Oh Baby, My Body!!!

5 Jul

Congratulations, you’re a cute preggo!!!!

Besides the obvious change in appearance, there are many changes that will happen during your pregnancy – physically, mentally and emotionally and the best way to stay balanced is through physical exercise. Today’s society is plagued with the belief that pregnant women are physically limited, therefore are encouraged to minimize physical activity and are treated as tho they are harboring a disease.  These very wrong ideals leave women with an impression of a painstaking, emotionally charged, torturous 9 months.  This propaganda is quite dangerous as it creates a sense of vulnerability to numerous complications during pregnancy and unnecessary high risk procedures, for you and your baby.  I ensure that this is incorrect.

This article is about celebrating our this magnificent gift and experiencing fun filled, spiritually rich, emotionally stable, mentally empowering and absolutely splendid 40 weeks.   What is the secret?–Staying physically active!!!

I am currently 33 weeks and have thus far experienced, at most a handful of days, where I was either enduring growing pains, overwhelmed by emotional hormones or mentally drained.  Over all, 90% of my pregnancy has been accompanied by a huge smile and healthier and more conscience lifestyle.   I, as many other women, have benefited GREATLY by exercising during pregnancy.   I feel as though I am well prepared for child birth and will freely and beautifully dance like some little warrior faerie through labor pains.  I enjoy this time by connecting to my new body, developing new skills, conquering no longer needed habits and savoring the miracle inside.

The many benefits of physical activity include  fending off the pregnancy blues, reducing pregnancy discomfort, preparing us for the rigors of child birth, staying energized, promoting sound sleep, and after regaining our pre pregnancy body quicker after birth.  There are also many studies that show physical activity during pregnancy lowers the risk of complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes and alleviates backache, joint pain, nausea, constipation and water retention.   The benefits for the fetus are stronger, healthier and calmer babies.

Do consult your physician/midwife early on in your pregnancy as starting at the beginning ensures a safe and healthy experience, plus you will have to make a few minor adjustments.  If you have already been exercising, it’s easier to keep exercising during pregnancy otherwise you will need to start very slowly.  Physical activity once in a while doesn’t really do much and will increase the chances of injury.  Therefore, I suggest working out 3-4 times a week and its easy to maintain this consistency when you combine activities.  Stay well hydrated during all exercises, keep your body temperature normal by wearing proper clothing and most of all, listen to your intuition. 

STOP IMMEDIATELY and contact your health care provider if there is blood or fluid coming from your vagina, fainting, sudden or severe abdominal/vaginal pain, contractions that go on for 30 minutes after you stop exercising, chest pains or heart palpitations, sudden change in body temperature, increase in swelling of hands, feet and ankles, severe headache or one that wont go away, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or blurred vision.

Now that the precautions are out of they way, lets start with my personal recommendations:

Pre Natal Yoga
Yoga is the ideal way for me to maintain a strong, toned and flexible body and it offsets all the aches and pains (including sciatic nerve pains) when my bones moved around to make room for my baby.  I find it to be a great way to ground myself and get back to the present moment.  The deep breathing aspect takes me into a journey inside of myself, creating a spiritual connection to my child and most of all it keeps me in a calm state of mind resulting in a happy and relaxed pregnancy…I enjoyed every moment.

If  you have never taken yoga then enroll yourself in a prenatal yoga class as one of the first things you learn is how to breathe fully, this is the key to reaping this activities benefits.  Deep breathing is the answer to progressing your labor.  The reason is because we are so pumped that the body produces adrenaline and shuts down the production of Oxytocin, a hormone that makes labor move along.  Yoga training will help fight the urge to tighten up when contraction pain is felt, teaches the mind to stay calm and listen to the body, easing labor along.  Yoga asanas are great for toning and stretching out those muscles, keeping you limbering with little, if any, impact on joints and preparing you for the physical demands of labor, birth and motherhood.  In later weeks, these same asanas will help the baby into the proper birthing position.

Avoid any movements which require you to be in a position flat on your back as this decreases blood flow to the uterus.  Also avoid movements which stretch the abdominal muscles too much as you are more apt to tear and strain muscles now.  If you experience pain in your back, hips or pelvis, let your instructor know as they will modify your postures so that you are able to participate comfortably.

Walking and Yoga are a great combo, is a safe throughout your 9 months and a great beginning point for those of you who are starting to work out. Begin with a slow walk and build yourself up to 30 – 40 minute jaunts and always using your arms. It keeps those legs firms, glutes strong and abs tight without jarring your knees and ankles. Its a good reason to take the dog out for a stroll, digest after a meal or just simply get some fresh air. This is also a great activity to share with family members and friends or special boding time with your partner.

