How To Have a Healthy Pregnancy

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How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

I got another great question from a friend for this week’s blog post! She asks:

“What is your input on working out while pregnant? What about diet?”

I love this question! I’m going to give a bunch of practical advice, but this query also allows me to talk about something that too few people understand: genuine health.

I meet so many people who are frustrated because they feel they lack the motivation and willpower necessary to “get healthy”. But that’s untrue. The lack of motivation is simply because they haven’t found a reason worth being motivated for! The unfortunate reality is that goals related to changing the appearance of your body often aren’t enough to keep us motivated day in and day out.

But carrying a baby? That’s a daily reminder that what you put into your body affects everything about your health…and now someone else’s.

Pregnancy can be a great motivator for health and wellness. In fact, pregnancy can be a great time to work on the health of your body without the typical pressure of doing it for aesthetic reasons.

When I found out I was pregnant, I experienced, for the first time in my life, the motivation to get healthy for genuine reasons. I felt an intrinsic drive to make my body healthy…and it had absolutely nothing to do with my outside appearance.

This was refreshing and freeing for someone who had always viewed healthy eating, dieting, and exercise as ways to burn calories and lose weight. My pregnancy gave me a real reason to engage in healthy habits. And that drive came from a place of absolute love and respect for my baby and my body!

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Exercise and nutrition Q & A for a healthy pregnancy

Is exercise during pregnancy safe?

Yes, for most women exercise during all three trimesters is safe, and recommended. However, it is still a good idea to check with your doctor, especially if you have not been exercising regularly, or if you are predisposed to complications during pregnancy.

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

  • Improved mood

  • More energy

  • Better sleep

  • Reduction in discomfort associated with pregnancy: less swelling, backaches, bloating

  • Easier labor and delivery

  • It can help you bounce back faster after pregnancy

  • Exercise is shown to impact a baby’s health in much the same way as mom’s: stronger heart and more advanced brain

What kind of exercise should I do?

If you were exercising regularly before pregnancy, in most cases you can continue doing whatever exercise you enjoy. As a general rule of thumb, low impact activities are best during pregnancy. Walking, swimming, and elliptical are great for cardio. Pilates, yoga, and weight training are great for strength. Aim to exercise almost every day for 30 to 45 minutes.

When I was pregnant, I began a light weight training program utilizing only body weight movements, and I used a pregnancy yoga video. Additionally, I continued to walk and do barn chores right up to the moment I was in labor…and I felt great during my entire pregnancy!

When it comes to exercise and pregnancy, the most important thing is to be safe and listen to your body. Check with your doc, don’t overdo it, and rest as needed!

Any types of exercise I should avoid while pregnant?

In general, it is best to avoid high-impact types of exercise while pregnant, or anything that could cause a fall or trauma to the abdominal area. When I was pregnant, my doctor advised that I stop riding horses, and avoid things like skiing and rock climbing.

Always check with your doctor, but you probably want to avoid:

  • Anything that could cause a fall

  • Anything that could cause jarring motions or abdominal trauma: jumping, contact sports, or sports that require quick changes of direction

  • Exercise that requires a lot of twisting at the waist

  • Exercising in excessive heat or humidity

  • Exercising to the point of exhaustion

  • Any exercise that requires you to lay flat on your back after the first trimester

Keep in mind that there are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy. Your balance may shift because of the extra weight in your abdominal area. All types of exercise may feel harder as you carry around more weight. Your joints are actually more flexible during pregnancy due to hormones. You may feel more tired than usual. Talk to your doctor before engaging in an exercise program and use common sense!

How long should I exercise during my pregnancy?

I was using pregnancy exercise DVD’s, walking, and doing barn chores right up to the very day I went into labor. Exercise is generally safe all the way through the third trimester. Remember to listen to your body and talk to your doctor if you are unsure!

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What about diet during pregnancy?

Everything you consume, your baby also consumes. The growing fetus is completely dependent on you to provide all the necessary nutrients for proper growth and development. Research shows that inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can have a lifelong impact on a baby’s health.

My advice about diet for pregnant women is pretty much the same as it is for the average Jane/Joe:

  • You don’t need to go on a strict diet or meal plan, and doing so will probably cause more problems than it solves.

  • Focus on adding more vegetables and fruits to your meals.

  • Eat healthy foods you actually like.

  • Shoot for lots of variety: if you ate bananas this week, buy oranges or grapes next week.

  • Pay attention to how foods make you feel and adjust accordingly.

  • Don’t drink your calories – unless in the form of a green smoothie. 😉

  • Stay hydrated, ideally with water.

  • Consider a high-quality prenatal vitamin like this one.

  • Avoid being overly restrictive – it’s okay to give in to a craving and have a treat!

  • Consider going organic, and try to reduce exposure to common household toxins.

Pregnancy is a great time to experience genuine health by simply focusing on eating as healthy as possible to nourish your body and your baby. But you don’t need to be perfect! Once again, always be sure to check with your doctor for his/her recommendations on diet and supplements.

How many extra calories do I need during pregnancy?

I don’t recommend that you count calories during pregnancy…or ever. Using a more intuitive approach to eating by paying attention to hunger and fullness is a much better way to achieve a healthy weight and body. However, I want to talk about calorie needs during pregnancy because sometimes women view pregnancy like it’s a food free-for-all. It’s not.

Most women vastly over-estimate the amount calories they need during pregnancy. The reality is we don’t actually need a lot more than normal. During the first trimester, you don’t need any additional calories. During the second trimester, you need about 300 additional calories. And during the third trimester, about 400 additional calories.

When it comes right down to it, 300-400 calories equates to a measly ½ cup of Haagen Dazs ice cream, or a banana with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter…not the half-dozen donuts or package of Oreos we dream about pounding down when pregnant.

Should I try to lose weight while pregnant?

Pregnancy is not the time to focus on weight loss. You and the baby need nourishment, so it is not advised to attempt calorie- or macro-restrictive diets during pregnancy. Focus on creating a healthy environment for your growing baby by eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, reducing exposure to household toxins, and exercising regularly.

The key to a healthy pregnancy

A healthy body = a healthier baby. It’s really that simple. Focus on little habits than can make your body healthier. Exercise regularly, eat well most of the time, hydrate properly, and you and your baby will reap the benefits! Perfection not required!

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I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading!

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Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer

Learn more about the author here.

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