Importance Of Exercise During Pregnancy

Importance Of Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but you may not know the importance of exercise during pregnancy and how it benefits both mom AND baby. It is well known that exercise improves mental and physical health. But what about exercise during pregnancy? Exercise during pregnancy not only boosts the mother’s mental and physical health, but also has specific benefits for a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery. What’s more, when a mother exercises during pregnancy, both mom and baby reap the benefits!

safe pregnancy exercises

Importance Of Exercise During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy imposes a lot of unique physical demands on a woman’s body. Regardless of your level of physical activity before pregnancy, there are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy for both mom and baby.

Benefits For Mom Include:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced discomfort
  • Higher incidence of vaginal delivery
  • Lower incidence of: excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertensive disorders, preterm birth, and Cesarean birth
  • Faster postpartum recovery
  • Lower risk of postpartum depression

Benefits For Baby Include:

Furthermore, the benefits of maternal exercise during pregnancy extend beyond birth. This study discovered that babies whose mothers exercised during pregnancy had better motor skills than those whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy.

Nutrition also plays a key role in maternal and fetal health during pregnancy. Click here for more information about pregnancy nutrition and supplements.

Study: Exercise During and After Pregnancy Increases Benefits of Breast Milk for Babies

How Often Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends regular strength and aerobic training throughout pregnancy for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

More specifically, the ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week during pregnancy, aiming for 20-30 minutes each session. These guidelines apply to women of all fitness levels, though the type of exercise and level of intensity will vary. Furthermore, women who exercised vigorously pre-pregnancy can continue to do so during pregnancy.

Need some new workout gear to boost your motivation? Check out my post Pregnancy Fitness Essentials.

best prenatal exercises

Best Exercises For A Healthy Pregnancy (And Beyond)

The following exercises will strengthen your body for a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery. These exercises are safe to do in all trimesters for healthy women with low risk pregnancies. Although the importance of exercise during pregnancy is well documented, consult your doctor about what your individual exercise routine should look like during pregnancy.

prenatal squat

Squats

Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening your entire body, especially your pelvic floor. Many midwives and physicians recommend this exercise specifically to prepare for labor and delivery, and some women even give birth in this position! Try doing 3 (or more) sets of 25 reps 3 days a week, either with or without weight. If you are going to use a weight, it’s best to hold it at your collarbones to help with posture and balance.

prenatal glute bridges

Glute Bridges

Strong glutes are essential for maintaining a strong core throughout your pregnancy. Along these lines, having strong glutes will also help with lower back pain that is common in pregnancy. Glute bridges can be done in the supine position (lying on your back), with or without weight. However, exercises in the supine position can be uncomfortable for some women as pregnancy progresses. In this case, you can perform the exercise with your head and upper back elevated by a bolster/pillow, small exercise ball or bench. Perform 3 sets of 25 reps (or more!), 3-4 times per week.

prenatal bird dog

Bird Dogs

This exercise strengthens the entire core unit and is a great way to ensure your core remains strong without having to do any crunches or planks, which can put unnecessary strain on a pregnant woman’s body. Bird dogs also help with balance, which is often compromised during pregnancy. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps (each side), alternating sides, 3-4 times per week.

prenatal dead lift

Deadlifts

This exercise strengthens the powerhouse muscles of the posterior chain, or back-body. This is your go-to exercise to prevent back pain! Deadlifts can be done with a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells; however, start with light weight if you are new to this exercise. Try doing 3 sets of 15 reps 2-3 times a week to strengthen the back and core.

prenatal push ups

Push Ups 

Push-ups are known for building upper body strength and muscle tone, but they also play a key role in core strength for a comfortable pregnancy. Plus, you’ll need strong arms to carry around a baby in a few months! Because this exercise becomes increasingly harder as pregnancy progresses, try doing push-ups on your knees, or with your hands elevated on a bench. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10 reps, 3 times per week.

prenatal step up

Step Ups 

Step ups are a full-body exercise that will serve as both strength and cardio! It’s simple—all you need is your body and a step, bench or box. You can also hold dumbbells to make it even more challenging! However, because balance is compromised during pregnancy, make sure the height of your step, box, or bench isn’t too high. Perform 3 sets of 15 step ups on each leg 2-3 times per week.

prenatal monster walk

Monster Walk 

During pregnancy, your hips and glutes can become tight and/or weak. Monster walks help strengthen these muscles to support your changing body and help with lower body discomfort that is common during pregnancy. You can vary the intensity of this exercise by varying the resistance band. When you step laterally, make sure to lead with your hip and knee in alignment, rather than the foot, to engage the muscles properly. Aim for 3 sets of 10 steps (each direction) 2-3 times per week.

