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!

What cardiovascular (CV) exercise is best and safest during pregnancy and why should I bother?!

You may well be feeling a bit pukey and/or constipated (the delights of pregnancy) if you are still in trimester 1, but hopefully that will start to getting better over the next couple of weeks. This feature is all about cardiovascular exercise. If you can face some it may well help ease those pesky pregnancy symptoms.

Cardio exercise is important for keeping your heart and lungs fit and healthy. You’ll need a good level of fitness and endurance for labour (one of the most demanding things your body will ever go through!) and looking after a new baby and the rest of the family (and yourself of course!) Why would you NOT want to improve your cardio fitness?

Read more…..

Working mums healthier than stay-at-home mothers?

I have just been reading this article in the Telegraph: Working mums are healthier than those who stay at home, new research suggests.

It says Moms who work full time are healthier at age 40 than stay-at-home moms, moms who work part time, or moms who have some work history, but are repeatedly unemployed, according to a new research from University of Akron Assistant Sociology Professor Adrianne Frech. “Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically. It gives women a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, control and autonomy. They have a place where they are an expert on something, and they’re paid a wage,” said Frech.

The article makes some interesting points. I don’t think anyone can say that it is the right thing or the wrong thing for a mum to go to work; it all depends on the circumstances of that woman and that family. It is however, nice to see a positive spin for mums that are working hard. It must be a good thing for the children concerned if their mum is more healthy mentally and physically?

My app PregnancyFit 250 is live on the apple App store!

I can’t believe it – after months of hard work writing and developing the app it is now live for everyone to buy around the world! I wrote the app to be a useful tool for women in pregnancy; not just about exercise (although there are tons of tips about exercise!) but also about making sure you are getting all the right elements in your diet, you know what is going on with your (often strange) body and are mentally and practically prepared for the challenges ahead. I hope you like it and share it with your friends. More detail below…..

All the information you need for a fit, healthy pregnancy.

This pregnancy app gives you a daily tip, fact or snippet covering EVERYTHING you need to know about exercise, diet, staying sane, lifestyle and your body during pregnancy. You can view one a day, read them all in one go, search for something you are interested in or browse by category. Most tips are related to that point of your pregnancy, some are just plain interesting!

Includes:

  • what types of exercise are safe during pregnancy, including classes, types, equipment and how much you can do safely
  • exercise ideas
  • what you should and shouldn’t eat
  • common ailments and advice
  • what to expect from your changing body
  • lifestyle tips
  • recommendations for health, fitness and nutrition
  • postnatal advice
  • ideas to calm your mind
  • tips about labour and birth
  • practical tips
  • five myths busted

Tips are divided into five categories:

  • Body and common ailments
  • Exercise and fitness
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Headspace and wellbeing
  • Lifestyle and practical

You can read what a Midwife of 20 years said and see some example tips on the app page.

Exercise around the time of ovulation, conception and implantation

My web site is here to provide you with exercise advice, tips and interesting pregnancy/postnatal interesting factoids. But sometimes I will tackle the tricky stuff. There is such conflicting advice about exercise around the time of ovulation, conception and implantation that I am going to try and give you a useful, sensible answer.

If you have never had any problems getting pregnant then you might not know that much about the actual processes involved in conception and implantation inside the body. If, on the other hand you are putting a lot of effort into getting pregnant, for example BBT charting, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), IVF, special diets or drugs or anything else then you will want to make sure that exercise is not going to have any kind of negative impact on these delicate hormonal processes.

My advice is not based on formal research (you will see from my post about early miscarriage there is no conclusive evidence around this), it is based around making sure that in your head you know that you have given yourself the best possible chance of having a viable pregnancy. It is what I would do myself and tell my friends to do.

Let’s take it one step at a time:

  • During your period (AF) you might not feel like exercise, but try and keep up your regular routine, it may help!
  • Between AF and ovulation you can do all your regular routines, go a bit mad, do high intensity stuff and really push yourself. Really enjoy it, mix it up and get stuck in!
  • Around the time of ovulation/conception you may want to take it down a notch. Take out all the really mad stuff, but keep it regular (ideally 3-5 times a week for 30 mins+, mix of CV and resistance). Try lower impact options and avoid working yourself beyond a point where you can still hold a conversation mid workout. If you are a regular exerciser and you stop completely it will probably make you miserable (and it might take a while to get pregnant!) so try to carry on.
  • Between conception and implantation continue in the same vein. Exercise, even jumping and jogging, will not make the egg fall out, if it is going to implant it will so don’t get too anxious!  (and if it doesn’t it is not down to you). Just continue to be a bit wary around doing anything too vigorous, working at high-maximal intensities. Regular vigorous exercise may have an impact on female hormones (we know that some athletes stop having periods). So- keep it moderate and regular.

Fingers crossed this is the cycle for you. If not then have a treat (maybe a big coffee or glass of wine if you have been off it) and a good, full on workout to feel a little bit better. If you do get pregnant please keep up the exercise, don’t stress too much about miscarriage and check out my book for exercises designed to be safe for each trimester.

I know trying for a baby is a difficult time and often like  a roller coaster, but try to keep healthy, fit and positive x