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Staying active in pregnancy can be likened to drinking your two litres of water a day. Yawn. It’s one of those things we know we should do, not only for our wellbeing, but for the health of our growing babe.
Sometimes motivating ourselves isn’t as simple as knowing it’s what we SHOULD do. Life gets hectic. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean life stops. Work, Mum-ing, family dramas, commitments – it all keeps demanding a piece of you.
Not to mention pregnancy can be physically uncomfortable. You can’t be blamed for feeling like a pilates class is the last thing you want to do right now.
Then there’s the matter of protecting ‘me-time’. So many things to do, so little time. If you’re like most Mamas, me-time is the first chunk of that time to be forfeited to the demanding tasks.
So how do we motivate ourselves, and make fitting in activity easy? First, you’ve got to know the benefits of what you’re doing. We know the evidence in favour of active pregnancy is there. Easier labour and birth, healthier weight gain in pregnancy, less likely to grow a baby that is LGA (large for gestational age), better control of blood glucose levels, improved sleep, reduced depression and anxiety – the benefits are endless. So now, how to make it do-able…
You may not feel like you’re up to replicating an Instagram glamour in Lululemon tights, opening your heart chakra to the ocean. But hey, neither do non-pregnant women. When you think of taking up yoga, put the mental barriers aside – those messages our brain tells us that stop us before we’ve even started. ‘I’m not flexible’, ‘I tried yoga once and I sucked’, ‘I don’t have yoga pants that fit me now’. That’s not what this is about!
Yoga in pregnancy is about moving your body, keeping yourself and baby healthy, and aligning your pelvis for an easier labour and birth. My husband always reminds me to KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. So how do we make doing yoga simpler?
If you don’t have the time or confidence to be in a class setting – do it at home! The beauty of technology is that quick, convenient activity is as easy as watching a YouTube video while you follow along. Buy yourself a cheap yoga mat (you can get them for as little as $10), chuck on your comfiest, ugliest maternity track-pants and start moving!
If you do have time to attend a yoga class, finding a pregnancy specific one will help you feel more comfortable to take it at your own gentle pace, and you will even learn breathing and meditation techniques that can help in labour – so it’s a two for one deal.
2. Spring Clean Like a Mad Woman!
Ever heard of posterior babies? Posterior, aka back-to-back, means bub’s back is positioned along your spine in pregnancy. This position isn’t optimal as it can increase back pain and cause longer or obstructed labour.
A Midwifery Lecturer told me there was once a time when posterior babies didn’t happen because mothers had to be on their hands and knees to scrub the floors. That it is so common now because of our modern lifestyle of lounging semi-reclined, watching television and scrolling Facebook. Without sending feminism back several decades, the point is that our lifestyles are more stagnant than they once were, and we suffer for it in pregnancy and birth. So we need to find simple ways to keep forward leaning, upright, or active as much as possible.
This is where you can use those nesting instincts to your advantage! Here are just a few ways you can make spring cleaning promote optimal positioning of baby, and easier labour and birth, all while getting your activity in!
Get into the garden, even do some weeding by hand, and improve your Vitamin D levels while you’re at it. Low Vitamin D levels in pregnancy are associated with increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and having a baby of low birthweight.
Grab out the vacuum, get down on the floor and clean out all the little nooks and crannies of dust bunnies. You may be surprised at how dirty the floors are, I know I always am!
Scrub anything that gets your heart rate pumping. Depending on how pregnant you are, that may be the soap scum ridden shower, or just the kitchen sink. Either way, moving and increasing your heart rate is keeping active.
You may even really get into nesting by emptying and reorganising the pantry into alphabetical order, or labelling every basket for items in the nursery.
Always remember with any activity, you need to listen to your body, it knows best. I used to mop the house in three stages as I would get too out of breath at the later stages of pregnancy. Any movement, even if it’s gentle, is better than being inactive.
