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Happy Bump – Staying Fit While Pregnant

I get a lot of questions about my health and fitness regimen and how I’m staying in shape for my pregnancy, what products I’m using, what I’m eating, etc.

I’ll share my secrets in a moment, but first I just have something to say about taking care of your mental health (which by the way is far more important than worrying about stretch marks!) 

Many pregnant women find it difficult that as soon as you’re pregnant you seem to become public property. Something for people to comment on, stare at, touch and chastise for your various choices.

This has only become more intense with social media, I know so many pregnant women terrified of posting something on Instagram that will cause nasty comments telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

I think much of it is well meant, while a lot stems from people’s need to control others. Social media has given everyone and their dog (quite literally) a platform to pick at each other, tell strangers whatever fleeting thoughts they may have about them and push their own beliefs onto others. You may have been brought up to understand that commenting on someone’s weight/size isn’t appropriate whether they’re pregnant or not, but it seems there’s a whole world of people who haven’t or who have forgotten their manners.

Worse than what others will say though is what you’ll say about yourself. The mindless scrolling through a feed of perfect images, perfect lives, people who are thinner, richer, happier, prettier, subconsciously comparing yourself is only human nature. And it only seems to become worse for women in pregnancy. “Is my bump bigger or smaller than hers?” “How many weeks is she? How do I measure up?” “How does she make it look so easy?” “Why is she eating that? I thought we couldn’t eat that?!” “Am I doing it wrong?”

I get to see all of this from a unique perspective.

Essentially because I’ve dealt with all of this nonsense for years. I’ve worked in social media since its inception. I’ve been blogging for almost a decade. If there’s something nasty to be said online you can guarantee it’s been said to me. I’ve dealt with nastiness from everything from my looks, my weight, my style, to my friendships, relationships and family. It took a little while to understand that while initially hurtful, it says far far more about the person saying these things than the person they’re being said about. I feel genuinely sad for the person who “hate follows” strangers and leaves nasty comments, because I know how utterly miserable they must be. While the rest of us use social media as a window into people’s world and a source of inspiration, these deeply unhappy people are just torturing themselves and hoping that by hurting others they’ll finally feel better. Anyone with a mind untwisted by self loathing and hatred will know that this’ll never work… but sadly it’s not easy to explain this to someone so deeply troubled.

Once you’ve dealt with the nastiest side of human nature, it’s impossible not to grow a thicker skin because of it. It allows you to take a step back and gain a new perspective. When I see “Mom Shaming” happening on Instagram I know that it comes from a place of insecurity and sadness. Occasionally I’ll comment back and argue, but I’ll always message the mum in question and remind her what a great job she’s doing.  The same when I see bullying of any kind on social media, in a world where darkness is amplified, it’s up to the rest of us to shine a light on the good stuff. Remind the people you love to follow how great they are, there is nothing like sharing love to make you feel great.

“Comparisons are odious” is a surprisingly relevant saying from the 15th Century. Stop comparing yourself to other people, both in real life and in social media. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors or the struggles people face. Social media shows you a happy snapshot of one moment, don’t compare your life to someone’s highlight reel. Particularly during pregnancy! I for one know that my bump can go from small to enormous inside the measure of a day. I can wake up feeling and looking great, only to slump onto the sofa like an exhausted whale come supper time and beg my husband to rub my fat feet. Guess when I feel like taking pictures?! You got it! When I feel good! 

If I don’t feel good, funnily enough I don’t really feel like picking up a camera or wearing anything other than my pyjamas or going anywhere near social media. So you don’t see it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. People often like to tell others that they have a duty to share the bad stuff, to tell the world when they feel terrible, but this is nonsense. Whatever your job, whatever your follower count, you do not have a duty to anyone but yourself. If you need time away, time off, time to decompress, you take it. Even in real life, if it all gets too much this Christmas and a family member is pulling you down, remove yourself. Go for a walk, your only responsibility is your own happiness, assuming you can control someone else’s is just arrogance.

