Top Tips for a Healthy and happy Pregnancy

Jennifer SymeBlog, massage, pregnancy, Therapies

Look after you and your bump!

smiling face pregnant tummy

Pregnancy is a time when people seem to think that they can a) touch your tummy, and b) tell you advice even if you didn’t ask for it. Unfortunately a lot of the advice can be outdated or conflicting. It’s often based on one persons experience, usually a not so good one. That can lead women, especially first time mums-to-be, into a world of worry about whether they are doing things ‘right’.

In my pregnancy massage clients I see women who are chilled, happy and not worrying, then I see the others who are anxious, not sleeping, stressing over everything they do, eat, how they sit/lie. It just goes on. They are certainly not enjoying their pregnancy. Which is a shame, as most of the time they are doing fine, and both they and the baby are well, apart from their constant anxiety!

The myths!

myths of pregnancy

I’ve heard lots of ‘facts’ from pregnant ladies. Facts that their granny told them or their friends, or ‘someone’ at work. The top one I hear, naturally, is that you can’t have a massage while you’re pregnant, or at least not before 12 weeks, or after 36 weeks, or after the due date, or for 3 months after the birth. Or you can’t have a deep tissue/remedial massage, or you have to be sitting up, or…the list goes on.

Other things people have been told are that you mustn’t exercise at all, or just very gentle. You can’t garden or swim, or do much more than waddle to the fridge and back, because obviously you are eating for two now and must eat and eat and eat.

There’s also a lot of advice around food and drink. Obviously there are the risks with alcohol, smoking and under cooked foods and unpasteurised milk or cheeses, which most people are aware of. At the same time, you don’t need to enter into a panic if you HAD eaten some of these things, say before you knew you were pregnant. These things are a RISK, not an absolute certainty that you will get listeria or some other bacteria that might cause harm. I have treated several French ladies during pregnancy and they had a much more laid back approach to it all.

That’s another thing, different countries have different views on good and bad things, and also due dates. Some ladies I’ve seen get very hung up on their date, and their birth plan being ‘just so’. They forget that this is a natural thing they are dealing with, and unlike most of our lives, you really aren’t in control of when the baby will come and whether they will fit in with your plan or not. Best to be flexible, and go with the flow. I’ve heard stories from women with colour-coded, time-precise birth plans, that get thrown out in the first hour, when the baby decided he was coming NOW. Or the other extreme where the baby is staying put until he is good and ready to make his entrance, no matter how much curry, sex and pressing of ‘points’ goes on to try to encourage things along.

Which brings me to the biggie, that massage can ‘bring on the birth’. Nope. If we could do that, we’d be millionaires, and no-one would ever need induced. In a healthy pregnancy the baby will come when they are ready. There is a higher instance of miscarriage in the first 12 weeks, which is why people are often told not to have a massage, but that isn’t because we can do anything to harm the baby. It is more to do with protecting the therapist from upset women looking for a reason why they suffered a miscarriage. Also, if a woman is worrying about potential issues, they won’t relax during the massage, which kind of defeats the purpose.

5 Top Tips for Pregnancy

  1. Exercise is good for you If you were a couch potato before then it is probably NOT the time to take up marathon training. But if you were already a runner then there is no reason to stop. Same goes with cycling or most sports. You might find you don’t WANT to do some things while pregnant, I know several cyclists that found it too uncomfortable on the saddle, but others have kept cycling until about 7-8 months. Even if you don’t want to do anything like running or cycling, walking is one of the best exercises. Then there are the others like swimming and aqua natal type classes. Even just walking in the swimming pool is great exercise, especially if you have a very large bump or are especially tired. Keeping your body strong and fit will help with birth and post-natal recovery. Yoga and pilates also have pregnancy specific classes, both of which are great for keeping muscles supple and strong, especially your core muscles which are under the most strain during pregnancy. Having good core also helps your post-natal recovery as the stronger muscles will revert back quicker. Both yoga and pilates also help with relaxation as well. Don’t forget your Kegels too, to help keep those pelvic floor muscles in good shape.
  2. Relax! Pregnancy can be stressful, especially if you are also working, or you already have a toddler. Life can get pretty hectic. What was easy the first time round, gets harder when it’s number 2. Pregnancy yoga is a great option for taking some time out, relaxing, AND looking after those important core muscles. Plus you get to meet other pregnant women. Another option is Hypnobirthing, or relax and Breathe classes. these are birth preparation classes for you and your birth partner. Some people will dismiss them as ‘woo woo’ but that is not the case. They can really help prepare you mentally for birth, and involve your birth partner in that preparation. Other things you can do is listen to positive relaxation or mediation tracks. Even just having an app on your phone to remind you to breathe occasionally, when you stop and take slow deep breathes. Not pregnancy specific but a useful tool for anyone.

3. Eat Well for You and the Baby The old saying of eating for two used to be taken as ‘eat as much as you want of whatever you like because you’re meant to just sit on the settee, binge watching Netflix and eating ice cream’. Now, it’s seen more as you need to consider what you eat and eat well, and enough, for you and the baby. This is not an excuse to over eat, eat rubbish, and get hugely fat along the way. Of course some women will naturally gain more weight during pregnancy than others, and may well have trouble losing it too, that can be down to genetics, and is not something to beat yourself up about. But you can try not to gain too much ‘non pregnancy fat’ (that’s those tubs of ice cream) as that will definitely be harder to lose. So a healthy, sensible diet is key. Your midwife will have plenty information for you on that. Again there can be a lot of ‘advice’ out there, so make sure you stick to the obvious healthy options rather than any fad diets.

4. Get Plenty of rest I know, not always easy with a bump, a job and perhaps other kids to look after. The bump can stop you getting comfortable at night, there is all that peeing to be done, and over heating. Try to go to bed early, use the relaxing apps or tracks I mentioned before to switch your head off, and if you do wake up to go to the loo, then try to settle your mind when you get back to bed so it doesn’t turn into a wakeful period. Instead of sheep counting, try working your way through the alphabet of songs by a specific artist, or try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique where you think of 5 things in the room that mean something to you, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. I’ll bet you never get to 1. Another useful thing can just be to think the word ‘hush’ over and over. It’s remarkably calming. I think because its what we say to babies, it triggers some thing in our brains, to rest.

5. Look after Yourself with a Massage As I said at the start, there are a lot of myths around pregnancy and massage. I’ve done a whole blog about it before HERE, so I won’t go into it all again as you can read it in more detail there. The main thing to know is that YOU CAN have a massage while you are pregnant, just make sure it is with a properly trained and insured practitioner. Ask them about their training. Did they just do a 1-2 day workshop, or did they do a proper Diploma? How do they do the massage? Seated? Lying down? If so how do they support you? I am trained to see people before 12 weeks, right through and beyond the due date, plus post-natally as well. I help people with pregnancy related sore backs, heavy legs and tiredness, as well as longstanding shoulder/neck issues, which don’t go away just because you are pregnant. All the ladies that come love it, they love being able to lie down in a comfortable position, switch off, have aches eased, and leave feeling lighter and happier. We can talk about possible classes that will help issues and I can suggest other therapists such as physios and osteopaths if I feel that is required.

If you are in Fife or Edinburgh area, get in touch to book your massage or if you have any queries about having a massage during pregnancy. And don’t forget I sell gift vouchers too. An ideal gift for the expectant mum!