Over the last week I’ve been asked a number of times about my thoughts on the latest big pregnancy article (and the subsequent online outrage over it) Taking Back Your Pregnancy by economist Emily Oster’s in the Wall Street Journal. Emily writes about approaching pregnancy and its “long list of rules” from a data-driven, analysis point of view. She tries to suss out what the real risks are from the long list of no’s, and makes her own “no” list (hers? Avoid Deli turkey and queso fresco).
While much of the internet is blowing up with shock at her liberal take, I find it all a little underwhelming. After all, this is what every pregnant woman I know (and every client I’ve had) has done—makes their own personal, cobbled-together list of what feels safe to them. They might not drink coffee or wine, but they are still taking their migraine medicine. Or they might eat deli meat, but they draw the line at sushi. It seems to me that every pregnant woman feels like they are reinventing the wheel, drawing their own “I guess this is okay, and this isn’t” conclusions.
I’ve made my personal list as well- and while I’m on the liberal end of things (coffee and wine have both passed my lips), I still see “No! No! It’s not safe!” around most corners. This is likely exacerbated by the fact that I’m still dealing with a fair amount of nausea, so every meal can feel like a “Nooooo don’t eat that you’ll hurl” fight. It’s easy to feel like I’m supposed to crawl under the covers and hibernate until winter when this baby is due.
But, within these never-ending restrictions, exercise has become my antidote. When everyone and everything (sometimes even my own nausea) is saying no, exercise is my “YES.” In my first trimester when I felt unsure if the pregnancy would stick, and I was counting down the weeks until tests results, I exercised. I felt very urgently that “I’m totally out of control of this pregnancy, but I CAN exercise. That is something I can DO, and I know it’ll help me, and help this poppy seed that will hopefully become a baby.” This has continued in my second trimester. While I still feel really miserable some days, I feel like I have something to DO. I might not be able to eat much for dinner, and I certainly can’t have that margarita I’m craving, but I can do a series of heavy squats and lunges. I can go to yoga. I can run. I’m helping, and not by just avoiding things. Within the litany of “no no no” I feel like I have some agency.
I know, both from a data and personal perspective, that exercise is incredibly, incredibly helpful to pregnant women. However, among its many benefits, I’m seeing that it’s not just helpful because of quicker labors, less weight gain, and smarter and calmer babies. Exercise is helpful to pregnant women because it’s helpful TO pregnancy- a way to act and control the experience of pregnancy, which is a benefit I never saw coming.
What helped you deal with the “long list of no’s” during pregnancy? Did exercise feel like it gave you some control?
-Kathleen. Co-Owner Oh Baby! Fitness