Several years ago a co-worker told me she didn't think she wanted to have kids because of what pregnancy would do to her body. Recently another friend said she was inspired by my ability to eat healthy and exercise, and essentially get back to being "pre baby Brenna" all with a newborn! Well....here's the thing, I'm not "pre baby Brenna" and I never will be. This friend said I gave her hope that she will be able to maintain her healthy lifestyle and body someday after she has kids. This didn't sit well with me. I've seen things on the web about this postpartum 'get your body back' BS, as well as women struggling with accepting their changing body during pregnancy. I just didn't know I would have to tackle it myself. I sent her the kindest e-mail response I could with a few of my thoughts regarding this topic; and I want to share some of what I have learned the past 10 months with all you.
1. Whenever you are ready to have a baby just know your body will never be the same.
I have a scar from my c-section, and up until about 7month postpartum it still felt weird and a little numb. No one will see it when I'm in a swimming suit, but if they could, I don't care. I worked my butt off for that scar.
2. Yes I lost the "baby weight" within the first month, but my tummy doesn't look like it used to. How could it? That picture is me at 40 weeks. The skin is still kinda loose, and my belly button is different. I didn't lose the line down the middle of my abdomen called a linea nigra until about 8mo pp. The only pants that currently fit are leggings and my workout shorts. Everything else is loose because I lost a lot of muscle mass in my booty and legs from not working out like I used to. It's super frustrating because it limits what outfits I can wear. This is not the problem most women complain of when it comes to their postpartum body. I haven't told many people this because I'm afraid they will judge me, and just give me a dirty look. About 3-4 months ago I finally get the courage to purchase a YMCA membership where I get 2hr of "free" child care so I can workout more consistently and hopefully rebuild some muscle.
Why haven't I bought new pants? I hated clothes shopping before baby, so now it's even less fun with the pressure of trying to fit it in between naps, feedings, snow storms, and now wanting to be outside in the sunshine. So I'm sticking with a couple of new stretchy skirts and gym shorts and a pair of yoga pants for the summer.
3. Sleepless nights = sugar cravings. I thought I was done with the midnight eating, but it still hit at times when I was breast feeding. My "will power" to say no to sugary treats is much less than it used to be. However, after munching on 5-7 chocolate covered pretzels at church several months ago and then testing my blood glucose and seeing it at 155; I'm slightly more inclined to pass these treats up. Unless I deem it 100% worth it (brownies are typically worth it). Ryan and I have made it a priority to continue eating as much real food as possible, but there are weeks when the Byerlys taco bar and Thai take-out make more appearances than hoped for. I use more pre-cut and frozen veggies in our meals, and 'recipes' need to be 3 steps or less. There's a lot of instant pot shredded chicken in our lives at the moment.
This is just to say, that no matter what your diet and exercise is before and after baby, your body will be different. Not better, not worse, just different. There's a good chance it may not look how you want it to. Get rid of the expectations to 'get your body back.' You don't have the body you did when you were 16, 20, or 30, why would you have the same one after a baby. The old you has died; you are reborn a mom.
My belly is giant, my ribs hurt, my ankles are swollen...But I'm still exercising. Some days I feel great and do things like back squats. Even if they are much much lighter than I used to. Then there are days like yesterday when all I could muster was a medium paced walk on the treadmill. As I later told Ryan, 'it feels like all the energy and strength has been pulled from my legs and arms and shuttled to my belly. GUESS WHAT?! IT HAS!!!
As someone who truly enjoys being active and working out, it's very hard to accept that my body is changing and that I am not capable of doing all the things I want to. It's frustrating to barely be able to put on shoes, roll over in bed, bend down to feed our cat, reach the bathroom faucet to spit and rinse after brushing my teeth. However, I know that in the next 24 hours to 2 weeks, our lives will be forever changed, and I'll be frustrated and enchanted by a whole host of new things. Change is good, sometimes it's just uncomfortable.
When it comes to exercising in your 3rd trimester, just do what feels good.