prenatal hydrant

Hydrants 

This exercise likewise strengthens the core, including the back and glutes. You can do this exercise with or without a resistance band to vary the intensity. Make sure you keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor, pressing evenly into the floor with both hands. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, 2-3 times per week.

prenatal band pull apart

Band Pull Apart 

This exercise is the solution to poor posture and back pain that is common during pregnancy. With a light resistance band, squeeze your shoulder blades together to strengthen the postural muscles of the back. Make sure to engage your core and keep your knees soft so as not to strain your low back. Complete 3 sets of 25 reps, 2-3 times per week.

healthy pregnancy

A Healthy Habit For A Healthy Pregnancy 

I hope you now understand the importance of exercise during pregnancy and how it benefits both mom and baby. There will be times where exercising is the last thing you feel like doing, and that’s okay! Do your best to stay consistent while also listening to your body. Remember that exercise will both alleviate pregnancy discomfort and yield long term benefits. A regular exercise regimen that includes the above exercises will promote a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery.

Now that you know the importance of exercise during pregnancy (and beyond), check out my post, 4 Types of Exercise For Your Strongest, Healthiest Body.

Do You Really Need Prenatal Vitamins?

prenatal vitamins

The first thing you hear when you mention wanting to get pregnant is, “start taking prenatal vitamins.” But how do you choose the right one? Furthermore, do you really need one?

When pregnant, the only nutrient needs that significantly increase are for iron and folate. You also want to ensure plenty of the omega-3 fat DHA to support proper brain development in the baby. Beyond that, nutrient needs aren’t much different from non-pregnancy.

Do You Need A Prenatal Vitamin?

No, because you can find regular multivitamins that contain iron and folate. There are even some that contain DHA. However, you might need more iron than is found in a regular multi so you can take that separate if you want. Here are some guidelines on what to look for in a supplement, whether acting as a prenatal or for everyday.

best prenatal supplements

What To Look For In A Supplement

Vitamin A

If you have a low functioning thyroid, diabetes, or autoimmune disease, you might need up to 5000 IU of preformed vitamin A. Most supplements contain beta carotene which can be converted to vitamin A. However, that conversion is impaired in people with health issues so I prefer the source be fish liver oil.

Vitamin D

A recent study found that 4000 IU of vitamin D supported a healthy pregnancy and reduced the risk of preterm labor. You most likely won’t find that amount in prenatal vitamins or a regular multivitamin so will need to get an additional source. Getting in the sun daily without sunscreen is also a good idea. Look for D3 or cholecalciferol as D2 or ergocalciferol is more likely to cause toxicity. It is a good idea to also take vitamin K2 if you take vitamin D. This is because K2 helps you utilize the vitamin D and get calcium into bones.

Vitamin C

High doses of vitamin C might be harmful during pregnancy. Therefore it’s best to stay at 500 mg daily or less. Instead, focus on eating vitamin C rich foods like citrus, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Make sure it is natural vitamin E. If it says dl-alpha tocopherol, it’s not natural. Look for d-alpha tocopherol and put it back if there is an l by itself or with the d.

Folate vs Folic Acid

Folate

You want 600-800 mcg of folate and the methyl form (not folic acid) is probably preferable. This amount can be found in a regular multivitamin. But in both prenatal and regular vitamins, it can be difficult to find it in methyl form. So if you can’t find one than don’t worry so much about the form.

Iron

Most prenatals have around 27 mg of iron and most women’s multivitamins that contain iron have 15-18 mg. If you don’t have anemia, you really don’t need 27 mg of iron. Infact, studies haven’t found iron supplements (whether anemia exists or not) to prevent preterm birth, low birth weight, or infections during pregnancy.

Furthermore, excess iron can cause problems. So I think it’s best to stick with a regular multivitamin prior to pregnancy if you do not have anemia. Also, try to avoid ferrous sulfate as the source of iron. 

Iodine

Supplements will usually contain 150 to 225 mcg. I think the higher amount is preferable as iodine is essential for the healthy development of the fetus, but you can also use kelp flakes on food for an iodine boost.

Riboflavin

Getting adequate riboflavin is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, helps you utilize and absorb iron, can reduce the likelihood of pre-eclampsia, helps with blood pressure control, supports methylation – a process that is essential for good health, and it gives you energy. You need at least 2 mg daily and I recommend taking some with each meal. 

fertility diet

Final Thoughts On Prenatal Vitamins

Having said all that, finding a multivitamin, whether regular or prenatal, is quite a challenge. I found three prenatals that can be found in stores;

If you opt for a regular multivitamin, keep in mind the amount of folate you need and add extra folate if the multivitamin does not have the recommended amount. You can also add additional iron if needed and either DHA or cod liver oil depending on the form of vitamin A.