If you feel that looking at a certain Instagram profile no longer makes you happy, feel inspired or interested, just unfollow! You also don’t have a duty to anyone, remember that. (For those friend/family follows that you know would cause a scene, hold down their profile picture on the Stories carousel at the top of the feed, it’ll give you the option to mute them and their posts. A life saver!) 

So. Long, long story short, if you’re here because you’re pregnant and you follow lots of pregnant women on Instagram (including me) and you’re feeling inferior or like it’s easier on everyone but you and you’re somehow failing… snap out of it! You are growing a human! You are literally a super hero, a goddess, a life giving force of nature. You’re doing the best you can, so be gentle with yourself. Anyone who says pregnancy is easy is either lying or has forgotten being pregnant.

Rant over, here are my tips for Happy Bumps.

1. Do your own research. Everyone has something to say on what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your body. Your mother in law has lots, I’m sure.

Just because one person tells you something does not make it true. Yes, even if they’re a doctor. People can only give you their opinion based on their own experiences and the information at hand. Never be afraid to seek a second opinion.

Medical wisdom changes every year. Many of the things my mother was told to do with her babies, your doctor will now swear will kill yours. And let’s not even go into the things our grandmothers and their grandmothers were told to do! That’s not to say “don’t trust your doctor!” you absolutely should, but if something doesn’t feel right just remember that you live in a world with so much information right at your finger tips. You can access all the latest studies for yourself. Weigh up the options and you decide what’s best for you and your baby.

A friend I made at pregnancy yoga was told that as her baby was “back to back” she would have to have a caesarean, which she was distraught about. I told her to ask for another doctor’s opinion, that the hospital in question has a reputation for being scalpel happy and lots of babies, all over the world, are born face to pubis. She did so and both doctors eventually agreed that she could go ahead with her original birth plan (and she has a beautiful baby girl now!)

When I was told I had to get a flu shot I was somewhat taken aback. I’ve never had a flu vaccination and didn’t really want to start now. I asked for the reasoning, which is that your immune system backs down when you’re pregnant so you don’t attack the baby, meaning you’re at higher risk of getting sick and if you do it can mean a stay in intensive care and miscarriage. I asked about the other side of the argument and learned that it’s the same as the anti-vax argument that vaccinations could cause autism. We all know perfectly well that they don’t and that protecting both mother and baby’s life is more important than anything else, so I was able to make an informed decision. I had both my flu jab and a whooping cough jab (to protect baby in the early weeks) on the same day and went away with nothing but a slightly achy arm. I haven’t had so much as a cold all winter!

Just beware of Dr Google. Always consider the source of the info you read, what is it based on, is it pushing an agenda? When in doubt talk to a midwife or doctor, or two!

2. Do yoga. Pregnancy yoga is entirely different to regular yoga and you may find that even if you hate traditional yoga, you love it now. It’s incredibly gentle, really relaxing and a great way to connect with baby. At the start of class they often ask everyone to go around, say a little about themselves and how they’re getting on. It’s nice to meet new mums and hear your own struggles mirrored in other’s lives. Great for getting your head straight in stressful times, too!

3. Eat what you want. Think again about the idea of “eating for two”. It’s true, you do need a lot more nutrients but not necessarily a lot more food. Think about the size of your baby’s stomach, it doesn’t need the amount you need so don’t kid yourself that you can gorge on a dozen donuts and they wont go right to your thighs! That’s not to say that you won’t get more hungry, I get ravenously hungry every two hours or so. So I eat! I eat what I know my body wants and needs, protein, fats, veggies, and yes occasionally a really good donut!

If you use pregnancy as an excuse to go crazy and gorge on nothing but junk food, not only will you be doing yourself and your body a disservice, you’ll feel rubbish, birth will be hard work and recovery a nightmare. Do yourself a favour and eat well.

Avoid “dangerous” foods. When you’re pregnant these are things which risk carrying disease. Food poisoning is annoying any time but a serious problem if you’re pregnant. Raw fish, cured meats, unpasteurised cheese, these are all out. But there are loopholes. You can have soft French cheeses, as long as they’re cooked. Jackpot! Baked camembert is better than cold camembert anyway! I did my own research, as I suggest you do about my or anyone else’s recommendations, and decided not to worry about runny egg yolks as long as they’re quality assured British eggs.

