Previously Jessica shared her honest reaction to getting pregnant and then talked about the myth of that pregnancy glow and her experiences with all-day morning sickness and intuitive eating. Now she’s sharing why getting fit before getting pregnant is such a good idea! —Erin
Any time is a good time to work on fitness and drop those few extra pounds. But I found that taking some time to get fit before getting pregnant is especially beneficial. About eight months before I got pregnant, I decided I really needed to get back in shape and set some goals for myself. I decided I wanted to lose about 20 pounds, run a half marathon and go on a backpacking trip before trying to get pregnant. And I (almost) met all of those goals! (The backpacking trip actually happened about a week into the pregnancy, since my husband and I conceived a lot sooner than either of us thought we would.) In addition to just entering into pregnancy in a healthier state than I otherwise would have, here are some of the great benefits I’ve experienced from getting fit before getting pregnant.
7 Reasons to Get Fit Before Getting Pregnant
1. Losing weight before pregnancy meant I had “roomier” clothes in my closet that I wore during months three through five of my pregnancy. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of trying to find appropriate clothing for this in-between phase—when you don’t really look pregnant yet, but are definitely getting thicker around the middle—it’s not fun. I found that most maternity clothes are made to look better on you the bigger you get. They just look weird during most of that second trimester. I lost about 22 pounds and two pant sizes over the course of several months before I got pregnant, which meant I had a closet full of non-maternity clothes two sizes bigger to grow back into during those months. Most weight-loss advice says to get rid of your “fat clothes” as soon as they no longer fit in order to maintain motivation to keep the weight off. I’m all for that philosophy, unless you are thinking about getting pregnant. Then definitely keep some of them!
2. Forming healthy eating and exercise habits before pregnancy made them a lot easier to stick to once I become pregnant. Let me just say that if I had not been used to running several miles a week, going to boot camp and practicing yoga before my pregnancy, I seriously doubt I would have picked them up once I got pregnant. That fatigue in the first trimester hit hard. And while I have had to gradually reduce the exercise regimen as the pregnancy has progressed, having that routine in place before the fatigue and morning sickness set in made it easier to keep going with some form of exercise. Plus, once I got used to exercise, my body really craved the endorphins and general good feeling from doing it. I knew that no matter how yucky I was feeling from the pregnancy, I’d definitely feel better once I got up and moved a little bit. The same goes for healthy eating. Once I got used to eating better quality foods, smaller portions and balanced meals, my body craved them. So even when I didn’t feel like eating much during those six or seven weeks of nausea, I didn’t lapse into only eating French fries and milkshakes. Instead, I ate a lot of Nutri-Grain waffles to settle my stomach and a lot of fresh fruit when I wanted something sweet and refreshing.
3. No stretch marks! Ok, I don’t really have any evidence that my weight loss and my lack of stretch marks are related. It could be that I just have good genes for stretchy skin. But it seems to me that I sort of pre-stretched my skin with those extra pounds I was carrying around, and losing them gave me room to stretch with the baby. (Note: this is not an endorsement for gaining weight before losing weight before getting pregnant!)
4. Getting to a healthy BMI can improve your chances of getting pregnant. A quick internet search shows that there’s lot of research out there indicating it’s easier to conceive when you have a healthy BMI. This healthy range is fairly wide, so there is no need to strive for an exact number on the scale—but being at a healthy weight helps you have regular periods, which helps with fertility. I’m not sure that dropping the 20 pounds increased my fertility, but losing the weight did make me feel good about my body and more inclined to spend more time in the sack with my hubby, which did improve our chances of conceiving!
5. Accomplishing fitness goals helps you feel empowered and in control—which are good feelings to have in pregnancy. Setting a goal and reaching it (like running my first half marathon in my goal time) gave me a sense that I had control over my life and my health and that I would be capable of setting and reaching more goals. Since a first pregnancy is completely new and unknown and scary, it’s good to have a base-level feeling of control. I just said to myself: If I could make those changes in my life needed to train for and complete that half marathon, I can surely do what’s in my power to have a healthy pregnancy!
6. Losing weight before pregnancy is good practice for losing weight after the baby is born. Or at least I hope it will be. Learning the healthy habits that helped me lose weight the first time are still fresh enough in my head that I should be able to re-employ them after the baby comes. I know that after I have the little one it will be harder to squeeze in all the exercise that I did before I became pregnant, but at least I know what it takes to lose and maintain weight. I’m sure it won’t be the same process, but the same principles will apply.
7. Being fit can make labor easier. At least I’ve heard this. I still have about eight weeks (if all goes according to schedule) to find out if it’s true or not, but I’ve got my fingers crossed! I’ll keep you posted!
What benefits did you find to being fit before pregnancy? Did you find that it helped you bounce back? —Jessica