Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TDC Night: Pre & Post Natal Fitness pt 1

The Doula Connection hosted its monthly class at My Baby News last Thursday, and I finally have a few minutes to blog about it.

The class was taught by Anna Dufloth, a Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in family fitness and happens to be Marianna's daughter.  She covered abwork, easing the pubic symphysis, nutrition during pregnancy and nursing, and resuming exercise post partum.  Here's what I took notes on, with some additional information from my own experience:

Exercise in general:  While you don't necessarily want to start an intense, body-changing fitness routine after conception, if you've been maintaining one for 4-6 months prior, there's rarely a reason not to continue it throughout most of your pregnancy.  Beats per minute are a less critical measure than "perceiving level of exertion", so listen to your body if it says you're doing too much.  You're not out to sculpt and carve your muscles, you're just staying healthy.  Also, try to establish a regular routine in your sleep/wake/exercise cycles.  This helps to alleviate hormone fluctuations and thus can reduce morning sickness, mood swings, and other associated symptoms.

Abwork:  It's a myth that you can't do anything to strengthen your abdominal muscles while pregnant; in fact, you need to in order to prepare for the pushing stage of labor.  While traditional exercises like crunches are discouraged or even impractical, there are plenty of things you can still do.
  • Plank: A supreme core-strengthening exercise that's simple and effective.  Basically, it's push-up position without the push-up: holding your body straight from head to heels with your hands planted shoulder width apart  under the shoulders.  If you can't do it up on your toes, use your knees.  Pull your bellybutton inward to activate the abdominals.  Try to hold for at least 20 seconds or as long as your body says is okay.
  • Side Plank:  Lay on your side with one elbow propping you up and contract your oblique abdominals to lift your hip and legs from the floor.  Again, can be done from the feet or the knees.  If you're based at your knees, be sure to tuck your feet way behind you so that your body is in a straight line from head to knee.  Exercise both sides.
  • Standing or seated "crunches":  with arms in goal post position (raised  square on either side of you), lift your knee as high as possible and extend your lower leg if you can, bring it back and lower.  Repeat on both side.  If balancing on one foot is an issue, you can use a support like a chair back or table.  If you're getting too big to lift straight up, lift a little out.  The same applies if this is done while sitting.  Excellent exercise for engaging and toning the pelvic floor muscle.
  • Pull in your bellybutton and hold as long as feels okay.  Baby may kick you for this, but it's okay.
  • Side bend: stand with feet a little further than shoulder width apart, hands behind your head, bend to the side, and contract opposite oblique to return to upright position.  Repeat on other side.
  • Modified push-ups: Sit on one hip with legs tucked back, rotate your body to the side, and do push-ups from the hip.  Repeat on other side.
 Pelvic girdle:  Keeping your pelvic girdle healthy is key during all stages of fertility, but especially during the months of pregnancy and into labor and delivery.  The pelvic girdle encompasses the two wing-like pelvic bones, the sacrum, and the hard and soft tissues that connect to them.
The pubic symphysis is the ligamental connection at the front of your pelvis, and it can be dislocated during pregnancy, labor, or birth as pressure is put on it.  Since it's a ligament, it cannot be exercised or stretched, but there are some things you can do to decrease the pressure.
  • Belly lifts: This can be done by yourself or a partner standing behind you.  Simply cradle your belly in your arms, clasping your fingers underneath if possible, and gently lift the weight of the baby an inch or two.  This helps not only relieve the symphysis but the back and hips as well.  Hold as long as is comfortable.
  • Sitting cross-legged and/or butterfly: Our societal norm of sitting in stationary chairs and couches is not a good position for building and maintaining core or pelvic stability.  Cross-legged or butterfly positions give muscles and joints a stretch, helping them to adjust to the body's natural changes during pregnancy, as well as relieving pain.  Sitting in these positions while maintaining a flat back and leaned slightly forward help provide optimum fetal positioning, Occiput Anterior (back of the head to the front of Mom's body) which prevents most or all back pain in labor.  When sitting cross-legged, be sure to switch which leg is on top from time to time for balance.
  • Hip-glute stretch for the sciatic notch: laying on your back (if you're comfortable and early enough in your pregnancy that your body's okay with it) or sitting in a chair, cross one ankle over the opposite knee and let that leg be loose.  Pull or lift the base leg toward your chest until you get a good stretch.  You can also lift toward your opposite shoulder as much as the belly will allow.  If you cannot pull or lift while sitting, simply lean forward to get the stretch, keeping your back flat.  This stretch helps relieve and prevent sciatic pain.
Up next: Part 2 - Nutrition and Postpartum

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