Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

baby body

When I first started on the pregnancy journey, I was highly motivated to do the right thing – both for me and my baby.

But a few setbacks, interruptions and OK, laziness, have meant that the healthy eating, daily power walks and resistance training have made way in favour of the of the couch, cake and kicking back.

In a bid to get my health and fitness mojo back, I turned to Amy Mitchell, mum of two and a qualified personal trainer with a focus on pre- and post-natal health and fitness, for some much needed advice and inspiration.

Why is it important for women to exercise during pregnancy, and after childbirth? What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and after childbirth?

A small percentage of women are unable to exercise during pregnancy for specific medical reasons (such as myocardial disease or incomplete cervix) but for the vast majority, exercise can provide myriad benefits during pregnancy.

These include:

  • Maintaining fitness levels: this makes it easier to resume exercise after giving birth and can also contribute to an easier labour (and who doesn’t want that). 
  • Muscular strength and tone: helps protect against injury, and can also assist with an easier labour. When done correctly, with the advice of a fitness professional, resistance training is a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy (and come out of it looking great!) 
  • Preventing excessive weight gain 
  • Great stress release
  • Promotes feelings of wellbeing

Postnatally, returning to exercise (when your doctor says it is safe to do so) also has a huge number of benefits, such as: 

  • Helps to strengthen joints and repair pelvic, abdominal and uterine muscles, which are all weakened during pregnancy 
  • Increases energy levels (and let’s face it, with a newborn we need all the energy we can get!) 
  • Helps you lose the baby weight 
  • Improves mental wellbeing and can minimise post-natal blues

Do you have any tips for staying motivated?

Probably the most important thing to remember is you’re not only looking after yourself when you exercise, but also your baby, and exercising during and after pregnancy (unless you have a specific condition that makes it unsafe to do so) benefits both of you.

Listen to your body, by all means, and if you’re exhausted then rest, but even walking regularly will make a difference to how you look and feel.

Also, don’t see pregnancy as an excuse to sit on the couch and eat what you like for nine months – it might seem great at the time but your body won’t be thanking you after your baby’s born! Maintain a healthy eating regimen and continue exercising and you’ll look and feel much better for it.

What types of exercise would you recommend during pregnancy/post childbirth?

It depends on the woman and her level of fitness, and if you have specific issues or concerns then it’s best to talk to your doctor and/ or a qualified fitness professional about what is safe and appropriate for you.

Walking is a great exercise that most women can do throughout their pregnancy and resume soon after giving birth (gently at first).

A Swissball is a great tool to help pregnant women exercise and can be used for things like squats against a wall, or pelvic tilts. And pelvic floor exercises are obviously a must both during and after pregnancy.

Swimming and water-based exercises are great during pregnancy because they’re non weight-bearing.

What types of exercise should be avoided during pregnancy?

Again it depends on the woman and her level of fitness and any specific issues she might have, but as a general rule during pregnancy it’s best to avoid:

  • High-impact exercise and contact sports. Relaxin, the hormone released during the first trimester, softens muscles and tendons and makes women more prone to strains and dislocation, so exercise that involves twisting and rotation or fast changes of direction are best avoided. It’s also important not to overstretch muscles. 
  • Exercises that require prolonged standing due to the extra weight load through the hips – think of seated alternatives.
  • Prolonged, strenuous exercise. During pregnancy women’s resting heart rate is increased so limit activity to a perceived rate of exertion level of “somewhat hard”. 
  • After the 16th week avoid exercises that involve lying on the back as it restricts blood flow to the heart and body. 
  • Most of all, listen to your body, stay well hydrated and cool. If you are concerned about anything or don’t feel right, then stop.

Postnatally, women’s ability to return to exercise will depend on a number of factors including their previous fitness level; what sort of birth they had (caesarean/ vaginal/ long/ short); health complications etc.

It’s always best to start gently and work your way back into it. Relaxin is still present in your body for up to 12 weeks after the birth so take care as you can still be susceptible to injury. Avoid jarring/ jumping exercises.

