When you are pregnant – how do you most want to feel? Strong, confident and empowered? Healthy, calm or maybe serene? Feminine and glowing?
In reality, morning sickness, heartburn, back & pubic pain, wrist pain (the list is endless!) can mean that our pregnancy is often a lot less glamorous. Instead of feeling healthy and strong, it is easy to feel depleted and weak. After just having given birth to my third daughter, I totally understand the physical and emotional toll that pregnancy takes on your body. Whilst it is a miraculous and incredibly rewarding stage of your life, it is also one of the most physically and emotionally challenging processes you will ever experience.
This pregnancy, I really invested in my mental, emotional and physical health. As a result, I felt stronger during this pregnancy than I did in any of my others.
As well as being a Mum to 3 little girls, I am also the creator of the Fit Mummy Project and the postnatal health and wellbeing site, Kimmy Smith Fit. I am a personal trainer and yoga teacher who is passionate about empowering women to feel strong, healthy and empowered throughout pregnancy and postpartum. In this post, I’ll share my knowledge together with my personal experiences on how to have a strong and healthy pregnancy.
I hope you enjoy!
Kimmy Smith x
There are so many reasons why we skip exercise when we are pregnant. Lack of motivation, lack of energy and the constant need to nap, being just a few. However, exercise and moving your body during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for both yourself and your baby.
Having a strong body will help to support you as your body expands (or should I say blossoms!). Strong legs, backs and arms will help to support your posture, alleviate some of the pressure on your pelvic floor and core and will help you to have an active birth and labour.
My best tips when it comes to prenatal exercise include:
- Follow a specific prenatal exercise program. During pregnancy and postpartum, your body needs to be cared for and supported with safe movements that will help to keep you strong, whilst also allowing your body the space and mobility it needs to grow and birth your baby. A good prenatal program will help you to feel strong and energised without putting unnecessary strain or demands on your body. I have created a series of prenatal strength, fitness and yoga workouts for each trimester. They are the perfect way to stay strong and mobile throughout your entire pregnancy.
- Aim to feel energised not exhausted. During pregnancy, your body is working overtime to support and grow your baby. Find exercise that makes you feel energised and strong, not exhausted and depleted. You still want to have enough energy to go about the rest of your day! Aim to finish a workout and still feel like you have something left in the tank.
- Focus on building strength from the inside – out. Having a strong core and pelvic floor will not only support you during your pregnancy, but will help you to recover faster post-birth. More on this below!
- In addition to reading information online, it is really important that you see a Women’s Health Physio during your pregnancy. They can assess the strength and tone of your pelvic floor and can provide you with strategies for birth and postpartum.
- Listen to your body. During pregnancy, your intuition is heightened. Listen to the wisdom of your body and stop if something doesn’t feel right. Every woman is so unique in terms of what they can and can’t do during pregnancy. We are also so different in what we can do physically from one pregnancy to the next. Listen to the signals your body is sending you and begin to move in a way that makes you feel good. One day this might be a gentle restorative yoga class, another day it might be a higher intensity strength workout. When you listen to your body, you will begin to move in a much more mindful way.
- Do strength training. During pregnancy, I recommend doing strength workouts twice a week to support your growing body. If you move only because you know that it will help you to feel a little bit happier, a bit stronger and more in control of your life, well that is reason enough! In this post, I have created special strength workouts each trimester. They will help you to maintain strength safely.
#2 Make your Pelvic Floor a Priority!
Your pelvic floor and transversus abdominus (or deep core muscles) are two of the most important muscle groups to look after during pregnancy. Why? Because they go through so much change during the nine months it takes you to grow your baby. As your baby grows, your stomach muscles will lengthen and weaken as they stretch over your growing uterus. Similarly, as your pregnancy processes and the weight of your uterus increases, your pelvic floor will have an increased load to support.
Caring for these muscles have benefits not just during pregnancy, but for labour, birth and postpartum recovery. Having a functioning pelvic floor and core will help to prevent or reduce back pain, may help to reduce or prevent urinary incontinence, can reduce the symptoms of sciatica and pubic pain, can assist in first and second stages of labour and will help you to recover faster from birth! So they are definitely worth doing!
During pregnancy we want to be able to contract these muscles to support our internal organs, but also be able to release them to allow for the birth of our baby. I always recommend that pregnant women see a Women’s Health Physio for a complete pelvic floor assessment during the second trimester so they can recommend a program to either strengthen your pelvic floor or to release overactive pelvic floor muscles.
During pregnancy, it is great to focus on three types of pelvic floor exercises. Where you can, try to do these daily! Your body will be thankful – trust me!
- Engage and lift your pelvic floor for 3-4 seconds before releasing fully.
- Repeat 8-10 rounds.
- Slowly build up by increasing by 1 to 2 seconds as able.
- Engage your pelvic floor as quickly and powerfully as you can.
- Fully release.
- Lift straight back up with no rest in between.
- Aim for 10 power contractions.
Combine your pelvic floor exercises with function movements such as squats, lunges and pushups.
