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Prepare for Birth and Beyond – FIRST TRIMESTER

First Trimester:  Increase Endurance

During pregnancy, every day is an adventure. Changes in your body, your mind, and your emotions can occur daily. Information is powerful, and it’s helpful to learn about the enormous changes that are happening in your body during the first trimester. No two pregnancies are alike, even for the same mom, but there are some common themes during each trimester. Fatigue is often present during this period because of all of the physical changes in your body. Integrating some simple techniques for endurance can help to reduce the fatigue. I know it sounds counterintuitive to work out when you are fatigued, but a little bit of gentle exercise can help increase your energy.

Your Body in the First Trimester

During the first trimester, there are some days when we feel absolutely fantastic, even goddesslike, as we realize that the potential to bring life into this world is beginning. On other days, we just want to take a nap—like, all day! Try to be gentle with yourself and remember that this is all par for the course. There is so much happening in the body of a mother that it is completely natural and normal to feel fatigued.

Because you will have more energy some days than others, it is important to be patient with your body and practice compassion for yourself. I often remind pregnant mamas-to-be that they are working harder than anyone else in the room even while simply sitting down. During the first trimester, the baby’s neural tube is developing, and by the end of the third month, it already has little hands, little feet, and a functioning liver. So please remember to be kind to yourself and stay receptive to the feedback of your body. The messages from the body during pregnancy are not subtle; sometimes it is screaming for rest. If you need to rest, please honor that. If you feel like you have a little bit of energy and would like to work with that energy in a softer way, choose the Steady As She Goes practice in this chapter, which is gentle in nature. This program integrates a very short standing sequence and is fantastic for those days when you would prefer most of the practice to be seated or lying down.

On other days you will have more energy, and this is the time to increase your endurance. Endurance is a necessary tool throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and beyond. In my experience with thousands of women, the physical endurance that we cultivate in class often converts to mental and emotional endurance as well. We know from the world of sports psychology that the brain often gives up before the body needs to. In this case, try working with positive thoughts like I am building endurance right here, right now. Mental imagery can be beneficial as well. Envision your body getting stronger with each breath, each movement, and imagine that you are sharing that strength with the little one inside you. On the days when the energy and motivation are there, try the Let Your Light Shine program (more about this later in this chapter.

Fatigue is not the only feeling you might experience during your first trimester. There might be a lot of what parents of toddlers call big feelings— having an emotion overtake you, such as crying at a diaper commercial. This too is totally normal and is a result of the hormonal fluctuations in your body. The increase in estrogen can make your moods shift, while the increase in progesterone can make you constipated and bloated. Progesterone in particular slows down the function of smooth muscle (aka digestion), and that can lead to some tummy trouble. With all of these changes happening, you might be wondering How am I supposed to work out?

Many women ask if it is safe to work out during the first trimester, or if they can continue to do what they were doing before pregnancy. Mamas- to-be might ask about everything from Is it safe to do handstands? to What about running sprints? There are as many opinions about exercise as there are sources, so how is a mindful mama to know what is true? First off, with any exercise program, it is important to have clearance for exercise from your obstetrician or midwife. Ob/gyns and other trained birth professionals will assess whether you have a high-risk pregnancy and what the implications for exercise might be. If you are not categorized as high risk, and are given the green light to exercise, there are many forms of exercise you can continue to enjoy.

The most basic rule for the first trimester is (yes, I’m going to keep emphasizing this): If you were not participating in the activity before you were pregnant, now is not the time to start. This rule, like so many rules during pregnancy, has an exception, and that exception is prenatal yoga. Obviously if you have chosen to begin a yoga practice for the first time during pregnancy, you will not be attending a level 2 or level 3 vinyasa flow class and learning headstands. But there is so much in the prenatal yoga practice that can leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized, especially during the first trimester, that you may find it particularly helpful.

Motivation for Moms.

A good place to start any prenatal fitness program is with motivation and inspiration. When we know the Why for exercise, we are much more likely to stick with a program, especially on the days when our energy is a little bit low. Here are some of the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy for you and your baby.

How Prenatal Maternal Exercise Benefits You

-Increases energy, feelings of well- being.

-Promotes a positive self-image.

-Strengthens your heart and blood vessels.

-Strengthens muscles in preparation for labor and support.

-Reduces back pain.

-Eases constipation.

-Improves posture and biomechan-ics.

-Improves circulation.

-Increases flexibility.

-Improves your overall general fitness.

-Increases or maintains aerobic capacity (endurance).

-Decreases muscle tension, which promotes relaxation.

-Reduces recovery time.

-Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Helps you lose the baby-weight after your baby is born.

How Prenatal Maternal Exercise Benefits Your Baby

Regular maternal exercise throughout gestation results in significantly lower fetal heart rate (HR) and increased heart rate variability (HRV).

Exercise supports appropriate fetal body weight and composition, cardiovascular health, and nervous system development.

Some physical activity during pregnancy may elicit a prenatal programming effect, creating a healthy environment in utero during a critical time of organ growth.There is evidence that women who exercise while pregnant have calmer babies who sleep better.

In addition to these benefits, maternal exercise can also help decrease the risk of the following.

-Edema (swelling).

-Fatigue.

-Insomnia.

-Gestational diabetes.

-Diastasis recti (abdominal  separation).

-Pelvic and rectal pressure.

-The need for surgical or medical interventions.

-Postpartum weight retention Depression.

Exercise during pregnancy has so many benefits that you might want to photocopy these lists and tape them to your bathroom or kitchen cabinet. Starting each day with a powerful list of benefits can help you to remember some of the Whys for your exercise program. Use a highlighter on the points that are especially important to you, and write in additional words of motivation like You’ve got this, mama! Staying motivated to exercise will help keep you on track with your daily program.