As we enter the last month of pregnancy there are several things Ryan and I are doing to get ready for baby T's arrival. I know we won't be completely home bound, and thanks to Amazon Prime, almost anything can come to our home in 2 days. Many people and websites suggest stocking your freezer with quick meals before baby comes, so I've done a little of that. I also saved and froze a few servings of stews this past winter knowing we might want them come this time. When you have a big garden though, some of your stocking takes the form of freezing extra green beans, canning beets, and freezing raspberries. We also have another family member who needs taking care of, Samoa our cat. Chuck and Dons might be right down the road, but I'd rather not worry if we have enough cat food on hand when she is super hungry, and so is baby. Here is a list of things we are doing to get ourselves ready, hopefully it gives you some ideas too:
There are plenty of sites with information about why it's important or beneficial to exercise during pregnancy and how to do it safely, but what most fail to mention is how your exercise experience might change from one trimester to the next. Or from one day/week to the next. While every woman's experience is different, here is what I have noticed over the past 30 weeks.
As someone who has enjoyed exercising (running) since 7th grade, and in the past 6-8 years moved to more weight lifting, it was a bit of a challenge when I had to stop doing anything but walking for the first 12 weeks. This was due to a uterine hematoma and then ofcourse morning sickness. I'm usually a get-up-and-go to the gym kinda gal, but for about 10 weeks the thought of moving my body before 9 or 10am was not happening. There were many mornings when I would wake up, make Ryan's lunch and then take a nap before work. If the first trimester has you feeling sluggish, nauseous, or generally crummy, just go with it. For most women it gets better. Do what you can to stay physically active even if it is just walking or very gentle stretching.
By 12 weeks there was a definite shift and all of a sudden I had ENERGY! I wanted to lift and was able to go back to my 1-2x week morning yoga class. HURRAY! For the next several months I followed the weight lifting protocol from the 'Your Fit Pregnancy: Nutrition & Exercise Handbook.' As a dietitian I ignored all their nutrition advice which continues to tout the low fat recommendations on the 1990s and includes almost exclusively chicken and turkey which I found repulsive until about 15-16 weeks. But the workout plans have been great. I also found that I really enjoyed doing intervals on the elliptical to get my heart rate up, but around weeks 29-30 I no longer enjoy this. It just doesn't feel good anymore. .
As I enter the 3rd trimester I'm continuing to change my workout routine. Walking feels really good in the morning when it's cool out. However, I do have make sure there is a bathroom along the way. When Ryan and I walk at night my belly just feels really heavy and it's harder to breathe. I'm also very particular about making sure my shorts are long enough the my thighs don't rub together. This is not about vanity! Its just not enjoyable to have your upper thighs rubbing together when it's hot and humid and you are walking more than a block or two. Lifting weights is still enjoyable, but I'm really having to make changes to my yoga practice since there are so many poses that just don't work this far into pregnancy. As you can see from my picture, even at 27 weeks I was able to do inversions at yoga, this past week I stuck with the headstand machine since I no longer trust myself to actually get into the position correctly. It's amazing how much heavier my body feels. While doing step ups the other day, I was amazed at how hard they felt with 15# dumb bells when in the past I would have used 20#. The past two weeks I've re-discovered the TRX and have found it to be very conducive to my changing body shape, weight, and function.
What to Wear
Not only will your workouts change during pregnancy, but your workout clothes probably will too. I've been able to wear a lot of my old stuff, but now my old 5K t-shirts ride up and my sports bras haven't fit since the end of the first trimester. My old Lululemon tank tops have lots of stretch to them, and still fit. I currently love these maternity active capris from Target. These shorts from Old Navy are also really nice now that it's hot and humid out. Even though the high waist/belly covering looks kinda silly, the small amount of support it offers is really nice. Theses yoga nursing bras by Bravado have been great for the kinds of exercise I do. I love how they fit, and will probably try some of their other styles once Baby T arrives. If I were still running or doing lots of bouncing...I'd want something with more support.
Would love to hear from people on what their favorite maternity exercise clothes are and what exercises work for them and make them feel good.
