A few years ago I had the privilege of supporting Jillian and her partner Heidi as their doula during pregnancy and the birth of their son. Jillian has a new book coming out that I am so super excited about !!!! It is a must read for all mamas to be and new mothers. YEAH BABY! Is filled with so much great info to help support a healthy pregnancy as well as priceless tips and tricks from some of my dear friends and top notch experts in the pregnancy fitness , nutrition, womens and childrens health and wellness field. Jillian is a powerhouse and so incredibly knowledgable, I respect her and adore her beyond words. I asked Jillian a few questions, see our Q&A Below:
What are your top 3 MUST eat foods during pregnancy and why ?
Ok. This one is tough. There are many key nutrients that are responsible for many important things relating to your babies development AND the comfort, health, and healing of mommy. So let’s say I am not necessarily picking only three, but rather highlighting 3 nutrients, their benefits, and the various foods in which you can find those nutrients:
Omega 3 fatty acids – yes I know this is obvious, but you have to mention it. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to prenatal eye and brain development and may even contribute to protecting infants from illness. A study from Emory University[i] found that when women had adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy, their babies experienced fewer colds and shorter illnesses during the first few months of their lives. In addition to protection against disease, adequate intake of omega-3 has been associated with a number of other benefits, according to a study published in Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Mothers themselves were at lower risk for postpartum depression and their children had a lower chance of developing Type 1 diabetes. I really can’t stress the benefits of this enough. And because omega-3 fatty acids can only be obtained from dietary sources, it is essential to include foods rich in these compounds as part of your diet: like wild-caught salmon, sardines, trout, walnuts, and chia seeds.
The other VERY obvious one is folate. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in the baby, which affect the brain and spinal cord, could help prevent miscarriage and premature birth, boosts immunity for mommy and baby, helps prevent infection and, helps prevent anemia in pregnant women
While you can and should get this from your food it’s also important to supplement with an organic prenatal to play it safe. Here are some super healthy foods containing folic acid: Spinach, beans, asparagus, peas, lentils, turnip greens, oranges, cantaloupes, pineapples, grapefruit, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, corn, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and sunflower seeds.
Iron is also very important. It helps to prevent anemia during pregnancy and helps to increase blood volume which is critical for supporting pregnancy. An organic prenatal will have iron in it, but getting this in your food is also very important: · Red meat, Poultry, Fish – Plant sources: Fortified cereal, Legumes, especially lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lima beans, Pumpkin seeds, roasted, Blackstrap molasses, Spinach, boiled, Prune juice
I have to add one more. Calcium is essential for developing babies’ bones and teeth, Aids heart, muscle, and nerve function, and helps protect against high blood pressure in mommy. Here are some calcium rich foods you should be sure to incorporate: Organic pasteurized cheese, yogrut, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and figs.
Are there any exercises you would recommend to help prepare for birth ?
There are many, but where I think much confusion has arisen is the how to of strengthening your pelvic floor. This is an excerpt taken directly from my book to help illustrate a kegel 2.0 or mula bandha
About Kegels and Mula Bandha: Andy Says…
Most women have heard about kegels—those “private part” exercises that contract and relax the muscles used to hold and release urine. It has been said that kegels can help not just with age-related incontinence but with labor, delivery, and pregnancy and post-partum complications like uterine prolapse and post-partum incontinence.
However, this is a bit of an exaggeration. The entire pelvic floor is involved in the pregnancy and birth process, and without strengthening the entire area—not just the limited area you work while doing kegels—you won’t do yourself all that much good. Kegels are still relevant, and we still include them in the workouts in this book, but know that they are not the whole story. For that reason, we offer an option when we include kegels in our exercise plan: mula bandha.
Mula bandha is a somewhat esoteric yoga practice, but if you are an advanced practitioner of yoga, you may have heard of it and may already know how to do it. The benefit to mula bandha is that unlike kegels, it activates the entire pelvic floor. It is used to retain energy during yogic breathing, but it can also benefit those muscles you will need during pregnancy and delivery. A qualified yoga teacher can instruct you on how to do mula bandha correctly. It can be difficult to learn how to feel your pelvic floor muscles and it takes some practice. However, here are the basics, if you want to try it on your own[i]:
1. Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position. Close your eyes, relax your body and breath, and pay attention to the feeling of your breath expanding your ribcage as you think about releasing tension from your entire abdominal area. Then, begin by slowly squeezing the entire perineal region—front, center, and back. Think about pulling it inward and upward as you breathe steadily and smoothly. When you have contracted as much as you can, slowly release. This will help you get used to how it feels to contract that area. Repeat this 5 times. As you get more advanced, gradually increase your reps until you are doing 20 in one sitting.
2. The next step is to contract and hold the perineal muscles. Continue to breathe smoothly. Notice how you are contracting the area around the anus, then think about contracting the area around your cervix, and then add a kegel, contracting the muscles around your urethra. Continue to tighten each area as you focus on it, then slowly release the entire contraction as you continue to breathe.
3. Next, begin to coordinate this entire pelvic floor contraction with your breath, contracting on a slow inhale and releasing on a slow exhale. Work on making both the contraction and the breath smooth and steady.
