Louisa van den Bergh of Lulubaby on how to maintain a healthy and happy pregnancy
Whether you are absolutely knackered or feeling better than ever, we all do pregnancy – and the various stages –differently. In our first session of our Lulubaby antenatal courses, we take a little time to focus on you, how you are feeling and how you can enhance your health and wellbeing in the crucial few months and weeks before your baby is born. Here are some of our top tips.
KEEP MOVING: Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who have exercise during pregnancy have babies with healthier heart rates and, naturally, being fit will help you cope during labour. Itis important to listen to your body and take advice from your doctor as there are several circumstances where exercise is inadvisable. In addition, the hormone relaxin (great for stretching in labour), can make you more prone to injury – so be prudent. Strenuous exercise is not recommended, as 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, we know that yoga and Pilates are wonderful forms of strengthening and relaxing exercise, which can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy (only after 12 weeks). Try Tara Lee’s fantastic pregnancy yoga classes at the Life Centre (thelifecentre.com).
EAT WELL: It goes without saying that what you are putting inside you has a major impact on how you are feeling. We don’t like to preach, and for most mums it is common sense that having a varied diet, with plenty of protein and slow-releasing carbohydrates, 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 have a positive impact on your mood? And research has recently shown that (taken with zinc) omegas can help reduce the chance of you developing postnatal depression. So oily fish is good for your mental wellbeing as well as physical health.
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 very tricky to have the perfect diet, particularly if you are working fulltime, so do consider taking a good quality supplement such as Zita West’s pregnancy multivitamins (zitawest.com).
DOWN THERE: We urge mums to make time for pelvic floor exercises. If you need help or encouragement with that, try the new Elvie (elvie.com), a clever device you insert which tells you how you are doing on your phone app. These exercises will pay off as they will help prevent incontinence and prolapse (yes, as bad as it sounds, with your internal organs collapsing and eventually heading down the vagina) plus they will improve your sex life!
As for your perineum, to help prevent tearing and episiotomy massage it with oil (from 34 weeks) or try the Epi-no, a device which can be gently blown up in order to stretch tissues (epi-no.com), making them less likely to tear on the big day (from 37 weeks).
DE-STRESS: Whether you are feeling exhausted, running after older children or working full time (or all three!), life can be stressful when you are also carrying a baby, and we know that chronic stress can have an impact on your baby’s weight and potential health. Taking time to look after yourself is not only good for you but also for your baby, so don’t feel self-indulgent for booking yourself into a relaxing pregnancy massage or reflexology session (both after 12 weeks). Alternatively, consider downloading a mindfulness app or reading a book. Even just taking a few deep breaths can make you feel a whole lot calmer at flash points in the day. Essentially, try and put aside time to relax – you and your baby will appreciate it!
ACUPUNCTURE: Many of our mums-to-be find acupuncture to be one of the most successful all-round 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. It can also help relax, de-stress and re-energise. Perfect! Try Justine Hankin (justinehankinacupuncture.co.uk) or Emma Cannon (emmacannon.co.uk) both of whom are pregnancy experts.
OSTEOPATHY: Don’t put up with pain and discomfort. Many pregnant women think that a sore back is to be expected. Yes, it is commonplace, but that doesn’t mean it is normal and should be endured. If you do find that your back is playing up, see your doctor and consider seeing an osteopath or physiotherapist for some treatment. Often back pain and pelvic girdle pain can be successfully treated and you will receive further tips on how to avoid it in the future. Try Kane and Ross (kaneandross.co.uk) and Fulham Osteopaths (fulhamosteopaths.co.uk).
It is really worth taking time to look after yourself; whether that means putting a little more thought into what you eat, uncluttering your diary, or booking some acupuncture. Birth and those early days with a newborn are hard enough, but if you are fit and healthy entering this next chapter, then you will be able to recover and cope more easily with all that having a new little baby entails.