Healthy bodies, healthy minds

A week before I knew that I was pregnant, I stopped going to the gym.  There was a flu going around and it lingered with me for a while, or so it seemed.  Getting up at 5:15 every weekday so I could be at the Y by 5:30 when it opened was suddenly too much.  Fatigue washed over me in waves, seemingly on a moment-to-moment basis. Finding out I was pregnant and not perpetually flu-ridden was a huge relief.  Even though I began to feeling better, I never did go back to the gym.

Intuition can be one of those elusive internal mysteries that we often want to have a tighter grasp on. I’ve long tried to cultivate a relationship with this whisper. So when the gym no longer felt like the right fit, I gave it up.  But exercise for me had always been more than about just feeling good about my body.  It is a way that I fight stress.  Maybe for you, too? Exercise got me through a house fire, house moves, job changes, relationships ending and huge work stress.  I needed it. 

Prenatal yoga felt right immediately.  The slowness and reflection with intentional focus on me were a perfect conclusion to a long day. My weekly yoga practice combined with daily walking were my prenatal exercise regime. 

Regular exercise is a must for you and your baby.  You don’t need to lift weights or continue your weekly spin class if that kind of movement no longer feels right.  But it’s essential that you do something active, ideally every day. I always say that I help good habits start early and one of those good habits is maintaining good emotional health in addition to excellent physical health. There are important emotional health benefits to regular exercise-

  • Increased confidence in your changing body which will lead to greater confidence in childbirth;
  • Less stress and reduced anxiety;
  • Greater mental clarity;
  • Increased feelings of calm.

There are obviously significant physical benefits to daily exercise for your and baby too: including stronger back muscles, improved circulation, greater energy, better sleep, faster ability to recuperate after labor, etc.

Regular exercise can also prove affirming to a pregnant woman who has struggled with disordered eating and for survivors of intimate partner violence or sexual assault.  Rationally we know that we need to trust our bodies in order to birth our baby but that can be hard if we have felt out of synch with or betrayed by our body.  Regular exercise along with an informed childbirth class can help survivors feel more confident with the potential of their body.

If you’re newly pregnant and haven’t been exercising, consider what kind of movement might feel good. Below are a few questions to consider:

What would feel better to you: being energized or relaxed?

Is there a kind of movement that you have always wanted to try?

Listen to your own internal voice,  If that feels overwhelming, try journaling or a Birth Counseling* session.  Remember, you’re as important as your baby.  Your needs count just as much so paying attention to them by honoring your body with exercise is a wonderful way to build confidence and trust within yourself.

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Posted on January 25, 2014 and filed under prenatal best practices.