded/health conscious group with a leader who is reputable. Staying the course, especially when you have limited information, is difficult and a coach or group can offer support and information that you need in order to expand your health and that of your child. Not to mention, it can be a lot of fun when expectant moms come together, cheer each other on, and share experiences. It truly is heart warming and makes many aspects of pregnancy less scary and more exciting.
Additionally, remember fear is a part of life but often it is blown out of proportion when kept within the confines of our thinking. Challenging all scary thoughts and beliefs is part of evolving and doing so now sets a wonderful example for you and your new baby. Embrace your pregnancy by making it the most healthy through gently challenging yourself. You are in charge and you deserve to feel amazing and know that you are a great mom who is taking wonderful care of your little bundle of love.
Many moms who practice healthy eating and regular exercise while pregnant, find that they want to maintain those habits because of how it made them feel, especially because they understand how doing so expedites the recovery period after delivery. With practice and guidance, you can arrange small, yet profound ways of ensuring your baby will be happy and healthy.
You will likely experience a variety of emotions the moment you learn you are pregnant. You may have a very specific idea in your mind about what it means to be a good mom and are devoted to making that fantasy come true. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to be a great parent, it is imperative that you do not sacrifice your own health and well-being in the process.
Many of us were raised to not be selfish and depending on when we were reminded of this sentiment, it has likely manipulated the way we behave and think. It is common to hear new moms say that they feel guilty leaving their child to do something nice for themselves. Here I advocate for a shift in perception, as there are advantages for both you and your new baby in doing so.
You have been directly influencing your child from the moment they were conceived. Every food you ingested, every bit of exercise you engaged in, the sleep you had and the stress you experienced are some examples of how your lifestyle impacted your baby. You will continue to shape your child once they emerge and this responsibility is monumental. You likely have a lot on your plate and possibly feel that your needs are secondary.
While all variables cannot be controlled, such as lack of sleep from a nursing baby, there are ways to get creative with your self-care routine to make it work best for you. It is also important to reframe the idea that self-care is selfish to something like, self-care allows me to set a good example of health early in my child's life.
Exercise is one of the most beneficial tasks one can engage in, especially in the prenatal and postnatal period. New moms may feel like they don't have time to regularly exercise and this is where a little creativity comes in handy. There are classes that offer new moms the opportunity to exercise with their new baby. If you don't feel ready to get out in public, there are multiple ways you can be active with your baby at home.
A couple of great ways to do this are, take a walk or jog with your baby around your neighborhood. You can start out walking and then slowly incorporate intervals by walking with short bouts of jogging/running. Additionally, you can hold your baby while doing squats and lunges and even chest and shoulder presses. As your child grows and witnesses your dedication to exercise, they will likely prioritize in the same manner. Science shows us that kids who have fit moms tend to follow in their footsteps.
Self-care likely looks different for everyone and that's ok. Some moms may really enjoy more social interaction; a local new mom meetup might be a great way to get out of the house. Others might really enjoy a massage or meditation class. The point is to be sure to not neglect yourself, or at least not entirely, and check in with your inner dialogue about whether or not the thoughts you have are an accurate reflection of your parenting skills.
Moms who show self love are sending a great message to their young while honoring themselves, thereby creating a happy and harmonious environment for the family. How can anyone be a good parent if they are constantly neglecting themselves? We must all strive to balance the areas of our lives that are calling our attention most. A better you is for sure a better parent.
I recently saw a shark on t.v. birthing her pups with ease. Not more than a minute after she delivered, she swam away, appearing not to be in any pain, nor slightly disfigured. I thought, Great Scott! What if it were that easy for humans?!
I began to ponder if all animals seemingly pooped out their young and moved on with their day as if it was all effortless. I began researching this topic and it turns out that birth isn't always a walk in the park for every animal. Hyenas for instance, give birth through an extended clitoris (a pseudopenis)-OUCH! If a baby porcupine is facing in the wrong direction in the birth canal, the quills can scratch and damage the inside of the mother. This list goes on.
Humans can endure extended periods of labor and may even experience Braxton Hicks contractions days before they actually go into labor. While it seems beyond unfair that some animals suffer with ruptured uteruses or even death, luckily many humans have access to a medical team to assist them during this magnificent experience of child birth.