What is the one thing that has made the biggest difference to my life as a Mum? Meditation. I know! Eeeek right. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, stay with me. There is so much change that goes on in our lives during pregnancy and the first year of becoming a Mum. Learning how to accept this change in a graceful way will help you to avoid a lot of the angst and anxiety that can occur during those vital first years.
If you want to flourish in this modern crazy world, then you need to invest in rest. Meditation is a simple tool that you can use to help you to feel grounded and in control of your life.
If you are new to meditation, or the thought of sitting still for 10 minutes sounds like a form of torture, simply start with a short guided meditation. Guided meditations give your mind something to focus on. At the end of your meditation sit for one or two minutes in silence and focus on your breath.
It is really normal to have a thousand different thoughts as you meditate. The goal isn’t to have no thoughts, but just to try not to get hung up on them. Think of your thoughts as waves in the ocean. As a new thought begins to swell, don’t latch onto it. Let it pass you by like a wave rolling and breaking.
#4 Nourish Your Body
During pregnancy, our body is working overtime to support and nourish the baby growing inside of us. And whilst our nutritional needs are increased, due to morning sickness, cravings, heartburn and reduced stomach space, we often might not feel like eating the healthiest of meals.
In addition to this, there are so many rules around what we can and can’t eat as expecting mothers. This is one reason I collaborated with a clinical nutritionist to create the Nourished Mummy Project. The Nourished Mummy Project is a complete recipe App for pregnancy and postpartum. It also includes baby and toddler recipes. I love it because it helps to remove the confusion about what to eat when you are expecting and also to provide simple healthy recipes that pregnant Mummas can enjoy.
My tips for nourishing your body whilst pregnant include:
- Eat well when you can – and drop the guilt! A lot of women struggle to eat well during their first trimester. This can often lead to feelings of guilt that you aren’t providing your baby with adequate nutrition. It is a really challenging time, but for most of us, it doesn’t last. My tip is simply to eat well when you can. If you are craving salty chips – that is ok. This is a time to just go with what your body wants. The more you try to force things, the worse you will feel. Remember that each meal is a beautiful opportunity to nourish and that little person growing inside you.
- Hydrate! During pregnancy you might notice you feel thirsty a lot more often! Try to drink around 2 litres of water a day. Sip on water slowly between meals and try to avoid drinking with your meal as this can affect digestion.
- Eat small meals regularly throughout the day and ensure adequate amounts of quality protein to help sustain your blood sugar levels. Protein is required by the body for the growth, maintenance and repair of all cells. These are all things our bodies are doing on turbo in the weeks and months during pregnancy.
What are some of my favourite sources of protein?
Breakfast Protein Options
Natural protein powder in my smoothies, bircher and porridge.
Protein or Paleo Bread.
Nuts and Seeds (although these are more of a fat source than a protein source, they still contain protein).
Natural Greek Yoghurt (which is more of a carbohydrate source than a protein source, but it still contains protein.
Lunch and Dinner Protein Options
|Lean meat including chicken breast, turkey breast, lean beef and lamb.|
|Vegetarian sources which are higher in carbs, but which still contain protein such as tofu, beans, pulses and legumes.|
|Nuts and Seeds added to salads.|
- Include good fats in your diet. Essential fatty acids play a crucial role in the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. During pregnancy the demand for essential fatty acids increases. Try to include some good fats in the form of cooked salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds or olive oil with each meal.
- Supplement. I am a big fan of supplements. Yes, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need any supplements, as we would be consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals that would meet all our body’s daily nutrient requirements. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, we live in a crazily busy, unpredictable world where we sometimes—or even most of the time—don’t get to eat all the foods we would love to nourish our bodies with. Because we don’t always give our bodies all the nutrients they require, there are a few supplements you can use to help ‘supplement’ your diet, to help you to cover any gaps and optimise the results from all your nutrition and training. We are all different and we all have different requirements, so I would really recommend that you have a blood test taken after you have had your baby, and check in with your Integrative doctor and Naturopath to see whether you would benefit from any particular supplements.
It takes a village to raise a baby, and that starts during pregnancy. Invest in time for self-care and surround yourself with a team of professionals that are going to provide you with the best support possible. Some of the things I loved during my pregnancy was acupuncture, kinesiology, women’s health physiotherapy and pilates.
One resource I love for new and expecting Mums is a free online newsletter from the Centre of Perinatal Excellence called ‘Ready to COPE’.
Ready to COPE provides women with timely and relevant information about their emotional and mental wellbeing throughout their pregnancy and first twelve months postpartum. It’s filled with supportive and non-judgmental insights and strategies for coping with common challenges faced during this special, but often vulnerable time. It also offers information on the common mental health conditions and when, how and where to get help if needed.
Kimmy Smith Bio:
Kimmy is a Mum to three little girls and the founder of the Fit Mummy Project App and the Nourished Mummy Project App Kimmy is also an ex-professional athlete, fitness instructor and qualified yoga teacher. Kimmy is on a mission to support and empower women to embrace the journey of motherhood. In 2016, Kimmy launched the postnatal fitness and wellbeing hub, www.kimmysmithfit.com, an online destination that encompasses fitness, food and healthy mindset essentials including tips, advice, workouts, meal plans and recipes. It aims to help all new mums create a beautiful, fit and strong new body and life.
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