3 Keys to a Fit Pregnancy
Last week, I wrote about how I experienced a high-risk pregnancy with my first child and I wasn’t permitted exercise other than walking. No yoga, no running, no gym. This was the opposite of how I had hoped to experience my first pregnancy.
For my second pregnancy, I was healthier, more fit, and things went much more smoothly.
Staying healthy, keeping fit, and enjoying my ever-growing body was what I truly desired out of my second pregnancy. This was especially important to me because we didn’t plan on having any more children, so this was likely my last experience with pregnancy and childbirth.
For the first time in years, I felt strong and happy with myself physically, and I was ready to have a super fit pregnancy. Here are the three keys that helped me along:
Get healthy first.
After working hard to earn my law degree and spending years to build a career, I was disappointed when I wasn’t able to find work in my field when my husband got orders to Germany. Always looking for ways to challenge myself, I used my time leading up to my second pregnancy to clean up the way I ate by eating more fresh food and paying attention to labels. To round out my love of running and yoga, I added strength training by completing Jamie Eason’s 12-week LiveFit Trainer.
Being healthy prior to conception can lead to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Baby Center offers a list of 17 things you should do before you get pregnant and then goes into detail about why each item is important.
Be open to change.
Regardless of how much I enjoy running, I constantly forget how much my body loathes it. I wish we could get on the same page about this, but I keep losing the battle. During my second pregnancy, I got bursitis and a hernia – both things that were completely unexpected. My dream of running a 10k in my third trimester had to be put aside.
Missing out on the amazing therapy that trail running provided me, I needed to turn my attention to my other meditative addiction: Yoga.
According to Mark Stephens, one of the world’s leading trainers of yoga instructors, in his book Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes, “pregnancy is not the time to begin a vigorous yoga practice, nor the time to attempt new or more complex poses.” However, “all pregnant students can benefit by bringing greater awareness and support to the structure, muscles, and organs of their pelvis.” Students with “sedentary lifestyles, poor physical health, or high-risk pregnancy” should “attend yoga classes designed specifically for pregnant students.” Students “with active lifestyles, overall health, and minimal pregnancy risks” can “explore practicing in regular yoga classes with teachers who are prepared to give them informed guidance on when and how to modify their practice.”
Yoga. Even the word itself pulls me in. After having complications with other pregnancies, I chose to avoid yoga during the first trimester. For the first 12 weeks, I kept any yoga to a minimum, but jumped right back in as soon as the risky months were behind me.
I needed more than a "promise" to myself to keep up a yoga practice during my pregnancy. Still battling with nausea, fatigue, and all those other fun pregnancy goodies, it was very easy to talk myself out of any sort of practice. I needed to create motivation. I decided to do a yoga challenge. It was a challenge to ensure I'd keep a daily practice so I could continue feeling strong.
I'd been practicing yoga on and off for over a decade. But it wasn't until that year prior to my second pregnancy that I really felt like I was able to take my practice to a new level. My body was ready. I just needed to find the right teacher or partner to push me to try new poses. When I went into a headstand for the first time, I was so emotional I actually thought I might cry. Sounds ridiculous, but if we are being honest here, I just really never thought my inflexible and weak body could ever do any of these challenging yoga poses. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind (and body) to something and practice.
It is controversial whether inversions are okay during pregnancy. According to the Iyengar tradition of yoga, inversions are incredibly good for pregnancy when you were already doing them before becoming pregnant. They can help with water retention, improve blood pressure, help maintain emotional and mental balance, and more.
I was curious to see how "good" they continued to feel as my belly grew.
I was able to keep doing yoga fairly regularly throughout my pregnancy. I anticipated things would slow me down. Life and my ever-growing body definitely did just that, but I kept up my practice, including inversions, through my 34th week, after which, according to Stephens, inversions can cause, or reverse, breech presentation.
I believe it's important to find something to keep your mind and your body strong at all times, not only when you are pregnant. Yoga accomplished this for me, which was evident during childbirth and definitely during my recovery. Although you can’t jump back into doing yoga or other exercises right away after delivery, I was eager for my body to recover so I could try. I’m still trying to build back strength in some of my poses, but I was surprised by the muscle memory in my body and how quickly I regained my strength.
What do you do to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy?
Editor’s Note: Pregnancy is a tricky and sensitive time. Consult with your medical professionals and experienced yoga instructor before exercising or changing your diet. Seriously. It’s important because everybody is different. What is appropriate for one person could be risky for another. Listen to your body and don’t let ego get in the way.
Photos by Julie Swenson.