Postnatal flat tummy plan – get rid of your mummy tummy and skin flap!

Easy and effective daily plan to flatten your mummy tummy and get rid of the pesky skin flap!

Chances are that your new flabby tummy is one of the things you are most shocked about in terms of changes to your body after having a baby. Fear not! It is perfectly normal to still look pregnant for a while after you have had your baby, and be able to grab a handful of squidgy belly! The first thing you need to think about post-birth, before you start exercising your abs, is how your tummy has responded to pregnancy and birth.

For more information and my fab flat belly plan for new mums click here

How to sleep better during pregnancy, guest blog from Rennie Downes


leachco snoogle body pregnancy pillow

guest blog from Rennie Downes www.pregnancypillows.org

Finding optimal quality rest is crucial during pregnancy, yet a 1998 poll by the National Sleep Foundation shows that 78% of women find it harder to sleep now than at any other time during their lives (even given the disturbed rest likely to follow in the near postpartum months). Why is this, and why is rest so important when we are expecting a baby? What can we do when poor sleep / sleeplessness strike?

Poor sleep during pregnancy

There are many factors that can contribute to inadequate quality or duration of sleep during pregnancy. Anxiety over the birth and our new role as mother – sometimes manifesting as 3am list-making! – can often become a factor in the development of insomnia. Difficulty getting comfortable thanks to changing curves and aching joints may also play a factor to disturbed rest, as can back pain – the latter affecting 50-80% of pregnant women (spine-health.com).

Many expectant mothers will experience vivid or disturbing dreams during their pregnancy, and some could be woken up by the movements of their unborn child. A tendency to feel “overheated” is common, and we are likely to require more frequent night-time bathroom trips as our trimesters progress. 30-50% of pregnant women will also experience heartburn and 26% will suffer from RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome), so it’s really not surprising when the quality of sleep plummets in pregnancy.

Risk of complications

Nevertheless, expectant mothers are “sleeping for two” and as such it is doubly important for the health of both mother and child that adequate rest is acquired. A study by the NSF found links between poor quality slumber and elevated blood pressure in pregnancy (as well as an increased risk of preeclampsia) while other studies show that women who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to experience longer labors and give birth by Caesarean section.

Poor sleep, depression and a weakened immune system are all inexorably related (poor sleep causes depression and vice versa) and each increases the risk of pregnancy complications (Science Daily). Unfortunately sleep medication is usually not an option during pregnancy, but there are many methods you can use to try to improve the quality of your sleep.

Five ways to better sleep

1) Try not to worry

As hard as it may sound, lying in bed worrying about the fact that you cannot sleep is only going to make your problem spiral. If insomnia strikes, don’t wait it out in bed – you are actually more likely to get back to sleep sooner if you get up and move about, engaging in mild, relaxing activity until your head is ready to hit the pillow.

2) Know your enemy

Insomnia has multiple symptoms, the most commonly known being the classic issue of going to bed only to find sleep impossible. Waking up early, finding it difficult to wake in the morning or regularly waking during the night are all other signals of insomnia, but then again you may feel sleepy for entirely different reasons altogether.

Daytime drowsiness can just mean you need more sleep – but sometimes it indicates underlying medical conditions like anaemia or sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea, so it is very important to get your fatigue checked out and diagnosed accordingly. Even if your doctor confirms that it is just another symptom of pregnancy, it’s worth being able to rule sleep apnoea etc out as these can have a detrimental effect on your pregnancy and birth.

3) Relax through exercise

Whether you’re new to exercise or already have a regime in place prior to getting pregnant, moderate activity can be helpful to you during pregnancy for several different reasons. If you suffer a bad back, exercising can help strengthen your core and ease discomfort while well-timed aerobic activity – not too close to bedtime – can be an excellent cure for insomnia.

If you struggle to sleep during pregnancy, why not consider using exercise as a form of relaxation? Classes in prenatal yoga and aquatic exercise are both very popular and widely available, but there are many other possibilities too.

In contrary to what you may have been told by your family and friends, pregnancy is not normally a reason to give up your daily dose of cardio. In fact, cardiovascular exercise can help your body to build a larger, more efficient placenta for your baby – and there are many other benefits too. You will need to take things carefully, though, and avoid certain activities like contact sports; if you are unsure which activities are classified as safe, consult your physician.

4) Sleep well-supported

As your trimesters progress you are likely to be spending more time in bed sleeping (or at least resting) every week, so it’s really important that you find a way to get comfortable when doing so. Being able to achieve an optimal sleeping position in which your bump, back and legs can feel relaxed but well-supported goes further than just attaining a good night’s rest – it may also affect your level of discomfort throughout the day, particularly in the case of RLS, back pain or PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain). If your hips are aligned into a neutral position it could even help baby get into position ready for the birth.