For women with weak pelvic floors, I would also avoid running/ jumping activities until pelvic floor is strengthened.

If you’ve had a caesarean birth, avoid sit-ups until about 12 weeks.

What areas do you like to focus on in your classes?

With both pre and post-natal women I like to focus on enjoying exercise and building muscle tone and strength, especially in the key areas of the pelvic floor, abdominals, glutes and quads.

Many women focus on weight loss, especially postnatally, but if you’re exercising regularly and eating well, that will come.

The main thing is to make exercise fun (ie not a chore!) and it can be a great way to bond with your baby, or just get some “me” time – both before and after bub is born.

Do you think babies like being involved in the exercise?

There are tons of exercises you can do with your bub and they usually love it – they’re with their mum, after all, what’s not to love?

The most obvious exercise you can do with your bub is to walk/ run with them in the pram, but I also love doing things like squats and sit-ups with my baby, too.

Even if they’re not involved in the exercise they’re usually pretty fascinated just watching mum exercise!

Thanks for your advice Amy – you’ve inspired me to dust off those walking shoes and get moving!

Amy runs mums-and-bubs classes, as well as one-on-one and small group sessions in Sydney’s inner-west. For more information, contact amymitchellfitness@hotmail.com.

You can also read more about exercising during pregnancy and beyond at BabyCenter.

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February 23, 2011

cramping up

Not long ago, I heard that one of the side effects of pregnancy was leg cramps, especially at night. 

“That doesn’t sound good” I thought.  “I hate cramps.  Glad that doesn’t happen to me”

Oops!  Spoke too soon.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting minor cramps that wake me when I’d rather be getting my beauty sleep.  But over the last two nights they’ve been so severe that even walking was painful this morning.

So much for thinking I’ve avoided them.

On the plus side, might be a good excuse for a massage.

So what causes these cramps?  The jury’s mostly out on this one.

According to birth.com.au (and many other sources) they can be caused by a lack of calcium, magnesium and/or salt.

I can wipe the first one out – am consuming so much cheese, hot chocolates, smoothies and ice cream I don’t think calcium is an issue here.

The magnesium? Not entirely sure where to find this in my diet but the pregnancy multi-vite covers that one.

And the salt?  I’m pretty sure the cheese covers this too (I always knew it was a super food).

BabyCentre gives a different (and infinitely more plausible) explanation.  “Your leg muscles are tired from carrying around all of your extra weight”.

Bingo!

Might be time to cut back on my sources of calcium, at least a little, to minimise the extra cargo.

If you’re also suffering from cramps, here are BabyCentre’s solutions (although the last one confuses me somewhat – downwards as opposed to how?!):

  • You could try some of these practical measures during the day. They may help you to have a cramp-free sleep:
    Calf stretches. Stand a metre from a wall and lean forwards with your arms outstretched to touch the wall. Keep the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Hold for five seconds. Repeat the exercise for five minutes, three times a day, especially before going to bed (CKS 2008).
  • Drink plenty of liquid (Lee and Thomas 2009). If you’re worried about having to get up in the night for trips to the loo, try drinking almost nothing for an hour or two before bedtime. Just make sure you drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water during the day.
  • Daily foot exercises. Bend and stretch each foot vigorously up and down 30 times. Then rotate each foot eight times one way and eight times the other way (Young 2009, DH 2009).
  • Try not to stand for long periods or sit with your legs crossed.
  • Have a warm bath before going to bed (Lee and Thomas 2009).
  • Try not to sleep with your toes pointing downwards (CKS 2008).

Maybe I just need to stop whinging.  It ain’t nothing on childbirth (or so I hear).

February 21, 2011

a bit of friendly competition

Much has been said about competitive mothers, starting with comparing Agpar scores taken at birth, up to (and beyond) reports cards in high school.

But the competition really starts at pregnancy, or perhaps even beforehand. 

From women comparing themselves to others in terms of how long it took them to conceive, to how much weight they did (or didn’t gain) during pregnancy, from ultrasound results to how much they could take on while pregnant.

