Fit Pregnancy Interview Series Part 5
Brianna at 9 months pregnanct with her second baby
Our next fit pregnancy interview is with my good friend Brianna Barker-Caza, who is another PhD nerd like myself.
Brianna is a mother of two fantastic boys, who are 5 and 2 years old. Like Sandra from yesterday's interview Brianna also had to different pregnancies: one that was very fit (the second) and one that was very not (the first).
You'll read below how these pregnancies were for her and which one she preferred.
Brianna is a visiting Professor at Wake Forest University. She also serves as a visiting faculty member for the University of Auckland Business School. And, she's one wicked smart lady, plus a great mom :)
On to the fifth interview in our series!
Brianna, this interview is for you to share your fit pregnancy experience with other women. Unfortunately so many women are scared to exercise while pregnant for fear it is harmful for their unborn babies. How do you feel about this now that you’ve had your own fit pregnancy (and unfit pregnancy)?
Well, I have actually been on both sides. During my first pregnancy, six years ago, I was completely floored by the dearth of research on exercise during pregnancy. While I did stay generally active, I cut down the intensity of my workouts dramatically. I did this mainly out of fear of the unknown. I spent most of my pregnancy learning about all the things that could be potentially harmful--- laying on my back, eating deli meat, consuming soft cheese, even eating spinach---that I always erred on the side of caution. As a result, I did not feel great by the end of my pregnancy. I was out of shape and missing movement in general.
When I got pregnant the second time, I had much more confidence and I had built a trust in the natural process of pregnancy. I continued my active lifestyle without tailoring the intensity quite as much. I set goals for myself and embraced the challenge of my changing body. And, most importantly I enjoyed it. I spent a lot of time really thinking about how the movement nourished me and my body. And, in the end, I felt fantastic. I would have gladly stayed pregnant (although I was anxious to meet my baby) but I felt comfortable, energetic, and beautiful, even at 9 months pregnant.
How hard were you exercising before you became pregnant? What were you doing?
I lifted moderately heavy weights and did interval training around 5-6 days a week. I did everything from body weight circuits, to strongman event training, to timed interval weight and cardio workouts, and threw in some Olympic lifts on occasion too.
When you first found out you were pregnant what was your primary concern with respect to your exercise routine?
My primary concern was safety to the baby. By the time my second pregnancy rolled around there was a bit more research on what was “safe.” So, I continued lifting, but I did make some modifications.
I stopped with the really heavy deadlifts and squats. Actually, I changed much of my training to focus on unilateral exercises so I could still get a great workout, but with a bit less weight.
And I stopped heavy snatches. But, this was mainly out of fear of wacking my belly on the way up. I also stopped box jumps and even jump roping because I am generally clumsy and did not need to increase my chances of falling on a regular basis.
Overall, during your pregnancy, describe what did you do for exercise?
I swam a few times a week, did regular lifting circuits with kettlebells and barbells, and did a few interval sessions. I was active most days, but really listened to my body. When I felt I needed to rest, I did.
How did other people around you react to your fit pregnancy? Was it positive or negative?
It was positive, mostly. I had a goal of being able to do a pull-up at 9 months pregnant. I wanted to be held accountable, so I told many people of this goal. They encouraged me and I did meet my goal, and did 2 unassisted pull-ups the day before I had my son. Of course, there were always a few people who gave me dirty looks at the gym when I picked up a barbell and put it overhead when I was visibly pregnant, but I tended to ignore these people.
Those close to me were supportive. Especially my husband. He helped me research safe workouts and write a training program during my second pregnancy which I greatly appreciated. He also served as my training partner which helped me make modifications to exercises when necessary.
What was the most supportive thing someone told you about your fit pregnancy? The most unsupportive?
The most unsupportive thing I heard was that I should stop working out because I am going to feel fat after delivery whether or not I have been working out, therefore it was a waste of time.
I thought this was silly and distasteful for two reasons. First, obviously no one wants to hear they will be fat. Second, I was working out to feel healthy and strong which was so incredibly important to me at that point of my life.
Feeling capable and safe in my body helped me not only during pregnancy but during labor and postpartum as well.
How was your first trimester, with respect to exercise?
