Diet and exercise


Diet and exercise

A healthy diet and exercise routine are important at all stages of life; however, they can both play a big role in maintaining you and your baby’s health during pregnancy and after birth.

Whether you’re looking into diet and exercise information before or after your pregnancy, you should always remember to be safe and consult your doctor if you need further guidance or information.

During your pregnancy

While you can expect to gain around 10 to 15 kilograms through your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to stay active during this time if you’re able. Maintaining a suitable exercise regime will help you with the changes to your body before and after you give birth.

Sign up for our antenatal classes to learn more about the role of diet and exercise during pregnancy.

Benefits of exercise

Exercising while pregnant is beneficial in many ways. A safe program can help you:

  • maintain your general fitness
  • improve your mood
  • manage the discomforts of pregnancy
  • prepare your body for childbirth
  • assist your body in returning to normal after your baby is born.

Finding an exercise program that suits your needs can also be a great way to meet up with other expecting mothers, and begin to develop a support network.

How to find the right program

In selecting a program, you should look out for one that is achievable, enjoyable and flexible enough to allow you to modify the routines as your pregnancy progresses. A few other general tips include:

  • start with gentle exercise and progress slowly
  • low impact routines that protect your joints and ligaments are best
  • exercises that target your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles will be highly beneficial
  • be prepared to modify your routines to accommodate the changes your body will go through
  • be aware of posture and positioning -- during your third trimester, limit exercise laying on your back.
  • be mindful of your changing body and how it affects your balance and coordination, and choose exercises that can help you focus on improving these areas.

Your heart rate will go up during your pregnancy. When you are exercising, you should monitor this closely.

As a general rule of thumb, you should never exert yourself so much that you are breathless and unable to talk while exercising.

Diet and nutrition

During your pregnancy, what you eat will influence the health, growth and development of your new baby. Be mindful of what goes into your body, eating a little more than you normally would and choosing foods that are packed with nutrition.

Choose foods that are rich in the key nutrients that ensure the healthy development of your baby:

  • Protein: Meats, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes and nuts are all high in protein, which will help your baby grow.
  • Folic acid: One month before to three months after conception, you should take a folic acid supplement each day to decrease the risk of neural tube defects. Yellow and green leafy vegetables, spinach, breakfast cereals with added folate, breads, fruit and legumes are all great, natural sources of folic acid.
  • Iron: Important for blood production to carry oxygen and nutrients to your baby, iron is key during pregnancy. The best, iron-rich foods include red meats, chicken, seafood. Legumes, wholemeal bread and iron-fortified breakfast cereals are also a good option.
  • Calcium: Milk products and tinned fish with bones, such as salmon, are a great source of calcium, which will help develop strong bones and teeth.
  • Vitamins and minerals: You will need increased amounts of Vitamin C, B12, B group vitamins, magnesium and zinc during pregnancy. Choose foods that rich in these nutrients to help your baby’s development.

The following table can help you plan your daily meals throughout your pregnancy:

Food group Requirement (serves per day) Serving size
Cereals 4 to 6
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 medium bread roll
  • 1 cup cooked pasta or rice
  • 1 cup breakfast cereal
Vegetable and legumes 5 to 6
  • 1 cup salad vegetables
  • Half cup dark leafy vegetables
  • Third cup cooked lentils, chickpeas or canned beans
  • 1 medium potato
Fruit 4
  • 1 medium sized fruit
  • 2 small pieces of fruit
  • 1 cup fruit pieces
Milk, yoghurt and cheese 2
  • 250ml milk
  • 40g cheese
  • 200g yoghurt
Lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts and legumes 1.5
  • 65 to 100g cooked meat/chicken
  • 80 to 120g fish fillet
  • 2 eggs
  • Third cup nuts

You should also drink plenty of fluid throughout the day -- at least two litres, including six tall glasses of water. This will help keep you hydrated and help ease some symptoms of pregnancy such as constipation and indigestion.

Avoid risky foods

Listeria can be very dangerous during pregnancy. Visit the Australian Government’s Food Standards website for more information about Listeria and how to avoid it.

Mercury levels in fish are also a concern for pregnant women. The Food Standards website, also offers further information on what to watch out for when eating fish while pregnant.

If you have any questions about healthy diet and exercise while you’re pregnant, please let us know. Our midwives and obstetricians can provide guidance and recommendations on healthy and safe diet and exercise plans for expecting mums.

After the birth of your baby

Following birth, it’s important to focus on the recovery process to ensure your body returns to normal without any complications. Diet and exercise can play a big part in this.

While coping with physical limitations can get frustrating at times, getting back to your pre-pregnancy body will take some time. Remember not to push yourself too hard, or take on too much during the first few weeks after the birth of your baby.

Recovery exercise plans

All new mothers staying at Buderim Private Hospital will receive a visit from our physiotherapists who will provide guidance on how you can integrate gentle movement after birth and slowly progress to routines that will help you through your recovery and beyond.

Directly following the birth of your baby, your movements will be restricted. How you integrate exercise back into your daily routine will depend on whether you had a vaginal birth or c-section.

In either case, these simple breathing and gentle movements can be performed while you’re on bed rest:

  • start off with deep breathing exercises
  • pump your feet at the ankle to maintain circulation (repeat 5 times)
  • bend your knees, pulling your heel in toward your butt (repeat 5 times)
  • with straight legs, gently tighten your thighs and butt muscles (repeat 5 times).

A few weeks after a vaginal delivery, and seven to 12 weeks after a c-section, you should be able to integrate some low impact exercises approximately three times per week. This can include:

  • cycling
  • cross training
  • pilates
  • yoga
  • low impact aerobics
  • swimming.

Avoid high impact exercise for approximately three to six months after giving birth, and focus on exercises that will help you improve your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.

When you’re feeling up to it, you may want to look into a fitness parent’s group for you and your baby. It’s great bonding time and allows you to build your support network.

Diet and nutrition

A healthy diet is just as important after birth as it is during pregnancy. Eating right can help with your recovery process, and, if you are breastfeeding, eating right will help ensure your baby continues to grow and develop at a healthy rate.

While it can be tempting to go on a diet to speed up weight-loss after your baby, this is not always a good idea. If you’re not getting enough calories, you may experience fatigue and mood swings. Your body may struggle to heal.

Stick with a healthy diet that focuses on the vitamins and minerals mentioned above, and begin to integrate some light exercises once your doctor says it’s ok.

If you’re breastfeeding, there are some food and drinks that you should avoid to ensure you don’t pass them on to your baby through your breastmilk. This includes:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • fish containing mercury
  • foods or drinks high in sugar or saturated fats.

If you have any questions about breastfeeding, or a healthy diet plan, check with one of our midwives before your departure, or discuss your options with your doctor at your six week check-up.