Gerné Swanepoel – Doula and Fitness instructor pre- and postnatally

Retha Harmse – Registered Dietician


For Pregnancy Awareness Week 2019, Gerné and I collaborated to shed a bit more light on the do’s and don’ts of exercise and nutrition during pregnancy. Unwarranted advice, old wife’s tales and bogus celebrity hints/tips sometimes causes more harm than good and that is why the focus on this article will be no-nonsense, basic and evidence based.


During pregnancy, it is important to eat twice as well and not twice as much – your energy requirements only increase 300 calories per day for the second and third trimester of pregnancy.

Nutritional deficits are serious during pregnancy and dietary monitoring of pregnant women is essential, especially for calcium, iron, folate, vitamins A, C, B6, and B12. Other nutrients of importance include magnesium, fibre, zinc, vitamin D, and biotin.


Undoubtedly, a nourishing, well-balanced diet can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your growing baby. Pregnancy nutrition is essential to a healthy baby.

It can also assist in establishing essential building blocks of growth and overall health for your child.

Nutrition affects how our bodies work, how we heal and grow and our resistance to infection. Healthy eating during pregnancy also determines the basic nutritional health that our children are born with and provides a model for their eating habits during childhood.

Pregnancy is the one time in your life when your eating habits directly affect another person. Your decision to incorporate delicious vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean protein, and otherwise food choices into your eating plan before and during pregnancy will give your baby a strong start in life.


The same goes for physical activity. Exercise, especially in pregnancy is oftentimes somewhat more difficult due to physical constraints, lack of motivation and fatigue. However, not only is it good for building your ‘mommy tribe’ here are some baby-focused benefits to kick it up a gear and getting to your prenatal exercise class on-time.


Recent studies show that woman that continue of a regular exercise program during pregnancy gives beautiful benefits to their unborn babies too, here we mention a few:


1.       Woman are less likely to be induced and these benefits both mother and baby.

2.       Exercise increases the growth of the placenta in early pregnancy; in turn your baby is well nourished due to the larger placenta having about 15% more vessels at term.

3.       Size does matter! Mothers that exercise during pregnancy are likely to have lighter and leaner babies, not smaller just stronger. Research also suggests that babies born to exercising woman are less likely to be classes and low-birth weight babies.

4.       Your baby’s heart-rate benefits from your regular exercise. Due to the higher cardiovascular reserve in an exercising mother, the baby should have a more stable heart rate during labour. The baby tolerates the stresses of being born better and cope better with life outside the womb and are more alert at birth.

5.       There is also a lover incidence of obstetrical complications.



The most recent research to date concludes that at age 1 babies born to exercising mothers do better on standardised developmental/intelligence tests and their physical performance is better. By age 5 there was no difference in height, limb lengths or head and chest measurements, they still weighed slightly less and had a lesser fat percentage. There was no difference in academic testing, but they did test higher on tests for general intelligence and oral language skills.

Exercising during pregnancy may well have increased more long-term benefits as this physical profile (leaner body type) has a reduced risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.