Being pregnant really suits some women. For the entire nine months, they radiate a glow usually reserved for magazines. They have a perfectly basketball shaped baby bump, and then seemingly weeks after their pregnancy, they look as if they’ve never housed a tiny human in their belly. For celebrities, many don’t have to make their public debut post baby until after weeks and weeks at the gym with a personal trainer. For most of us, this isn’t a reality.
While it takes nine months to gain all of the baby pounds that comes with pregnancy, many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it all vanish quickly after baby arrives, even though mom’s body needs time to recover.
Some moms heal faster than others. This can come down to mom’s health during and before pregnancy, and whether or not this was mom’s first or fourth baby. Other times it’s just a matter of genetics and good luck. Bodies change over time, particularly after the journey to motherhood. The good news is that it doesn’t just come down to the bounce back lottery, there are many things she can do to speed her body’s return to fit, fierce, and fabulous.
Here are 15 things mom can do during pregnancy to bounce back fast.
15 Hit Your Goal Before Pregnancy
Elite Daily interviewed Victoria Secret models to find out how they managed to get back to ‘Angel’ level of fitness shortly after giving birth and their answers aren’t as complicated as it may seem. Family planning was the key to their post-pregnancy body success.
Models who began rigid exercise programs, clean eating, and reaching their goal weights (and sometimes a little lighter) before trying to conceive seemed to have an edge in getting back to the runways post-pregnancy.
Continuing these best practice habits throughout their pregnancy also allowed them to have an easier delivery which led to a speedier recovery. Just the same, most of us regular folks aren’t models, so it isn’t our jobs to be the fittest in the time we should be spending with our new kids. Even those whose job it is to motivate others can be too hard on themselves in terms of recovery.
Personal trainer Emily Skye says, “I often preach loving yourself & your body, not beating yourself up and not comparing to others etc. but sometimes I don't exactly 'walk the talk'. I try to & WANT to but sometimes I forget." Don’t strive for perfection, strive for progress, that’s all anyone can ask for in terms of fitness and parenthood.
14 Load Up On Veggies
When trying to eat a balanced diet think about eating a rainbow, and we’re not talking about Lucky Charms cereal. Most dietitians will recommend ensuring that their clients make smart and healthy choices by eating veggies of a variety of colors every single day.
According to SF Gate, “Fruits and vegetables generally contain little fat, cholesterol or sodium and provide complex carbohydrates, fiber and nutrients. Most are low in calories, and they contain natural sugar, as opposed to refined sugar, which can cause abrupt fluctuations in your blood sugar level. Different colors indicate different nutrient profiles, so focus on getting a little of each color in your diet every day to maximize the nutritional benefits.”
This makes them the best way to meet your nutritional needs with the least calories consumed, which is helpful for anyone watching their weight in pregnancy and beyond. Be wary of smoothies and other products that contain a lot of sugar and additives to improve their taste, but add little nutritional value. Be sure to read the label or ask for an ingredient list to make sure you’re not filling up on unnecessary fillers and sugar. Post pregnancy breastfeeding moms should resist the urge to cut calories because this can impact both the quality and the quantity of breastmilk production.
13 Become A Yogini
Pregnancy can be stressful because everything is about to change. Moms who practice yoga and Pilates are able to get in their exercise and enjoy the relaxing benefits all while strengthening and stretching their muscles. Some prenatal yoga and Pilates classes, online and face to face will even help mom prepare her pregnant body for the stresses of childbirth.
Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be all at once, it can be cumulative over the day.
Anyone who is attempting any activity needs to remember that getting up and moving is still making laps around anyone who is vegging on the couch. Make sure that you aren’t just going through the motions and that you are embracing and enjoying your changing body in pregnancy, because it may seem everlasting right now, but before you know it, this time will be just a memory. Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest, “A multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.” Yoga is beneficial to help mom in controlling her breath, strengthening her pelvic floor, improving her posture, increasing comfort and flexibility in the back and the hips, and preventing foot pain ailments that are common in pregnancy.
