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Pregnant during COVID19: How to stay healthy?

Pregnant during COVID19: How to stay healthy?

We know it’s currently a daunting time to be pregnant, with COVID-19 making everyone more anxious. I myself was 5 months pregnant when COVID-19 landed in Europe in mid-March, so I have to say the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding this new situation has hit me like I’m sure it has to every pregnant woman.

You can read Pepa's pregnancy announcement here!

So it has been great for all our readers and for me as well to speak to Marina Fogle, founder of the London based business The Bump Class, about the best ways to stay healthy whilst being pregnant and self-isolating during this current crisis.

A little bit about Marina: Marina hosts an eight-week antenatal course at The Bump Class. She supports and gets to know the participants and provides the practical advice and skills honed whilst being a mother of two. As well as teaching Bump Classes, she writes regularly for various publications including The Telegraph, The Times, Baby London and Nurture Magazine about pregnancy and motherhood – making her the perfect person to chat to!

Firstly, let’s look at governments advice for those who are pregnant during the COVID-19 crisis:

Those with underlying health conditions, including pregnant women, have been advised to self-isolate for a period of 12 weeks.

However, in the latest statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, they have reassured women that so far there is no evidence to suggest pregnant women are at greater risk from Covid-19.

The RCOG says ‘based on the evidence so far, pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the virus than the rest of the public, although at this point the data available is limited. However, if you present any symptoms you are advised to call NHS 111 for further advice.’

‘What has driven the decisions made by officials to place pregnant women in the vulnerable category is caution. We know that some viral infections are worse in pregnant women. At the moment, there’s no evidence that this is the case for coronavirus infection, but the amount of evidence available is still quite limited.’

Visit their website to find out more!

Let's ask Marina a few questions:

Pepa : I spend (like many pregnant women nowadays) long hours in front of a computer working and doing specific classes for pregnancy was the first thing I started in week 14! But now things become a bit more tricky…

How I can keep active and healthy during isolation? 

Marina : I often think that thank goodness this has happened at a time when so much is available online - imagine if we were all self-isolating 20 years ago, how different it would be!?  There are some great online classes, most of which are free. I’ve been a big fan of the Sweat app for a long time now. Kayla Itsines’ 28-minute workouts are great at keeping me in shape without taking up too much of my time.  She does a pregnancy and post-natal set but I also love Jessica Ennis-Hill’s app Jennis. One of our favourite, and most recommended, Pilates instructors is Katie Gray, she runs Kind by KG and is doing some brilliant online classes now.

P: I was very happy to keep exercising as normal during my pregnancy, whether this was cycling to work or doing pilates every week. But one day I was kindly asked to leave my non-pregnancy pilates class! 

What exercise would you recommend people to be doing during different trimesters? 

M: We know it’s really beneficial for both mother and baby to keep active during pregnancy. Generally, you should continue what you were doing when you found out you’re pregnant, but maybe lower the intensity slightly. Ideally your heart rate shouldn’t exceed 140 beats per minute, but since we don’t all wear heart monitors the whole time, as long as while you’re exercising, you can hold a conversation, you will be fine.  

The other thing to think about changing is if you’re doing any impact sports or anything where you might take a knock or a tumble - like horse riding, skiing, cycling.  As your pregnancy progresses, listen to your body - it’s adjusting hugely to the challenge of growing a baby, so if something hurts, think about what you did that day or the day before that might have lead to that pain and rethink it.  Try and do a combination of strength building and cardio - we know that labour is easier if you’re fit, so try and get as much exercise throughout your pregnancy as possible.

You’ll start slowing down in your third trimester but how much and exactly when will depend on you.  Just listen to your body - but don’t be afraid of exercise - it’s great for you and your baby.

P: I have to admit one of the first things I googled when I found out I was pregnant was “how much weight is it normal to gain during pregnancy?” I love cooking and my food and I’m sure it’s a worry of many woman when getting pregnant.

How important is it to have a healthy diet whilst pregnant?

M: Eating a healthy diet is especially important for pregnant women. Your baby needs healthy food, not sugar and fat. Eat plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, and foods low in saturated fat.