4. Finally, practice this complex contraction without affecting your breath at all. This is the advanced practice.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. It really does take practice because we aren’t used to feeling, let alone paying attention to, those muscles. But the more you work on it, the more you can gain conscious control over them. This can make a real difference, not only in how comfortable your pregnancy is, but on your labor and, finally, on preventing future complications from pregnancy and delivery, like urinary incontinence and organ prolapse.
Squats, Modified Triangle Pose, Bridge, sumo squats, modified planks, Goddess squats are also good for strengthening core and pelvic floor to best facilitate labor and delivery.
What kind of exercise do you like the best and always recommend for pregnant women to do and why ?
The general rules are fairly straight forward… Don’t do anything you weren’t doing before you were pregnant. Don’t do explosive exercises like plyometrics or olympic lifts, avoid crunching and compressing your spine, don’t get overheated etc. So while I always recommend prenatal yoga, or a prenatal barre class to help safely keep you in shape and protect your core – if you are looking for more of a challenge you can still lift weights, take your spin class, and the like provided you follow the recommendations I already referenced. Plus, I created a full workout regimen with a pregnancy fitness specialist, Andrea Orbeck, in Yeah Baby to make sure mommy and baby reap all the benefits of prenatal exercise!
Back pain is a big issue especially towards the end of pregnancy are there any exercise or stretches to help prevent this ?
First, managing your posture throughout your day will help a ton. Bringing body awareness into your daily routine will make a big difference in how much pain you experience as your center of gravity shifts to accommodate your baby. Stand up tall, tuck your chin back towards your collar bone, squeeze your bum and tuck your tailbone, draw belly button in toward your spine, avoid torso rotation as much as possible.
For back pain try these stretches to help ease the discomfort:
Modified Childs Pose: Start on hands and knees, open legs wide apart, extend arms out in front of you. then sit back on your knees between your heels. Place pillow under your tunny for extra support if needed. Hold for 30 seconds.
Mermaid Stretch – sit with your right leg bent in front of you and left leg tucked behind you. Place your right hand on the ground behind your body. Exhale as you lift your hips up, while squeezing your glutes, bringing you on to your knees. Then reach your left hand overhead. Hold for 20 seconds. Inhale and return to start position. repeat on opposite side. Modification: If you find it challenging to sit in this position grab a pillow to place under your hips!
Bridge Pose – In some cases if your glutes are week your lower back can over compensate. Strengthening your glutes can help minimize back pain in the later stages of pregnancy.
You’ll find these stretches throughout all the yeah baby workout regimens in each trimester. Lie on your back, with your knees bent, feet hip width apart, soles of the feet flat on the ground with your ankles directly under your knees. Place your hands on your hips. Then squeeze your bum and raise your hips up off the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times.
After birth is a time for healing and replenishing .. Are there any foods, supplements or things one can do to help better nourish and heal the body post birth ?
You shared one of your great recipes with me and now I will give you one of my favorites from the book for energy and healing after delivery!
Approximately 350 calories
½ cup coconut water
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup kefir
1/3 cup mango
1 peeled kiwi
¼ cup papaya
½ cup kale
1 teaspoon honey
Place ingredients in a blender. Blend till smooth and enjoy.
Focus on these nutrients to help fend off infections, heal wounds, and mitigate effects of any potential blood loss in the event you may have undergone a C-section or episiotomy:
· Zinc: Get it from oysters, grass fed beef or lamb, kale, pumpkin seeds, pork, and chicken
· Vitamin A: Get it from cooked Sweet Potato, cooked carrots, cooked dark leafy greens like kale, butternut squash, Romaine lettuce, apricots, cantaloupe, mango, and egg yolks
· Vitamin C: Get it from bell peppers, leafy greens, berries, kiwi, guava, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and papaya
· Vitamin E: Get it from almonds, pumpkin seeds, kale, hazelnuts, avocado, broccoli, papaya, and olives
· Iron: Get it from red meat, liver, raisins, spinach, broccoli, egg yolks, and iron fortified breakfast cereals
· Probiotics: Get them from yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and naturally fermented vegetables
Is there one supplement that you feel every pregnant women should be taking ?
I always go with the obvious – a clean fish oil that is safely rated and known to not have mercury. Barleans is a good brand. And an organic prenatal. I always like new chapter organics pre natal.
What are 3 things a women can do post birth to start getting her body back?
In truth, my goal is to keep women healthy throughout their pregnancy so this isn’t at all an issue. That really is the secret. Take care of your self and your body will quite literally bounce right back. That said, if for any reason you do gain extra weight – no judgment here. You simply need to talk to your doctor about exercising after baby. How soon you can workout and what you can do depends on your delivery. I also recommend nothing but walking for the first 6 weeks. And then we gradually ease women back into their previous routine over a 3 to 6 month period.
It’s also important to understand that if you attempt to lose weight quickly it will likely compromise your milk supply if in fact you have chosen to breast feed. You don’t want to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds a week max.
Continue eating the right quantity and quality of foods.
Prioritize your sleep. I know this seems impossible after your little one is born, but do whatever you can to get some shut eye in. Remember, metabolism is biochemistry, and sleep plays a critical role in the optimization of your metabolism.
For more on this incredible lady check out out her website http://www.jillianmichaels.com/fit/