12 Eat Clean For Two
The expression ‘eating for two’ is one of pregnancy’s biggest misnomers. Yes, in pregnancy mom will require additional calories, about 300 to be precise. That doesn’t mean she should be sucking down Big Macs like a pregnant version of the Hamburgler.
It’s normal and natural to gain weight with the baby, but when mom gains too much weight in pregnancy and develops some shoddy eating habits, the weight and bad habits will both be harder to ditch when baby arrives.
Your doctor can connect you with a nutritionist or registered dietitian who can help you implement changes into your diet to help feed a growing baby and you. These meal plans will contain foods to meet your preferences and nutritional needs. Giving into the occasional craving isn’t a bad thing, but fresh fruits, vegetables, and nutrient rich protein will likely be the types of additions recommended.
Pregnant moms should connect with their doctor to get an idea of how much weight is the right amount to gain during their pregnancy. Many women will gain 40-60 pounds in pregnancy, but those who are starting off heavier on the scale will often be told to aim for closer to a 15-25 total weight gain.
11 Be A Water Baby
One of the most freeing things about the late stages of pregnancy is spending some time in the bath or a pool and the feeling of weightlessness. This and the low impact benefits of swimming or aqua aerobics is the perfect excuse for mom to purchase a maternity swimsuit.
This is one of the most recommended prenatal exercises for a very good reason. Lindsay of Lindsay’s Lists says of her experience, “the support of my weight from the water is one of the big advantages of aqua aerobics. It has the same benefit while pregnant – the soothing lift provided by the water can give the back a break, and lessen backaches, constipation and swelling. I tried yoga in an aqua aerobics class, because with all of that balancing, I didn’t risk an uncomfortable fall. The same is true with pregnancy, since the buoyancy of the water means you only have to support 50 percent of your weight, taking a lot of strain off of the joints and muscles.”
Other benefits from the water include reducing swelling and keeping cool, which can be particularly beneficial for anyone who is in the late stages of pregnancy during a sweltering summer.
10 Hydrate To Feel Great
Humans are up to 60 percent water. Research has shown that “pregnancy may increase the water content of lean tissue from approximately 72.5% at 10 weeks of gestation to about 75.0% at 40 weeks in women with generalized edema.” It’s important to drink enough water all the time, but this need increases during pregnancy.
Some say that women should consume at least 12 to 15 cups of water a day in pregnancy, more so on days where they are exercising. This may seem overwhelming, particularly with the increased need for trips to the loo mom may be tackling. Drinking water keeps you hydrated, which can also reduce levels of tiredness and negate some of the pregnancy nausea that plagues many women.
Water is also known to keep people from over eating, with many diet experts recommending drinking a glass of water before any time they eat.
Pre-exercise fuelling of both food and water 30 minutes before a workout is particularly important during pregnancy since not having enough food or water can cause dizziness and fatigue during a workout, meaning you’ll feel ill and logy and unable to give your workout your best effort. Timing of this snack will depend on the individual, so play around with it to determine what works best for you.
9 Muscle Maintenance
Even personal trainers aren’t immune to the doubts new moms face about their bodies post pregnancy. Trainer and Reebok ambassador Emily Skye said, "A few times I've said to my partner Dec things along the lines of 'why aren't I getting leaner?, 'how come other people get back in shape quickly after giving birth & I didn't?' I even started to believe what many people tell me, that I won't ever get back in shape. I know it's not true but sometimes I doubt myself & my mindset gets a little unfocused."
Maintaining muscle in pregnancy provides a good foundation to build on after pregnancy. While we’re not suggesting mom begins a routine of deadlifts, or does any exercises on her back which could make her feel faint and even pass out, there are easy muscle strengthening exercises that don’t require spending a mint on weights. Strength or resistance bands are wonderful tools for beginners or veteran exercisers that can help mom stay toned without lifting too much weight or injuring herself.
To prevent injury, it’s best for mom to avoid exercises that can cause her to lose her balance and have a fall.