It’s enough to make you crazy, if you let it, and I doubt there are many women who haven’t compared themselves and their pregnancy to someone else.

Even gorgeous singer Pink, who usually comes across as the picture of self confidence, has taken to posting self-portraits of herself to counteract the less than flattering papparazzi shots popping up in the media, accompanied by charming comments like “Pink looks horrible pregnant“.

Pink pregnant

Unfortunately there is little you can do to avoid it – even if you aren’t particularly prone to comparing yourself with other people, well meaning (?) friends, relatives and co-workers are likely to point out your shortcomings at some point or another.

Feeling nauseous?  Tired? Irritable Someone you know will have breezed through pregnancy feeling none of these things and someone else will be sure to let you know about it before you even open your mouth to complain.

Feeling a little plump?  Too tired to exercise?  You’re sure to hear about a friend’s (insert here) sister/cousin/colleague who didn’t gain a pound over the baby’s weight, continued jogging until the day their baby was born and wore their pre-maternity jeans out of the delivery suite.

Even if your pregnancy goes relatively smoothly, there is always someone to helpfully remind you that so-and-so did it better, healthier and happier, all while working 60 hour weeks, completing triathlons, looking like a supermodel and renovating a stunning designer nursery.

Earlier in my pregnancy I was at a wedding and when it got close to midnight I said goodbye to a friend, saying I was too tired to stay late. 

Her response?  “What’s wrong with you? I never felt tired after 12 weeks”.  Awesome, for her.

I couldn’t give two hoots about it now but at the time I was left with a feeling of inadequacy – what is wrong with me? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the comments/advice/’supportive’ information I’ve been given.

If you ever find yourself wanting to slap someone for their (hopefully unintentionally) insensitive comments, just remind yourself that for every Gisele out there (who was apparently up cooking pancakes for the family the day after a drug-free birth which didn’t hurt in the slightest, and back modelling not long after) there will be someone out there who is doing it just as tough, or tougher than you.

gisele bundchen working that pregnancy glow

It’s also important to realise that while there are some truly blessed people out there (yay for Gisele) there are a lot of people who are selective about what they choose to broadcast about themselves so that they are always seen in a more positive light.

All you can do is the best you can, and smile to yourself that you are about to bring a lovely, precious little bundle into the world who won’t care if your hair is greasy or your thighs are more cottage cheese than coltish. 

The baby will just want love, smiles and cuddles from mum (food and a clean nappy won’t hurt either) and that is something no one can do better than you!

(as an aside, if you ever feel like you don’t measure up, check out this clip from Killing Me Softly as posted on MamaMia – a must see for any woman, pregnant or not.  Go Kate Winslet!)

February 20, 2011

storm in a D-cup

So I finally went to get fitted for maternity/nursing bras yesterday. 

I honestly don’t know why it’s taken me so long considering a) I outgrew my regular bras pretty much as soon as I fell pregnant b) I’m (usually) quite the advocate for properly fitting undergarments and c) I’ve always been a more regular buyer of pretty underwear than any other item of clothing.

But for whatever reason, six months down the pregnancy path I found myself in a change room being pushed and prodded by the bra fitter.

What surprised me was the number of lovely bras that were available in the maternity section.  

My only other experience with maternity/nursing bras came from my sister who gave me a couple of that had never fitted her, and they were totally snooze inducing. 

That being said, she shops almost exclusively from Bonds so I shouldn’t have been surprised (don’t get me wrong, nothing with a bit of Bonds for day to day). But I prefer something a bit more glamorous, even if you wouldn’t normally expect it from my generally casual getup.

So after a few hits and misses, I found a few lovely bras, and was told that my new size is a D-cup.  But not for long – apparently I’m due to outgrow these soon for a double-D – bring out the big guns!

This must be a pretty common size for pregnant ladies because as soon as I was told my new size I hotfooted it over to the racks to pick my size from my fave bras in the selection.  And lo and behold, there were none there.  Plenty of Bs, Cs, and Fs – but no Ds or double Ds (but isn’t that always the way?)

