How To Prepare The Body For A Healthy Pregnancy?
This article covers the tips to become fitter, and de-stressed before pregnancy.
The beginning of any journey comes with a mix of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty – especially when the journey entails one of the biggest changes a woman will experience in her life – being a mother.
The most important aspect right now is preparing your mind and body for the journey to come…Sure, things like asserting your financial stability and career are also important. But they can also be worked on, along the way.
Making the woman’s body fitter and healthier for pregnancy.
Let us start with addressing the elephant in the room – Weight (pun intended)
Obesity is best tackled before you start planning – Not only will it improve the probability of conception, but also is advisable for a healthy pregnancy.
Working on weight will need a 360 evaluation of your lifestyle – your movements, your food choices, your hydration, your sleep patterns, and your stress levels – A sustainable weight loss is determined by each of these variables. It’s not as simple as the calories in-calories out rationale.
Further, on weight, balanced meals with the right amount of macros (Proteins, Carbs, and Fats) and the balance of vitamins & minerals is the way to go – I would here, caution you on not undertaking any drastic crash diets at this stage in life – Your pre-pregnancy weight loss should be a healthy fat loss whilst replenishing or enhancing your nutrient stores and not a diet which along with weight is depleting the nutritional resources saved by your body. On this note, another facet of a balanced weight is someone on the other end of this spectrum – Underweight.
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Advice for underweight women
If you are underweight, likely you are malnourished too – Before you decide to pile on kgs work on ensuring your body is well nourished as it's not just the kgs that matter but the overall built up of your system and notably underweight individuals are prone to poor nourishment and hence poor stamina and immunity – none of which will aide a healthy pregnancy.
Other often overlooked but important aspects for a healthy pregnancy are -
This is another key component, depending upon your fitness and activity levels you can decide on how to take them a notch higher to aid your weight loss goals – if you aren’t physically active at all, now is the time to change it – Not only is it needed for the weight loss goals, but also will help your body with the much-needed flexibility, muscle strength, and overall endurance.
Depending on your body’s ability, and your lifestyle, choose what fitness regime suits you the best. Is it yoga at home, or is it the more endurance activities at the club? Just a word of caution here. The moment you realize that you have conceived, talk about your fitness regime with your gynecologist. He/She might advise you to reduce strenuous activities for the first and third trimesters.
Sleeping too much or too little? Catching up on Netflix or outings (because you believe that once you are a mother, this may not happen often)
Sleep is the time your body undertakes its maintenance and detoxification – every minute of sleep loss is a missed step in these processes. Besides that, a balanced sleep is important for the right circadian rhythm which in turn is the key to balanced hormones. If your weight loss or exercise efforts are not showing you the results you wish to – Assess your sleep.
Is Hydration just about drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day?
Think of hydration beyond a volume of water to be ingested and look at it as a component that comprises over 50% of your body – Imbalanced hydration will throw your system in an array that might not show immediate warning signs (Human body is too resilient!) but will be detrimental on your digestive health and your lymphatic system. Hydration isn't just about gulping a certain amount of water – Hydration is about nourishing your body at the right intervals with the right fluids.
4. Stress levels
This one is a biggie – Stress reactions are associated with enhanced secretion of several hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone, and prolactin – The stress hormone cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone is produced in response to excessive stress – One of the more common reasons for an early miscarriage is elevated cortisol levels.
Managing stress is an active undertaking that needs to be taken during the pre-planning phase as it stands to be crucial for both physical and mental wellbeing, not to mention the impact of stress on eating patterns thus causing weight loss/malnourishment.
Now that you have got an overview of the important aspects of a healthy pregnancy, let me break things further down as per the questions that are most commonly asked by eager couples.
Common faqs about weight loss, stress management, and sleep, for a successful and a healthy pregnancy
1. What is the first thing I should be looking at when embarking on a weight loss journey?
Answer: Keep it simple, move back to your kitchen and try to ensure the majority of your meals and ingredients are from your kitchen – ditch the commercial pre-mixed foods, sauces, flavorings, etc., and overall cut out all refined food as a step one.
2. What can I add to my diet to make it wholesome?
Answer: There is no simple answer to this, your needs would depend on your body composition however as a general principle maintain a ratio of 5:3:2 of Proteins, Carbs, and Fats.
3. My sleep cycle is disturbed for years – how can I fix it?
Answer: The sleep cycle is impacted by several factors – Personally the 10-3-2-1 Formula works best,
- 10 Hours Before Bed – No caffeine
- 3 Hours Before Bed – No Food
- 2 Hours Before Bed – No Physical or mental activity aka, no work
- 1 Hour Before Bed – No Gadgets or white light
4. I get stressed – my work and home life get me worked up – What do I do?
Answer: Life’s most complex problems have a common simple answer- Breathe. Take a pause, from your thoughts, from your activity, and your anger/distress and use that pause to take a few deep breaths – It may not work immediately but if you make this a habit, you will surely see a change, also try the 4-7-8 breathing by Andrew Weil – Multiple videos demonstrating this are available online.
Another solution is using lavender essential oil -it is a natural calming agent and a few dabs of lavender essential oil will have instant calming effects. One could also try sipping on calming tea blends like chamomile lavender or spearmint.
5. I get busy with my day and forget to drink water – Can I drink 2 or 3 huge portions of water?
Answer: Hydration is not about finishing a certain amount of water – It is about nourishing your body through the day – Try using technology to your aid – Use apps to remind you to drink water. A good practice I would encourage is 10 mins of walk/movement for every waking hour with a glass of water.
Also, if you do not enjoy plain water – infuse it – Mint, Lemon, Berries, Citrus Fruits – the options to infuse water are endless – You can also try using anti-oxidative white teas in the daytime and calming chamomile-based blends in the evening hours.
6. How do I know my weight loss is healthy?
Answer: A healthy weight loss will leave you feeling more energetic, give you better sleep and digestion – It should be a fair balance between loss in kgs and inches – also do not aim at unrealistic numbers of weight dropping and do not get discouraged when you don’t see instant results – the weight was piled on over weeks/months/years – Give it a few days to start moving before you fret.
7. Which is the best form of exercise?
Answer: There is no one size fits all – What works best for you is the form of exercise that leaves you feeling tired yet happy – doesn’t cause injuries and doesn’t leave you in pain.
8. How do I make healthy eating interesting?
Answer: Healthy eating can be really interesting – explore new foods, new recipes, new ingredients – experiment with flavors and cuisines. Be involved in both cooking food and shopping for ingredients – A big factor in successful healthy eating is meal planning – If you have a plan ready, ingredients stocked up and time managed, healthy eating can be really interesting.
9. Healthy eating turns out to be expensive – What can be done?
Answer: Objectively, Eating normal healthy home food devoid of market bought processed food is always far more economical than fast food, ready mixes, etc – Also, healthy eating doesn’t have to be fancy foreign foods – Indian millets, pulses, and commonly available fruits and vegetables do an excellent job.
On another note – When was the last time you had a pizza or a Starbucks coffee? Evaluate that against the cost of an avocado or anything else that you deem as “expensive health food”
Keep in mind that the changes that you make now will keep your body healthy even post-delivery. After all, you would want to be fit enough to play with youthful energy with your baby even when he's a toddler and all through his growing-up years.
Article by - Amit Shah