You can look online for easy alternate exercises. Think seated leg extensions or curls instead of lunges.
8 Protein Up
Empty calories... think sugar, chips, fruit juices, are going to add to pregnancy pounds with limited to nil actual nutritional gains. These increase blood sugar in the system and if mom doesn’t burn off this extra sugar through every day activity it becomes fat. If mom is gaining weight too quickly in pregnancy, but otherwise eating healthy, many doctors will recommend limiting fruit to a maximum of two servings each day, or keeping water as her staple beverage of choice.
Concentrate on health fats, like those found in olive oil, coconut oil, and upping dairy intake, eggs, and high quality meats. Foods rich in vitamins A, D, E & K are best for your own health as well as your developing baby. Another reason that protein and fat are so highly recommended is because they have what’s known as a “high satiety value”, meaning they satisfy hunger queues and reduce cravings for the not so good for you stuff.
Portion sizes are also important, so either invest in a kitchen scale or keep a guide on proper portion sizes for everything from chicken to nuts. Craving something sweet? Consider trying recipes for things like avocado based puddings that will help with both cravings and nutritional needs.
7 Convert Energy From Exercise
Even the idea of regular exercise in pregnancy can seem overwhelming, particularly during the early days when exhaustion and nausea take over, or in the late days when mom can barely see her feet, exercise may seem impossible. While pregnancy should involve a lot of self-care and rest, it’s also the perfect time to stay active. Fitness in pregnancy is really good for mom and baby with benefits including increased circulation, better posture, muscle toning, and a way for mom to enjoy more restful sleep. Exercise can also help mom maintain her flexibility which will be a fantastic asset during labour and delivery.
Fit Pregnancy says those who exercise in pregnancy are more likely to maintain their fitness through middle age and add,
“Regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Caesarean section, research has found.”
Moms who exercise in pregnancy lower their gestational diabetes risk by up to 27 percent. Those who approach exercise with a “maintain, don’t train” mindset with their and baby’s best interest in mind will do best. She should consult with her doctor to confirm that her exercise program is safe in pregnancy.
6 Stick To What You Love
Whether you’re pregnant or just thinking about trying, or anyone else – if you hate your exercise program it’s going to be torture to stick to it. Things to keep in mind while you’re expecting include the body making more blood to help form the placenta. This makes your heart pump blood faster than usual, which may result in a need to go slower. Loosened joints will require you to take on activities with less jarring impact. If you’re having trouble getting the motivation up to maintain an activity you love, look into other ways to get rest.
During my pregnancy one ‘coffee break’ and entire lunch hours some days became a chance for me to enjoy a catnap that would allow me to focus on my work in the afternoon and get the energy I needed to tackle a prenatal yoga class or a walk (once my doctor cleared me to begin exercising). If you like a contact sport or something that’s off limits during pregnancy, look into trying something you’ve always wanted to but never had the chance to try.
This way you aren’t focusing on what you can’t do. By maintaining physical activity you’ll be in a better place to jump back in post-labour, after your doctor provides the green light.
5 Daily Cardio
To maintain our health adults are said to need 150 minutes of physical activity each day (30 minutes, five times a week) at minimum. Approaching pregnancy as remaining on “maintenance mode” of sorts should be a good baseline for what to aim for, provided your health and doctor’s orders allows it.
Cardio via low impact aerobics means mom needs keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times and avoiding jumping, hopping, stepping on any sort of platform that could hurt the joints. For those who like group exercise classes, contact your local gym, yoga studio, or YMCA to get details on prenatal sessions and instructors. Someone who wants to stick closer to home can check online for videos or order some on Amazon.
Something as simple as a quick walk around a mall to run your errands, or walk in a local park can be a great way to get in your daily steps.
Women who were very active prior to pregnancy should talk to their doctors about how intense a regimen of cardio is appropriate throughout pregnancy. Other low impact cardio can include swimming, running, biking, rowing, or the low impact queen of cardio, the elliptical machine.
