A California mother caused a rumpus in the press and across social media this week when photos showing her weightlifting while heavily pregnant were beamed around the world.
35 year old Lee-Ann Ellison posed for the shoot while squatting 75 lb of iron – just two weeks before her due date. Ellison said on her Facebook page: “I have been CrossFitting for 2 ½ years and strongly believe that pregnancy is not an illness, but a time to relish your body’s capabilities to kick ass.”
The former bodybuilder’s stance drew condemnation from some – and congratulations from others – so what is the truth about exercising while pregnant? And just how quickly can you expect to regain your shape after you give birth. Let’s find out.
To exercise or not?
NHS guidance recommends up to 150 minutes of exercise per week for expectant mothers. They recommend walking, swimming, antenatal classes, yoga and dance classes. But the reality is, if you’re used to exercise, and your pregnancy is healthy – there’s really no reason to stop.
Before undertaking a prenatal exercise programme, make sure you consult with your GP to rule out risky complications. Be prepared to adapt your regime as your pregnancy progresses. And if what you’re doing feels uncomfortable, or you feel dizzy, nauseous or overheated – stop and seek medical advice.
To lift or not to lift?
It’s probably unwise to take up weight training while you’re expecting a baby, but if you know what you’re doing – there’s no bar to you picking up a barbell. Just don’t push your body too hard.
Your body becomes more elastic during pregnancy, so good form is even more important. As your due date approaches, it may be best to avoid overhead lifts as these could overextend the natural curve of your lower back.
Perhaps consider swapping free weights for machines during the latter stages of pregnancy, as these offer more support and don’t require such a highly honed sense of balance.
Don’t look to build muscle but concentrate instead on keeping muscles toned, ready for giving birth and looking after your new baby.
Eat for two?
Any exercise regime should be combined with good nutrition. Check with your GP to find out about suitable supplements for pregnant women and lactating mothers.
It’s natural to gain weight during pregnancy but the old adage that you should ‘eat for two’, is incorrect. In fact, expectant mothers needn’t consume any more food than usual – until they reach the third trimester.
During this later stage of gestation, it’s only actually necessary to take in an extra 200 calories daily. That’s two slices of wholegrain toast with margarine.
Weight loss after baby
While celebrities seem to manage to shrink to size zero within weeks of giving birth, this isn’t necessarily the healthy way to go.
If you’re breast feeding your body will naturally use up an extra 500 calories a day – helping you to shed those extra pounds at a pace that matches your baby’s appetite.
So is Lee-Ann Ellison right? Is pregnancy time to relish your body’s ability to kick ass? You bet. Your body is designed for this – don’t sweat it – live healthy – let nature do the rest!