I hadn't had a charlie horse in the middle of the night for years; then I got pregnant. Starting in the middle of my second trimester I noticed that all of a sudden I was getting cramps in my calves around 4am. OUCH!!!
Muscle cramps/twitches are typically related a mineral deficiency (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) or dehydration. Whenever I work with clients struggling with night time muscle cramps, I almost always recommend they start taking a high quality magnesium supplement. Why start with magnesium? Studies have found that almost 1/2 of the population does not consume adequate levels of magnesium; and since it's used in over 300 metabolic reactions it's easy to become deficient. While some people find relief taking magnesium oxide which is easy to find at Walgreens and GNC, the oxide form just isn't as absorbable as the glycinate form. For this reason, many people will tell me, "I tried magnesium and it didn't help." First, if you cant absorb it, your body cant use it. Second, they may not have taken enough for their body. My favorite brands of magnesium glycinate are Metagenics tablets and Ortho Molecular Reacted Magnesium which you can purchase in capsules as well as a strawberry lemonade powder. The powder is great for kids (and adults) who cannot swallow capsules/tablets. It's also a nice way to get in some extra H20 before bed since muscle cramps can also be caused by dehydration; it's a two-for-one special.
Muscle cramps are just one symptom of a magnesium deficiency other symptoms include: anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, low bone density, high blood pressure including preeclampsia during pregnancy, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, headaches/migraines, insomnia, and chocolate cravings.
As much as I like to simply pop 2-4 tablets before bed, I have found that like many women, pregnancy has made me severely constipated. This is where taking a different form of magnesium, the citrate form, is very helpful. Not only does it address the muscle cramps, but it also draws water into the colon which keeps things moving along. As long as I'm consistent in taking 1-2 tsp of Natural Calm magnesium powder at bed time things are good. I pair it with 2-3 Ortho Molecular reacted magnesium capsules to prevent charlie horses. This adds up to about 400-525mg of total magnesium. This might sound like a lot when you consider the RDA for magnesium is 360mg/day for pregnant women. In practice though, I find that many people need much more. Think 600-800mg/day. Now you don't want to supplement with that amount long term, but supplementing with 400mg and also eating a diet high in magnesium is certainly a great way to prevent or correct a deficiency.
Now that I'm working with more families and pediatrics I'm finding that many kids are taking miralax for chronic constipation. This is no good, and many of these families have not been given any alternatives. Thankfully Natural Calm also comes in gummies, and several families have found them useful in weaning their child off the miralax as well as helping with sleep.
For a more in-depth dive into magnesium check out the Linus Pauling Institute. Now go out and get yourself some magnesium! Unless you have a chronic kidney condition in which case definitely talk with your nephrologist first.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Congratulations, you're pregnant! Now it's time to start taking a prenatal vitamin right? While it's better than nothing, it's not exactly optimal. If a woman is trying to get pregnant it's best if she takes a prenatal months...years, in advance. This helps build up her nutrient stores prior to pregnancy and may improve the quality of her eggs and fertility. Ever wonder what makes a pre-natal vitamin so special? Not much other than the fact that they must contain 400mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects such as spinabifida. Like all supplements, prenatal vitamins are not subject to FDA regulation, and the quality of many is what I consider sub-par. Depending on your financial status, taking a big box store brand prenatal along with some healthy diet choices will go a long way; and is better than nothing. However, if you can afford it go for the best.
I have been taking the Ortho Molecular Prenatal with DHA for about 2 years and love it. The blister packs are super convenient and even during my 1st trimester I was able to take the capsules throughout the afternoon without any ill effects. Now in my 3rd trimester I've found that if I miss taking my pre-natal for a couple days my brain simply doesn't work as well. Makes me wonder if prego-brain has more to do with a high need for nutrients and less to do with hormones. But that's a different discussion.
What nutrients are important to include in or with a Prenatal?