I find walking to be a big help in keeping away constipation, leg cramps, strong abs and thighs, cankles and heart burn while promoting firm abs and thighs, excellent posture, increased endurance and sound sleep.  I also use this time to do those fabulous pelvic floor/kegel exercises… just make sure to go to the bathroom before heading out.

Tho the benefits of squatting for childbirth have been known for centuries, it has been greatly ignored by medical standards as practitioners prefer using methods which enable them to use other instruments such as forceps, vacuums and stirrups. Well ladies,  here is some great news, next to sculpting yourself a nice bottom, squatting shortens the second stage of labor, reduces the need of an episiotomy, reduces the use of additional instruments, shortens the depth of your birth canal, increases your pelvic diameter by 10+%, strengthens the intensity of contractions while relieving back pain and helps relax and stretch the pelvic floor muscle.

Go slowly, starting with partial squats and holding the position for 10 seconds, once you can hold a partial squat for 60 seconds comfortably move onto full squats. Always remember, to prevent injury to yourself or the baby, that balance is very important therefore start with a partner to hold onto, a birthing ball, the back of a chair, a squatting stool or even a stack of phone books.  Be sure to place your feet all the way flat on the floor as you are learning, I promise it becomes easier and easier.

Belly Dancing
There are many people who are skeptical about belly dancing during pregnancy, however it goes hand in hand as it was used as pre natal conditioning in ancient times and the same techniques can be used with a birthing ball.  With wonderful hip rolls and figure eights to help the baby get into perfect birthing position and chest circles, belly rolls and hip shimmies which allow the parts that are most actively involved in child birth to relax and let go, how could you go wrong?  The art of belly dancing teaches us to have a more playful relationship with our changing bodies and our growing babies.  If you have never tried this before, enroll yourself into a pre natal belly dance class…you may even be able to get a little routine together for a sexy night with your partner (wink, wink).

This is by far the most fun and laughter filled activity for me.  It really gets me to connect and release any self esteem issues I may be carrying about my changing body or fear associated with my ability to give birth.  Instead I feel like a really beautiful, vivacious, and sexy goddess!!!  While dancing I feel more supported in my femininity and am inspired at how functional and capable my body really is.  I feel such intimate and intense contact with my daughter by constantly rubbing my belly while she responds back with rolls of her own, it truly is like we were dancing together.  Through belly dancing I’ve opened a window into my body, consciously feeling each muscle in my abs, pelvic and hip region.

Tho I have not personally participate in the next set activities, they are highly recommended by other women and/or professionals. They are as follows:

We have all heard that swimming is one of the best exercises for anyone, well its even better during pregnancy. It is a low impact activity that uses all your major muscle groups, increases the bodies ability to process and use oxygen, decrease fatigue, increase circulation, sleep well and best of all swimming in the morning relieves morning sickness.

You don’t have to do endless laps nor do you have to be an avid swimmer.  The most comfortable style to start with is the breast stroke for 10-20 minutes, slowly increasing your time.  If you don’t swim at all, ducking your head under water and exhaling will give your neck more mobility and the intense and steady breathing will help you become better oxygenated and relaxed.  Running underwater, will be extremely beneficial as the water resistance will work out your joints without the added pressure.  Also try aqua sports or aqua aerobics, remembering that low impact is the key to all your workouts.

Many Pilates exercises are performed in a hands and knees position, which is excellent for the baby to position themselves accordingly for child birth. This exercise incorporates breathing and core and pelvic floor strengthening allowing you to become stronger and more relaxed.  Another good reason to do Pilates that it is adaptable to your changing body and you can modify all the exercises as your pregnancy progresses.

If you have never done Pilates before, it is strongly recommended that you get an instructor who can work with you One-on-One as technique is very important, and you don’t want to hurt yourself or the baby.

Low Impact Aerobics
Today, aerobic exercise is associated with a well growing placenta, enabling more blood flow and oxygen to your fetus and staying toned for yourself. This being said, it is important to remember exactly what aerobic exercise is – a great way to raise your heart rate and keep it up there.  This is a great way to lose weight, however when it comes to pregnancy, you must be very cautious about what you are doing.  So as long as you remember that no jumps, kicks, fast running leaps, etc., are performed and it is HIGHLY recommended that you consult your care provider and join a specifically designed class for expectant mothers.

Some safe suggestions for pregnant women are, easy hiking, treadmill, low level step aerobics, aqua aerobics or swimming, elliptical trainer, Nia or other free form movement classes and recumbent bicycling. Also good cross training shoes are a must and clothing that fits perfectly, anything too loose or tight and you’ll be sorry. Other than that, 1..2..3..4 c’mon ladies a little more, 5..6..7..8 work those baby pains away!!

If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, I wish with all my heart that you experience the comforting, pain reducing and supporting effects of being physically active as well as gain access to your feminine power. May the birth of your child be a happy and deep experience.


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