Now that I’m a couple of months out from being pregnant, I can look back at the entire experience and share what I learned from those 9 months. Here are the biggest lessons I took away from my fit and healthy pregnancy. (For a more comprehensive guide to fit and healthy pregnancy, make sure to pick up a copy of my ebook – Fit To Be Pregnant: 12 Steps to the Healthy, Comfortable, and Fit Pregnancy of Your Dreams.
1. Pregnancy is the ultimate conditioning.
I worked out until the last week of pregnancy. I remember the first time I tried jump rope again 5 weeks post-partum, I was expecting it to be really difficult. The last time I had jump-roped I had been 7 months along and HUGE. What I found instead was that I felt like I was bouncing on springs!! Jumping up and down 25 pounds lighter was, duh, certainly easier! Running and other endurance activities felt much easier as well. In fact, studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy actually are healthier and fitter throughout the rest of their lives (lowered risk of heart disease and osteoporosis) than women who give up exercise while pregnant .
2. Speaking of jumping, don’t do it.
Around 35 weeks I was sluggishly still jumping away through my workouts, hopping on step-benches, performing broad jump burpees, and feeling pretty great until nighttime, when my hips and back would have this horrible, dull ache that kept me awake all night. I just thought it was part of the pregnancy, until my chiropractor set me straight (literally, ha). Because of all the relaxin in my body, when I was jumping my hip and pelvic joints were all getting knocked around like crazy, and nighttime was when it was catching up with me. Once I stopped, the nighttime aches and pains went away almost immediately. In hindsight, I wish I would have removed all jumping exercise when I hit the third trimester, if not sooner.
3. A fit and healthy pregnancy is a comfortable one.
Other than what I mentioned above, I am still absolutely DUMBFOUNDED at the differences in my first three pregnancies from my last. I never had the majority of the pregnancy woes with this guy that I had with all the other kids. I had energy, I slept well, I had very few mood swings, and generally felt like myself up until the day of delivery. In my second trimester, we took a 5 1/2 week road trip that involved hiking and camping for the majority of the trip, and I never felt like I wasn’t up for it – I felt great! I felt so regretful for having sentenced myself to discomfort in my past pregnancies with my unhealthy lifestyle. Read my comparison of my healthiest and unhealthiest pregnancies here.
4. You are not as in control of your body as you think.
When I did discover health and fitness several years ago, I absolutely loved knowing that I could manipulate certain things to make my body do what I wanted. If I wanted to get lean fast for an upcoming event or vacation, I knew just what to eat and how to exercise. If I just wanted to stay in my same size clothes but relax my eating, I knew just how far I could take it without overdoing it. If I wanted to run a faster 5K, I knew how to do that too. Once those pregnancy hormones hit, my body went into autopilot somewhat. I was certainly still in control of how I felt, but my body put the fat on that it needed to, and I lost muscle regardless of what exercises I performed. I was sad about this at first but as I have learned to do, I trusted my body that it was doing what it needed to nourish my baby. It’s a lesson I’m using even now as my body refuses to drop fat while I breastfeed.
5. Healthy diet = healthy placenta = healthy baby
This might be gross, but my midwife was so thoroughly impressed with my placenta. She raved about it to her assistant, “Look at this placenta! That’s one of the biggest I’ve seen! You must be a really healthy eater!” I had never thought I’d say this, but I couldn’t help be proud of that placenta with all that praise! I knew I was eating for my baby, giving him as many nutrients as possible with a very strategically planned diet, but it was really rewarding to see the culmination of that dedication: a 9 pound 7 ounce bowling ball of a baby, and a placenta that made my midwife proud. 🙂 Read here for the foods I made sure to eat lots of, and that you should try to eat during pregnancy, too.
6. A fit and healthy pregnancy does not guarantee an easy birth.
Now, it may stack the odds for an *intervention-free* delivery, which I still had, but this was a far cry from an easy birth. Austin had a giant head (holding a big brain, thanks!!) and linebacker shoulders (like his daddy!), was posterior AND had shoulder dystocia. I was surprised at all of it, because as fit as I had been, I expected to push a little and be done, not the movie-quality scene that actually went down, complete with my screaming at the midwife to JUST GET HIM OUT. Had I known this, I wouldn’t have done anything different except to not have my children and parents waiting downstairs where all could be heard. I’m not sure either of my daughters will ever want to give birth now ;).
What lessons did you learn from your own fit (or not) pregnancies? Share in the comments!