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August 23, 2021
Birthing a new you
May 25, 2022 COMMENT comment
Birthing a new you
By Juhi Baveja
Pregnancy is not all about the baby. Prenatal care is a fantastic way to inculcate new, better lifestyle habits for yourself and learn to relax. Walk – make it breezy, leisurely, and conversational. Parks and seasides are the best venues, and take the time off to pamper yourself in the lap of nature.
Pregnancy might leave you with a love-hate relationship with your body, and it might irreversibly alter you. But there's no reason why you shouldn't take charge of your mind and body. Exercise is a boon, even when you're carrying. And combined with a right diet it will help you ease childbirth, getting back in shape, and life itself.
Choosing your pregnancy as a time for behavioural modification – including eating habits, exercising, and mindfulness – might seem like a heavy task. If you haven't been a regular visitor at the gym or the race course, chances are the notion of twisting strategically might not seem like your cup of tea. "Start small. Walk – make it breezy, leisurely, and conversational. Parks and seasides are the best venues, and take the time off to pamper yourself in the lap of nature," says Dr Priya Talwar, Vinayak Hospital, Noida. "But if you want to be able to shed off those kilos after childbirth (10-12 kg weight gain is normal) and learn to focus and have pain-coping techniques, doing yoga is your best bet." Prenatal yoga is beneficial for those who wish to control their body movements while pushing the baby out or easing themselves into labour. "It is a beautiful process, and those looking for natural and drug-free deliveries might want to learn simple asanas like Vakrasna (twisting the spine to the right and left side, so that the joints can be exercised), Konasana (joining the heels of both legs while sitting in a crossed legs pose), and Bhadrasana (butterfly pose, good for your inner thighs)," adds Talwar.
The gym might seem like a hot-bed for heavy activity and sweaty bodies, but some parts of your expanding body might be thankful if you decide to head to one. "During the course of one's pregnancy, the abdominal weight is sizably increased, leading to stiffness in the lower back region. Therefore, an emphasis on tilting the pelvis back to a more neutral posture with push-ups and planks is essential. Those who have done weight training earlier can continue with lighter weights and longer reps to keep the muscles toned as joints and muscles suffer from under use during pregnancy," advises Sumit Thakore, a personal trainer at Talwalkar's Gym, New Delhi. However, come morning sickness and nausea, and your mind might go off the treadmill. You want to feel supported, loved, and free, and not necessarily challenge yourself.
Now recommended by most doctors in the country, 'Lamaze' is a combination of all things your body needs. Inspired by ancient Russian childbirth practices, Lamaze involves breathing and relaxation techniques under the supervision of a 'monitrice', or a midwife. Marjorie Karmel, an American in Paris, was the first to have written about adapting the methods to deliver her first baby. Espoused by celebrity mothers like Shilpa Shetty, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marissa Tomei, and mommy blogs alike, Lamaze essentially changes your brain chemistry – and leaves you with a peaceful soul. "Growth is painful and growth is the best thing about human life. We help women labour and inculcate focused breathing, and slow relaxed movements," says Thakore, who also lends his services at a Lamaze centre in the capital. Asking your friend or husband to be by your side during your exercise sessions and the entire process overall will help you feel more emotionally connected to the pregnancy period. "We ask their partners to come with them for at least two classes in a week, and support them in a child-bearing position for practice," says Thankore.
Most women are also opting for DIY web tutorials. Running her own travel cum mommy blog, Christine from www.almostfearless. com has been chronicling her child-birthing experiences through her travelogue. She gave birth to her second child in Mexico last month, and for lack of English-speaking trainers, she decided to do Lamaze by herself. "Taking deep cleansing breaths, relaxing your jaw, and exhaling with peace will generally balance your aura. And I believe you carry your aura, wherever you go," she says.
Exercise is 50 per cent of the battle, as the rest is all about nutrition since now you're 'eating for two'. "Always listen to your body and learn to differentiate between hunger and appetite, as most doctors will tell you. Cravings are natural, and they can start as early as the first trimester," says Ramna Sarita, a Delhi-based nutritionist and physician.
"I have been a strict vegetarian all through my 20s, but when the baby news came, all I could think about was meat," says Divya Aneja, now a mother of two, who was asked by her doctor to consume salmon for her omega-3 fats, even though norm has it that fish is high in mercury – which is a no-no for the baby. "Lean meat and fish with a very low mercury content is sometimes prescribed. But your prime target should be to consume food rich in iron, folate, calcium, and zinc – or else compensate with multivitamins," she says.
Food restriction is often a cause for concern for many doctors. "I often get requests from expectant mothers to put them on a strict Paleo diet – which entails going back to the palate of our ancestors; essentially consuming raw or fresh meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and small portions of fruit. It takes away the grains, legumes, and dairy part of your diet," says Sarita. "You might be eating for two, but you need to make a list of what the baby needs, and what you don't need. Eliminate sugars and salts, but add protein. For the rest, you can only exercise."
Yes, grandma is always right when it comes to 'child-bearing hips' and 'insomnia-reducing turmeric milk', but don't imbibe the eating habits without checking your calorie intake. Mothers will force feed you ghee-imbued ladoos and stake their claim in your kitchen as your trimesters pass. But any nutritionist will tell you that gestational diabetes is a real concern for pregnant ladies. "Every cell that the baby is formed of, has amino acids and you definitely need a high protein diet to compensate. But most people tend to gorge on carbs and sugars and that usually means empty calories," says Dr Duru Shah, director, Gynaecworld Fertility Clinic and Consultant Obs & Gynae at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai.
But your ancestors weren't wrong about everything. "My mother use to do housework till the last month, including the sweeping and cleaning of utensils, and thanks to her I was working till a week before my delivery. This way I utilised my maternity break for the postchildbirth time," reveals Aneja.
Many women have taxing pregnancies, and are advised against exercising. Women who have routinely exercised throughout their lives might find it hard to sit and rest for months. "For some, it becomes a cause for depression as adjusting to a formless and heavier body is very difficult," says Dr Shah. However, pushing yourself when your mind or body is not ready will only harm you in the long run. There are other ways to relieve the stress and some women prefer light exercises to calm down their nerves. "Prenatal massages from the fifth to the ninth month are a good way to reduce aches and swellings, but make sure you are supervised by a physiotherapist. Water retention is a big cause for post-pregnancy weight and now with new techniques most therapists will help you reduce," she adds. By the time your body gets use to the pregnancy weight, your stress issues have been left unaddressed. "Meditation over medication is my motto. I think one must steer clear of overindulgence or reclusive behaviour. Meditation and pranayam will always help you balance your mind, body, and soul," says Aneja.
Although WebMD and other self-help online medical forums might tell you that insomnia and fatigue in pregnant women can be cured by aerobic exercises, it is wise to ease into the routines and not push yourself. "After three months you shouldn't do high-intensity exercises. The trick is to relax your joints, as your lower half of the body is constantly aching from all the weight. Squatting is a good thing, but deep lunges can cause pain," warns Dr Shah. "Don't do what doesn't feel natural to you," adds Thakore. Consult a fitness expert and your doc before starting something new.
Experts say it is the care you take of yourself during the intial stage of your pregnancy that impacts your health post-pregnancy. As a new life takes shape within you, take the time to centre yourself.
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