From the moment a woman finds out she is expecting a baby, her moods and body begin to change and develop as she enters this very exciting time of her life. HEALTH presents a guide for moms-to-be and new moms to help ease the transition.
Easing Pain and Discomfort
During pregnancy, the body goes through an important transformation in preparation for the birth of the baby, explains Physiotherapist Marilyne Lopes. “Pregnancy causes the release of hormones into the body, impacting muscles and ligaments,” she says and this allows more mobility of joints, especially of the pelvic area, particularly needed during childbirth. While this is nature’s way of preparing the body for the arrival of the baby, Lopes points out that the extra flexibility, added extra weight gain, and a new body posture takes some getting used to. “Sadly, our current lifestyles, mainly sedentary, doesn’t prepare the body for these changes, making the woman’s body more prone to pain and aches such as lower back and pelvic girdle pain,” she says. “The best solution to overcome these musculoskeletal problems is to prepare the body with the help of specific exercises.”
It’s imperative to meet with an expert specialized in working with pregnant women and new moms. “This will help them get their own body issues--from pregnancy and delivery—addressed,” tells Lopes as they are able to provide their expert treatment such as pregnancy care, pelvic floor rehabilitation, specialized pregnancy manual therapy, maternity clinical Pilates and pre and postnatal physical and educational training.
According to Lopes, antenatal exercises are designed for the pregnant woman’s body, and are absolutely safe if performed correctly. “There are a variety of therapies for every stage of pregnancy and it is vital to maintain muscular strength and spinal mobility,” she says. “The good news is under the guidance of a professional team of osteopaths and physiotherapists, a pregnant woman can maintain her strength and cardiovascular fitness right through her pregnancy and after.”
Reasons for Pregnancy Massage
Also, during the pregnancy massage, Lopes explains that therapists understand how to properly support the growing child, while giving the mother some relief from the pain and discomfort she may be feeling. “It is a delicate process but one that mothers-to-be will find incredible with reduction in cramps and fatigue,” she says. Other benefits include: a reduction in tension based headaches that result from pain in the neck, back and shoulders; improved blood flow to the fetus, allowing for more nutrient and oxygen to reach it, resulting in better development of the baby and fewer complications. Also, increased serotonin levels as the body becomes relaxed, creating a positive experience for both the mother and her unborn child; reduced pressure and pain in the pelvic and rectal areas; and reduced risks and complications often associated with pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, anxiety, depression, nausea, cramping, and swelling.
Getting Back to Fitness
After your bundle of joy has arrived, doing a million crunches to get rid of your post–baby belly won't work, tells Ha Bowtell, Pilates, Reformer & Barre Instructor at Motion Ladies Fitness Center. “In fact, you'll make it worse; you don't need to do those exercises yet because crunches are strengthening and toning your abdominal muscles,” she says. Rather, you should only work the outer abdominal muscles without strengthening the underlying ones.
Tips for Postnatal Fitness Mommies
- Do not return to a postnatal fitness workout until bleeding has stopped. If a woman gave birth via cesarean section, she needs to wait until her doctor permits her to rejoin the class.
- Schedule for your daily exercise, even walking with a stroller or a few sets of stretches during your baby’s nap time; find some time each day to move your body.
- Take it easy and start getting back slowly with a postnatal fitness workout to tone the transvers, your deepest abdominal muscle quickly. If your doctor says: “you are good to go”, then try a few easy moves.
- choose the right fitness class—be it Pilates, yoga, or a fitness workout—according to your body condition. One important thing is to talk to your fitness instructor for the correct instructions for your exercises; it depends on each body’s condition.
- Breathing is also very important so find a few minutes to breathe with purpose, your body will benefit from the oxygen and stress will slowly go away.
- Make the effort to consume more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and try to eat whole foods. Be sure to drink water to avoid dehydration, especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Resting is also important. So, a few moments to simply relax post-workout can really help replenish you and help de-stress your body.
(Credit: Ha Bowtell, Pilates, Reformer & Barre Instructor at Motion Ladies Fitness Center)