Prepare for your post-baby body

A bit of effort while pregnant can help you get back into shape after birth.

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Pregnant but already wondering how your pre-baby body will ever return? A bit of effort during pregnancy can prepare your body for the changes ahead and help you get back into shape after birth.

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Minimise stretch marks

Stretch marks are a form of scarring on the lower layer of the skin, which can get torn as your skin stretches during pregnancy.

What you can do

Genes and hormones influence whether you get stretch marks but regular moisturising gives you the best chance of avoiding them. Also eat sunflower seeds for zinc, silica and vitamin E to reinforce your skin’s collagen.

“Pregnancy stretches your skin, so you must keep it as supple as possible,” says anti-ageing expert Dr Daniel Sister.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of pregnancy skincare company Mama Mio, agrees and advocates products containing the essential fatty acids (EFAs) omega 3, 6 and 9, which are vital for skin health. “If your diet isn’t rich in EFAs from foods such as oily fish, your levels can drop during pregnancy, as you’re sharing nutrients with your baby,” says Sian.

Prevent saggy boobs

Your pregnancy cleavage can come at a price, as the reduction in volume (which, sadly, nearly always happens) can leave your boobs looking saggy.

What you can do

Regular moisturising can help prevent sagging but for extra boob-boosting potential, it’s suggested using products that contain CoQ10 helps. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant helps prevent collagen degradation, and collagen is the ‘net’ that holds skin up and keeps it firm.

You should also wear a well-fitting bra to support your breasts and stop the skin and ligaments from stretching.  It’s important to switch to a maternity bra as soon as your usual bra feels uncomfortable and you should get measured every trimester. Also, opt for wide straps, deep sides and an under-bust band for the best support, and avoid underwired bras as they may restrict your milk ducts.

Strengthen your pelvic floor

Your pelvic floor muscles are the ones you’d use to stop your pee mid flow (but don’t actually do this, it’s bad for your bladder). While helping to hold everything in place (including your growing baby), your pelvic floor muscles are also under increased strain thanks to the hormone relaxin, which softens your ligaments and muscles ready for birth.

Worrying that you’re going to lose control of your bladder and wet yourself if you laugh is no joke – incontinence isn’t much fun!

What you can do

Try small pelvic floor exercises every day in the run up to the birth. They’re good for anyone to try so they won’t do you any harm even early on in pregnancy. If you are unsure you are getting them right, as your midwife for guidance.

Mums’ stories

“I slept in a bra”

“The best item I bought was a night-time maternity bra. It gave me lots of support and made me feel much more comfortable in bed. Two pregnancies later, I’ve no stretch marks and escaped droopy boobs!”

Wendy, 35, mum to Lila, 3, and Danny, 1

“I made sure my skin felt good”

“I used Avent Moisturising Light Oil, which smelt lovely. Looking after my skin helped get it ready to stretch.”

Mia, 29, mum to Sian, 9, Will, 2

“I love my pelvic floor exerciser”

“Since Ethan was born I’ve been using a pelvic floor exerciser every day – it’s made a big difference.”

Nina Harris, mum to Megan, 10, Mia, 5 and Ethan, 8 months

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During pregnancy, sit-ups are out of the question – and who would want to try when there’s a bump in the way?

Banish a flabby tummy

Everyone worries whether they’ll regain their pre-pregnancy stomach, but you can take steps now that will help you get back into shape post-birth.

What you can do

Sit-ups aren’t advisable after 12 weeks into your pregnancy, but you can get on all fours and squeeze and release your stomach muscles to help toning.

Check out your local leisure centre for antenatal fitness or aqua-erobic classes as they can really help.

It’s also worth paying attention to your diet. “Choose foods that will give you as much energy and nutrition as possible rather than empty calories,” advises Glasgow-based dietician Nathalie Jones. “Think, ‘What can I do that will help my baby?’ – for example, instead of jam on toast have sardines on toast, which is more nutritious.”

Stop varicose veins

Hormone changes during pregnancy cause the walls of your veins to relax slightly, while your increased blood flow and ever-expanding bump put additional pressure on the veins in your legs. This is how varicose veins can develop. It doesn’t help if your job requires prolonged periods of standing or sitting.

What you can do

“I had the beginnings of a varicose vein in my second pregnancy,” says herbalist and mum-of-three Anne McIntyre, author of The Herbal For Mother And Child (Thorsons). “So I alternated between applying witch hazel and distilled rose-water [both natural astringents that help tone the veins] throughout the day and the problem disappeared in two days.”

Anne also recommends staying regular, as constipation can impede blood flow back up to your heart. “Try including linseeds or psyllium seeds in your diet,” she says. “Add a dessertspoonful of one of them to a smoothie every day.”

Hot and cold bathing can also stimulate blood flow. Alternate the temperature of your shower, or if you’re in a warm bath, put your leg under the cold tap at regular intervals. “You can also bend your knees, then straighten and stand on tiptoe in the shower,” says Anne. “This makes the calf muscles work, stimulating blood flow.”

Mum’s story

“I went organic”

“I ate almost exclusively organic food and had fortnightly yoga classes. I felt healthy and confident. It helped me get back into my jeans after a week!”

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Cara, 35, mum to Leo, 11 months

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