My midwife is incredibly sensible and says that it’s different for everyone, if you have a strong stomach usually you just don’t need to worry as much. “Everyone says don’t eat raw fish but what do you think pregnant women in Japan eat? If you want it, just make sure it’s fresh.” Essentially she was saying that  if I can’t live without a spicy tuna roll, to get it from Nobu, not the local garage.

4. Supplement! Before and in early pregnancy you need folic acid. Later on most people say you can drop it, but there are other supplements I still take every day. Vitamin D (particularly important for winter pregnancies when you’re not getting much sun), Magnesium Citrate, Omega 3 oils (great for your skin, nails, brain function and heart, really great for building babies and I just read that it decreases the risk of premature birth by a crazy amount!)

I also take my pro-biotics every day, but tend to have my shake as an afternoon snack rather than breakfast. It’s so chocolaty it feels like a really naughty treat and keeps me from the krispy kremes. The potassium and fibre in the bananas is great too!

5. Walk! Even when you don’t feel like it, pull on your boots and go for a good long walk at least once a day. It’s so brilliant for your overall fitness and you’ll need a healthy heart for all that pushing at the end of pregnancy! Aside from yoga it’s my only workout and I credit any semblance of being fit and toned with walking. Take it slow, but just take it!

6. Go and see a chiropractor. I always thought they were just for people with bad backs or problems to fix, but honestly going to see one was the best thing I ever did for my pregnancy. Try and find someone who practices “The Webster Method” of aligning you and your pelvis, and it’ll change your whole pregnancy.

I was carrying very low and feeling so so uncomfortable. My bump was so neat and tight (which I actually thought was a good thing because I had strong abs!). My doctor stretched me out, cracked my back, stuck their finger in my mouth (not kidding!) and told me that my bump should absolutely not be firm like an Instagram model’s, but soft and spacious, like a balloon. I went home not feeling all that different and my husband immediately noticed the difference, “oh your bump got bigger!” he said and remarked on how much squidgier it was. A couple more sessions over the last few weeks have me feeling like a new woman. My bump is huge! Baby has moved right up and is currently swimming around like it’s in a whirlpool. The difference feels amazing. Having been at the clinic and met a few of the babies who came out of very tight bumps, with little squished heads or in back braces, I’m so, so grateful to have such a forward thinking midwife to have recommended a trip.

Most people agree that having your pelvis professionally aligned drastically cuts down labour time, so fingers crossed!

7. Treat yourself to a pregnancy pillow. I use this one and it is the dream.

8. Take salty baths. Warm ones, rather than hot. The optimum temp is about 38C/100F, but as I don’t keep a thermometer in the bathroom I just go by touch. Anything that makes me feel too hot, is too hot! I add a huge scoop of magnesium salts, a huge scoop of epsom salts, a tbsp of coconut oil and a few drops of both lavender and eucalyptus essential oils. When I get in I stretch. I try and stretch every muscle I can think of, I do cat-cow stretches and massage my feet (unless I can convince my husband to do it for me!) before stretching out and meditating, maybe having a chat with Bump about all the things I’m excited to do with them.

9. Oil that bump! Partly to protect against stretch marks (but come on, there are worse things than stretch marks, don’t stress out too much) but it’ll also stop any itching of the skin as you grow and it’s a nice ritual and act of self love. I use this oil, but a lot of people swear by almond oil.

10. Be kind to yourself. Pregnancy is hard work! The side effects are no joke and the combination of being incredibly tired and nervous about the future is hard on anyone. Go slower than usual, ask for help, spoil yourself. This holiday season, spend as much time in your pjs as you jolly well like!

Lastly, I hate to harp on about it but seriously, stop comparing yourself. Everyone’s on their own journey and you’re doing brilliantly. Enjoy this special time, it’ll be over before we know it!

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