While I don't know much about the anatomy of animals or what could potentially ease the pain and damage associated with delivery of their young, I do know that humans do not have to stand by idly, simply expecting and dreading the birth of their child. While there is no way to know for sure what your birthing experience will be beforehand, there are actionable steps that can and should be utilized by all pregnant women.
It has been said that only 15% of pregnant women exercise. Although this doesn't surprise me (because of many misconceptions floating around), it is upsetting to me as a professional. Multiple studies show how women who exercise throughout their pregnancy reduce time spent in labor, require less pain medication, require less labor inducing drugs, are less likely to require a C-section, and rebound much quicker than women who don't exercise throughout pregnancy. To give an example, a friend who delivered her daughter at age 35 (same friend who had visible abdominals only after 4 months postpartum), exercised throughout her entire pregnancy and was in labor for only one hour.
Exercises such as squats and lunges encourage the baby to assume ideal positioning for delivery. Women who have trained for the big event (delivery), are stronger and therefore are able to push their baby out faster, which reduces time spent in labor. Many women who haven't exercised during pregnancy sometimes suffer with continuing to look pregnant after delivery because their abdominal muscles are so stretched and weak.
Additionally, think incontinence is normal? Incontinence is very common but it is not normal. Women who exercise during pregnancy have stronger pelvic floor muscles, which helps to prevent urine from escaping during regular activities.
There are examples of situations that cannot be influenced by our healthy practices, such as a pelvic opening too small to deliver the head of the fetus. Child birth may not be easy but any action you can take to help in the process is one I would argue is totally worth it. Do yourself a favor and exercise throughout your entire pregnancy. You may find that you are thanking yourself for it on the other side.
For most of us who grew up with a mostly sedentary lifestyle, finding the motivation to get active is like trying to roll a beached whale back into the ocean; it is a monumental task and you will likely need help. The older we get, the more conditioned we become to continue doing what feels best, which usually is a whole lot of nothing.
Yes, this is nothing you haven't heard before; you need to be more active, more healthy, etc. But, what if some scientific findings made their way into your hands to convince you that pregnancy is really the most amazing time to begin a new internal dialogue about why you need to get moving? Here we go!
"A baby's time in the womb can change his or her physiology and genome. It can shape, to some extent, his or her future health and athletic hopes." said Gretchen Reynolds in her book titled, The First 20 Minutes. Wow! What a game changer. She went on to explain the findings of researchers at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. "Unborn children, it turns out, exhibit a training response, even though their mothers are seemingly doing all the work. When Dr. May examined the fetal cardiac readings, she found that fetuses whose mothers had exercised had healthier heart rhythms than those whose mothers had not worked out. And the changes persist."
While you may not be necessarily hoping your child will become an athlete, you likely do want your child to be healthy and if you know you can give them a leg up, even before they are born, who would say no to that? If you find yourself procrastinating, a good practice to being is to ask yourself, "what am I afraid of", as it has been said that procrastination indirectly points to a fear we harbor about confronting that which we are avoiding? You may fear looking like you don't know what you're doing, or that you'll do it wrong, or that you'll feel worse, etc. There are groups, forums, coaches, etc. that can help in navigating these feelings that come up and who can guide you in exercise selection and technique. This may be the exact challenge that changes your immediate family's overall health and approaching it as an opportunity makes it very exciting to work with.
When the decision has been made to become a parent, it seems like you must become selfless. You get double benefits of your time and money when you exercise while pregnant; basically two for the price of one. You might use the benefits your baby will reap to motivate you to get moving, but you also receive innumerable benefits (both vain and not). You, for instance, might be excited to learn that you may be able to minimize developing stretch marks by avoiding excessive weight gain and developing muscle to take some of the burden off the stretching skin from the growing uterus. Additionally, exercise can help alleviate swelling, varicose veins, and pain associated with pregnancy posture.
It is important to not get lost in the sauce about making everything perfect. Exercise can and should be something enjoyable. Think of exercising while pregnant as a bonding experience you are having with your little one; one that can start before life and carry on throughout childhood into adulthood.
