Fit Pregnancy Interview Series Part 6
Hi Fit Pregnancy Readers!
Our next interview is with a good friend of mine, Becky Wilhoit. I've know Becky for a few years now when I initially started working with her as an online nutrition client. Now, we've become good friends and have shared the joys of becoming pregnant despite both being told it wouldn't ever happen for either of us.
You see, Becky was labeled as a woman with PCOS who would would probably never be able to have children. She was prescribed PCOS meds (metformin amongst others, even though her symptoms were not classic) and tried to do everything right with her nutrition and exercise to help reverse the condition.
However, she really didn't have PCOS - her lack of periods and her somewhat altered hormone levels were more to do with the fact that she was inflicting excessive mental and physical stress upon herself in a quest to have a an ultra-lean body (I didn't condone this...I was more trying to help her eat properly and exercise healthily).
Thankfully she learned that this behaviour was very detrimental to her health (and her ability to ever become pregnant, which was a desire of her and her husband), and stopped being so controlling.
Finally, by just eating well and exercising for her health (rather than to look a certain way) her body finally became pregnant and she continued to have a fit pregnancy and produce a very healthy baby boy.
But, that story itself could be an article of it's own; and I will talk about that more in the future. For now, on to the interview with Becky and her fit pregnancy experiences:
Becky, 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?
I just learned a ton about listening to my body, letting it tell me what it needs and what it’s capable of.
It’s hard to quantify, but I think that when it comes to maintaining fitness while you’re pregnant, you just have to find that instinct and realize that there is a balance there and that you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy body at the same time. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other (unless you’re in a special situation where working out is simply contraindicated for the pregnancy, which I do realize happens for some women).
How hard were you exercising before you became pregnant? What were you doing?
Leading up to my pregnancy, I was more focused on running and had stepped back from weights to where I was lifting 1-2 times a week (10-12 rep range) and running 3-5 miles, 3-4 times a week. I was really just enjoying running and doing what felt good at the time. I was also doing a ton of core and balance work and more stretching than I used to do. My clothes were fitting really nicely and I was just in a good place weight-wise and feeling very healthy.
When you found out you were pregnant, did you modify your workout routine? How & Why?
I’d always planned on running during pregnancy, but my bladder became really heavy right from the get-go. I just felt like running was going to make me have an accident, it was so bad, so I switched straight to walking and elliptical. I didn’t mind the change, I kind of just welcomed it and said “This is going to be how it is for the next nine months, and that’s okay.”
I kept lifting and doing core/balance stuff for awhile, then cut core stuff out when that became uncomfortable and didn’t do anything that required straining. It just felt more comfortable for me that way.
When you first found out you were pregnant what was your primary concern with respect to your exercise routine?
I really didn’t have a lot of concerns. Maybe that’s naïve, but I just sort of went with the flow and did what felt right on a given day. I had one spotting episode at 19 weeks that scared the crap out of me, but it was um…a hemorrhoid. Real fun. So I wasn’t scared up to that point, and after that I just had to laugh at the whole thing. My workouts did nothing but make me feel better.
Overall, during your pregnancy, describe what did you do for exercise?
I’ll break it down into months, I guess.
For the first six months, I did elliptical, walking, and hiking for cardio (with certain adjustments on the choice of trail/terrain for the hiking, just for safety’s sake), weights, and stretching.
The last three months, I kept doing the same thing, but the time spent on them went down considerably.
By the last 5 weeks, I was just trying to stay active, even if that meant only doing 20 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes of upper body weights. I worked out for the last time on the day before I went into the hospital.
How did other people around you react to your fit pregnancy? Was it positive or negative?
I felt like 99% of the people around me were positive and supportive. My husband was amazing. My parents were super supportive and very encouraging. I think I might’ve gotten the stink eye from one old guy at the gym once, but I just ignored it. I trusted in what I was doing.
What was the most supportive thing someone told you about your fit pregnancy? The most unsupportive?
I had so much positivity coming my way that I can’t remember just one thing, but I loved how my husband was always telling me how beautiful I was. There’s not a woman on the planet who minds hearing that when she’s 36 weeks pregnant.
As far as “unsupportive,” I didn’t get a lot of actual remarks, but I did occasionally get veiled remarks in the form of “concern” from one particular older female coworker. We didn’t have much in common and I don’t think I could’ve done much to make her happy, though, so I didn’t worry about it.
How was your first trimester, with respect to exercise?
Small bladder, huge motivation – that pretty much sums it up! I didn’t have a lot of nausea (mostly in the mornings) and no vomiting at all, either. I was so lucky, and I know that – to have as easy of a first trimester as I did, that’s pretty rare.
I felt pretty motivated during my 2nd trimester. I LOVED the way my body looked at that point…my weight gain was right on target and I just felt really beautiful and like this fertile-mommy-goddess, so that made it really easy to get motivated to go work out.
Physically, I was getting really big and slowing down a lot, had some back pain, shortness of breath from him pressing up against my lungs – all normal stuff. I did the same things, just not for the same duration.