As your uterus expands it will become more and more impossible to lie comfortably or safely on your back, so doctors tend to recommend that you sleep on your left side – yet even this can put a lot of strain on your spine if unsupported. It is therefore recommended that you purchase a suitable maternity pillow to ease the increased weight and strain being placed upon your joints; such pillows are extremely versatile and can help you achieve the best sleeping position during pregnancy. What’s more, with such a huge amount of choices available on the market, you are sure to find the right size, shape and price for you.

5) Speak to your doctor

If all else fails, you are feeling very anxious or just cannot seem to get any sleep, don’t suffer in silence while everyone else dreams! Consult your physician about the possibilities that are open to you during pregnancy – he or she may be able to suggest a suitable medication or other avenues that you’ve not yet explored. Remember that however tired you may be feeling now, it is only temporary and soon everything will change again. Try not to despair, but don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Can I carry on running throughout my pregnancy?


Lucie half marathon

Why should I carry on running in pregnancy?

 Running is fantastic cardiovascular exercise and will help keep your heart and lungs fit and strong. In addition to all the usual benefits from exercising during pregnancy:

  • A shorter labour, with less likelihood of complications – I had quite enjoyable pregnancies with no sick days from work, straightforward and short labours (both under 5 hours) vaginal deliveries and a very quick recovery, was active within a couple of days!
  • Less likely to suffer from nausea and morning sickness
  •  Improved core strength and stability
  • A stronger back and reduction in back pain
  • Better posture
  •  Stronger pelvic floors
  • Better circulation, less likely to suffer from varicose veins, swelling and high blood pressure
  • Stronger bones
  • Avoid excessive weight gain and easier to get back into shape after the birth
  • More energy and self-confidence – lift your mood and feel great!
  • Strengthen the muscles used in childbirth
  •  It will help you sleep
  • Improved cardio-vascular fitness and muscle tone
  • Lessen the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes

With all of those benefits, why would you not exercise?! After pregnancy you will retain a lot of these benefits, in addition to finding it easier to lose excess weight and tone up. With running having some time outdoors and time to yourself are also great feel-good benefits.

One of the most common things I hear is that it is not safe to run during pregnancy. There is no one-size-fits-all response to this. It largely depends on your pre-pregnancy fitness level and running experience. If you have never been a runner do not start during pregnancy. If you have done a little bit of running I would suggest keeping it at a moderate intensity (jogging rather than running) and no more than 30 minutes a couple of times a week. If you haven’t done any running for at least a couple of months then do something else. If it feels at all uncomfortable then do something else. If you are an experienced runner then there is no reason you cannot carry on running during your pregnancy.

I carried on running…but was always safe and sensible

 I love all kinds of exercise, especially aerobics and other fitness classes, but running really is my all time fave and I ran up to the end of the second trimester with both of my pregnancies. After that it began to feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s just me. Every woman is different and should listen to their own body. Some women continue to run throughout their pregnancies right to the end and some just don’t feel right running from the outset. Do what feels right for you. I also did my first full marathon when my first baby was 8 months old!

 Here are some points about running safely and sensibly during pregnancy:

  •  Avoid overheating
  • Eat before and after exercise, (a snack, not a three course meal) around an hour either side should do it
  • Wear a good bra and trainers when you are working out
  • Be aware of running conditions – look after your personal safety, stick to well-lit areas and avoid rough or hilly terrain
  • Your pre-pregnancy exercise and fitness levels will determine what level you can exercise at
  • Remember your pelvic floor exercises (even if you are having a c-section) as running does put extra pressure on these muscles
  • Adapt your running plan as your pregnancy progresses, see below
  • Warm up and cool down gradually
  • Stretch the muscles you used in your workout when you get home (all the big leg muscles)
  • Try to maintain a good posture (all the time!)
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Take care not to overstretch or push yourself too hard; the hormone relaxin makes your joints more prone to injury

Advice for running throughout your pregnancy: 

running in the first trimester

 During trimester one you can carry on as usual, as long as the intensity is not very high (i.e. intervals, sprinting), the duration isn’t too long (i.e. longer than 90 minutes) and you are not working harder than what you have been used to.

running in the second trimester

During trimester two you should start decreasing your intensity and duration once it starts to feel like it is becoming harder. Remember, you should be comfortably be able to maintain a conversation when you are working out. Your body is changing and although you can carry on running (although it should be ‘jogging’ – not too fast!) you should gradually start to adapt your workouts.

 running in the third trimester

During trimester three you may be able to carry on jogging if it still feels ok, but make sure you listen to your body and move on to a lower impact activity if it doesn’t feel right. Your bump may make you feel unbalanced or you may have some pelvic aches. Cross training, power walking, cycling and swimming are all great alternatives. If you do continue to jog then, once again, work at a comfortable intensity for a sensible duration and maybe build in some walk/jog sessions, alternating between each for five minutes at a time.

