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UNIQUE NINE By John Kinmonth
“You look like you’re ready to pop.”
“You’re never going to sleep again.”
“Can I feel your stomach?”

It’s inevitable. The moment a pregnant woman gets within earshot, typically well-behaved people immediately begin offering all manner of unsolicited observations, homegrown advice and probing questions. It can happen anywhere—work, the grocery store and, gasp, even the Bellevue Club. The truly brazen even think it appropriate for a more hands-on abdomen examination. Wold you try any of the above with a nonpregnant coworker or stranger? Didn’t think so.

Despite, or maybe because of, the ill-conceived barrage of advice from just about everyone, confusion still abounds about pregnancy, particularly in regard to fitness.

Bellevue Club certified personal trainers and young moms Heather Balajadia and Amy Clarke, along with Club member and Overlake Hospital OB/GYN chairperson Kristin Graham, offer their thoughts on some of the most common misconceptions:

I shouldn’t work out.
Kristin: “There are certain conditions, but if they are healthy and fit we recommend they carry out an exercise routine all the way to the end of their pregnancy.”

Heather: “A lot of people think they can’t do anything once they’re pregnant, but you can still stay active.”

Amy: “It’s hard having a big belly at the gym. You get funny looks, but I think it’s becoming more accepted. You can continue to work out until you’re not comfortable. Listen to your body.”

I need to keep my heart rate low.
Kristin: “We have people monitor heart rate. We tend to tell pregnant women that we don’t want their heart rate above 150 or 160.”

Heather: “With cardio, I wore a heart-rate monitor and kept it at 140 through my pregnancies.”

Amy: “Stay within your fitness level. Don’t overdo it. If you haven’t been in an exercise program, now’s not the time to start.”

I should stay on my normal workout schedule.
Heather: “With both of my children, I didn’t work out that much in the first trimester. I was so sick and couldn’t eat anything, so I didn’t have the energy. I just took such good care of myself and napped when I needed to nap. Later on, I maintained my workout, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t feel bad about it.”

Amy: “If I felt sick, I just tried to maintain a light workout. I went on a lot of walks in my last month.”

Kristin: “I think one of the bigger problems is people don’t feel well in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Once you stop, it can be hard to get back (into exercise).”

I should lose the pregnancy weight quickly.
Amy: “It takes nine months to put it on, you should give yourself at least nine months to take it off. There is no pressure, everybody is different.”

Kristin: “With a vaginal birth, stick to just walking for the first several weeks afterward. With a C-section, we recommend to not do anything strenuous before the six-week checkup. You have to start slow and work your way up.”

I need to stop all sports and outdoors activities.
Kristin: “Most things are fine, but we tell patients to avoid sports with contact or falling—whether it’s because you fall or because someone can run into you. You don’t want to play ice hockey or horseback riding. No scuba because of the pressure or hot yoga because of the high temperatures.”

Amy: “I did a duathlon when I was at eight weeks and kept running until about five months. When I started getting heavier and could feel it on my joints, I switched to walking and elliptical.”

Heather: “I snowboarded until about four or five months before, but stopped because I was scared of someone running into me. I taught yoga right up until I had them.”

I can’t do core workouts.
Heather: “Even though your belly is expanding you can keep it strong. Push-ups at the wall, chair dips, pool workouts are all great ways to work on your core. In yoga, as your belly gets bigger, your foot position gets wider in downward dog for more stability and to make room for your belly. Because your joints are loosening, don’t go for the full stretch.”

Amy: “You shouldn’t twist but you can do planks, chair poses and side planks. No powerlifting at this point, but you can still challenge your muscles with light lifting.”

What not to do: A man’s guide to pregnancy with Amy Clarke
Pregnant women the world over will thank you for following these simple guidelines:

  • Don’t comment on belly size. “Ready to pop” is not an acceptable compliment. If you must, try beautiful, strong or glowing.
  • Don’t touch the belly unsolicited. Would you enjoy this?
  • Don’t jump to conclusions about women who are working out. Are you a doctor? Even if you are, please keep your observations to yourself.
  • Don’t stare. It’s hard enough coming to the gym without the extra pairs of eyes.
  • Don’t forget to smile and act like a normal human.

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