Pre-conception care can have a dramatic impact on not only your pregnancy but also delivery and recovery. I gained over 70 pounds with my first pregnancy and over 60 with my second, and if I knew then what I do now, my journey could have been a whole lot easier. Whether you are planning on becoming pregnant, are currently pregnant, want to do the postpartum care you never did, or just want to improve your health, these tips and tools can help.
It starts with what goes into our bodies. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods as much as possible into your diet is always a smart move, especially during pre-conception and pregnancy. Lots of colorful vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, wild-caught fish, and organic meats and proteins all help give your body nutrients it needs to function well and help fight internal inflammation.
In addition to a healthy diet, many of us can benefit from a detox to rid our bodies of things such as heavy metals and toxic overload from our environment. Pre-conception detoxes can be helpful for years to come and are something you and your partner can do together. There are many great detoxes you can do, and I recommend consulting with an expert to determine which one might be appropriate for you. Lymphatic drainage massages can also help your body remove toxins. One main source of toxins is endocrine disruptors (such as bisphenol-A and phthalates), which are found almost everywhere—including beauty products, plastics, and receipts—and have even entered our food system. Limiting exposure to them is always a good idea, as some can affect fetal development and have been shown to have a negative lifetime impact linked to cancer, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. EWG is a great site to use a resource to check products and for information on endocrine disruptors.
Now let’s talk about our bodies and how the way we move impacts the way we feel and look. Our foot and ankle joints often get more laxity, and our gait changes, so doing exercises and taking care of your feet is essential before and during pregnancy. As early as 12 weeks, the fetus’s weight begins placing more pressure on your pelvic floor, which can lead to pelvic floor issues during and after pregnancy. I do not recommend Kegels for most women, but instead doing a pelvic floor program with both concentric and concentric movements to help your pelvic floor handle the extra weight and help you with extra strength and flexibility for delivery. Pelvic floor training can also help improve recovery after birth and can help women with pelvic floor issues to reduce and even eliminate dysfunction. A side benefit is better sex and orgasms. Also, our posture and hip alignment change throughout pregnancy, and postpartum breastfeeding and even holding your baby can lead to kyphosis (a type of spine curvature). Exercises to promote good posture and efficient movement are key before, during, and after to help your body function and feel its best.
With so many uncertainties in life, having the tools and information to help yourself prepare for pregnancy and beyond helps you control the things you can. As a mom, I understand how important it is to make yourself a priority and take care of yourself, and when you do that, it allows you to fully take care of someone else and be your best self.
Ball Roll Over
Bent Elbow Pullovers
Move 1: Ball Lunge
How to: Stand on one foot, torso and foot facing straight ahead, and place the top of your other foot on the stability ball. Keep your spine long and the top of your head reaching up toward the ceiling throughout the exercise. Slowly move your torso back while keeping it upright, and when doing so, the back leg will reach back and the front knee will bend. Your tailbone will be directed straight down throughout the exercise. As your foot reaches back, more of your weight will shift to the back leg. Your front knee should be over your ankle, and your knee should not go in front of your toes. To return to the starting position, press the foot into the ball and use your torso lift to help return and lift your body. Repeat several times and then switch sides and repeat on the other side.
Note: If you need additional stability, you can roll the ball along a wall or hold onto something with both hands or the same hand of the leg that is reaching back.
Move 2: Ball Roll Over
How to: Start behind your stability ball and squat down with the ball in front of you. Your feet will be turned out about 45 degrees, and your heels will stay off the floor. Wrap your body around the ball, resting your head on the ball and keeping your neck relaxed. Press your lower abs into the ball and roll forward and backward to starting position, repeating several times. By pressing your lower abs into the ball, you will open up your hips and relax your lower back more. From the starting position, you can also do small side-to-side movements initiating with the pelvic floor and low abs.
Move 3: Hip Circles
How to: Sit on top of a stability ball with your feet pointing straight ahead. Draw your lower abs in gently toward your spine and feel your tailbone drop toward the floor, relaxing your lower back. Keep your chest and spine lifting up toward the ceiling. Begin by tilting your pubic bone toward your spine and then circle toward your sit bone. Continue to circle to bring your pubic bone closer to the ball, over to the other sit bone, and finally finishing with your pubic bone toward your tailbone again. Focus on the pelvic floor lengthening and rebounding in all directions. Each time you do a full circle, reverse direction, and continue to repeat several times.
How it helps: This is a great exercise for helping relax and improve the function of the pelvic floor, lower back, and hips.
Move 4: Bent Elbow Pullover
How to: Lie on the ball on your back with your glutes near or touching the ball. Feet will be hip-distance apart and pointing straight ahead. Use your lower abs to keep your hips level to the floor, and rest your head on the ball. Hold the weights loosely and lower the weights toward the floor, keeping the weights near the ball and elbows shoulder-distance apart. Once you reach your full range of motion, focus on using your back to raise the weights to the starting position. Repeat several times. This move is also done with straight elbows as well, but I like using two weights and bent elbows best.