(This is the first installment of “Staying Fit for Baby”, a series of posts from Lucille Roberts trainer Sandra Ferrerio, who is pregnant! She has generously agreed to share her 9-month journey with us and will provide fitness and nutrition tips for pregnant moms as well as updates on her own pregnancy. Congratulations, Sandra! We’re looking forward to hearing about and learning from your experiences!)
When we learned the joyous news, we were truly overwhelmed with happiness! I am going to have another baby! How exciting!
Now that my daughter is 12, I am reeducating myself on the “new” rules of pregnancy. So much has changed in 12 years! Whether you’re a first-time mom or a mother embarking on the miracle of childbirth again, staying fit should be on the top of your list, for the health of your baby and of course for your health, as well.
When a woman first learns she is pregnant, she is overcome by a slew of emotions. From excitement to fear, all are completely natural. We all want to be the perfect mothers. From the moment of conception, the health of your new baby becomes superior to all else in life. With all of the contradictory information inundating us daily, it is hard to decipher sound, solid facts from outdated wives’ tales (some of which may still hold much merit). Your OB/GYN is obviously the first authority concerning your health during pregnancy.
Among the list of common fears is the fear of losing your figure, gaining weight, and dealing with food cravings. Each pregnancy is different, as each mother and child is unique. I can assure you from experience that weight gain can be kept in a healthy range, and you CAN get your pre-baby body back—maybe even better! Pregnancy and motherhood will offer a host of new challenges when trying to stay fit, but it can be done. Giving up one’s prior fat loss efforts and rituals is a bit daunting. These habits will be replaced by a new routine, which will have mom and baby fit and healthy for pregnancy, delivery, and the future.
The current accepted guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy may come as a surprise: 25-35 lb. if the mom is already of normal weight, 15-25 lb. if she is overweight at the onset of pregnancy, and 28-40 lb. if she is underweight at the time of conception. This breaks down even further to about 4 lb. in the first trimester and 1 lb. per week during the remainder of the pregnancy. Take it from someone who works very hard to maintain a healthy weight: that isn’t a lot of extra weight! Many of us retain 2-5 pounds of water weight during our monthly menstruation period alone.
In terms of calories, what does this weight gain break down to? It is an increase of about 100-300 extra calories per day. That is equivalent to a cup of low-fat yogurt or fat-free milk, 1 fruit, and 1 serving of cereal. If you are not a calorie-counter, you can think of it as 1-2 extra snacks per day. So much for eating for two!
From the onset of pregnancy, in addition to battling seemingly insatiable cravings, expecting mothers often feel terribly fatigued. This can make the thought of working out seem unbearable. I remember teaching classes while I was pregnant with my first child, Patience Mary. I was so exhausted! I felt like I could barely lift my legs. The current accepted guidelines for exercise and pregnancy are fairly simple for most of us: YOU MUST EXERCISE! Your doctor can help you with more in-depth guidelines if you have specific health concerns. Exercising during pregnancy can help prevent gestational diabetes, unnecessary weight gain, difficulty during labor, and a host of other problems for mom and baby. Staying at a healthy weight during pregnancy can set up your child for a decreased risk of childhood obesity and other health-related problems. Your healthy weight during pregnancy affects you and your child’s health and future. How can we keep it in check and still enjoy pregnancy? Exercise and healthy food choices are key.
Most professional organizations DO NOT recommend doing high-impact activities while pregnant, even if you were doing so prior to pregnancy. This has been one of the most difficult adjustments for me to make. I have been accustomed to running sprint intervals on my treadmill 5-6 mornings per week. Coupled with a strenuous weight lifting workout and intense abdominal and core workouts, I was burning about 1,000 calories per day, before 6:30 am! However, as soon as I learned I was pregnant, I immediately began a walking-only routine on my treadmill, and I now lift light weights.
Here are some guidelines for exercising while pregnant.
- If you are taking classes, simply do not jump or bounce during a class.
- Be sure to make the instructor aware of your pregnancy.
- Go at your own pace. If you feel the intensity of a class is too much for you, you can walk on the treadmill safely and go at a steady pace that feels comfortable.
- Generally, it is still recommended to get 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, e.g., walking or the elliptical, spread out over 5 days.
- The American Pregnancy Association recommends that your heart rate does not exceed 140 beats per minute during aerobic activity. Invest in a heart rate monitor for peace of mind.
- Remember to keep it low-impact.
- The guidelines for strength training are 2 days per week, more if you and your doctor see fit. Keep the weights light or use no weights at all. Light weights may be 2-5 lb., depending on your prior strength.
Of utmost importance for delivery and beyond is keeping the muscles of the pelvic floor strong. I have spoken of engaging the pelvic floor muscles during previous trainer tips. Kegel exercises are the most popular method for this. After your first trimester, you do not want to assume the supine position (lying on your back) during exercise and should perform Kegels from a seated position. Simply tighten your pelvic floor muscles for about 5 seconds, then release and repeat 20 times. You can do this several times per day if you wish. The American Pregnancy Association states that these types of exercises can improve labor and delivery by giving one much more control. In addition, it may help prevent other uncomfortable effects of pregnancy such as hemorrhoids and loss of bladder control.
Perhaps the most fascinating subject of pregnancy is nutrition. Many women experience intense craving for foods they may not normally eat and possibly even abhor. Be sure you eat enough during this time so that you have the energy to work, exercise, and take care of yourself. Though your calorie needs don’t increase by much, you need to eat a snack prior to exercise as well as after. Some carbohydrate and protein is always recommended. Try a slice of whole wheat bread and a tablespoon of natural nut butter with a glass of fat-free milk.
Did you know the foods you eat flavor your amniotic fluid? Whatever we taste, our babies taste! Animal studies show that structural changes in the brain occur when a fetus encounters flavors in the womb. This makes your baby more sensitive to those flavors after birth! Try to choose foods you would want to see your baby eating. I practically lived on low-fat yogurt when I was pregnant with my daughter, and yogurt is now one of her favorite foods!
Perhaps one of the most delightful pieces of information I have read refers to chocolate during pregnancy. A bit of chocolate daily may improve the temperament of your newborn and help your baby respond better to stress. Chocolate seems to inhibit the breakdown of pleasure-producing chemicals in the brain of a fetus. This sweet pleasure also reduces mom’s risk of preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (Fit Pregnancy Dec./Jan. 2012). The nutritional profile of dark chocolate is phenomenal, with B vitamins, including folate, needed for healthy brain development. There is always a bag of Dove dark chocolate squares in my freezer. Just one square does the trick and satisfies a sweet craving.
As always, drink plenty of water. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is safe to drink coffee while pregnant. The amount recommended is about 200 milligrams per day. That is equivalent to one 12 oz. cup of coffee. William Barth, M.D., of Harvard Medical School states, “This amount does not increase risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.” Just remember to drink a glass of water after your coffee in order to stay hydrated–especially if you’re going to work out!
Also remember to cut yourself some slack, when appropriate. There will be days when you are just too fatigued for your workout. Take it in stride, rest, and gather your strength. Listen to your body; it is the wisest authority.
I look forward to sharing this journey with the Lucille Roberts family. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and loving environment for pregnancy and beyond.