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2 Pregnancies & Labors- A comparison with and without exercise, from my own experience.

I wrote this 3 weeks after delivering Seth:

I have now been through 2 pregnancies- the first six and half years ago, and the second this year. It is difficult to compare experiences directly- there are inherent characteristics unique to each. "They say" with your second pregnancy you show sooner, carry lower, deliver faster, etc., but even considering those generalizations, I can draw some distinctive conclusive comparisons based on my degree of fitness, or lack thereof....
With my first pregnancy I made the over cautious and under educated decision to cease all exercise, based on my fear of compromising my condition. I had been a consistent 5-10 K runner for 3 years.

With my 2nd pregnancy, now as a personal trainer, ceasing my exercise routine was simply not an option. I modified my routine accordingly and exercised right up until the day I delivered. I used an adaptive program incorporating cardio, flexibility and strength training.

Here are some observations during pregnancy:

- Most remarkably, I suffered virtually no aches and pains during my 2nd pregnancy, unlike my first where I ached all over from the first trimester. The flexibility kept my muscles stretched, most noticeably in my upper back and neck and lower back.

- I managed my posture and balance better in the 2nd pregnancy. The strength conditioning not only improved my muscular strength but also made me pay attention to my stance.

- I felt more like my normal self in my 2nd pregnancy! I felt less "taken over" and more connected with the changes that were happening to my body.

- Exercise encouraged me to maintain good nutritional habits and not over indulge because of my condition. I gained 25 lbs in my 2nd pregnancy and 40 in my 1st!

- I felt better about my appearance the 2nd time, which resulted in better overall emotional health and happiness.

Here are some observations regarding labor:

- With my 2nd pregnancy as I approached my delivery date, although I had the same apprehensions, I felt much more like I had been training for an athletic event. With my 1st, I felt as if labor was something that was going to happen to me, instead of something I was going to do. I felt more actively prepared for the 2nd, and I was! I had more confidence even though I had as much fear.

- With my 1st pregnancy I hadn't the abdominal strength to push form my core, and I suffered hemorrhoids postpartum because HOW I pushed. With my 2nd, I was strong through the core that my power came from there, and I did not suffer the same postpartum symptoms.

- Immediately following delivery I had more strength and mobility the 2nd time- just to bend down to get into my hospital bag, picking up the baby, etc. Although I was still sore, I had more strength and flexibility to assist me.

- The interval training of my prenatal cardio work helped me to cope with the contraction intervals. The 60 second contractions felt less like an eternity!

- I remembered to BREATHE during my contractions, something I somehow forgot entirely to do the first time!

Here are some observations during this Postpartum period- I am now 28 days postpartum:

- I began my active recovery much faster this time! By day 4 postpartum with no exercise due to my "injuries", my back started aching from my daily activities. Day 5 I began a very light flexibility routine which helped to loosen me up. I have made the time to do a 10-15 minute head-to-toe stretching program every day It is saving me, most especially in the neck and back where not only do we carry a ton of our stress, but also with the late night nursing/dozing in the rocking chair newborn routine I am on! In the first week my mobility was extremely limited, but every day I had more range of motion, and it took about 14 days to be back to about 90% full body ROM.

- The full body movement combined with stretches that incorporate compression such as the child's pose seemed to encourage the necessary bleeding in the first 2 weeks.

- By 2 1/2 weeks postpartum I was able to add some very light low ROM mat work such as bridges and small crunches. Of course I checked myself for diastisis before doing ANY of this work! I took it VERY easy, and every day I have a little more strength.

- AT 4 weeks I am able to work through a light full body strength routine of planks, modified push ups, bridges, etc. Like my prenatal routine I am focusing on key areas to strengthen- upper back (trapezius, rhomboids, lats), hips and lower back, transverse (abdominal) muscle.

- At 4 weeks I am out walking 5K with the stroller. I am beginning short runs (2K) on non-consecutive days. After my first delivery my hip flexors were very loose and sore when walking and running; this time I feel strong through the hips with the continued strength focus on this key area. Because I am nursing the relaxin in my system will keep this area "loose", so it is imperative to also keep it strong!

- I have less weight to lose, and although I am still at least 10 lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight because of the fluids I am retaining (much of which is due to nursing) I am already back in 75% of my normal clothes! It took me 9 months to achieve that after my first pregnancy! I feel almost like my old self already! :)

- I am starting Seth's baby exercises/massage earlier, as I incorporate him into my daily exercise routines. I help him to stretch his little arms and legs- he must get sore from all that laying around sleeping! I know I do! I massage his muscles, work on tummy time with the stability ball, and put his body through gentle ROM activities during his quiet wakeful times. It is great bonding
time for us.


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