In an effort to help expecting moms remain healthy and feel good about themselves our culture has made a grave mistake.
We have told women that being and looking "fit" during pregnancy is of utmost importance.
We shame women that gain "too much" weight (whatever that means) and or don't exercise during pregnancy.
We revere women that remain relatively thin and active during pregnancy.
So today I feel that it's important for me as a mom, as a woman and as a trainer to make 3 very important points about the journey into motherhood and I'll tell you a bit about how I came to form these opinions.
1. Our American society is confused about women, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
We put so much emphasis on out appearance and completely neglect all that's going on underneath.
It doesn't matter if women "look" fit when they're pregnant.
It matters if they are healthfull, happy, content, capable and supported.
They need to be training for the job that they are about to do and they need to feel strong and capable and know that what they're about to do is going to feel hard and sometimes even impossible, but that they can do it and it's ok to ask for help when they need it.
2. Motherhood is a VERY physically demanding job and you need to train for it.
All of you women that have never trained with weights, imagine walking into a weight-based gym class and the instructor tells you to select the weight that you want to work with for the next 8-12 hours.
How many of you are heading right over to the 8 and 10 lb dumbbells?
Probably not right?
But here you are, fresh on the other side of childbirth (which is no freaking joke) and suddenly you have to carry around an 8 lb (give or take) dumbbell CONSTANTLY in numerous positions, and places, and often while carrying other things!
Oh and you're 24/7 exhausted.
Oh and that dumbbell is going to keep growing into a larger and larger and more squirmy dumbbell.
You might be squatting down to pick up that dumbbell, contorting your body in a ton of bizarre positions to get it to eat, sleep, or stop crying.
Your life is basically now a workout class that has no designated breaks.
The reality is that we live in a sedentary culture and even if you are someone that is relatively active and or exercises, there's a good chance that you've never had to chronically lift weight all day long every day the way you will when you have a baby.
And if you're already in some bad movement patterns with respect to alignment and mechanics, reinforcing that all day long every day will results in sore shoulders, lower back, neck and God knows what else.
Movement practices during pregnancy should of course include activities that make you feel good!
And if those practices do not involve leisure walking to reduce your stress hormones and lower blood pressure and some strength training, then I would HIGHLY recommend that you get in touch with a trainer or coach that specializes in prenatal strength.
Because girlfriend, you're about to do some physical and mental heavy lifting.
3. Pregnancy is NOT a time to fixate on fat-loss.
If you feed your body whole unprocessed foods and balanced nutrition, and eat according your body's satiety signals then your body is going to get what it needs. (**The exception to this could be gestational diabetes, a serious condition that requires working with a midwife, doctor and or dietitian to manage correctly.)
Walking will also help to reduce stress and increase the accuracy of your hunger signals.
YOUR BODY IS GOING TO STORE THE FAT THAT IT FEELS IT NEEDS FOR PREGNANCY AND EARLY MOTHERHOOD.
So while eating lots of processed and high calorie foods is probably not a good idea and will most likely cause your body to gain extra weight, you do not have to restrict food or calories or worry about working off calories.
Focus your energy on feeding yourself the best foods that you can "stomach".
Have some treats, but realize that the more high sugar, high sodium, processed foods that you eat, the less good you're going to feel and you'll hold more water.
Fiber is important for maintaining proper digestion to avoid straining or oncsitpation. Your intestine are shifting around a ton, which can make elimination more challenging than before, so fiber will help that process.
4. There are potential downsides to being too active and pushing the body too far during pregnancy and in the early postnatal period.
This is what got me into trouble.
So back to being given props for thinness during pregnancy...
I experienced LOADS of positive feedback about my weight loss after my second pregnancy and frankly, it got me a little too focused on my fitness and the look of my body.
By my 3rd pregnancy I had gotten into strength training and was more focused on fitness and exercise than I had ever been before, and while mentally it helped me to feel great during my pregnancy, I'm not sure that I didn't push my body too hard.
I'm going to be honest with you, I cringe when I see women well into their pregnancies running, snatching a heavy barbell, pushing it hard at CrossFit.
And it's not because I know what's best for them and their bodies.
It's NONE of my business and it might be just fine for them.
But it's more because I just remember pushing myself too hard both in the gym and in my daily life and my body suffered because of it.
By my 3rd pregnancy I felt like I had something to prove.
So many people responded negatively to the idea of us having a 3rd kid that I felt like I was constantly fighting that identity of being this stereotypical mom that was always pregnant with a bunch of kids.
I felt like if I couldn't do thing for myself, then that meant someone else had to pick up the slack for me, because I had gone and become pregnant again.
In retrospect I can see how ridiculous this mindset was, and that the people that were making a big deal about my having more kids were either ignorant or jerks, but I was full of hormones and exhausted form being pregnant with two other little kids under 4 in my charge.
I was also afraid of losing my fitness and leanness.
In a short time, it had become a part of my identity and honestly, I had developed a bit of an unhealthy love for it and that pushed me to push my poor pregnant and postnatal body too hard.
For all the women out there that can identify with some version of what I'm talking about here, let me just caution you.
It is possible to overdo it and push your body too far and not even know it.
It's also possible to think that your body's biofeedback signals that are screaming at you to stop are just normal parts of pregnancy and that you can keep doing what you're doing.
I'm not saying this to scare you or to force my personal beliefs about how active you should be during your pregnancy or in the months following it.
Because I really don't know what people should and shouldn't do.
But what I do know is that my ego and my need to compensate for what I perceived to be something that was making me weak (pregnancy) landed me with with full blown pelvic floor disorder and pelvic organ prolapse that I later had to spend 6 months working to "fix". And that my body is forever changed.
So I just want to tell you that fitness, exercise, and being active helped me immensely in my last two pregnancies.
It think that it's VERY important to strength train the body to prepare it for birthing and caring for a baby, especially with all the body morphing and alignment changes that are taking place.
But YOU DON'T have to prove anything to anyone.
You don't have to fear being weak or unable to do some things temporarily.
It's ok to look pregnant and allow your body to fill out and store the fat that it needs to do its job.
There's plenty of time to do all those fun hard things like lift heavy weights, run long distances, Cross Fit and or move furniture.
If you need to, you can focus on fat-loss and physique change when the time is right and you the energy to do so.
Protect your core, your pelvic floor and give your body the rest that it needs as it grows and births a baby and then recovers from this amazing process.
There's a 99% chance that when it's all over, you'll be sad that it's done, so relish while you can.
If you want to learn more about your pelvic floor fill out the form below to receive my FREE DOWNLOAD, Ten Things I Wish I Had Known About The Pelvic Floor....And How To Protect It.