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 did a lot of my own research and then ran things by my doctors. They were 100% supportive of me and were just so happy with my weight gain, my activity levels, my blood pressure and things like that. I never worried that I was doing too much or not enough.
During your pregnancy, did you have any complications such as hypertension or extreme water retention? Please describe why/why not?
I didn’t, no. I had what I think was pretty normal water retention – especially for a summer pregnancy – towards the last 5 or 6 weeks. I just upped my water intake and that helped a good bit.
If you could do things differently for your fit pregnancy, what would that be?
There’s absolutely nothing I’d change. I feel so lucky to be able to say that, but I just hope that my future pregnancies can be as good as this one was.
How much total weight did you gain during your pregnancy?
I gained approx. 32 pounds. My doc’s charts say it was under 30 lbs., but I know it was actually a little bit over that, from start to finish.
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?
Yep, I got ‘em! I call them my “new tattoos,” haha.
They showed up the morning that I turned 38 weeks and I actually cried. But I appreciate them now because they’re a souvenir of the wonderful time when Russ was still in my tummy.
I used Bio Oil and Body Shop Body Butter to help with the itchy stomach thing, but I doubt they made that big of a difference in whether I would’ve had stretch marks. That’s genetics, mostly.
How was your labor and delivery? -- Natural or Assisted? – Long or short? .
I had an induction for low amniotic fluid, but I went into labor at the doctor’s office before we went to the hospital because the doc had stripped my membranes. I’d been in and out of false labor for weeks at that point, sometimes having contractions 5 minutes apart for 8-9 hours that would just sputter out. But the fluid was low, so they induced.
So, I labored and had Cervadil overnight, they did the epidural at 4 am, Pit starting at 5 am, I was 5 cm dilated at 11 am, 10 cm at 12:20 pm, and Russ was born after less than 25 minutes of pushing, at 12:45 pm on 9/15/2010.
I have so much respect for women who choose an unmedicated birth or can’t have an epidural, but for me, the epidural was wonderful and I will probably do it again.
Russ latched on within 20 minutes of birth and just was a dream baby. I had no tearing, just two stitches from an abrasion. Overall, I couldn’t believe how wonderful things went. It was just a dream, and pushing was kind of a cool experience (even though it was hard work) – I pretended that I was on the leg press machine and using my core to push up the heaviest weight of my life, and out he came. Though I will say, holding up your legs when they’re completely numb is kind of difficult.
What was the weight/height of baby? APGAR scores?
Russ was 7 lbs. 14 oz., 21.25 inches long. He was long and lanky. He was pink, wide awake, and just did wonderfully. His APGARs were 9s I think, pretty much across the board.
He latched on 20 minutes after birth and then again an hour after birth, and I think Russ pretty much knew exactly what he was doing with breastfeeding. I was the one who learned from him, he pretty much lead the way for me.
How is the health of your baby now?
Russ is a great, easy baby. A great eater. He’s still exclusively breastfeeding and growing like a weed. He turned 3 months old recently and he’s 14 lbs. and 25 inches long. Just about to grow out of some 3-6 month sizes, length wise.
Still a long, lean baby. We laugh at him because he has “baby abs” that are pretty visible, and little shoulder/back muscles that you can see during tummy time.
How much of your weight gain have you lost since having your baby? How long did it take?
I worked out, but didn’t overdo it. I listened to my body and introduced activity only when I felt 100% comfortable with it. After the birth, I began walking short distances (a few blocks at a time) the day after we returned home.
The day before he turned 3 weeks old, we went to the track with him and I did 2 miles (picture above), walking the curves and running the straightaways while pushing the stroller with the infant carseat snapped in.
I did walking, a little running here and there, and a lot of core rehabilitation work for the first month or two, and by my 6-week check-up a few days before Halloween, I’d lost 20 pounds.
By 6 weeks later, I’d lost another 10-12 pounds.
So it took me just about three months to lose pretty much all my baby weight. My body looks smaller to me now, though, probably because my perspective has changed after having that huge belly! Breastfeeding and the bigger boobs probably help, too - haha.
How do you feel about your body now?
I just really appreciate and respect my body in a whole new way now. I look back on the experience of pregnancy with such appreciation for it and I really look forward to having more fit pregnancies in the future.
I really learned a lot about doing what you can and then leaving the rest up to your body to figure out. Our bodies are so much smarter than we are, if that makes sense…I can’t even wrap my head around the way that a life goes from a collection of cells to a 7- or 8-lb. baby, but my body did that! How can you not respect your body more after seeing it do that?
What advice would you give other women who want to have a fit pregnancy?
Start building up those healthy habits before you get pregnant, and don’t be afraid. As is the case with so many things relating to pregnancy and babies, someone is always going to disagree with you, so you can’t pick an approach that will make everyone happy, and it’s not their business anyway.
I don’t care what people thought of my approach to pregnancy and fitness, I know I did right by my child (first and foremost) and right by my own body.
There’s strength and confidence in making that decision for yourself and your baby. That was an experience I value so much and I know that it just equipped me that much more to teach my children about living a healthy life in their own futures.