DHA or Fish oil (may have to buy separately): After testing clients for just 5 months using hair and saliva analysis I have had 1 client not be deficient in either DHA, EPA, or both. What does this mean? You are most likely deficient, and I'm sorry but eating salmon 1x week will not meet your omega 3 needs. Some studies are inconclusive, but many others show a benefit to children whose mother supplemented with either DHA or fish oil. Benefits include better neurodevelopment, reduced risk of asthma, and reduced risk of pre-term birth. Even-though the Orthomolecular Pre-natal contains DHA, as I enter my 3rd trimester I am making a more concerted effort to eat salmon and sardines, usually in the form of salmon salad made with the Wild Alaskan Canned salmon from Trader Joes.
Folate v Folic Acid: They might sound similar but there is a difference. Supplements using FOLATE may be a better option for many people since the tetrahydrofolate form is activated. Most people these days have a hard time activating certain nutrients like due to genetics and lifestyle and environmental toxins. Folate bypasses this issue. Folic Acid is the cheaper version and still needs to be activated making it less beneficial. This is especially true for people with autoimmune diseases (20% of population) or those who carry certain MTHFR mutations (10-40% of population).
Iodine: As a proud member of the midwest, I have known for quite some time that I live in the 'Goiter belt.' Our soil is low in iodine which means all of our produce and meat is too. Since our only source of fish is fresh water, that is not a viable option for iodine either. Through nutrient testing I'm finding that many children with ADHD and other behavioral/developmental challenges are deficient in iodine, and this is supported by research. We have long known that iodine is important for proper growth, brain development, and thyroid function. Despite people eating a high sodium diet from processed foods, the salt used in most of these foods is not fortified with iodine. Instead we need to look to foods like sea snacks, salt water fish, iodized salt, and well formulated supplements to help improve iodine status.
Iron: Not all pre-natals contain iron. However, about 30% of the worlds pregnant population is iron deficient, and a large proportion of women become deficient during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, building a placenta, and growing another human who also needs blood. Many women complain that iron supplements make them constipated or give them an upset stomach, so far I have not found this to be the case with the Ortho Molecular pre-natal. Why iron? babies born to women who were moderately iron deficient tend to be smaller, and babies born to women with severe deficiency are at risk for still birth and newborn death. Yes you can eat foods high in iron (beef, liver, tuna, shellfish, beans, dark greens), but sometimes this just isn't enough. Even if your pre-natal contains iron and you eat a diet high in iron, know that there is still a chance you may need extra supplementation. This would be especially true for women who were anemic going into pregnancy, as well as for vegan/vegetarian women. If this is the case I typically recommend women take the Ortho Molecular Reacted Iron, most women (myself included) do not experience digestive issues with it.
Vitamin D: Unlike most multi vitamin supplements, the Ortho Molecular Prenatal contains a decent amount of vitamin D. 2000 IU to be exact. Vitamin D is incredibly important for supporting the immune system, calcium absorption, and mood regulation. This goes for mom and baby. Unless you are getting a solid 15 minutes of direct sunlight on most of your body, most days of the week, there is a good chance you're low in vitamin D. Many doctors and OB/GYNs will say that a blood serum level of >30 is fine. But who wants to be fine? Lets be optimal, and try to keep your vitamin D level somewhere between 50-80. For some people this will mean taking an extra vitamin D supplement.
This is my short list of important nutrients, I easily could have added vitamin A (retinol not beta-carotene), choline, and calcium, but then this post would go on, and on...
If you have trouble swallowing capsules let me suggest the Smarty Pants Prenatal. You will want to supplement with extra fish oil, since the amount int the Smarty Pants is quite low. Need a liquid fish oil? Ortho Molecular has you covered, it's even mango flavored. If you need extra iron and cannot swallow capsules, try this chewable.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
It started early on in my first trimester, waking up in the middle of the night with a strange stomach pain that would only go away when I ate. It wasn't hunger, just pain.
Now as I enter my third trimester I've come to expect that no matter what I eat, or when I eat it, I will wake up at 2:30am, walk to the kitchen and get a snack. Most likely the first 3 months this night time eating was driven by the fact that I simply couldn't eat enough during the day due to food aversions, indigestion, and low appetite. Now that I can eat adequately during the day I've have had several nights where I didn't need a snack. But many nights I still do.