If the form of vitamin A is beta carotene, opt for the cod liver oil. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Women’s formula is a good option here, but it is low in iodine. Therefore, you would need kelp flakes, cod liver oil and possibly an additional iron supplement as it only contains 8 mg of iron. 

For both a regular multivitamin and prenatal, you can also add extra vitamin D with K2. If you need an energy boost, you might try getting some riboflavin with each meal with a low dose B-complex.

A good multi can help fill in the gaps and ensure adequate amounts of important nutrients, but it doesn’t replace a poor diet. So make sure you are eating real food and plenty of leafy greens. For more information click here to read, Get Your Body Ready For A Baby .

Fibromyalgia Pain And It’s Effect On Pregnancy

fibromyalgia pain

Are you suffering from fibromyalgia pain? It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects 3-6% of the world population with women in the childbearing years being the most affected. Fibromyalgia can make it more difficult to get pregnant and it can create some problems during pregnancy.

Ideally, you would want to get to the root cause of fibromyalgia before becoming pregnant. Fibromyalgia can be caused by;

hyperthyroid and fibromyalgia

Hypothyroidism And Fibromyalgia

Hypothyroidism is very common in people with fibromyalgia. Coincidentally or not, fibromyalgia increased when changes were made in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Before 1970, low thyroid function was a clinical diagnosis, based on symptoms. However, now it is based on a single blood test, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The problem is that one can have a normal TSH and be in a hypothyroid state.

Before pregnancy, insist on a full thyroid panel. Even if your TSH is normal. Look for any hypothyroid symptoms you may have such as;

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Hair loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Puffy eyes
  • Inability to concentrate

Nutritional tests would also be a good idea. Catching these problems before pregnancy will improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.

But What If You Are Already Pregnant?

Well first, congratulations! Second, don’t panic, because there are some things you can try to help manage fibromyalgia during pregnancy. We want to support and focus on the root cause.

nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional Deficiencies

The first thing to do is ensure a healthy diet . Eat real food and cook as much as you can from scratch. Reduce or eliminate sugar and refined grains. Get leafy greens in every day. Whole eggs, nuts, red palm oil (excellent source of vitamin E), and liver (once a week). When pregnant, food is the safest route for nutrients. 

Vitamins

You want to ensure adequate fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. You need to eat animal foods to get vitamins A (liver is the best source for A) and D. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. So, get outside every day that you can without sunscreen for at least 20 minutes. Vitamin K is found in leafy greens and a form called K2 is found in natto, a fermented soy food, and full fat dairy foods. These nutrients support the thyroid and a healthy inflammatory response.

Water-soluble vitamins are important as well, particularly riboflavin (B2), B6, folate, and B12. Eating the leafy greens will provide plenty of folate, but B2, B6, and B12 are best from animal foods (B12 is only found in animal foods); just one reason liver is so good; it’s nature’s multivitamin.  

Minerals

Minerals like zinc, selenium, magnesium, and iodine are likely to be deficient and they are critical for thyroid health and can help with fatigue.

  • Animal foods will provide zinc, selenium, and iodine.
  • Brazil nuts are also a good source of selenium, though they vary in content depending on the soil.
  • Seafood and seaweed are rich in iodine, but care must be taken due to heavy metal contamination. A good way to get iodine is with Maine Coast organic kelp flakes.
  • Avocados, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate are good sources of magnesium as well as an Epsom salt bath.

One risk that does increase with fibromyalgia is intrauterine growth restriction where the baby doesn’t grow at the normal rate in the womb. Zinc deficiency may contribute to that risk so it’s important to ensure adequate zinc intake. Animal foods contain zinc in a form that is more absorbable. To increase zinc absorbability from plant foods, grains should be soaked, sour leavened, or fermented.

Legumes and nuts are also best soaked and then nuts can by dehydrated. The book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is an excellent resource for the proper preparation of plant foods.

Iron is another important mineral. You will most likely need a supplement while pregnant as iron is not absorbed well and the need for iron significantly increases during pregnancy. Again, animal sources like beef and liver are better absorbed than plant sources (dried fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, spinach). To increase iron absorption, you can eat a vitamin C rich food (citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, papaya, sweet potato) with the iron rich food.

thyroid health

Thyroid Health

Getting the fat-soluble vitamins, selenium, and iodine will go a long way to nourishing the thyroid gland. Managing stress is also important so include activities like yoga, meditation, or Tai Chi in your daily routine.

