How to bounce back before baby

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pregnancy zaps energy and can leave many mums-to-be struggling to make it through the day. While this is, unfortunately, part and parcel of being pregnant, there are some things you can do to restore your vanishing vigour.

By Laura Mappas

Having a baby is one of the most physically taxing and nutritionally demanding times in a woman's life. Rapid cell division and foetal growth requires a steady supply of nutrients, and so it's no surprise that food choice is paramount when creating a comfy nest for your growing child.

But while your tiny baby gets first dibs on all of that dietary goodness, including vitamins and minerals, iron, calcium and protein, the result for expectant mums is a lack of energy.

Calorie counting

Having a baby is the green light to add calories rather than reduce them — now does dietary advice get any better than this?! That's right, pregnant women need an extra 300 calories per day compared to non-pregnant women in order to support their growing foetus and changing body. But before all you pregnant ladies start digging into that big bar of chocolate you should know that 300 calories is the equivalent of a glass of milk or a banana.

And it's only in the last trimester that you really need to increase your calorie intake. Before then, your metabolism takes charge, making the most efficient use of the food you eat. Extra calories during the early months will not do much in the way of benefiting your baby, but rather just find their way to your hips and bum, depositing themselves as fat, which may be hard to shift once the baby is born.

Weight gain

Putting on weight while pregnant is inevitable, and most women will gain around 14kg throughout their pregnancy. So, be pregnant and proud and do away with fad diets and concentrate on eating healthy, nutritious meals instead. The perfect pregnancy diet contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals — all important for the growing baby and the expanding mum-to-be.

Get moving

You might not feel like it but there are some huge benefits that can be gained from exercising during pregnancy — particularly during those first few months when morning sickness and a lack of energy certainly makes the lounge look much more inviting than any sweaty gym.

First up, any form of aerobic exercise will make the heart pump faster than normal and therefore increase stamina, which is good news for those who find themselves struggling to make it through the afternoon without nodding off.

Anaerobic exercise, such as Pilates, yoga and working with light weights is also beneficial, improving flexibility and strength — both which will come in handy during labour.

What's safe and what's not safe?

In regards to food, there is a list of do-not-eat foods; a list of foods that are on the borderline (given the thumbs-up by some experts and discouraged by others) and then there is the long list of must-eat foods that will benefit your baby.

The do-not-eat category includes soft cheeses, processed meats, uncooked eggs and large- to medium-sized fish that may contain high levels of mercury at the top of the list.

Borderline foods include coffee (some say one or two cups a day is okay, while others say it may cause miscarriage and should be avoided altogether) and alcohol (again, some say there is no harm in the odd glass, while others say no way).

And finally, the must-eat list includes fruit, vegetables (particularly green vegies, which are high in folic acid), red meat, oily fish such as tuna and salmon, dairy products for calcium, and wholegrain foods.

In the exercise camp, swimming, cycling and brisk walking are all great choices, as are meditative exercises such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates.

Exercises to avoid include contact sports, where there is a danger of your bump being bumped, and activities such as horse riding and skiing, where there is a risk of impact injuries.

Powering on

During pregnancy there are many ebbs and flows — one minute you're feeling full of energy, and the next, your sleeping in the middle of the day and dozing off at 8pm. Don't forget the body of a pregnant woman is working overtime; there is a huge surge in circulation, a stretching and expanding uterus, and squashed organs to contend with, as well as a rush of hormones. And while these changes are necessary, a sensible, healthy diet, regular exercise and a stress-free environment will go a long way in restoring depleting energy levels, managing stress and making sure you enjoy your journey.

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