By DAVE JACK | Moonshine Ink

A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be writing an article on pre/postnatal fitness, but with a baby on the way I decided to dive in. I quickly found there’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet, so I went to a credentialed expert to earn a specialization in pre/postnatal fitness. Now I’d like to pass on what I learned in order to give you a head start on how to keep both yourself and your baby as healthy as possible throughout pregnancy.

Trimester 1 (Weeks 1–12)

Almost immediately after becoming pregnant, the body starts to make changes. Blood volume levels increase by 15 to 20 percent, blood pressure and digestion drop because of the hormonal changes to absorb all nutrients from food, ventilation subsystems to expel heat kick it up a notch, and then the morning sickness begins. In the next eight weeks the rib cage starts to expand, allowing for growth of the placenta but also resulting in pressure on the stomach and causing nausea. This makes eating hard. However, nutrients are essential for the body to absorb, so having some nutrient-dense shakes, prenatal vitamins, juices, and smoothies are all great options that you’ll be able to stomach. You only need 200 to 300 added calories a day, so don’t worry about eating for two!

Incorporating two to four days of resistance training along with low-intensity cardio training is great for reducing discomfort, strengthening deep core muscles to aid in labor, increasing energy, maintaining posture, improving balance, preventing excess weight gain, and keeping mood and spirit high. Start focusing on the deep pelvic floor core muscles with exercises such as kegels. Also focus on the glutes with extension exercises as well as squats, which will likely become your favorite exercise to incorporate throughout the pregnancy.

Toward the end of the first trimester, you may feel your belly pop up when doing abdominal crunches. If so, this is a sign to stop.

Trimester 2 (Weeks 13–26)

By the second trimester you’ve probably felt the nausea start to subside, your heart rate increase, some lightheadedness, and perhaps some balance issues. If you weren’t able to work out before now, slowly increase your exercise by adding five minutes a day until you build up to your ideal workout time. Think “hug your baby” in order to engage your deep core muscles and transverse abdominals. It is important at this stage of pregnancy to stop all crunches and twisting to avoid abdominal separation. Also refrain from laying on your back for long periods of time, and overstretching.

Throughout the rest of your pregnancy, it’s important to hydrate by drinking at least 100 ounces of water a day. This is when the baby’s brain begins to start growing rapidly so it’s a good time to incorporate getting enough DHA (healthy omega-3 fats) for brain development for you both. Eat avocados, nuts, nut butters, coconut, and olive oils.

Try to enjoy the second trimester’s energy and plan to get away for a babymoon with your loved one if you can. Next trimester the baby will start gaining weight and taking some of that energy away from you.

Trimester 3 (Weeks 27–40)

In the third trimester the baby is beginning to gain size and weight. You may benefit from wearing a maternity support belt to help alleviate round ligament pain and/or low back pressure. With the exercise, you’ll need a lot of sleep, so try to get up to 12 hours a night!

Good posture is important to help your body feel great. Continue working on your back muscles, core, and cardio. Swimming is a great form of exercise that can reduce pressure on your joints. Keep strengthening those glutes and hips to alleviate potential sciatic-type pain as the hips spread and pinch around your sacrum. Continue nutrition habits from the second trimester.

After week 36, start to focus on more relaxation and stress relief as the baby starts to maneuver into the head down position. Everyone will give you their advice about what to do but take it all with a grain of salt and listen to your body.

Trimester 4 (Getting Back into Exercise)

Remember, postnatal care is equally important. After getting doctors’ approval you’ll be ready to start exercising again, but keep it light and easy to start. Don’t do anything too strenuous at first, as your body needs time to heal after birth.

You can start to do kegels again right away. Reintroduce your cardio routine by walking as your body heals; gradually build up time by adding five minutes to each walk. Light arm exercises are also a great first step since they don’t involve the vaginal and lower abdominal areas. After about four to six weeks (or when approved by your doctor) you can start to run lightly. At this point it is still recommended to avoid crunches, but try to focus on feeling your core again in your cardio and strength training. After 12 weeks aim to have 30 minutes or so of exercise every day as you continue to do higher volume resistance training two to four times a week. Always try to listen to your body. Keep moving, but get the rest in when you can.

Be patient, and enjoy the time spent with your baby, as you stay healthy and fit with him/her at your side. Staying healthy will be a lifestyle change that you want to pass on to your loved one through the rest of your life.