Proper nutrition during pregnancy

When pondering the parameters of pregnancy, there are many things that expectant mothers will research in order to be as healthy as possible. It can be confusing to consider how much weight one should gain while pregnant, as the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies give different ranges based on the pre-pregnancy weight of the mother.

Ann Cowlin, the creator of Dancing thru Pregnancy, one of Physiquality’s partner programs, points women to the paper they published in 2009 for their recommendations: An underweight woman (with a BMI of less than 18.5) should gain 28 to 40 pounds. A woman of average weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 25) should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women considered overweight (BMI of 25 to 30) or obese (BMI is more than 30) should gain less weight, 15 to 25 pounds, or even less if obese (11 pounds).

Most of us don’t usually know our BMI, so if you want to calculate it, use the one posted by the National Institutes of Health. And keep in mind that a) BMI doesn’t take into account your fitness level, only your weight and height, and b) it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about the proper weight gain for your body.

When considering your weight gain during pregnancy, there are a few things to note:

  • In the second and third trimesters, the average woman gains about a pound a week, especially after week 20.It’s rare to gain a great deal of weight during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or the first trimester. This is often due to nausea or vomiting, as well as a lack of appetite.
  • In the second and third trimesters, the average woman gains about a pound a week, especially after week 20.
  • Your doctor may use ultrasound, along with your weight gain, to assess the baby’s health as your pregnancy develops. (Be prepared for stepping onto the scale a great deal over these nine months.)

Ann explains that pregnant women need to eat a balanced diet that includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. She adds that women don’t necessarily need to add extra calories during the first trimester, but by the second trimester, they should be eating roughly an additional 300 calories a day, and an additional 500 by the third trimester.

There are several ways to add in these additional calories, says Alyssa Cellini, a nutritionist with ProCare Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network clinic in New Jersey. Alyssa suggests increasing the protein servings at all meals and adding fruit as an extra snack when hungry. The goal, she says, is to keep a healthy ratios of fruit, vegetables and protein, just in slightly larger amounts.

If you’re having problems with nausea in the morning, Alyssa suggests protein, then fruit, one serving at a time, until lunch. Then you can eat a more balanced meal of protein, vegetables and starch, followed by fruit or healthy fats (i.e., avocado, olives, etc.) as an afternoon snack.

Another way to keep your weight gain at a healthy level is to continue exercising while pregnant.Don’t forget that another way to keep your weight gain at a healthy level is to continue exercising while pregnant. It keeps moms more fit as they prepare their bodies for labor, helps to keep weight gain at a manageable level, and gives babies healthier hearts and improved breathing movementsin utero. Exercise also helps women feel better overall, which means they do better and feel healthier and happier during pregnancy. Your physical therapist is a great resource to discuss how to continue your exercise regimen while expecting.

If you are planning on or have become pregnant, you should talk with your obstetrician about realistic weight gain expectations and fitness regimens. Just remember that ahealthy mama is more likely to have a healthy baby.

Aerobic exercise is essential for pregnant women

It used to be that women were told to rest and relax during pregnancy. Kick her feet up while she can. There were fears that too much movement could hurt the baby — or the mother. Now, says Ann Cowlin, the creator of Dancing Thru Pregnancy, a fitness program for expectant mothers (and a Physiquality partner), “it is the sedentary or low-activity mother and her children who are at risk.”

In our current world, Ann points out, we are not as active as previous generations. Think about what most of our grandmothers and grandfathers did during the day — manual labor in fields or factories. Even housework required a great deal more physical strength without the variety of machines thought essential in our houses today. “Few women exercise enough today to build the strength necessary for childbirth,” says Ann. “It’s no surprise that some women are afraid of birth and don’t have confidence in their ability to withstand it.”

Aerobic activity increases your endurance, strength and range of motion.Ann says that the number one solution to this lack of activity is aerobic exercise. It increases endurance, strength and range of motion. It improves your breathing capacity (giving you more oxygen and less fatigue) and reduces your need to tap your cardiac reserve during physical activity, both of which benefit a mother during childbirth. In addition, she notes, “regular participation in a good cardio or aerobic workout gives a woman the mental toughness and confidence needed to know that her body is capable of the work — and the recovery — involved in birth, what we call body trust.”

And, as we’ve posted in the past, the benefits of aerobic exercise aren’t just for mom. Studies have shown that exercise-exposed babies have healthier hearts and improved breathing movements in utero. Exercise enriches and enlarges the placenta, increasing the exchange of nutrients, oxygen and carbon dioxide with the fetus. And studies have shown that exercise during pregnancy leads to healthier birth weights.

In 1985, guidelines were published that recommended pregnant women not raise their heart rate over 140 beats per minute. This guideline seems to still be pervasive in the public realm, but it is no longer recommended by most physicians, especially if the woman is already exercising when she becomes pregnant. While it is important to discuss your exercise regimen with your obstetrician once you become pregnant, most forms of exercise can be continued throughout your pregnancy, with minor adaptations that consider how your body (in particular, your core, spine and hips) will change over those nine months.

Prenatal exercise classes are a great way for expectant mothers to continue to be active during pregnancy.Prenatal exercise classes are one option that include exercises that are essential for soon-to-be mothers. While classes for pregnant women often include exercises specifically designed to prepare the core and pelvic floor to give birth, Ann says that building strength and coordination, and simply being upright and moving, are keys to a healthy labor. She also suggests looking for classes that include squatting, and core movements for the pelvis and spine. (Looking for a prenatal exercise class? See if there is a Total Pregnancy Fitness class from Dancing Thru Pregnancy near you.)

While slower classes like yoga and Pilates may not give you as much of an aerobic workout, Ann recommends the mental activity practiced in such classes. “Relaxation training and meditation help you develop the mental skills, like mindfulness and deep breathing, that accompany your movement during birth,” she says. “You’ll learn to recognize your body’s signals so that you’ll know when it’s time to push.”

And don’t forget to consult with your physical therapist, whose training in the way your body moves and functions will help you before, during and after pregnancy. Visit our clinic locator to find the Physiquality therapist nearest you.


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