Pregnancy can seem like the perfect excuse to eat what you want and sit on the sofa watching Game Of Thrones. Yet studies show that exercise and nutrient-rich foods are much better fatigue-fighters than an afternoon in front of the TV.
The right diet and exercise program will be hugely beneficial emotionally and physically to both you and your unborn baby when you’re expecting.
‘Powering up your pregnancy through exercise and a good diet will make you feel more in control and able to cope with anything that’s thrown your way during birth and as a new mum,’ says psychologist Dr Saima Latif.
Make the next nine months your best yet, with these tips from top health, fitness and wellbeing experts:
Pilates‘Aside from giving you more energy and fewer bump-related side effects, research shows women who are fitter have easier births, less medical intervention and recover faster,’ says fitness expert Jane Wake.
‘Their babies also tend to be leaner and healthier, with less fat and a stronger heartbeat.’
Pilates is a fantastic way to work your core muscles, which are put under the most strain in pregnancy. It also helps with recovery after the birth because the muscles you’ve been working will spring back faster, Jane says. Yoga has a similar effect and helps with breathing and relaxation, too.
LungesDoing a series of lunges and squats every day to strengthen your legs relieves the pressure on your back and means you can stay active for longer during labour, says Jane.
Don’t go too low – aim for a comfortable stretch and, if they hurt, adjust your position or stop.
CardioRegular cardiovascular exercise will help you feel confident in your body. Try gentle aerobics, walking, swimming – anything that suits you and is accessible, Jane advises.
Aim for 30 to 60 minutes most days, making sure you can hold a conversation while doing it.
The Water WalkWalking for long periods can be tough towards the end of pregnancy, so do it in water instead – it’ll leave you feeling weightless, Jane advises. Wear aqua socks so you don’t slip and, once immersed up to your chest, just move through the water, holding in your core muscles.
Strength TrainingHormones produced during pregnancy make everything a bit looser, so strength training is vital. The best way to do this is with stretchy bands or tubes, available from most fitness stores, which you can pull between your hands to strengthen your arms or between your feet and hands for deeper stretches.
Go OutsideMake the most of the longer days vitamins produced by the sun’s rays can help support your immune system in pregnancy.
‘Make the most of the daylight for 20 minutes every day – go for a walk or sit on a park bench in your lunch break,’ says midwife and pregnancy wellbeing expert Zita West.
BreatheIf you’re feeling stressed, take time out. ‘Stopping what you’re doing and just taking five or 10 deep breaths will boost your blood flow and release your natural endorphins. These can help calm you down,’ says Zita.
Get A Good Night's SleepWhile your bump often means you’re shifting around through the night, do all you can to get a restorative night’s rest. ‘The key is to go to bed early – any time from 9pm is fine – and spend 10 or 15 minutes zoning out,’ says Zita.
Do this by trying to block out all noise and thoughts to the point where all you are concentrating on is your own breathing.
Feel Pampered‘Pregnancy massage can help with back pain, relieve tension in the muscles, remove any build up of lactic acid that can impair muscular function and alleviate emotional stress,’ says Zita. Try it at home, too – ask your partner or friend to do it to you.
Maternity LeaveIt’s tempting to work as close to the end of your pregnancy as possible so you can get more maternity leave after the baby’s born. But Zita reckons this is unwise. ‘A baby only has you, the mother, as a template of what’s going on so being exhausted and stressed isn’t going to do you or your baby any good,’ says Zita.
‘You want to conserve energy and get mentally prepared for what lies ahead, so try and give yourself a few weeks to relax.’
Love Your New BodyPregnancy can often make you feel vulnerable, and it’s no wonder given how many life changes you’re going through. ‘It’s essential to nurture your emotional, as well as physical, side so you feel less stressed,’ says psychologist Dr Saima Latif.
Focusing on the positives about your new shape will help lift your mood. ‘Start listening to the nice comments people make about your thick hair and glowing skin, then really try to take them in,’ says Saima.
Speak To Other MumsYou’re about to undertake a new role with huge responsibilities, so feeling anxious is completely normal. Speak to other mums-to-be, share your concerns, listen to new mums’ experiences and learn what you can. ‘Knowing every mum goes through this will reassure you and boost your confidence,’ says Saima.
Make ListsIt can come as a shock if you suddenly start forgetting things. But this is a temporary state and things will get back to normal. In the meantime, buy yourself a notebook to jot things down in.
Have A Good BreakfastA few small adjustments can make a big difference to how you feel in pregnancy.
According to nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed the perfect breakfast is scrambled egg on wholemeal toast with grilled tomatoes.
The fibre and protein from the wholemeal toast and scrambled egg will keep you feeling fuller for longer and stop you craving a high-fat, sugary fix mid-morning. Grilling the tomatoes helps release their natural antioxidants, such as lycopene, which protects cells and fights off infections.
SnackA small bag of fruit and nut mix is a great, quick pick-me-up, says Charlotte.
Nuts are a good source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, important for your baby’s development and brainpower, as well as being high in good-quality protein. Raisins have dietary fibre and iron, both of which can run low in pregnancy.