So what does one eat at 2:30am? I've settled on pumpkin or banana bread. Sometimes I'll have 1/2 banana with P.B., but most nights I have 1/2 of a midnight muffin with a little butter, nut butter, or cream cheese on it. My favorite recipe is the Chunky Monkey Muffins from Primal Cravings. I make a few changes that better suit my tastes and needs. I replace the coconut sugar with Swerve or erythritol to lower the carb/sugar content. For a while I swapped the mashed banana with canned pumpkin. I always leave out the chocolate chips and walnuts for myself since they can get stuck in my teeth, but I'll make 1/2 the batch with them since Ryan likes the chocolate chips.
Why this works for me:
1. I can use the light from the fridge to find the muffin container on the counter and spread whatever fat I want onto it.
2. I don't make so much noise that I wake up Ryan.
3. Unlike munching on nuts, crackers, or cereal, the muffins don't get stuck in my teeth, leaving me to pick it out with my tongue as crawl back in bed.
4. It's just the right amount of food so I fall back asleep quickly, and stay asleep.
5. It's fast and I don't really have to think about it.
"So...how are you feeling?" How many times have I been asked this over the past 6 months? Along with, "What are you craving?" For most newly pregnant women it's not about what they are craving, and more about what foods/smells don't make them nauseous. Even as a dietitian my diet was less than 'stellar' from weeks 6-12, and it wasn't until week 15 that I willingly cooked chicken. No one knows exactly why 'morning sickness' occurs, but theories abound from hormone changes, nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar swings, and genetic programming that makes us avoid foods that in the past, could have made us sick.
Here's the thing, unless you experience severe nausea/vomiting also know as hyperemesis gravidarum, your baby will be just fine if you don't eat a single vegetable for 6 weeks or more, or if all you can stomach is P.B. on toast and graham crackers. Now if you do have hyperemesis like Princess Kate or my friend Katie Vigessa, then you may need IV hydration and/or a prescription for anti-nausea medication to help you stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes balance.
Eventhough I never threw up, I came close one morning after drinking some green tea. For the most part the only foods I could look at before 11am included: yogurt, apples, bananas, cereal, toast, and P.B. or Almond Butter. Strangely enough, the two random foods that did sound good at times were pepper jack cheese and jalapeño turkey sticks from Ferndale Market. Even after 11am my appetite and food aversions would still get the better of me. Such was the night when dinner consisted of 2 egg-rolls from Big Bowl. I learned quickly that forcing myself to eat foods my body did not want (avocados, eggs, poultry, veggies) was a good way induce indigestion and just generally feeling even crummier.
For women concerned with growing a healthy baby and providing them with all the necessary nutrients, it's important to give yourself permission to not eat the "healthy stuff." As long as you went into your pregnancy well nourished, that little bundle of cells will get all the nutrients it needs to grow from your reserves. When your appetite increases, the nausea abates, and taco meat no longer smells like poop, you'll be able to eat a wider variety of foods and provide both of you with the all the important vitamins and minerals. In the mean time, as long as you can stomach them, continue taking a prenatal vitamin to help make up for what you are not eating.
As of this past week I am officially 23 weeks pregnant. Ryan and I also celebrated our 8yr anniversary and coupled it with a "baby-moon" to the North Shore for some hiking. As much as I hate to admit it, pregnancy does actually make hiking slightly more difficult. I think the most challenging part was not being able to take a big deep breath anytime I wanted to. It also felt like I got worn out faster than I typically would.
Before leaving it dawned on me that I had no pants that would fit while hiking. Thanks to Motherhood Maternity I happened to find a pair of light-weight pants with the giant maternity waist band and wore them for two days. It was nice that the were so light weight and breathable and they convert from capris to pants. The only draw back was that they would start to sag a bit in the crotch so I had to keep pulling them up or the very tops of my thighs would rub together.The problem was most noticeable if I had my fleece zip up tied around my belly. Obviously, these pants were not made for hiking, but they got the job done, and will look cute the rest of the summer. If I were to go back, I'd probably just pack a pair of yoga/athletic stretch pants and wear those instead to avoid the issue.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.