Gone are the days when pregnancy meant putting your feet up for nine whole months and eating for two (and then some...). But it can still be hard to know what's safe and not, plus how to feel fit and well during and after pregnancy. To feel great, here are the biggest diet and fitness myths to avoid during pregnancy...
Many women find swimming a great, low impact, relaxing way to exercise during pregnancy but it's not necessarily the best way to work out. While swimming works wonders for your fitness levels, it can hike appetite – not something you necessarily want when you're trying to gain a healthy amount of pregnancy weight. Also, swimming breaststroke with head above water can place excessive strain on neck and lower back and may aggravate pelvic pain too, while the Amateur Swimming Association recommends avoiding backstroke in late pregnancy as your baby may place too much pressure on the main blood vessels in the abdomen.
Swimming is a great addition to your routine but for best results, combine it with weight bearing activity such as walking and muscle-strengthening exercise using weights, bands, tubes or body weight.
Myth 2: You shouldn't run during pregnancy
This is only partially true: if you're new to running, current guidelines advise against taking up running for the first time during pregnancy. Focus instead on lower impact aerobic activity such as swimming, walking, suitable classes and cardio equipment in the gym. If you were already a runner, it's fine to continue but you need to ensure you avoid overheating, particularly during the first trimester, and aim to run on even terrain to avoid falling, particularly in second and third trimesters. Increasing levels of the hormone relaxin can make you more susceptible to injury so it's important to keep an eye on form, especially as you progress throughout your pregnancy.
Myth 3: Stay out of the weights room
Pumping iron may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an easier labour but you'd be surprised at how a few months of simple body weight moves add up when you're in the delivery room. Squats and lunges can help to strengthen lower body, which may come in handy for everything from Swiss ball squatting to hours of pacing the room. Upper body work such as side planks and press ups help to maintain a strong core which will help during labour itself. A balanced, full body routine including moves like these and the all-important pelvic floor will really help to improve stamina and endurance.
Myth 4: You need to eat plenty more throughout pregnancy
Women are no longer advised to eat for two during pregnancy, alas. When it comes to managing weight, instead of getting too hung up on any particular eating regime, try and maintain sensible portion sizes. This is easier if you enjoy a diet that includesplenty of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates including fibre that are nutrient-richto sustain you from meal-to-meal. If you can manage this, most of the time, you'll probably find appetite and cravings far more manageable.
Myth 5: Pelvic floor exercises are nice, but-non-essential
Pelvic floor exercises tend to be viewed as a pregnancy optional extra but they are in fact crucial from everything from preventing urinary incontinence to maintaining a pleasurable sex life. The easiest way to get started with your pelvic floor exercises is to squeeze those muscles as if you're stopping a wee mid-flow. Try for 10-15 squeezes initially slowly building up to longer squeezes and more frequent sets throughout the day.
You can continue with your usual abs routine until the end of the first trimester and after that you can continue with exercises that don't involve you lying on your back(this can reduce blood flow to your baby as well as making you feel dizzy). You can still target the abdominal muscles through moves such as the cat arch and modified side plank. These moves also avoid placing excessive strain on your rectus abdominis muscle, an abdominal muscle which can separate during or after pregnancy.
Myth 7: Your baby weight will fall off when you start breastfeedin
If you waited expectantly for the weight to drop off when you started breastfeeding only to be disappointed, fear not. While some mums find they shift weight steadily after giving birth many more find that breastfeeding actually fuels their appetite often causing weight gain. This is the norm. Hormones play a big part in causing big appetite hikes, from those that are stimulated during milk production to your 'appetite hormones' that get totally out of whack when you're even slightly sleep deprived. So give yourself a break and enjoy your time breastfeeding, safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of time to tackle those flagging energy levels and over eager appetite in the not-too-distant future.
There are absolutely no absolutes when it comes to your body after giving birth. While it is unlikely you will 'ping' back into shape (if that phenomenon even exists beyond eye-catching headlines), you do have more control over your post-baby shape than you may have been led to believe. While the combination of weight gain and gravity does take its toll on, say, your breasts, a few good chest and back exercises can help to create a lift that will both support the breasts and give them a subtle lift. Similarly, deep abdominal exercises that correctly train your 'corset muscle,' the transversus abdominis, will help to not only protect your lower back, they will also help create a flattening effect to that stubborn lower 'pooch' part of your tum, even if you carry a little extra padding here. The take-home message? There are plenty of effective, do-able fitness tricks you can employ when you're ready to get in shape post-baby