Congratulations!!! If you are reading this, that must mean you already HAVE a baby bump or are hoping to have one soon.
Although these tips only encompass a single, very important aspect of health – your body – it is so important to be well-rounded when it comes to your health. Imagine sitting in a strong, sturdy four-legged chair. The reason we stay balanced is because all four legs support the same amount of weight. Now, imagine if one of those legs were to break while you were sitting on that chair. Do you think you would be able to stay balanced? Absolutely not! We’d go tumbling.
Health is exactly like that four-legged chair. If we forget to stay balanced with all four legs securely planted or lean too heavily on one leg and lose track of the others, they fall by the wayside. We all know how that feels, don’t we? We are excelling at work, but our exercise game is a distant memory. We get so wrapped up in the warm and fuzzies of a new relationship, work starts slipping and we fail to remember what fulfills us as people. How many more scenarios like this can you think of?
From those examples, you can clearly see that pregnancy is NOT a requirement in understanding the importance of maintaining balance; however, pregnancy IS a reason to be even more vigilant in making sure you have every single one of your chair legs firmly planted to the ground. Your body goes through astronomical changes when you’re pregnant. Think about it. You are growing a person! OF COURSE, it changes. We WANT it to change. Change is GREAT! And because of all those changes, if we get even a little off track, we feel it more drastically, more quickly, more deeply than if we weren’t pregnant.
These easy tips are here to help you maintain course in the pursuit of health and wellness, but more importantly, are here to help guide you back to balance when you feel you may have lost some of it.
Tip #1: Posture
The shoulder slump, the “pride of pregnancy”, standing with your hands on your low back — all of these postures are commonly seen due to gravitational and hormonal changes. Hormonal influence loosens the joints to accommodate growing bellies and breasts, and with this, the center of gravity also changes. We get very front-heavy, which emphasizes the load that our low backs carry. Poor posture creates abnormal positions for our spine, and in turn our muscles begin to tighten and develop knots to compensate for the abnormal posture in order to keep us up-right. Pregnancy exaggerates this abnormal posture, so pain is felt more quickly and with more tenacity than if you weren’t pregnant.
Postural habits like the ones stated above, are associated with “pregnancy posture”, but it would serve you best to avoid them. Instead, try standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your weight evenly balanced between your big toes, your pinky toes, and your heels. Your knees shouldn’t be kept locked, but should feel loose, and your shoulders should be “open” with your shoulder blades pulling downwards and back, not rolled forward. Look down at your hands resting by your sides. Do your palms face behind you or do they face your legs? Your goal should be to have them facing your legs. If your palms are facing behind you, that is a good indicator that your shoulders have slumped forward which disrupts the normal curvature of your spine.
Lastly, stand up tall! Don’t be scared to show off that beautiful belly and the other “assets” that pregnancy gives you.
Tip #2: Exercise
Women who already include exercise in their daily routines are encouraged to continue to do so during pregnancy, with the potential of slight modifications. If you don’t currently exercise, you should know that the benefits for you and your baby are huge. One study has shown that exercise helps to improve blood flow and oxygen to your baby’s brain and that, when born, they tend to be calmer, more alert, and more responsive to stimuli. Another study revealed that women who exercise during pregnancy have shorter, easier labors (decreased by an average of 2 hours), less medical intervention (24% less caesareans and 14% reduced use of forceps), less fetal distress, less need for induced labours or epidurals, and faster recovery. Not to mention, it makes you FEEL great! Exercise is such a healthy habit. Sticking to it throughout your pregnancy gives you a greater chance of sticking to it throughout your 4th trimester when the endorphins REALLY come in handy and self-care is crucial (fatigue and lack of sleep, anyone?).
All you need to do is have a device that measures your heart rate (HR), specifically at the peak of activity. A HR that peaks around 140-150 bpm and does not exceed 45 minutes of low intensity exercise provides the benefits previously discussed, like an increased flow of blood to your baby which allows for an increased flow of nutrients. Exercising before and during your pregnancy also makes it easier for you to recover after your delivery. Whether you have a C-section or a natural birth, bringing a baby into this world is HARD work. Your body goes through so much! Increasing your endurance, getting some more muscle tone, and making regular exercise a mental habit will benefit you tremendously in the attempt to get your body back to feeling “normal” again. Maybe you’ll even set a new “normal” and strive to surpass the old one.
Now, get movin’ mama! You got this.
*Make sure to consult your OB or midwife if you have a history of premature labor, vaginal bleeding, fetal complications or a pre-diagnosed condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.