From your first to your third trimester, fertility expert Zita West explains how to best look after your body during pregnancy
Not sure about how to approach exercise during pregnancy, or which vitamins should definitely be included in your diet? Here are a few top tips…
The excitement of a positive pregnancy test is fantastic, but it takes time to adapt to being pregnant. Emotions can run high in the early weeks as your body changes, both hormonally and physically.
During this time many women are craving carbs, but you need these for energy, so don’t cut them out. It takes the whole first trimester to get used to fluctuating blood sugar levels and the growing demands on your energy.
Exercise during pregnancy: First trimester
Exercise during pregnancy, particularly your first trimester, offers plenty of benefits, but it’s important that it’s performed safely. Never push yourself to the point where you have difficulty speaking or feel any pain.
Begin slowly and gently: 10-20 minutes three times a week is enough for beginners. Do not exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time and avoid contact sports and high-impact activities. You must avoid all exercises lying on your front after 12 weeks, and lying on your back after 16 weeks.
Take more care when stretching as raised levels of the hormone relaxin will loosen your joints in preparation for birth and make you more susceptible to injury. Keep hydrated before, during and after.
In the next three months, your baby will go through several rapid growth spurts and to ensure a steady supply of nutrients, you need to maintain a balanced diet. However, you also need calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamin D for strong bones.
Its importance has been overlooked in the past, and many women are deficient. The problem is more pronounced in darker-skinned women, because vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight and stored under the skin’s surface.
So while darker skin is better protected from UV rays, it also requires more sunshine to absorb enough vitamin D. While it’s found in some foods, sun exposure is the best way to get your. Taking a supplement will help you top up.
Exercise during pregnancy: Second trimester
As your baby grows, your pelvis tends to tilt forwards, creating a deeper curve in your lower back. This can lead to back pain and other related aches in your neck, shoulders, hips and even arms.
One of the best ways to counteract this is to pull your belly button in towards your spine at all times. This activates a band of muscle called your transverse abdomens which support your bump and take the pressure off your back.
The pull of your growing bump can lead to the tightening and weakening of certain muscle groups. Aim to gently work the weaker muscles with light weights, resistance bands or your body weight to gradually stretch muscles.
You may be feeling increasingly tired. Focus on building your energy resources – baby will be here very soon. Your pelvis is designed for childbirth, however your baby’s position at the end of your pregnancy will have an impact on the labour you have, so it’s a good idea to encourage your baby into a good one.
Exercise during pregnancy: Third trimester
In this last trimester you’ll be focusing more on the approaching birth, so you need to change the emphasis of the exercise you take. Building stamina is key to your routine now.
If everything is going smoothly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue with gentle exercise during pregnancy up until birth. Yoga can be particularly helpful as it’ll teach you how to focus on your breathing.
Swimming exercises almost the whole body and the buoyancy of the water makes you feel almost weightless, so there’s far less pressure on your back, legs or any aching areas.
When sitting, try to avoid lying back, instead sitting on your haunches with your chest supported by an exercise ball. This helps encourage baby to adopt a back-to-front position that can make labour easier.
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