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In Training For Childbirth

Jun 26, 2008
Not many people would disagree when I say that we now live in a very shallow world where image is everything. We see celebrities in the news that drop their babies, start pounding the pavements with a personal trainer and within weeks are back in their size zero jeans of pre-pregnancy fit. This often makes the rest of us, the normal women that can't afford personal trainers, feel fat and inadequate when, in fact, it can take many months to get back to true health.

But you will get back there. Your body will go through many changes throughout your pregnancy and often it's never quite the same. But we learn to live with these changes and we learn to embrace them. They are part of becoming a woman, a mother. Putting your body through a punishing routine straight after the major trauma of childbirth is not good for you physically or mentally. Rest is needed along with time and patience.

Of course, it is important that we have moved on from the days of old when pregnancy was considered an illness where women were virtually confined to bed for the duration. With research constantly going on into pregnancy and childbirth as well as general health and nutrition it is important that we take all the recommendations on board and do what we can for the health of us and our babies.

But can you take this too far?

Under the ruse of aiming for a quick and easy birth women are moving on from the curry and castor oil routines and putting themselves under much more harsh regimes of activity during pregnancy. Doctors are advocating this new move after the medical charity, The King's Fund' claimed half of all deaths during childbirth happened to women who were overweight or obese.

But surely a line has to be drawn. The mother and child both need the best nutrition possible and exclusion diets and protein counting could well do more damage. Is it possible that strict gym routines and self-hypnosis could lead to a pain-free labour? Is it worth considering them if there is a possibility they may work? But who, I want to know, has the energy for the gym during pregnancy? Personally speaking, whilst pregnant, it takes all my energy just to get out of bed in the morning.

The best thing to do is go straight to the horse's mouth to find out what people think about alternative methods of looking after themselves during pregnancy and what results they had. A 39 year old mother went for the pure and natural approach. Taking advice from a natural pregnancy guru, she kept to a very healthy diet and cut our wheat, dairy and sugar. All her nutrients were derived from her diet and she claims she never felt as fit and healthy as when she was pregnant.

This mother learnt breathing and relaxation techniques along with an exercise regime and was swiftly back in her pre-pregnancy size 8 jeans shortly after the birth. On the advice of her obstetrician because of her age, a caesarean was performed at 39 weeks but, despite this, she did not experience the type of exhaustion that normally befits pregnancy so either there is something in it or she was very fortunate.

A 33 year old London mother tried the hypnosis route which involves learning how to hypnotise yourself during labour to control the pain and to avoid medicinal intervention. She continued with her pre-pregnancy gym routine, slightly modified to keep her heart rate at the optimum level for the safety of her baby. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't work and the birth was induced, painful and required an epidural. However, the new mum claims she was quickly back in shape after the birth.

Our last example comes from a pregnant Pilates instructor. Already fit and healthy, this mum not only carried on working but made time to fit in a specially adapted training programme to ensure she was in tip top condition with improved stamina in time for the birth of her daughter. A long labour ensued three weeks early although painkillers were not needed and once again, mum was quickly back in shape.

So, with several methods tried it would seem the only advantage was that the mums were back into their jeans quickly, thus meeting the shallow assumption that that is the way we should all be. It seems to me that if there was no benefit to be gained for the baby by dong all these things and it purely comes down to getting mum back to a certain size, it seems quite a punishing schedule when the rest of us could do it in six months anyway without all the extra pressure.
About the Author
Childbirth expert Catherine Harvey looks at the ways mothers can care for themselves during pregnancy and childbirth to stay healthy.
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