You won’t see her gutting out a half-marathon these days, but as Tara Follett coasts ever closer to her Oct. 3 due date, she has all kinds of reminders why it’s important to stay fit during pregnancy.
Her husband, Ken, is an athletic trainer.
Despite his prowess on fitness programs, however, she’s thankful for Julie Mohan, a Spectrum Health Medical Group certified nurse midwife who specializes in prenatal and postnatal fitness.
“(Mohan) has been asking what I’ve been doing to stay active,” said Follett, 31, who is expecting her fourth boy. “There’s definitely encouragement in that area. I’m doing a lot of prenatal yoga and Pilates at home.”
Early in her pregnancy, a hip problem made some motions difficult, the Walker, Michigan, resident said.
“I had to pull back on running,” she said. “I’m normally a runner. She encouraged me to do more power walking instead of running. I’m staying active throughout. I try to keep a fitness routine in general. I’m just kind of listening to my body and keeping up with a healthy baby.”
But it’s not just exercising that keeps a pregnant woman healthy and wise. Nutrition plays a big part, too.
For a time, Follett suffered from iron deficiency.
“I have been iron deficient, so (Mohan) suggested supplements and different foods to eat to increase my iron,” she said.
Besides exercise and nutrition information, Follett said she likes the idea of a midwife because of the personal approach.
“Anything I have a concern about, if Julie doesn’t have an answer right away, she’ll research it and get back to you,” Follett said. “It’s not that doctors wouldn’t do that—it’s just she spends more time with you without that rushed feeling. That’s probably the biggest difference.”
Staying fit during and after a pregnancy is important not only for mom but baby, too.
“We recommend doing stretches a couple of times a day in the first trimester,” Mohan said. “It strengthens the whole body and increases oxygenation to the brain and the baby. A strong core is important to offset the change in gravity that occurs as both the uterus and baby grow. A strong core will prevent back pain, and help with pushing in labor.”
Overall, exercise in pregnancy increases strength, flexibility and balance, which help prevent falls.
Mohan recommends stretching three times a day in the third trimester.
“We talk to the women at their first prenatal appointment and throughout their pregnancy about stretching and why it’s important,” Mohan said.
Yoga and Pilates are great gentle exercises for expectant mothers.
“They’re not high-impact so they’re safe,” Mohan said. “They will keep the core strong. Swimming is also an excellent exercise to do in pregnancy. I also encourage patients to walk. Walking doesn’t require any equipment and you don’t need to belong to a gym. They can do it before work or on their lunch break.”
Staying fit can also combat another common pregnancy complication: gestational diabetes, which can lead to a large baby.
“We want to get these moms moving and keeping their weight in check,” Mohan said. “We want to make sure they’re eating an adequate amount of protein. Protein is a building block of the baby so they need that protein.”
Carbs? Curb them. They can lead to excess weight.
“I tell these women I’m their coach and everyone needs a coach,” she said. “Even elite athletes need coaches. I remind them when they come to their appointments: Are they eating enough protein? Are they getting enough exercise? Drinking enough water?”
Mohan said the more care moms-to-be take on the front end, the better experience they’re likely to have when their little munchkin arrives.
“The healthier the pregnancy is, the more likely you’re going to feel better physically, emotionally and mentally,” Mohan said. “Potentially, you’ll have a better delivery. Also, if you come into the postpartum period in better shape, you’re going to feel better and recover faster.”