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) provide a lot of nutrition and are also good sources of folate. But, if eaten raw, they can interfere with thyroid function so avoid more than one serving of raw cruciferous a day. 

Eating the right fats and avoiding the wrong fats will support thyroid function. Good fats include;

  • Coconut oil is an excellent fat to use along with butter
  • Red palm oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil

Avoid fats such as oils from;

  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Canola
  • Grapeseed

These oils contain fats that promote inflammation in the body which can damage the thyroid gland.

protein

Protein Intake

Protein intake is important to provide the amino acids tyrosine (a component of thyroid hormone) and tryptophan which supports healthy thyroid function and also helps with serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) production. Eggs, salmon, cheese and nuts are great for tryptophan. This is a difficult amino acid to get as it’s like the runt of essential amino acids and is absorbed last. Eating these foods with carbohydrate rich foods, like starchy vegetables, can improve the absorption of tryptophan.

Boosting glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body, can protect and heal thyroid tissue. Getting at least a half a gram of protein for every pound of body weight is a good start to boosting glutathione. Include glycine rich foods like gelatin and chicken broth.

If you use any protein powders, use grass fed whey protein (though I don’t recommend daily use of protein powders). Avocados and parsley are particularly rich in glutathione. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a supplement that can be taken to boost glutathione and is safe during pregnancy.

Alpha lipoic acid is another supplement that can boost glutathione and it also supports healthy nerve function and may support pain management. It, too, has been shown to be safe during pregnancy.

gluten free

Go Gluten Free

This might be helpful if there is an underlying thyroid condition. Avoiding foods you are allergic to can help as well. Pay attention to how you feel when you eat foods to get a sense of whether or not they are supporting your health or hindering it. Cutting out gluten and other allergenic foods is critical if you have an autoimmune condition.

Gut Health

We are learning so much about our microbiome and how important it is to our health. It is important to get rid of allergenic foods when dealing with gut issues. A probiotic can help support a healthy microbiome and is safe to take during pregnancy. It can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Eating sauerkraut with meals can aid digestion and is safer than taking an enzyme supplement since they haven’t been studied in pregnant women.

When looking for a probiotic, try to find one with multiple strains. Ginger is safe to take while pregnant if you experience nausea or digestive upset. Coconut oil, in addition to supporting the thyroid, can also support gut health. It is important to avoid GMOs and glyphosate as much as possible. So, use more organic foods. Gelatin and chicken broth are supportive for gut health as well as thyroid health.

toxic

Toxicity

If you have any kind of toxicity, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it until after the baby is born. It is not advisable to detox while pregnant and if you do, it really needs to be done under the care of your physician. 

What you can do is reduce exposure to toxins. Make sure you are not living with mold. Reduce your use of plastic (particularly plastic containers used for food and store receipts). Use the Seafood Watch app to find clean fish and seafood and the Healthy Living app to find clean personal care products.

Vaccines contain mercury and aluminum so you might want to discuss the appropriateness of vaccines for your condition with your doctor.

Practicing gratitude and eliminating negative emotions can also help reduce your toxic load.

Sleep

Fibromyalgia may make sleep difficult and being pregnant will just add to the problem. Try to get some early morning sun and have a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up. Ensuring that you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Use a body pillow for comfort and sleep in a dark room away from wifi devices; don’t sleep near your cell phone. 

Click here to read, “Top 10 Tricks For Getting The Best Sleep Ever!”

Adding gelatin and chicken broth to your diet can aid sleep, too. The amino acid, glycine, supports healthy sleep. Melatonin as a supplement could be useful and may reduce the risk of intrauterine growth restriction, but it has not been studied thoroughly in pregnant women. So, consult with your doctor before taking it.

Taking a warm bath in Epsom salts with essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus, and sandalwood can relax you before bed and make it easier to fall asleep. These oils are safe during pregnancy.

pregnancy yoga

Pain

Managing pain can be more difficult while pregnant. Engaging in yoga or Tai Chi type exercises can help along with some aerobic exercise and weight training. You only need about 20 minutes of exercise; you don’t want to overdo it.

Alpha lipoic acid supplements, as discussed earlier, can be helpful as well as the homeopathic remedy Rhus Toxicodendron (6C dose). These are both safe for pregnancy. Mind-body work might be something to try for pain management while pregnant as well.

Having fibromyalgia while pregnant may or may not pose any additional risks. You could actually feel better, or you could experience more pain. Eating real food, making a few lifestyle changes, and taking the right supplements can go a long way to helping you manage symptoms safely while pregnant.