I don’t know about you, but here are my reasons (excuses) for avoiding walking: I don’t like that dog five houses down that barks at me, It’s too cold/hot, I don’t have time, I’ve just eaten, my legs are sore, I’d rather sleep… the list goes on. We’ve just got to push through that and do it!
Regular walking in pregnancy lowers risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, it busts stress, relieves aches and pains, balances your pelvis (for optimal positioning of baby), promotes physiological birth and improves sleep. Sign me up for all those things! Especially the sleep… seriously, I’m a breastfeeding Mum, it’s more tiring than being an on-call Midwife. I go to work for rest.
To make walking more appealing and enjoyable, set challenges for yourself and change up the scenery – drive somewhere enjoyable to outdoors. Get out into nature and do a bush walk – if you’re in Australia there’s no shortage of location options. Challenge yourself to walk a certain amount of steps, distance, time – whatever it may be, give yourself a goal to improve on.
Use your walking time to talk to your partner about all things birth and baby, or if alone, use the time to tune in to bubby and let yourself daydream about what they might look like, names you like, who they will be, fun things you’re excited to do with them.
Basically, walking doesn’t mean doing the same boring loop of streets around your house, over and over. It’s a time to pause your busy mind, gain clarity, and connect with your body and baby.
4. Belly Dancing
Don’t worry. I’m not talking about shimmying your sore, tired hips in an outfit so gaudy it could trigger morning sickness. Belly dancing in pregnancy, the swaying, slow, wave-like dancing, is such an easy way to move your body. You can do it anywhere, and you don’t need to even know what you’re doing!
Put on your favourite earth-mama music, perhaps you have a birth playlist together already, and just feel the music. Move your body and sway that pelvis however it feels right, delicate figure 8’s are a good place to start. If you’ve chosen a name for your baby already, slowly write out their name with your hips.
Belly dancing movements can strengthen your abdomen, soften ligaments and promote optimal positioning of baby.
5. Hydrotherapy & Swimming
If you haven’t tried swimming in pregnancy, you have no idea what you’re missing out on! Pregnancy is slow, our size increase is gradual, but it’s significant.
Standing armpit deep in a pool is not only refreshing, but it completely takes the weight you don’t know you’re lugging around. Aches and pains just melt away in water, leaving you physically and emotionally more able to embrace the challenges of pregnancy.
Having sleepless nights? Tossing and turning and pregnancy insomnia can be relieved with a pool sesh. The great thing is you don’t even have to swim!
Walking laps, slowly at your own pace, is a great way to balance your body and pelvis, strengthen muscles, and get in activity that is so crucial to a healthy mum and baby.
Don’t have your own pool? Local public pools are inexpensive, generally don’t require a membership, and are heated in the cooler months. Plus if you time it right and head in during the middle of weekdays, you’ll likely have the place to yourself.
You may have never given much thought to your pelvic floor, particularly if this is your first baby. But it’s time to change that. You need to love your pelvic floor, and keep it healthy during pregnancy as well as after birth.
Squatting during labour can increase your pelvic outlet size by 30%, that means more room for baby to descend through your pelvis, but sometimes labour can be like running a marathon – you wouldn’t do that without some sort of preparation. So get squatting!
We’re not talking about those awful PT sessions where you’re holding squats with burning thighs. And you don’t even have to do more than one at a time!
Aim to make squats a part of your daily movement, doing it several times a day. Squat when you’re getting something off the floor. Well, when you’re doing anything down low really. Even if you’re just watching TV. It will strengthen your legs and your pelvic floor, and help you be more comfortable in that position.
So, if you think staying active in pregnancy is ‘too hard basket’, then you’re thinking about it the wrong way. Trust me, not being active is asking for pregnancy and birth to be harder. Keep it simple, work movement into your daily living, change it up, aim for several decent sessions of activity per week, find creative ways to move your body and be mindful of optimal positioning of baby for easier labour and birth.