Slow. I lost weight my first trimester both pregnancies because I just did not have an appetite. So, my workouts were scaled accordingly
Fantastic. I feel fabulous, energetic, and strong.
Fantastic. I feel fabulous, energetic, and strong. I also loved feeling my sons’ activity after workouts. Some workouts (like swimming) would clearly lull him to sleep, whereas others (body weight circuits) had him kicking up a storm.
How did you know what you were doing for exercise during your pregnancy was ok/safe? Did you ever doubt your decisions? Were you worried during your pregnancy that you were exercising too hard?
I was scared during my first and was very cautious. During my second, I was confident enough to trust my body. I knew I would know if I was pushing too hard.
During your pregnancies, did you have any complications such as hypertension or extreme water retention? Please describe why/why not?
During my first (dramatically scaled activity-wise) pregnancy, I had symptoms at pre-e at the end of my pregnancy (37 weeks) and was induced. In my second (active) pregnancy, I had absolutely no issues whatsoever.
If you could do things differently for your fit pregnancy, what would that be?
Nothing. I really cannot emphasize enough how much I loved my second pregnancy. I really, truly enjoyed my changing body and keeping it strong.
How much total weight did you gain during your pregnancies?
50lbs in the first no-active pregnancy (!) and 26 lbs in the second fit pregnancy.
Did you get any stretch marks? If you didn’t, why do you think this happened? If you did, do you think they could have been prevented? Do you think creams or oils prevent them?
Yes, from my first. I have no idea about creams. They faded enough that they don’t bother me.
How were your labors and deliveries? -- Natural or Assisted? – Long or short?
My first labor was hard because I was induced. But, it was natural. I was induced at 5pm on a Friday evening. They had to up the pictocin the next afternoon because I still was not progressing. All the sudden I went from 3 to 10 in about an hour and my baby was born at 5:07 pm the next day. It was a hard labor- I had to be in my bed on my back because of the induction. I had a lot of control during the pushing stage with my nurse-midwife, but the room was packed because we were on the high risk side due to the pre-eclampsia. So, it was filled with NICU pediatricians, nurses, medical students, etc.
My second labor was amazing. I actually had no idea I was in labor until I went in to the hospital for what I thought would be a relatively routine check. I was already 5 cm at that point. I spent the next few hours in the shower or walking around the labor suite. I had my second son after a few hours and it was a fantastic, easy labor.
What was the weight/height of your babies? APGAR scores?
7lbs 12 ounces and 21.5 inches (3 weeks early!) 9/10
7lbs 12 ounces and 22 inches (on time) 10/10
How much of your weight gain have you lost since having your babies? How long did it take?
I lost 45 of my 50lbs from my first pregnancy by 6 weeks postpartum (lots of water gained), and all my 20 lbs of the 25lbs of my second pregnancy by 6 weeks postpartum.
How do you feel about your body now?
When I reflect on it, I am very proud of my body. I work hard and I know I am strong and capable. But, honestly, I struggle with body image issues from time to time. Especially during breastfeeding when I seem to carry a little extra “fluff” in my belly section.
To me, I feel fantastic the first couple of months postpartum because the weight loss is so noticeable and consistent. But, then, from about 2 months to 12 months, I seem to generally stall out, which can be disturbing. I really have to work for the last 5 lbs to come off and when sleep deprivation kicks in and hormones are wacky, it can be really hard to do so.
What advice would you give other women who want to have a fit pregnancy?
Enjoy your pregnancy! Remember that women have been having babies forever, and doing so in all sorts of circumstances. Take pleasure in your changing shape. And, remember to use this time to really bond with your baby. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really loved the “interactions” I had with my baby-in-the-womb when I was swimming or lifting.
Also, exercising hard during pregnancy seemed to not only not inhibit my babies' growth, but help it. They were normal size at delivery, but both exclusively breastfed babies grew amazingly during the first 6 months.
Alex (my second) was 18 lbs at 2 months old- and 26 inches at his 2 month appointment. So, he gained almost 11 lbs and almost 4 inches in 2 months. He held his head up super early, and seemed overall strong! Also, check out the height of his jump at 18 months old- I would say that is a well nourished kid!
Thank you for your time!