Looks like I’ll be taking this search online, as I have with all my other maternity gear.  I’ll be checking out hotmilk and elle mcpherson (my usual go-to brand) but I’d love to hear from anyone else who knows of some comfortable (yet a little bit spesh) brands online.

UPDATE: after a few hours trawling online I am now the proud owner of some lovely lingerie BUT it took me forever to find.  Easy to find some gorgeous styles, but in my size?  Not so lucky. Why, why, why do they always have only super small and super large sizes left?  Designers and manufactuers, hello!? Please unite and start producing more items in middle of the road sizes, thanks.  And thanks also to Trixan Body where I finally was able to locate my very average sized underwear!

February 15, 2011

on the plus side

A little while ago I posted on some of the unwanted side effects of pregnancy, but I don’t want anyone to think that it’s all doom and gloom – far from it.

Apart from the obvious reasons why it’s nice to have a baby on the way (bringing a new life into the world, strengthening the bond with your partner etc) there are definitely some other perks that can bring a smile to your face.

Some of these might seem trivial but, much like getting an unexpected discount when you get to the cash register, they can make your day.

Carte blanche to eat whatever you want

OK, so that may not be the case. But I’m used to eating (almost whatever) I want, so having that last bit of restriction lifted has been a real pleasure.

Afternoon tea? Sure. Ice cream for dessert? Why not! Feeling a bit hefty from all the extra food? That’s just the baby weight!

And while I wouldn’t condone eating EVERYTHING in sight, it sure is nice not to feel guilty about having seconds.

Public transport

Getting an almost guaranteed seat on the bus is another little joy that can really make the day end on a high note when you’ve finished work late and don’t feel you have the energy to smile (this quickly changes when someone offers you their seat, though).

If only there was a big sign above your head begging for a seat in those early days of pregnancy when the fatigue seems at its worst!

That pregnancy glow

I’m not sure about the whole ‘glow’ thing, as a matter of course.

Most women I’ve spoken to, have felt decidedly un-glowy during certain times in their pregnancy.

But while there are days when you feel as sexy as a beached whale, paying better attention to my health does make me feel a lot healthier and happier, at least from the inside!

And I know my liver is probably dancing for joy. Which brings me to…

No ohmygod moments after too many vinos

Not everyone will get this one, but I love my wine (and beer, vodka etc). And I’ve been known to enjoy more than a couple on an embarrassingly large number of occasions in my pre-pregnancy life.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with anyone letting their hair down once in a while but if you’re like me you tend to shoot off at the mouth a bit (or a lot). And get a bit silly (insane/stupid/obnoxious).

So it’s great to wake up on a Sunday morning knowing I didn’t do anything to embarrass myself or offend anyone.

Shopaholics paradise So many excuses – sorry, important reasons – to shop!

Asos Maternity

Clothes for me (just discovered Asos Maternity, woo-ee), clothes for baby, clothes for me for after the baby, nursery gear…there are so many essentials to sort out that you pretty much won’t have time to even look at the real money wasters (that too tight frock for your old flatmate’s brothers party that you just know you’ll only wear once).

And to make sure I spend my hard earned dough in all the right places, I also get to indulge in extra glossies to satisfy my ridiculous obsession – Cosmo Pregnancy (what a joy!), Shop 4 Kids, Inside Out, Vogue Living (for the nursery, dahling).

There are plenty more to add to the list (a babymoon, well-deserved time off work and no heavy lifting to name just a few), but it’s time to put my feet up and have a bowl of ice cream.

February 9, 2011

Introducing… The Love Mobile! « ebdb

Introducing… The Love Mobile! « ebdb.

February 9, 2011

be a sexy incubator

Check out some hot tips from HOTmilk (surely the sauciest maternity lingerie around) on how to look awesome and feel comfortable for the full nine months and beyond (as posted on Essential Baby):

HOTmilks guide to the perfect maternity bra

Oh, is that Valentines Day just around the corner??

