Pre-natal health: Fitness and nutrition tips for expectant mothers
Having a healthy balanced diet and exercising throughout pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for both you and your baby. In this guest blog, local pre and post natal fitness coach, Claudia Bedford, shares her advice on pre-natal fitness and pre-natal nutrition.
Exercise does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial! Aim to include 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be a combination of swimming, walking, weight training & stretching.
There are some important muscles you can focus on keeping strong throughout pregnancy. The majority of these will help you keep good posture.
Keep your glutes (bum muscles) strong. Strong glutes will help reduce lower back pain and help with your posture.
Keep your back strong, which will help prevent you from slumping forwards as your centre of gravity changes.
Keep your core strong, which also includes your pelvic floor. This will be helpful throughout all the trimesters along with labour and the recovery period.
Keep your lower body strong, including your quads (front of thighs) and hamstrings (back of thighs) to help support the extra weight you’ll be carrying around. Also think how much easier it will be having strong legs, with all the squatting you’ll be doing picking up your baby when he/she arrives. This always ties in well with keeping your arms strong, as you’ll be doing a lot more carrying around with babies and car seats etc postnatally.
Both you & baby can benefit from you exercising throughout pregnancy. Benefits for you: – Quicker recovery post delivery. – Reduced risk of pregnancy complications – Boost your mood & energy levels Benefits for baby: – Tolerate labour better – Leaner babies with a healthier body composition – Develop stronger more athletic hearts
My exercise top tips – Don’t exercise to the point of being out of breath. You should be able to hold a conversation. – Keep hydrated and have a pre workout snack consisting of carbohydrates, such as a banana or a slice of toast with some almond butter on. – Every woman is different, something might feel comfortable to your friend but not for you. Discontinue an exercise if it does not feel right. – Don’t do anything which places too much pressure on your abdominals, crunches, sit ups, full plank holds. – Don’t lay on your back for long periods of time after 16 weeks.
Lastly…. Have exercise as your ‘me time’. Plug in some earphones and take some time out for yourself. You could perhaps join classes where you could meet other soon to be mums.
Pre-natal Nutrition: Both your preconception diet and pregnancy diet are important. What you eat 3-6 months before becoming pregnant counts. You can really use this time to build up your nutrient stores such as your folate stores.
It’s the basis of your diet which not only impacts your health but your baby’s health too. Everything which you eat during pregnancy is passed to your baby through the placenta. This includes all the vital nutrients your baby needs to grow & develop.
The Mediterranean diet has been best voted for egg quality, fertility, IVF outcomes and pregnancy. This diet focuses on plenty of fruits, vegetables, omega 3, whole grains and reduced saturated fat.
Whilst trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy it is advised not to embark on diets such as keto (very low carbs), cutting out food groups and reduced calories. All of these will restrict you and the placenta of nutrients. A balanced diet is what’s needed for a baby’s development, a growing baby requires all the nutrients.
Some very important nutrients you don’t want to be deficient in:
Omega 3 – DHA is one of the omega 3 fatty acids crucial for fetal and infant brain development. Intake of DHA is connected with improved mental development and cognitive function. Omega 3 is found highest in fatty fish such as salmon & mackerel.
Folic acid – Vitamin B9 is crucial for reducing the risk of babies developing neural tube defects. It’s advised that all women take a folic acid supplement of 400mg two months before conception and up to 12 weeks during pregnancy. Some women need 500 mg of folic acid if they have diabetes, over 30 bmi or take anti epileptic medication. Folic acid is found in foods such as chickpeas, spinach, peas and fortified foods.
Iron – Iron is needed to support blood flow and the increased amount of red blood cells required. If you’re low on iron you may start to feel very tired and might suffer from anaemia. Pregnant women should be getting 27mg per day. Iron is found in eggs, lean beef and poultry, dark green leafy vegetables, some dried fruits i.e. apricots.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is very important for the growth and development of your baby’s bones and teeth and works to enhance mum’s mood, brain function and blood pressure. 10 micrograms per day is needed. Vitamin D is only found in small amounts in food, so consider a supplement containing this amount between September and March. Vitamin D is found in: salmon, eggs, some mushrooms, red meat and fortified foods.
Iodine – Iodine is very important for your thyroid gland, which controls your metabolism and is needed for your baby’s brain development. Most commonly found in dairy products, so if you don’t consume dairy make sure to be getting products which are fortified with iodine. Iodine is found in dairy, cod, seaweed, prunes and tuna.
Calcium – Calcium helps to build your baby’s teeth and bones. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need at least 1000mg of calcium per day. If you don’t have enough calcium, your body will start taking from your stores to pass to your baby, and therefore it’s important not to be deficient. The best source of calcium is found in dairy, but it is also found in dark green leafy vegetables and some fortified products.
Vegetarian, vegan and special diets throughout pregnancy Mothers following vegan or vegetarian diets may struggle to get sufficient amounts of B12, iron, omega 3 and iodine. Speak with your midwife or GP about supplements which may be necessary for you. You will find a lot of foods can be fortified with these nutrients, so it’s important that you always check the label to make sure you’re not missing out.
My nutrition top tips: – Eat balanced meals consisting of fats carbs and protein – Incorporate plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables – Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated – Limit caffeine to 200mg this is equivalent to 2 small cups of coffee. Caffeine can also be found in chocolate, herbal teas and energy drinks. – Always read the label and revise upon what is safe and what isn’t during pregnancy.
There are some foods which you need to avoid during pregnancy but there are plenty of foods which you can still enjoy! Try not to focus too much on what you can’t have, instead focus on all the foods which you can still have & enjoy
Claudia Bedford is based in North Leeds offering pre and post natal training sessions, online coaching and exercise advice for new and expectant mothers. To see more of what she can offer, please visit her Facebook or Instagram page, or email her here.