Deciding to become a parent is no easy decision. Whether you are contemplating parenthood or are already pregnant, you know the responsibility is enormous so you want to take all appropriate steps to ensure your child is happy and healthy. The exciting news is, your influence begins the moment your little bundle of joy is conceived.
Moms want to be on their "A+ game" while pregnant as this is the most rapid growth rate period in the human life cycle. Your little tot depends on your good habits, so while it may seem like being a good mom doesn't happen till after birth, your habits directly impact your baby while pregnant in a grand way.
The first, and probably most obvious, way moms influence the health of their baby is by way of diet. There is tons of information floating around concerning diet, so it is easy to get confused about what you should or shouldn't be ingesting, generally speaking, much less during pregnancy. It might be a good idea to consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist who specialize in prenatal nutrition. Another really great practice is to check out current books on optimal food choices while pregnant. One very important consideration when making dietary choices is to consider that the caloric guidelines differ depending on how many babies you are expecting. For instance, a mother who is pregnant with twins is expected to ingest more daily calories than that of a singleton pregnancy.
Additionally, beyond considering caloric allowance, you don't want to be filling up on highly processed, unhealthy foods. You will ideally get adequate amounts of healthy fats, fibers, proteins, etc. Now, more than ever, new moms should play close attention to their diet to ensure she is providing the best nutrients for her little one.
Reason number two (my most favorite) is exercise. Not only is exercise great for mom, it also positively impacts baby too. There is a lot of fear around exercising while pregnant, but ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends pregnant women engage in regular exercise, even if they have never participated in an exercise program before; it is safe and recommended as long as you have clearance from your doctor.
Exercise helps with varicose veins, swelling, morning sickness, and helps mom maintain good posture throughout pregnancy. Additionally, exercising women have larger placentas than non-exercising women; bigger placentas are more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Babies born from exercising women are also calmer. These are only a few of the effects exercise during pregnancy has on mom and baby.
Research done on pre/postnatal women shows us how clearly beneficial engaging in regular activity is on mom and baby. It is a very exciting time not only to influence the health of your baby but also because pregnancy is truly an opportunity to start a new health practice that can and probably will carry on beyond delivery, which may be life altering for your entire family.
Last but not least is stress management and meditation practice. Arguably, this might be the most challenging if you are not used to looking inward, but perhaps considering the effects this practice might have on you and your mini-me will help motivate you. Chronic stress has health implications on you and your baby and because you are directly connected, stress can impact the development of your baby. Begin by practicing a simple, deep, relaxed breathing routine, especially during stressful events. It might be fun to make it into a game by wearing a heart rate monitor to watch your heart rate slowly decline. Even if you don't experience chronic stress it is a good idea to practice meditation while pregnant and beyond.
Happy, healthy moms make a strong and lasting impression on their babies. A healthy mom impacts her baby's health during pregnancy, throughout childhood, all the way into adulthood. Yes, there is no one way to be a good parent but general healthy practices are a great way to guide some decisions you must make. Always remember, when choosing a health professional to work with, whether it be a physician, dietician, personal trainer, coach/therapist, etc, be sure you feel comfortable, safe and align with their philosophy to insure maximum comfort and care throughout your journey.
Fascia is often referred to as connective tissue that surrounds, protects, and supports the muscles in the body. Interestingly, there is no beginning or end to fascia, as it is web-like and extends and intertwines around all areas, including surrounding and protecting organs, in the body. Fascia and skeletal muscles make up the myofascial system that help to keep muscle groups together.
As we age, our fascia is always changing; it's structure depends on the demands we place upon it and can become "bound" and thicken in some areas in response to poor posture, injury and/or inflammation. This "binding" can stress other areas, creating more pain and limited range of motion. Fascial fibers run vertically and horizontally in youth; the aging process causes cross-linking or adhesions, which can cause the fibers to lose their elasticity and create fibers that stick together as opposed to gliding across each other. The good news is, fascia is highly adaptable and can be changed over time with better posture practices, self-myofascial release, adequate hydration, and attention to injury.
Most of us are no stranger to tightness and know the discomfort of foam rolling and/or stretching. Sometimes we become aware of a knot or trigger point in our muscles when pressure is applied during foam rolling which may cause pain to radiate to other areas in the body. Self-myofascial release with a foam roller or lacrosse ball allows one to control the intensity of pressure being applied. It is best for beginners to begin with a less dense foam roller. Once trigger points are released, this allows for improved movement patterns and better function with less pain and enhanced performance.