And if you think you’re working your bump better than Heidi Klum, Angel Maternity (check them out for awesome work and weekend wear) are looking for their next angel – details here.

If you’re between three and eight months pregnant and can get to Castle Hill in Sydney for the photo shoot, you could be the star of their next campaign (and win a maternity wardrobe).  The pics would be a great momento for the offspring!

February 7, 2011

moving on

Old house sold – tick.  New house bought?  Hmmm.  BF and I went house hunting on the weekend, which wasn’t much fun in 35 degree heat, or sensible – the only houses we liked had pools, aircon and are probably out of our price range.

I must say I’m well and truly the feeling the nesting urge and, if it wasn’t for the more sensible brain of my partner I’d probably put a down payment on the first house I came across, just so we could start decorating the nursery.

Image by © Rick Gomez/CORBIS

While there’s no problem staying where we are for now (we’re renting while we find the perfect house for our new family), moving with a newborn (or even new-ish born) doesn’t sound like heaps of fun.

So my work day at the moment involves five minutes of work, five minutes of looking at houses, back to work, back to houses, and so on.  Not very productive.

To throw a spanner in the works, I’ve finally put two and two together – BF is a builder and I work for some of the best residential architects/interior designers around – so why not find something that needs a lot of work and capitalise on a bargain, with a lot of the labour done for free, or mates rates?

For one, any renovations we undertake might not be finished by the time the baby is born.  And one thing worse than moving with a newborn would have to be living in a construction site with a barely functional kitchen and bathroom.

Secondly, being around paint fumes and dust is no good for me or the baby (good excuse to head out and go shopping though while someone else does the work!).

Kylie Orr on Essential Baby helps to uncover a whole host of other problems with my reno ideas, but I can’t take them in at the moment – my head is too full of designer kitchen and bathroom fantasies.

The silver lining?  I always tend to overdo it with the rushing around and lifting side of things when I move or do renovation work.  This time I’m going to use my perfectly reasonable excuse to sit back and direct any helpers.

If you’re in the same boat as me, helpiammoving.com and Pregnancy Today have some practical advice for anyone else thinking of moving while pregnant.

Put it over there, boys!

February 3, 2011

thanks, babe

When I found out I was pregnant I was unbelievably excited, so happy to welcome a new life into the world.

But I didn’t think twice about the side effects of pregnancy, at least not until they got into full swing!

There’s the obvious ones such as morning sickness, varicose veins, stretch marks, weight gain and mood swings.

But wait, there’s more. Lots more.  Baby Centre points out other unwanted outcomes like gas, constipation, itchy skin and haemorrhoids. Yay!

It doesn’t stop there.  Visit The Cradle for a list that includes vaginal discharge, increased hair growth and pain in the groin area.  Can it get any better?

These are just the tip of the iceberg!

So far, I’ve been lucky to avoid many of them. 

No morning sickness to speak of (just an insatiable hunger, see my previous point about weight gain).

No stretch marks either, but I’m expecting them sooner or later (again, weight gain).

Still, there are still some effects of pregnancy I’d rather not deal with.

Acne:  This stage has passed (I hope) but for a couple of months I constantly had at least two gracing my puffy face at any one time.  Yum!

Dandruff:  Again, this has gone for now, but for a while there it looked like we were going to have a white Christmas (and in Sydney that’s no mean feat).

Fatigue:  Thankfully this has eased up a lot since the first trimester but I still can’t take on as much as I used to, or stay up nearly as late.  And exercise seems a lot tougher too (back to the weight gain issue again!).  It’ll get better after that baby is born and I can sleep in, right?

Boobs:  While it’s been nice to have temporarily inflated boobs, the extra weight has meant that I’m in danger of failing the pencil test (one of the only school girl body tests I’ve always passed with flying colours).  I’m also trying not think about what’s going to happen once the temporary boobaliciousness has passed.  I’m guessing it won’t be pretty.

