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It’s official: the days of taking it easy in pregnancy are over! Read on to discover the new rules for prenatal exercise and how to reap the benefits.

When news broke that Kim K. had hired top A-list personal trainer Tracy Anderson to keep her in shape through her new pregnancy, it was no surprise given the fact she’s built her fortune on her figure. But it’s not just body-conscious celebrities who should exercise throughout their pregnancy. The latest research shows there are many mind and body benefits to be had from staying active during pregnancy for you and your baby.

But it’s not just body-conscious celebrities who should exercise throughout their pregnancy.

But it’s not just body-conscious celebrities who should exercise throughout their pregnancy.

The new rules

Gone are the days of ‘eating for two’ and ‘putting your feet up’ during pregnancy. ‘In the 1950s, eating clean and going to the gym were not the norm, even for non-pregnant women,’ says US-based prenatal fitness expert Sara Haley (sarahaley.com). ‘The woman of the Millennium is different, thus the pregnant woman has progressed as well.

‘Today’s pregnant woman usually works and juggles many challenges. She knows she needs good nutrition and regular exercise to help her stay on top of her game,’ says Haley. Every pregnancy is different, so you have to listen to your body, she says. Giving in to cravings and taking things easier is natural, but you should also take care of your body.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians, excessive weight gain in pregnancy – caused by over-eating and being sedentary can increase your risk of gestational diabetes, back pain, and high blood pressure. Yet lack of education means that many pregnant women are still confused about their fitness and diet needs, says prenatal expert and Pilates guru Caroline Sandry (carolinesandry.com), whose new Prenatal Pilates – Strengthen and Sculpt DVD, is about to launch in the UK.

‘Many pregnant women think they can eat whatever they want,’ says Sandry, who’s due to give birth to her first child this month. ‘During your first trimester, you’re not eating for two because the fetus is around the size of a pea. From the second trimester onwards however, you’re actually growing a baby. While it depends on how thin or overweight you are to start with, you should only be eating around an extra 300 calories per day at this stage, and possibly more (but still not over 500 calories extra per day) during the third trimester.’ The key, says Sandry, is quality of food, not quantity. ‘Y our body's working hard, so good nutrition is important,’ she says. ‘Use those extra calories to fill yourself with healthy, nutritious food, such as a bowl of porridge with a banana.’

‘Many pregnant women think they can eat whatever they want,’ says Sandry, who’s due to give birth to her first child this month.

‘Many pregnant women think they can eat whatever they want,’ says Sandry, who’s due to give birth to her first child this month.

Haley, who gained just 30 to 35 pounds during her pregnancy, agrees. ‘The weight you gain will depend on your eating habits and exercise, just like when you’re not pregnant.’

Why working out works?

The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are many. Evidence suggests you’re likely to experience an easier pregnancy by preventing excess weight gain and back pain, and keeping your blood pressure stable. You’ll sleep better, improve your posture, stay toned and also help prevent varicose veins by keeping blood pumping around your body, especially to the lower extremities where extra fluids can collect.

Mentally, you’ll feel more energized and confident and less stressed, knowing you’re taking positive steps to make your return to shape, post-baby, much easier by exercising during the prenatal phase.

Regular exercise will also help prepare your body for labor and reduce your need for painkillers. ‘Labor is physically demanding,’ says Sandry. ‘Lying on your back isn’t going to help the baby out, but if you have the strength and endurance to move around, squat, crouch over a gym ball, or get on your hands and knees and wiggle around, you’ll be able to help move things along. If you have really weak arms, shoulders, thighs and Glutes, you’re more likely to struggle.’

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says new evidence suggests fetuses of exercising women may also tolerate labor better than those of non-exercisers. Sandry agrees. ‘If your baby is used to your heart rate going up and down at least three times a week, it won’t be a sudden shock for it when you go into the labor, your heart rate goes up and everything in your body starts changing. Lots of Caesareans happen when the baby’s heart rate drops or it gets in distress.’

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says new evidence suggests fetuses of exercising women may also tolerate labor better than those of non-exercisers.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says new evidence suggests fetuses of exercising women may also tolerate labor better than those of non-exercisers.

Studies conducted by Dr. James F. Clapp, author of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy (Overseas Editions New, $25.5), show that if you exercise through pregnancy, your baby is also more likely to be healthier, calmer and more intelligent than babies of mothers who don’t exercise.

Who needs more incentive to stay fit than that? We’ve asked the experts to answer your queries and explain the safest workout options for you and your baby.

The best nationwide prenatal classes

YogaBellies (yogabellies.co.uk) provides a range of prenatal courses, classes and therapies including Yoga for Pregnancy, Aquanatal, and Birth ROCKS – an inspirational birth preparation course that teaches relaxation techniques including self-hypnosis, breathing and positions for giving birth.

Lazy Daisy (thelazydaisychain.co.uk) offers six-week Daisy Birthing courses teaching gentle yoga-inspired movement, plus breathing and relaxation techniques, helping mums-to-be to get fit for the birth, and alleviate pregnancy back ache and pelvic issues.

Who needs more incentive to stay fit than that?

Who needs more incentive to stay fit than that?

YogaBirth classes (yogabirth.org) teach positions to build strength, tone and suppleness, address postural and circulation issues, and enhance pelvic floor strength and awareness, as well as ‘hypnobreathing’ to help soothe, steady and guide you through birthing contractions.

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