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Truths and Myths: Working Out While Pregnant

Fitness • February 24, 2020

Last month, we hosted a Pre/Postnatal Workshop at our Upper East Side studio that included an informational session led by Certified Childbirth Educator, Gail Janicola, and a Signature FHIX class led by FHITpros, Kendall and Renee. The afternoon was a sold-out success that brought together our FHIT community of like-minded women. 

Inspired by the overwhelming response to Gail’s “Myths and Truths” game, we asked her to share her top Myths and Truths for all our FHIT mamas who weren’t able to make it to the workshop.

Our Pre/Postnatal Workshop attendees with FHITpros Renee and Kendall, and Certified Childbirth Expert, Gail Janicola.

Gail’s Top 9 Myths and Truths

MYTH: You need to double your food intake during pregnancy because the fetus needs those extra calories to grow.

TRUTH: What needs to be focused on and increased are your nutrients. You may also benefit from some extra calories, but 300 at most – certainly not double.

MYTH: It is best to follow a low-fat diet during pregnancy.

TRUTH: Fat (healthy fat found in grass-fed meat and pastured eggs, plus sources like olive oil, nuts, avocado and wild salmon) makes it possible to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Plus, these fats contain choline and vitamin A, increasing the ratio of omega 3’s to omega 6’s, thereby lowering the risk of developmental delays in your baby.

MYTH: You have no control over your mood during pregnancy and postpartum, or your chances of suffering from pre and postnatal anxiety and depression.

TRUTH: Lifestyle behaviors, like diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management affect overall mood and the risk for all mood disorders.

MYTH: You should not start any new exercise routine during pregnancy, and you should always decrease the intensity of the workouts you were doing prior to becoming pregnant.

TRUTH: If you are having a healthy pregnancy (no complications, no bleeding, etc.) you can take on a new routine just as you would if you were not pregnant – starting at a low level and building upon that. It is also okay to continue at the intensity you were at previously. In either case, it is important to seek the guidance of a trained professional who can modify certain positions and exercises as your body changes, and those that may not be ideal in general throughout pregnancy.

MYTH: Exercise benefits the mom in many ways, but is stressful for the fetus.

TRUTH: The placentas of women who exercise function about 15% better, which means that there is superior nutrient and waste exchange.

MYTH: You must sleep on your left side during pregnancy for proper fetal growth.

TRUTH: Although sleeping on your left side will facilitate optimal blood flow to and from the placenta because you are not impinging the inferior vena cava (a large blood vessel that runs up the right side of your back) there is no evidence that sleeping on your back (or in any other position) is harmful to the baby. In addition, worrying about sleeping in a certain position can increase anxiety and KEEP you from getting restful sleep, which would, in itself, be detrimental.

MYTH: Having an episiotomy will help to keep the tone of the pelvic floor muscles.

TRUTH: This is not only refuted by evidence (this surgical incision cuts through skin AND muscle) but the research concludes that episiotomy can decrease pelvic floor muscle strength.

MYTH: Eating and drinking during labor is harmful to both mother and baby.

TRUTH: To clarify, the reason eating and drinking during labor was prohibited to begin with was to prevent dangerous consequences of aspiration in the very rare instances where c-sections needed to be performed under general anesthesia. This policy originated in the mid 1900’s when anesthesia was crude and unsafe. That is not currently the case. In low-risk labors, women should have the right to choose whether or not they want to eat and drink in labor. Common sense coincides with the research, in that a laboring woman, just as any athlete during an endurance event, would benefit from hydration and nutrition.

MYTH: Kettlebell swings put too much pressure on core muscles.

TRUTH: To avoid or keep from worsening diastasis recti (a separation of the two rectus abdominis muscles) crunches and planks should be skipped, but there are excellent core-strengthening routines – especially those in a standing position – that can actually strengthen core muscles during and after pregnancy, including kettlebell swings (done correctly of course).

Just remember, it’s super important to consider that we are each remarkably individual. There will always be isolated situations, even when the evidence is clear, in which personal modifications will be required. Ultimately, being powerfully in tune with your unique bodies and experiences, and seeking the proven truth will serve you in immeasurable ways.

Thank you for sharing your wealth of Pre/postnatal knowledge and leading our workshop, Gail! To learn more about Gail, visit her website.

Took book a Pre/Postnatal class and work out with mams and mamas-to-be on Fhitting Room LIVE!, click here.

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