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Nurturing Mental Health with Movement During and After Pregnancy

The journey of motherhood is beautiful, complex, and often confusing. From pre- to post-natal, you go through a metamorphosis that is different for everyone but comes with a common theme of change. Our hormones are out of wack, we are adjusting to a new "normal", and physically we can't do exactly what we've always done which can hinder our mental health since most of us use movement in our toolbox. The question we are left with is "How do we move for where we are now?" Pre-Natal The old wives tail that you have to abstain from exercise when you are pregnant. That being said though, your body is changing and our movement may have to adapt as well. As always, talk with your doctor to see what is best for you but below are some great guidelines and tips as you navigate the 9 months ahead:

  • Focus on the time on your feet vs. intensity: At a certain point you will more than likely have to adjust the intensity to workouts for comfort as well as safety. As you progress in your pregnancy, you will have extra pressure (aka: fluid and a baby) pushing on your organs and lungs. You have a greater chance of having more labored breathing and intense activity can exasperate that. This doesn't mean that you have to be stationary but it generally is good to stay in an aerobic zone vs. venturing into a threshold area especially as you get further along.

  • Pick your position: Core workouts, heavy lifting, and excessive bouncing may also tabled as you both grow. Substituting in activities such as yoga, embracing modifications, and switching out lighter weights is not a demotion and can have many benefits to keep you active longer.

  • If you aren't currently active, that's ok!: A lot of moms-to-be believe that if they don't already run, walk, or strength train, they have to wait until post-natal to start which isn't true. Yes, don't sign up to run a marathon at 6 months pregnant, but you are perfectly ok to get moving. Fresh air is scientifically proven to help raise your oxygen levels which increases serotonin. Serotonin controls our mood and affects our happiness, sleep, etc. which is vital to our mental health. Not sure where to start? Keep it simple by walking down your street or around a park where you can take breaks if needed.

Post Natal One search of the internet puts the spotlight on the 6-week mark to be able to get back to your pre-pregnancy level but that isn't the magical reset button of the universe. The birth experience contains many factors from c-section recovery, induction, tearing, etc. that will play into the recovery. (This is without even taking into account nursing, lessened sleep, and the fact that you now have a tiny human needing you for everything--that's a whole other blog post in the making!)

  • Walk it Like it's Hot: That fancy baby stroller you've been waiting to use? Break it out and get some fresh air! Not only is fresh air going to boost the serotonin that we talked about above, but it can also have a benefit to your little one and help regulate their sleep and wake cycle. The low-impact movement gives you a chance to see how your body is responding after birth but studies also show that getting outside and getting moving can help reduce the odds of developing mild to moderate depression symptoms by as much as 54 percent.

  • Get on the Floor: By this point, you've heard way more about your pelvic floor than you have in all of your life. In short, your pelvic floor works closely with your core and supports your bladder, bowel, and uterus. A weakened pelvic floor is often a sticking point post-natal due to the stretching to accommodate growing a human but it's something that can be helped and a few of your favorite strength moves can bolster your recovery and get you moving! Tummy time isn't just for the newborn, but tummy time for moms looks a bit different.

  1. Glute Bridges

  2. Clamshells

  3. Marching Dead Bugs

  4. Cat-Cow Stretches

  • Be Flexible: Yoga is wonderful while pregnant and can be even more magical post-natal. Not only will it be a quiet and calm environment to reduce overstimulation, but it is also a great activity where you can meet your body where it's at. The deep breathing, focusing on your muscles, and working on your balance will all pay off mentally and physically. long-term as you re-introduce other workouts such as running, cycling, etc.

Ways to Help

  • Know that you aren't alone: Yes, this is often said but from one mom to another, we ALL go through it at some point. Some are more comfortable talking about it than others for various reasons but it's nothing to be ashamed of. The more we know, the better we can work through it.

  • Practice manageable self-care: We aren't talking about a spa day, massages, or vacations (even though I'm not saying no to any of those options) While pregnant, juggling recovery and a newborn our self-care will look different but can help part the clouds for a bit and spark the endorphins to help you health. Paint your nails, take a long shower with soft music, sit outside with your morning coffee or a cup of tea in the evening, and maybe even sit in the quiet and read a book. Small moments daily will have a bigger impact than putting it off for one giant chunk of time.

At the end of the day, no journey is going to be the same, there is not one size fits all answer, and you don't have to try to do it all right out of the gate. Want extra resources, information, and tips for your pre/postnatal journey? Sign up and get connected with Coach Shelby and other "Moms on the Move" HERE! Disclaimer: The information provided in this blogs is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical or mental health advice. We are not mental health professionals. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, it is important to seek help from a qualified therapist, counselor, or medical professional.

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