You don’t need to consume any more calories when you’re pregnant until your last trimester, when it’s 100 extra calories every day.  Many women eat more and that’s fine within reason.  You certainly shouldn’t deny yourself food if you’re hungry but don’t interpret pregnancy as a green light to eat anything you want. Most women find they need to eat little and often, so stock up on healthy, fulfilling snacks that are a nutritional win for your body and your baby rather than gobbling up hob nobs!

P : With it currently being Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and COVID19 being such an unusual time for us all.

What advice would you give to pregnant women who are currently feeling anxious and struggling to relax?

M: Pregnancy can be an anxious time for women even when we’re not mid-pandemic.  Regular exercise is a great way to manage that - even if it’s a walk or a gentle run but I also find mindfulness a great way to manage anxiety.  I love Izzy Judd’s book - Mindfulness for Mums which has lots of simple and effective exercises that really help with anxiety. I recorded a podcast with her earlier this year where we talked about just this - so have a listen - The Parent Hood - free to download wherever you get your podcasts.

P: I love sleeping, I am very lucky to say that even if I had the worst day, I am concern about anything difficult we may be going on, I always sleep… Well, I am 7 months pregnant now and I have to say I don’t sleep full night any more. I lost the count of how many times I wake up and had to move around… I have tried everything including all shape pillows!

How can pregnant women ensure they’re getting a good night’s sleep?

M: Insomnia is really common in pregnancy, especially as your pregnancy progresses and your baby starts to take up more space in your abdomen, making you need to pee the whole time.  Sleep is important so be flexible about when this happens and if you’re not sleeping well at night, have a siesta during the day. This has to happen once your baby is born so you might as well get into the habit now.  To help you sleep well in the evening, try not to eat too late and then spend the hours before bed slowly winding down - have a long bath and listen to a podcast rather than watch TV. Dim the lights in your room, use a sleep spray (I love the This Works one) and drink a sleepy tea (I love Pukka). They say the best way to get to sleep is to try not to sleep - so read a book until your eyelids droop and hopefully that will make things a bit better.

P : My final question is about one of the things that is starting to worry us all more, especially for those for are about to me a first-time mum like myself!

What advice would you give to those who are worrying about their antenatal appointments/appointments with midwives being cancelled? Should they still attend if possible? 

M: Medicine is all about assessing risk versus benefit. Your hospital will look at doing your antenatal appointments remotely if possible but if they ask you to come in, you must go in.  The NHS are experts in delivering babies safely and keeping their parents safe, so know you are in good hands and if you find you’re worrying - get back to that mindfulness.  Remember it’s the medical staff looking after you whose job it is to worry about you - your job is to try and stay relaxed and be a good home for your baby while you’re growing them!

P : Thank you So much Marina, this has certainly been helpful for me! Do you have any other advice, top tips etc.?

M: It’s never more important to sign up to a good, evidence based, doctor led antenatal class than now. Googling is never a good way to get medical information, it’s much better to speak to an expert, ideally one who works as a midwife or doctor in a hospital.

All our antenatal classes at The Bump Class are online and we’ve been joined by women who are expecting their babies all around the world. Our participants have found the expert information really reassuring - every week a practicing midwife call talk to them about what is actually happening in hospitals, rather than what the papers are reporting (often different) and their questions can be answered by experts.

The virtual community has also been great - WhatsApp groups have been called ‘heaven-sent’ by women who would otherwise feel very isolated and cut off from their friends.  Being isolated is also a good opportunity to listen and learn.  The Parent Hood Podcast has over 150 episodes recorded with doctors, midwives, paediatricians and behavioural experts and covers all aspects of parenthood - from pre-conception to the teenage years.  There’s lots on there for pregnant women - including our most recent release, What I Wished I’d Known About Pregnancy and Motherhood.

Our classes not only prepare you for the birth of your baby, but we also spend time focussing on life once your baby has arrived and preparing you as best as we can.

We will get through this

We know these uncertain times are scary for all – especially for who are pregnant and vulnerable. But there is lots of advice, guidance and support online for those who need it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family for support. And remember, our inbox is always open to those who want to chat!

All images courtesy of The Bump Class.