Many pregnant women ask what will help them have the healthiest pregnancy possible? How can they achieve the best possible physical and emotional health and wellbeing? How can they best prepare their body for labour?
Based in Canary Wharf, City Antenatal brings together the expertise of a wide range of renowned antenatal and postnatal experts to support individuals through their antenatal and postnatal journeys. Emma Dewey, who manages the service, told Parental Choice that a holistic approach could help you maximise your physical health and minimise the common discomforts of pregnancy. Healthy diet and exercise build a firm foundation and work to reduce stress.
We asked the City Antenatal team for a few of their top tips….
Avoid aches and pains during pregnancy
Osteopath Zoe Mundell states that as pregnancy develops your baby grows, shifting your centre of gravity forwards. The female body has evolved to develop postural changes necessary for us to maintain balance in the upright position. The hip and buttock muscles shorten to compensate for a pelvic tilt and wider stance and the load on the lower back increases to stop you from falling forwards. The upper back may round with the chin protruding forwards. This can often cause stresses and strains on our lower backs, ribcage and pelvis. Simple hip and buttock stretches, as well as rounding the spine whilst on all fours, are simple exercises that can ease these postural strains. Osteopathic care during pregnancy can help to relieve or even prevent such symptoms as back pain, pelvic pain and sciatica, enabling you to enjoy a pain-free, relaxed pregnancy.
Nutritionist Anna Firth recommends carrying healthy snacks to prevent dips in blood sugar, which can cause dizziness and nausea. Try hummus with veggies or oat cakes with an apple and cheese. Your body’s requirement for vitamin D goes up in pregnancy and we don’t get enough sun at this latitude to get it the natural way (through the skin). This vitamin has been shown to have a number of important functions for both the mother and her developing baby – from immune, to neural and cardiovascular health. It’s worth getting your vitamin D levels checked and taking a supplement if necessary.
There is often a lot of confusion regarding how safe it is to exercise during pregnancy, and which exercises are recommended. Linda Hedenstrom, former Olympian and personal trainer, states that although your exercise intensity will have to be kept in check when pregnant, your exercise volume doesn’t necessarily have to decrease. In fact, it’s recommended that pregnant women exercise for at least 30 minutes daily and this exercise can consist of a wide variety of exercise modalities.
During pregnancy, certain exercise limitations are obvious; contact sports and sprinting are not recommended. However, other exercises are permissible as long as you consider the changes happening in your body. For example, while pregnant, concentrations of one particular hormone, relaxin, are increased. Relaxin, as the name suggests, is responsible for relaxing the pelvic joints in preparation for childbirth. However, relaxin loosens all ligaments and joints, making you more susceptible to tendon and ligament (soft tissue) injury, so higher impact activities and other exercises that increase soft tissue risk should therefore be minimised. For example, if you take classes, either stick with those designed specifically for pregnant women or those that don’t include high-impact work like plyometrics (jumpy movements). Further, choose activities that create less stress on the joints, such as swimming, elliptical exercise, stair climbing, walking, and riding the stationary bike.
If you are considering doing yoga, Anna Firth, Nutritionist and Yoga Practitioner, suggests waiting until your 12-week scan to start. Let your midwife know you’ll be starting and make sure you join a class that is specifically for pregnancy. If you have a sedentary job it is worth making sure you move regularly. Even small movements like circling your ankles and wrists can prevent swollen ankles and fingers. The breath work that you will learn in a yoga class should come in handy for labour. By focusing on your breath and breathing fully into your lungs, you should stay focused and calm, preventing adrenalin from interfering with the birth hormones.
Charlotte Steed, Maternity Acupuncturist & Reflexologist, suggests keeping your bump covered with a warm blanket in the winter months. According to traditional Chinese Medicine, a warm womb is considered a welcoming womb. This is very important for conception but also in the early stages of pregnancy.
Monitor your baby’s movements
Midwife Beth Graham stresses the importance of monitoring your baby’s movements, especially towards the end of the pregnancy. Babies do not go ‘quiet’ at the end of pregnancy – the movements may feel different as the baby gets bigger but they should still move at least 10 times a day. If you notice a change in your baby’s normal pattern of movements, go and see your midwife or doctor immediately – do not wait until your next appointment. More information can be found at www.countthekicks.org
Plan for after the birth
Once you have been to pregnancy classes, you may be drawn to reading more and more about labour. Labour will be in your life for one day but you will have to look after your baby for the rest of your life! So, I recommend trying to focus your time on researching looking after your newborn baby, and in particular, soothing techniques and sleep improvement strategies – ones that are baby friendly as well as mummy friendly. Explore what is ‘tummy time’ for your baby, why it is so important and when you should start doing it. You can also find out what useful resources are in your area for when your baby is here. It is really great to get out of the house to a baby massage class or a mummy and baby music class, a postnatal exercise class or a support group. You can go along and watch a class or find out what age is best to bring your baby to each class. You can also research childcare options – which playgroup you want to send your baby to when they are older, or even which school – registration for some schools starts earlier than you think – some even start at birth!
City Antenatal draws on the skills and expertise of a wide range of renowned antenatal and postnatal experts, including Midwives, Lactation Consultants, Sleep Specialists, Obstetricians, Nutritionists and Reflexologists.Courses are tailored to meet the needs of parents who want to learn about the practical elements of pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care.
The City Antenatal Course consists of four weekly (women only) lunchtime sessions and two evening sessions where partners are welcome to attend.
Location: 40 Bank Street, Canary Wharf
For more information please contact Emma on: