Louisa van den Bergh of Lulubaby shares her advice on maintaining that coveted ‘pregnancy glow’ for the whole nine months
Whether you are constantly tired or feeling better than ever, we all do pregnant – and the various stages of pregnancy – differently. In the first session of our antenatal courses at Lulubaby, we take a little time to focus on you, on how you are feeling and how you can enhance your health in the crucial months and weeks before your baby is born. Here’s our advice:
It goes without saying that what you put inside your body will have an impact on how you are feeling. For most mothers-to-be, it is common sense – having a varied diet with plenty of protein and slow-releasing carbs will make you feel more energised than a convenience diet of ready-meals and sugary snacks. Nothing new there. But did you know that eating a diet rich in oily fish (or at the very least supplementing with important omegas) can also have a positive impact on your mood? And research has shown that, when taken with zinc, omegas can actually help reduce the chance of you developing postnatal depression. In other words, oily fish is good for your mental wellbeing as well as physical.
In addition, make sure you have enough calcium and iron in your diet. Your baby will be taking calcium from you as it grows and your blood volume will be rapidly increasing (peaking at 40% higher than normal), diluting your blood cells, which is why pregnant women are more susceptible to anaemia. It can be tricky to maintain a balanced diet, particularly if you are still working, so consider taking a quality supplement, such as the Zita West Vital Essence pregnancy multivitamins and DHA capsules (from £15.50, zitawest.com).
Keep on moving
Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who have exercised during pregnancy have babies with healthier heart rates and, naturally, being fit will help you cope during labour. It is important to listen to your body and take advice from your doctor, as there are several circumstances where exercise is inadvisable. In addition, relaxin (the hormone that helps to widen the cervix during labour) can make you more prone to injury, so be prudent! In any case, strenuous exercise is not to be recommended – you don’t want to divert blood flow from your baby to your skeletal muscles. The general guidance is that you should be able to carry on a conversation (even if a little puffed out) when exercising.
In addition, yoga and Pilates are wonderful for strengthening and relaxing the body. Try Tara Lee’s pregnancy yoga classes at The Life Centre, Notting Hill (thelifecentre.com).
Work your inner strength
This is one subject where we are happy to be bossy! We urge our mums to make time for pelvic floor exercises. These will pay off, as they help prevent both incontinence and prolapses (yep, that’s as bad as it sounds – where your internal organs collapse and eventually slide down the vagina) and they will definitely improve your sex life. (For more information about maintaining a healthy pelvic floor, check out page 99.) As for your perineum, in order to help prevent tearing and episiotomy, try massaging it with oil (from 34 weeks) or have a crack with the Epi-no (epi-no.com), an internal device which can be gently blown up in order to stretch those tissues, making them less likely to tear on the big day.
Alternative therapies can be a great way to encourage you to truly relax. You could try deep breathing: focus on your breath, slow it down and make every breath deep and meaningful. Another technique is visualisation; try imagining a beautiful place, whether that is a garden, beach or somewhere special to you. Imagine every detail – the sounds, smells and sights. It can really encourage peace and calm at what can be a very busy and stressful time in your life. Also consider downloading a mindfulness app or reading a book. Even just taking a few deep breaths at flashpoints during the day can make you feel a whole lot calmer.
Put a pin in it
Many of our mums-to-be find acupuncture to be one of the most successful treatments for general wellbeing. More research needs to be done, but some studies have shown acupuncture to help alleviate morning sickness, reduce back and pelvic girdle pain, improve sleep, help to turn breech babies and even reduce the second stage of labour. Wow. In addition, it can help de-stress and re-energise – perfect! Try pregnancy experts Justine Hankin (justinehankinacupuncture.co.uk) or Emma Cannon (emmacannon.co.uk).
Manage chronic pain
Many pregnant women think that having a sore back is to be expected – yes, it is commonplace, but that doesn’t mean it should be endured. If you do find that your back is playing up, consider seeing an osteopath for treatment. Often back pain and pelvic girdle pain can be treated and you will receive tips on how to avoid it in the future. Try Kane and Ross (kaneandross.co.uk) and Fulham Osteopaths (fulhamosteopaths.co.uk).
It really is worth taking time to look after yourself; whether that means uncluttering your diary, putting more thought into your diet, or booking that course of acupuncture. Birth and new motherhood is difficult enough, but if you are healthy when entering this next chapter, you will recover and cope more easily with all that having a new little one entails.