Exercise and Lifestyle tips for Great Health Before, During & After Pregnancy
Before, During & After
Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should eat an unprocessed, varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and lean meats to get the nutrients their body needs for optimal fertility.
Zinc is essential for fertility and pregnancy. Great sources of zinc are beef, lamb, wheat germ, spinach and pumpkin seeds.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are also important before, throughout and after pregnancy. Omega 3 helps to balance hormones and reduce stress. During pregnancy it is essential for the formation of the baby’s brain and eyes. It also reduces your risk of post natal depression and preeclampsia. Omega 3 is found in seafood such as salmon and mackerel. Other good sources are walnuts, spirulina and flax.
Stocking up on your iron reserves before pregnancy is important to prevent postpartum anaemia, as your iron needs during pregnancy significantly increase. Iron is found in dark green leafy veg such spinach as well as red meat. If you are vegan, make sure that you are supplementing with B12, as this vitamin is needed for proper iron absorption and is not found in fruit, veg or grains.
Everyone knows that you need folic acid before and during pregnancy. Supplementation is often advised to prevent developmental problems, such as neural tube defects, which can occur due to deficiency. Folic acid is naturally found in greens such as spinach, asparagus and broccoli. It is also in citrus fruits, bananas, strawberries, peas, beans and lentils.
Calcium needs increase during pregnancy. Calcium from dark green leafy vegetables is actually absorbed better than calcium from dairy. Green leafy veg is also a great source of vitamin K, which is needed for calcium absorption.
Vitamin D is really important for bone growth of your baby during the latter half of pregnancy. New babies get vitamin D from their mother’s breast milk. Vitamin D deficiency in infants is linked with rickets, poor immune function and developmental delays. It is also important for the mother, as low levels during pregnancy are associated with preeclampsia, caesarean section and bacterial vaginosis. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in countries higher up in the northern hemisphere, such as Ireland. Furthermore, dietary forms of vitamin D are inadequate, so unless you are getting outside into some sunshine for at least 20 minutes a day you should consider supplementing with vitamin D3.
Foods to watch
Cut out the refined carbs, which can hurt your chances of conceiving, especially if you have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Refined carbs can affect your insulin and cortisol levels, which in turn can wreak havoc on your hormones.
Other thing to limit or avoid are alcohol, caffeine, smoking, cod liver oil (high in vitamin A) and tinned tuna (potentially high in mercury).
When trying to conceive
Exercise is important for overall health and fertility. If you are planning to get pregnant you should avoid doing too much high intensity exercise such as running as this can negatively impact fertility.
Exercise during pregnancy is associated with numerous health benefits for both mother and the baby. Mothers who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to need a caesarean section, are out of hospital faster and have a shorter active labour. Prenatal exercise helps to prevent excess weight gain and lower back pain. Exercise during pregnancy also offers psychological benefits, helping to improve body image and reduce depression!
It is important that pregnant women engage in exercises that are safe in pregnancy, such as walking, Pilates, swimming and yoga. High intensity exercises such as running can be fine if the woman has already been exercising at that level for some time, however advice from a physician is advisable.
Pilates is a great option both during and after pregnancy as it improves core and pelvic floor strength, spinal and joint mobility, posture, breath control, balance and coordination. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles during and after pregnancy can help prevent urinary incontinence as well as producing strong and well controlled muscles that facilitate labour.
If you have had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you can generally start exercising as soon as you feel able. Exercise after pregnancy helps to get your body back into shape. In addition it can boost mood, energy levels and relieve stress. Post pregnancy classes can be sociable as they are a great way to meet other mothers. Pilates after pregnancy helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that can be weakened or damaged during childbirth.
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***If you are concerned about any area of your physical health before or after conception, please take advice from a medical professional***
[Did you miss ‘3 Things Not To Say To A Pregnant Lady’? Watch it HERE]