The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology are now recommending 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week for pregnant women and new mums, including muscle strengthening twice a week. This is a huge shift in advice that had previously been given to pregnant women in particular to slow down and take it easy. Pregnant and postnatal women are being encouraged to stay active in order to make their transition into motherhood an easier one.
The health benefits verified by the Royal College include control of weight gain, reduced risks associated with blood pressure, diabetes prevention, improved fitness, mood and sleep. This is backed up by the NHS, as stated in their advice;
“The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.”
The benefits of exercise postnatally are also clear. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology list them as helping to strengthen and tone abdominal muscles, boost energy, potentially prevent postpartum depression, promote better sleep and relieve stress.
So it’s not just about looking good in pregnancy or ‘snapping back’ to get into pre-pregnancy clothes once you’ve had your baby. Pre- and postnatal exercise can represent far more fundamental needs for expecting and new mums. Both stages in women’s lives can be physically and mentally exhausting, with sleep patterns impacted way before a newborn enters the picture. It can be a scary or worrying time for many, and some find the changes to their body hard to cope with.
Exercise is proven to decrease stress and enhance energy levels - even when you’re feeling exhausted to begin with. Moreover, it greatly improves mood with the surge of endorphins created and encourages healthy sleep - so you’re in with a better chance of getting some rest if your baby (whether inside the womb or out) will let you!
That said, it’s not always easy to get yourself motivated and ready to start exercising when you’re pregnant and still working, or when your little one is here and you have to get both of you out of the house! So how do you do it? We’ve put together some top tips on getting out there and starting on the path pre- and postnatal fitness.
Get sign off from your midwife or GP. If you’re having a straightforward pregnancy with no complications then you should be fine to exercise, but it’s always worth having a chat with your midwife about it. Most pregnancy instructors or classes will want you to have passed the 14 week mark in your pregnancy before you start anything. Postnatally, you should always have had your 6 week check with your GP before you start on any new exercise regime. If you’ve had a c-section then you might need to wait longer - until around 12 weeks.
Find yourself a qualified instructor or tailored pregnancy / postnatal class. According to the Register of Exercise Professionals only 5.5% of personal trainers in gyms throughout the UK hold a pre and postnatal qualification. There are lots of things to be mindful of both in pregnancy and after you’ve given birth, so it’s important to find someone who can give you good advice and ensure you’re exercising safely. Pregnancy and postnatal classes are also really great ways of meeting other local, like-minded mums!
Ease yourself in. Even if you were super fit before getting pregnant or having your baby, don’t get carried away. Relaxin in the body in pregnancy can loosen your ligaments making you more prone to injury - and it’s still there postnatally. After childbirth, give your body time to recover. It took 9 months to grow your baby so it will take a while to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape. Things like Pilates and Yoga are great in pregnancy as they’re low impact and are amazing for strength and tone. Postnatally they’re also a good way to start on the road to recovery before building in more cardio and high intensity training.
Check your Trainers. Your feet can change size and shape in pregnancy so make sure your trainers fit properly and are giving you good support. Relaxin stays in the body for a while after pregnancy, making injury a possibility so ankle stability is very important.
Invest in a Good Sports Bra. Your boobs will change during pregnancy and then again as your milk comes in! You will need good support but badly fitting or too tight bras can increase the risk of mastitis. Sports bras are now available with nursing clips so they’re a great investment to make life easier if your baby needs a feed mid-way through a workout session.
Busylizzy runs a timetable of pre- and postnatal classes for mums and mums to be, as well as a range of baby activities.
To find your nearest club and book a free trial class, visit our website.