Have you heard the saying, "no pain, no gain"? While pushing yourself to the next fitness level is ideal, pushing through injury or any questionable twinge or pain, is not smart and can often exacerbate problems. Placing loads on joints, ligaments, and muscles that are restricted in their range of motion may increase risk of a muscle tear. It is important to have body awareness at all times but especially during activity.
Body and postural awareness is good to have because poor body mechanics from daily activities is often is the cause of muscle dysfunction and is repetitively perpetuated without recognition. Body awareness also aids in recognizing the presence of stress in the body. Increasing awareness improves overall mind/body function.
Although it may go against instinct, if you are experiencing tightness and/or are very sore, self-myofascial release may help alleviate experienced discomfort, as well as improve performance levels. With patience and practice, self-myofascial release may help restore normal function to muscle groups that are limited in range of motion.
Additionally, it is important to adequately hydrate during physical activity and in stretching and mobility exercises, as the fascia holds water and dehydration may cause fascia to bind which can cause movement to become stiff and problematic. Regularly incorporating self-myofascial release into daily activities can help encourage fibers to become "unstuck" and glide more easily which promotes healthy tissue.
Although foam rolling is great to perform at any time, it is especially important to do after working out, just before stretching. Performing self-myofascial release prior to stretching helps prepare connective tissue and can encourage greater flexibility of fibers. For best results, incorporate self-myofascial release into daily activity.
Although it might be hard to believe that any woman can have visible abdominal muscles after giving birth, it does happen and it isn't by magic or luck.
I am always so impressed when I meet a fit woman who has had one or multiple children. The human body is so amazing and the changes the body undergoes during pregnancy are even more fascinating. The degree to which organs are squished and/or stretched is incredible.
Skin and tissues (including muscle) in the body are elastic. We can think of these tissues as rubber bands. When the integrity of a rubber band is solid and strong, it can be stretched for a period of time but will return back to its resting length once the tension is no longer applied. If the rubber band is really old or has been kept in a stretched position for too long, the elasticity has been compromised and it will often remain stretched even after there is no longer any tension being applied.
Often, when one loses a lot of weight after years of being overweight there will be a lot of loose skin dangling. Similarly, some women experience loose abdominals that seemingly sag, giving her the appearance of still being pregnant, after she has delivered.
Having a baby is challenging enough without the fear of losing your pre-baby body. Your hormones are elevated, physiologically your body is experiencing major changes, and lastly, your whole lifestyle changes once this new life emerges.
Women who exercise regularly, more specifically who lift weights regularly, before, during, and after pregnancy are significantly more likely to return quickly to their pre-pregnancy body. Why? Because women who lift weights are strong so their muscles and connective tissue are naturally pulled back to their original resting length with ease. Those muscles have essentially been encouraged before, throughout, and after pregnancy to return and remain strong. Women who make regular exercise a priority before conceiving and continue throughout their entire pregnancy will bounce back faster than those who do not.
My favorite part of this super fit pregnancy story is that my friend was 35 when she delivered her daughter. It is my favorite part because it could easily be argued that a 25 year old would have visible abs after delivering, and this shows that age doesn't necessarily dictate your experience of pregnancy. She lifted weights regularly long before she became pregnant and continued that practice throughout her pregnancy. 6 weeks postpartum, she returned to regular weight lifting and has since continued.
She has always been a fit person so it didn't surprise me that she looked amazing as soon as she delivered, but the fact that her abdominal muscles were visible only 4 months after delivering really illustrates the impact exercise has on the body in a way that other examples don't. The body is pushed to extreme limits during pregnancy, so knowing that you do have some control over what can happen physically is very exciting and encouraging for all women who know they want to become mothers in the future.
The absolute best advice I can give any woman who knows she wants a family some day or who is currently pregnant, is begin exercising as soon as you can! Do not put it off and if you have trouble motivating yourself or need guidance concerning appropriate exercise selection, invest in yourself and work with a coach who you feel connected to because it will change your whole life in many ways, including ways you never expected.