 Safety comes first:

In summary, if your pregnancy is low risk and you feel fine, don’t be frightened to continue something you enjoy, but remember running is high impact and you may feel more comfortable moving to gentler activities later on in your pregnancy with a view to taking up running again once you have had your baby. It’s up to you – every woman is different. Definitely ignore anyone that tries to criticise you jogging with a bump; we need to change the way people perceive pregnant women – start the revolution!

More about running in pregnancy here

Is there any point in exercising my tummy/abs during pregnancy?


tummy

Is it actually possible to maintain strong stomach muscles through pregnancy? Why do we need to try to do so?

It is entirely possible to keep your stomach muscles strong during pregnancy. We have lots of different abdominal muscles and while the surface ones (called rectus abdominis) will lengthen and stretch and maybe separate as our bumps grow, we can still work on the deep abs (sometime called the ‘core’), which will be supporting your bump. It is a really good idea to keep your abdominals strong during pregnancy as having a strong core will help protect your back, support your bump and may even help during labour. Working your core also involves using your pelvic floor, which is another set of muscles that should be exercised regularly. Most importantly for some, keeping your abs strong and fit during pregnancy will mean a quicker recovery after the birth and an easier journey back to a flat tummy!

Should pregnant women stop doing sit ups/ab cruches after 16 weeks of pregnancy?

It is much more important to focus on core strength during pregnancy than your six pack! Sit ups only work the surface abs and these are going to get very lengthened and stretched in later pregnancy as your baby grows, so there isn’t much point. There is plenty of time to get back to sit ups later! After 16 weeks you should avoid any exercises that involve lying on your back for long periods as you may compromise blood flow to your baby. Doing sit ups as your bump gets bigger may also put you at greater risk of diastasis (separation of the surface abdominals), which can be very painful.

What alternative stomach exercises can pregnant women do?

Work that TVA! That what?! The TVA (transversus abdominis) is the deepest abdominal muscle, which you can think of as the body’s own internal corset. You can activate it simply by first breathing in deeply and letting your chest expand then as you exhale, pulling in your tummy all the way round (as if you are wearing a corset!) and holding it in for a couple of seconds, then releasing. Make sure as you do so you can still breathe deeply and slowly. Getting control over the TVA and working it as often as possible is key to having a flat tum after you have had your baby. We also call this working your ‘core’. Simple pull ins and other core strengthening exercises are perfectly safe during pregnancy and will not harm your baby. You should try and work your core and your pelvic floor every day (and no one even needs to know you are doing it!) Aim for 50-100 tummy pull-ins and 50-100 pelvic floor squeezes every day.

What else can I do to keep my stomach muscles strong through pregnancy?

Regularly core exercises, avoiding excess weight gain (which will stretch the muscles even more) and regular moderate cardiovascular exercise (NICE recommend at least 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity during pregnancy) are all crucial to keeping your tummy muscles fit and strong and giving you the best chance of getting your belly back in good shape after you have had your baby.

If you like this please check out my book The 3-Plan: Your Complete Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Plan (on Amazon or as e-book on the ibookstore), which has over 75 exercises for pregnancy and the postnatal period.

Maria Kang “what’s your excuse?” photo, she’s got a good point!

Maria is all across the TV this morning with her controversial photo, which shows her with a flat tummy and amazing body with her 3 children. All credit to her this is very clever PR (probably carefully planned for maximum exposure) and has got her worldwide coverage!

She shouldn’t be getting so much criticism though, she is a hard working mum who has prioritised her fitness and her body, setting a great example to her kids.

From my own experience I know that you don’t have to sacrifice time with your children to exercise. If you are motivated you can fit it in around them. But it is hard work, which is why most women don’t bother. Don’t blame her for taking control and looking amazing!

I lost all my baby weight in 2 weeks with both of my daughters with sensible eating and exercise at home, following my exercise plan, the 3-plan. Make having a child the time you become a healthier, fitter, more confident woman and your whole family will benefit.

Here is my photo after 12 weeks after baby number 2 – my plan really does work!

12 weeks after baby