6 Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy

As a Toronto birth doula I am passionate about women having the best possible pregnancy. Please read what my guest writer Dr. Charles-Davie has to say about exercise and pregnancy.

Exercises are usually encouraged during pregnancy but most mothers fail to do so. Some give the excuse of being too tired or weak or they do not know the kind of exercises to do. Most mothers think exercise is just an added stress to the pregnancy cycle. They are wrong.

Exercising during pregnancy has a lot of benefits. We will be looking at 6 major benefits every pregnant woman will love to have.

1. Reduces Backaches

Most pregnant women complain about backaches, which makes us understand why we often see them place their hands behind their back as a support.

The weight of the baby puts a lot of weight on your back, which causes backache.

Due to the pregnancy, you can’t take medications to relieve your pain. The only drug that can be used to relieve the pain is by exercise.

Exercises, such as yoga or pelvic tilts, stretch out the back and help relieve pain and any other associated problems such as tingling sensations going down the legs. You can also use a good pillow to support the pregnancy when you sleep.

2. Improves your posture

We tend to assume postures that are comfortable which are usually not the right posture. This inaccurate posture over stretches some muscles and under uses some. This muscular imbalance affects our posture and also contributes to neck or back pain.

When you exercise, it balances out the muscle and helps you to maintain a proper posture throughout the pregnancy period. It tones up your muscles so that they are strong enough to correct your bad posture and support you and the pregnancy. Yoga is a great exercise for improving posture.

3. Strengthens your pelvic floor muscles

How many of us know kegel exercises? These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are muscles that support our pelvic organs. Pelvic organs in a woman are bladder, bowel and the uterus.

As the baby grows, the uterus stretches and puts a lot of stress on the pelvic floor muscles. This strains the muscles and in the process they get weak. Weak pelvic floor muscles can no longer support your organs and it becomes difficult to control urine, faeces or wind.

Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and prevent any organ prolapse that can occur after childbirth.

4. Prevents gestational diabetes

This usually occurs only during pregnancy. The body goes through changes when women are pregnant. Sometimes, one of these changes can make your body resistant to the insulin your body is producing. Having high blood sugar can be harmful to the mother and the baby.

Exercise has shown to have a lot of benefits when it comes to diabetes. Exercises make our muscles hungry, which makes the muscle take up more glucose and in the process, we burn up the glucose, which reduces the sugar content in the body. It also makes our body sensitive to the insulin, which assists, in further breaking down the sugar.

5. Improves your cardiovascular endurance

Some pregnant mothers can testify that activities, like walking or climbing up the stairs, make them breathless. The heart pumps blood around the body, the lungs add oxygen to the blood and the blood vessels transport this oxygenated blood around the body to provide energy.

When a woman is pregnant, she needs to take in more oxygen because she is now providing for two people. Exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, and riding a recumbent exercise bike can help the blood circulate faster and your muscles will effectively absorb the oxygen and therefore reduce your breathlessness.

6. It makes you sleep better

Exercises have a very soothing and relaxing effect. After exercising, your body will feel tired and as you sleep, it improves blood circulation round the body and makes you feel relaxed while you sleep. You can also try to choose the best mattress that will support your weight during pregnancy.

Guest article by Dr. Charles-Davies OA, a medical doctor who loves to share relevant health information.

Best Food to Eat After a C-section

Vegan black bean brownie

As a Toronto birth doula I know the importance of a delicious recipe that can satisfy but also keep your blood sugars in check. Try out my yummy healthy brownies!

Black bean brownies oh soooo good. Dairy and gluten free packed with nutrition and fibre. Food that makes you poop!

I love to cook and bake for new mothers, it’s my passion. The recipes I use are for healing and rebuilding the postpartum body. Fibre is key in keeping your colon moving and detoxifying especially after receiving medication for labour pain or surgery because often these drugs will bung you up!

Morphine or Oxycodone are given to mothers for pain relief after caesarean birth these opioids poses a few problems one being chronic constipation. It’s always a good idea to take a preventative approach and keep a stool softener or laxative in the house to ease any concerns around constipation.

Along with at least 1.5 litres of water a day post caesarean there are many foods that can help relieve constipation and why not put a few together and have it taste amazing too! Ground flax seeds, cocoa powder, and black beans together can make a healthy delicious snack.

Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Brownie Recipe:

  • 1 can 425g  of organic black beans rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal along with 90 ml of water mixed together
  • 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup of cocoa powder (rich in magnesium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of aluminum free baking powder
  • Vegan chocolate chips to sprinkle
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Add everything together in a food processor you might need to add a little water to keep it from getting too thick
  • Add to muffin tin and sprinkle with chocolate chips
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Poop and Enjoy!

If you are looking for a birth or postpartum Doula Kelly Maslen is available for interviews.

Acupressure for labour

Kelly Maslen has been supporting parents for 10 years as a birth and postpartum Doula servicing the Toronto area.

Acupressure point for inducing labour

As a labour tool I have been using Acupressure in birth for many years and have found that these techniques have always helped a labouring mother for relaxation.

What is Acupressure?

Acupressure has been used for over 5,000 years in  Chinese Medicine. Acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture but instead of needles I use my hands. It involves pressure around specific parts of the body, very different from a massage this method of relaxation is using the fingers, thumbs, knuckles and elbows applying pressure on meridians through the body. In acupressure, there are twelve invisible lines called meridians that run along each side of the body. The meridians exist in pairs, and each pair corresponds to a specific organ. Acupressure points are named for the meridians they lie on, and each is given a number according to where along the meridian it falls. These points have been tried and tested over centuries and are still used because they are so effective.

Advantages of using acupressure in labour:

Acupressure is used to induce labour if overdue, provide calm, relaxation and encourage labour if it has slowed or stopped. Applying pressure to acupoints during labour will reduce pain naturally, encourage the mother to work more consciously and confidently with her body. Stimulating points on both the lower legs regulates the labor by stimulating contractions. This point is also useful for treating insomnia and anxiety.

The sensation is strong but often relieving immediately of intense sensations. Acupressure in the low back can be a very tender point during labor and, therefore, it must be stimulated with great care although incredibly effective for relief of discomfort. Stimulating points on the low back helps to relieve back, hip pain, sciatica and pelvic tension and promotes qi flow through the pelvis.

When to start using acupressure:

If you plan on using acupressure during your labor, practice it beforehand and often.  All the points are safe from week 37 on, but you’ll want to use less pressure than you would during your labor. When you’re in labor, you want to press firmly on the point.  The sensation should be tolerable but you should definitely feel a strong pressure. Make sure you check with your midwife or doctor before trying acupressure.

Debra Betts has a FREE acupressure booklet that I highly recommend reading.

Below is a video on how to use acupressure for induction and pain relief:

Kelly Maslen is a Toronto birth doula and hypnobirthing instructor. If you would like to contact her for birth doula work please use this link.