4 Listen To Your Body
As soon as mom becomes visibly pregnant strangers seem motivated to step up onto soap boxes and tell her what she should and shouldn’t do during pregnancy, with some even shaming moms at the gym when they are rocking their baby bumps under their yoga pants.
Paying attention to your body and adjusting your routine during pregnancy is key to health – some days you’ll be able to hit the gym with aplomb, other times you’ll need to take things slower, and that’s okay, this isn’t a competition.
Joints loosen during pregnancy, so stretching before and after work outs becomes increasingly important to prevent injury. If you need to rest, rest. It’s completely normal to have less energy as pregnancy progresses. If exercise causes dizziness, headaches, chest pain, or shortness of breath, stop and contact your health care professional right away. Same goes for if you notice any vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking.
I had every intention of maintaining my fitness routine throughout my pregnancy, and then, in week seven I was put on bed rest for over a month. Put your and baby’s health before anything else- your personal best runs can happen down the road, while you’re pushing a stroller.
3 Dr. Knows Best
Moms to be who are pregnant with multiples, at high risk for miscarriage, with heart and lung problems, high blood pressure, cervical issues, or placenta previa, are often told to hold off on their exercise regime, and sometimes even put on bed rest. Remember that the doctor’s word is final and that it isn’t worth injuring yourself or baby for the sake of a few pounds.
Personal trainer Emily Skye says she tries to keep perspective when it comes to the limits of her own body and pregnancy, adding "I want to set a good example for Mia. When I feel like this I remind myself of the things I preach to others — that I should treat myself how I would treat my daughter Mia. I should tell myself what I'd tell her & love myself the way I love her. It's SO hard to do but I believe that's how we should treat ourselves because if we can't love & care for ourselves, how are we supposed to love & care for others?!"
This means that if you have to sit out a couple of rounds on the bench, be a good sport about it, give your body the rest it needs and know that this is just temporary and you’ll be back in the game in no time.
2 Eat Those Vitamins
Our bodies need vitamins to maintain our fitness, and for most that means eating more of those leafy green things. During pregnancy these vitamins are needed for mom, and her baby, who is, to put the miracle of pregnancy unromantically blunt, essentially sucking these from their host like a succubus. Pregnancy makes her body automatically place her own nutritional requirements after her baby’s. Sure, mom can gain many nutrients through the food she eats, but this can be difficult, particularly when mom is in the throes of morning sickness.
A solid prenatal vitamin, loaded with folic acid to help prevent spinabifida can help mom feel her best, and baby grow, even if she’s been nourishing herself primarily on soda crackers. Talk to your doctor to see if they have any recommendations on the right prenatal vitamin for you. Some may even be able to prescribe one that might be covered by your medical benefits, so you can spend the money on the nursery instead. Some doctors even recommend that women of child bearing ages include a prenatal diet in their health routine even when they aren’t trying to conceive, to ensure their health is performing at top game should she conceive.
1 Be Kind To Yourself
This may sound simple or silly, but your body goes through so much during pregnancy and really proves the many amazing things it is capable of. Mom’s body is a strong machine that literally allows her to grow and birth life. That’s pretty amazing. During pregnancy and after, bouncing back shouldn’t just be about fitting into a particular pair of jeans or hitting a number on the scale. It should also be about maintaining healthy habits that allow you to feel great and set a wonderful example for your new child.
Tabloids have been spending more and more time focusing on how great celebrities look post pregnancy. Here’s the thing, Hollywood stars have personal trainers, chefs, makeup artists, and the funds to pay for a lot of child care while they whip their body back into shape.
The rest of us don’t have that luxury, and many would rather spend a couple of extra months recovering from their pregnancy and enjoying their new normal of motherhood.
When you are looking at Instagram and Facebook accounts of other moms, understand that they’ve often used Photoshop, or at the very least taken several dozen photos to capture that perfect angle. Part of bouncing back should feature a healthy attitude towards your body and a little appreciation for the amazing thing it had just accomplished. Congrats!