And speaking of boobs, I have temporarily grown a new one.  The saying ‘three’s a crowd’ springs to mind.  I was concerned about a new mole that had developed under my breast.  The doctor took one look at it and laughed, telling me (while barely containing his mirth) that I was growing a new nipple. 

“Sometimes it can turn into a new breast,” he giggled.  “Great for triplets!”  Uh, yeah. Thankfully, it still looks like a mole, not a third nipple.  For now.

Weight gain:  When I mentioned to one of my sisters, mother of three, that I was worried I had gained too much weight (and from the look of concern on my doctors face whenever I weigh in, it looks like I have) my sister said “Oh, don’t worry about weight gain.  You can lose that.  Worry about the fact that your waist will never be the same AND you’ll have stretch marks. 

“Thank god my stomach has gotten flat again, finally, but even my husband says the veins on my legs are disgusting – I’m spending a fortune getting them removed. 

“And just when I’m having a good day?  I have my youngest son chasing me round the house yelling ‘big wobbly bot bot, big wobbly bot bot’”. 

Sweet.

I haven’t even started to list some of things I’ve heard about happening to your body during labour. 

One friend I’ve spoken to lately (who had an unusual tearing incident) has described her nether regions as “looking like something a dog has taken a bite out of”.  Ouch.

I know it is a crime of vanity to worry about these things, but hopefully the prediction is worse than the actual event.  If not, I’ll be wearing my ‘maternity’ wardrobe for a long time to come.

At least I’ll have cherubs smiling face to cheer me up on a fat day.

February 1, 2011

not so desperate housewife

One of the things I’m most excited about in coming months (other than the new baby of course) is the day I finish work. 

And if I have my way, I won’t be heading back to traditional paid employment at all.  Ever.

I’ve felt guilty about my lack of career love since entering the workforce, pretty much. 

After finishing uni I was brimming with optimism and enthusiasm for my new career.  Except that my new career never really came along.

Sure, I’ve had jobs.  Some I’ve even liked, for a little while.  I’ve even returned to uni in a bid to foster more enthusiasm and/or discover my calling.

But after all this time and study, finally I’ve come to the realisation that perhaps a career isn’t for everyone – at least it’s not necessarily for me. 

picture courtesy of Alice Jean's Vintage Living in a Modern World

And while I feel happy for friends who have enthusiasm and a genuine love for their work, I no longer feel guilty for not feeling the same way.

I’d say about 90% has to do with my upbringing (and the other 10% the overwhelming boredom that hits me after a few months in any job – I’m beginning to suspect a form of undiagnosed ADHD). 

My own mum never worked in paid employment, at least not when I was growing up.  That isn’t to say she was lazy, not in the least. She worked harder than many ‘working’ mums I knew of – keeping a spotless and beautifully decorated home, making our clothes (and as an ex-fashion designer she made some beauties), creating an abundant and relaxing garden, ferrying me and my three siblings to music lessons, dance classes, sporting events etc, providing a seemingly never ending variety of delicious and healthy meals each night (along with breakfasts and packed lunches), looking after household admin and some aspects of my dad’s business, and most of all always being there as an infinite source of love, affection and support.

Of course we kids never appreciated all this consciously until we were older.  Truth be told I was always so jealous of a classmate who lived on our street who had her own key to let herself in the door from third grade – oh, what freedom!  But in hindsight I know I would have preferred what I had.

Now I’m not saying you can’t do all this AND have a career (and I truly take my hats off to those who do) but for me personally I’d never be able to ‘have it all’ – something would have to give, or else everything would be done half-heartedly, and no doubt wearily!

And while I don’t disparage anyone who needs a career to feel fulfilment, I don’t feel that way myself. 

Whether we can afford for me not to work I don’t know. 

It will probably come down to the number of kids we have and, if I decide to go back to work what kind of salary I’d be looking at – I wouldn’t be keen on working if all my hard earned dollars went on daycare and takeaways.

Who knows how I’ll feel about this issue once I’ve been away from the workplace for a while – my boss is convinced I’ll be begging to return after a few months.  Will just have to wait and see.