5 Tips to Optimising Your Health During Pregnancy
5 Tips to Optimising Your Health During Pregnancy (Guest Blog)
By Anna Scammell
Masters-trained Women’s health & Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Your body changes dramatically during pregnancy, childbirth & postpartum, so knowing how to look after yourself is essential! Not only this, but having a baby is life changing, so optimising your mental health during pregnancy is just as important. My mission is to educate and empower you to optimise your physical health & wellbeing during your pregnancy.
My 5 Top Tips to Optimising Your Health During Pregnancy:
- Do Your Pelvic floor Exercises Correctly
We hear a lot about pelvic floor exercises, but often women don’t know why they are so pivotal! Let me explain…your pelvic floor muscles have the following important functions:
- Support your bladder, bowel & uterus
- Control your bladder & bowel
- Create the passage to give birth
- Are one of the core muscle that stabilise the spine & pelvis
- Contribute to sexual pleasure
The evidence shows that doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly during pregnancy can prevent bladder leakage and prolapse (your insides moving south) after childbirth – what more inspiration do you need?!
The key to pelvic floor exercises is doing them correctly, so make sure you see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist during your pregnancy to learn this. In the meantime you can download my FREE Pelvic Floor Guide. http://www.thewholemother.com/freebies/
- Exercise Safely During Pregnancy
There are so many benefits to exercising during pregnancy – improved strength & fitness to optimise your labour and postpartum recovery – being two major ones. The key to exercising during pregnancy is doing it safely, taking your pelvic floor into consideration (which a lot of exercises you see on Instagram don’t!).
Pregnancy is not a time to continue exercising as intensely as you did previously, nor is it a time to start exercising intensely! It’s a time to move your body in safe ways that feel good, and leave you feeling energised & strong, not depleted.
I recommend you do a combination of the following for 30-60 minutes 6 days a week:
- Low-impact cardiovascular exercise e.g. brisk walking, swimming, aqua aerobics, stationary bike
- Strength training e.g. light machine weights, resistance band exercises
- Core exercise e.g. Prenatal Pilates & Yoga
- Stretching e.g. my Pregnancy Stretches E-book http://www.thewholemother.com/product/pregnancy-stretches-a-guide-to-help-prevent-back-pelvic-pain-in-pregnancy/
Steer clear of high-impact exercise (involving running & jumping) and heavy weights. This is because they are not safe for your pelvic floor, regardless of how fit or strong you may be. Even if you don’t have any issues now, you may suffer prolapse or incontinence after childbirth or when you are older. Read more on safe exercise during pregnancy. http://www.thewholemother.com/all-you-need-to-know-about-safe-exercise-in-pregnancy/
- Eat Nourishing Foods
Your diet during pregnancy is integral to having optimal health and growing a healthy bub. Prenatal Dietician Lily Nichols recommends eating 3 nutrient dense meals a day and several snacks to keep blood sugars level.
Key principles of healthy eating include:
- Plenty of vegetables (especially dark leafy greens)
- Organic, grass fed, hormone free meats
- Bone broth
- Good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, eggs)
- Full fat dairy products
- ½-1 cup of carbohydrate with each meal e.g. sweet potato or fruit
- Cutting out inflammatory foods such as packaged/processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, vegetable oils, fried food, and soy.
Supplementation is also important and is dependent on the individual. I would recommend seeing an Integrative GP to establish which prenatal multi-vitamin and other supplements are best for you.
- Prioritise Self-care
Life during pregnancy is often very busy with women trying to fit everything in workwise to getting ready for the baby. But what they tend to forget about is themselves. I want to remind you that life only gets busier after you have a baby, plus you are sleep-deprived and not firing on all cylinders. So, it’s really important to get into good self-care habits during pregnancy, which you can continue into the postpartum period. Self-care is also an important way to reduce stress & look after your mental health, which is becoming increasingly necessary with the rates of postpartum depression.
I recommend finding a self-care practise where you take time out for yourself daily to feel relaxed. Ideas are:
- Meditation or breathing exercise
- Having a massage or facial
- Having a bath
- Practitioner Support Network
We often underestimate the power of others supporting us through life, and pregnancy is no exception. During such a transformative time, physically and mentally, it is essential that you feel supported along your pregnancy & postpartum journey.
Your support network will depend on your personal preferences & requirements but my recommendation are the following practitioners:
- Women’s Heath Physiotherapist- to help you optimise your physical health during pregnancy, pelvic floor health & treat any pelvic/back pain.
- Integrative GP
- Prenatal Nutritionist
- Acupuncturist, Kinesiologist or Reflexologist
- Psychologist or Counsellor
Anna Scammell is a Masters-trained Women’s Health & Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist in Sydney, and Founder of www.thewholemother.com. Anna offers home visits around Sydney, consults at Sevenways Health Centre in North Bondi, and online consults. She combines her 10+ years of clinical experience, evidence based knowledge, and passion for health & wellbeing. Anna’s mission is to educate, empower & inspire as many women as possible to be the best version of themself during their childbearing years and beyond.
Connect with Anna:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015) Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. Obstet Gynecol 125: 135-142.
Hay-Smith J, Morkved S, Fairbrother K, Herbison G (2009) Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane database of systematic reviews: 1-26.
Hilde and Bo (2015) The pelvic floor during pregnancy and childbirth, and the effect of pelvic floor muscle training on urinary incontinence – a literature review. Current Women’s Health Reviews 11:19-30.
Morkved S (2007) Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after delivery. Current Women's Health Reviews 3: 55-62.
Nichols L (2018) Real food for pregnancy: the science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. USA.
Sports Medicine of Australia (2016) Exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period.