Look after your baby, Look after you! By Dr Frances Cundill

As a doctor, I would recommend physical activity and a healthy diet to all pregnant and post natal women.

There are both physical and psychological benefits from exercise for both mum and baby, and being active during pregnancy has been shown to help you cope with labour and get back in shape after giving birth (1).

The NHS recommends that pregnant women do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. This should include muscle strengthening activities twice a week (2).The proven benefits of exercise in pregnancy include control of weight gain, improved sleep and mood, reduced high blood pressure, improved fitness and help with the prevention of pregnancy induced diabetes.

The physical activity you do should be adapted to your pre-pregnancy activity levels and stage of pregnancy. There are certain exercises you should avoid, such as contact sports, activities involving lying on your back after 16 weeks of pregnancy and scuba diving. See the NHS choices website for further information (1).

After having a baby, exercise can help your body recover from childbirth, reduce post natal depression and help you feel more energised (3). You can re-start gentle exercises, for example walking, pelvic floor exercises and gentle stretches, as soon as you feel up to. It is recommended that you wait until after your 6-week post-natal check with your GP before you re-start any high impact exercise programme. If you have had a Caesarian section you may have to wait longer before doing any strenuous exercise so ask your midwife or GP for advice.

One of the benefits of joining a post-natal fitness class is the social aspect of meeting other new mums and the moral support you can offer each other. Committing to going to a class with others makes you more likely to do the activity and all Mummyfit classes are taken by a qualified trainers who know what exercises you should and should not do for your stage of recovery. The trainers will assess you and adapt the exercises they give you accordingly. Once you have regained a certain a level of fitness and strength they will help you set fitness goals and start to push you to achieve then.

I have always been active and exercised regularly througout all of my preganancies. I found that it helped with the pregnancy aches and pains plus made my recovery from the labour easier. I did not do any kind of group classes after my first child and soon found myslef with a back injury from having weak core strength and all the carrying and feeding I was doing! I joined Mummyift after having my second child and had a much quicker recovery and was stonger after that pregnancy than I have ever been. I found that it really motivated me to get back into doing exercise, especailly on those days when its an achievement to get out of bed, nevermind do some activity!! I met other mums who were just like me and we swapped tips and tales on all things baby, and life after having a baby! All the trinaers were really approachable, friendly and knowledgable so I felt that each class was pitched at the right level for me at the stage I was at.

So in summary, as a doctor and a mum, who has done the Mummyfit classes, I would highly recommend coming along to one and trying it out. In order to look after your baby you need to look after yourself and it has been proven that physical activity and a healthy diet both during and after pregnancy improves both your physical and emotional health.