Walking when pregnant and as a new mum
By Zahrah Mahmood, president of Ramblers Scotland, and mum to 1 year old Harris
I’m known as The Hillwalking Hijabi and I love spending time hiking up hills and mountains. I really hoped this would continue when I was pregnant. I had visions of being ethereal and glowing, with this lovely bump, not even breaking a sweat. But that wasn’t me! I had extreme sickness, throwing up several times a day, so it was difficult to get outdoors. I did a few gentle hill walks but nothing taxing.
Then I had a difficult labour, an emergency C-section, and a lot of complications afterwards. Hillwalking had been my way of getting away from the daily stresses of my life so when I started to recover, I felt I should get outdoors, but it was like starting all over again. That took a toll on my mental health.
Part of the problem was me not listening to my body and taking it easy. I thought everything would go back to normal after giving birth and my body would be like it was before. But that wasn’t the case. I've had to adjust my expectations and relearn the joy of the outdoors.
It’s difficult to be out all day with a young child. Firstly, there’s everything you must pack. You also need to follow their schedules. And finally, you must consider what you can do physically with a baby in a carrier. So these days we’re walking smaller hills, and shorter walks. My son Harris loves being outdoors and I’m relearning the joy of being out in nature through his eyes.
My 3 tips for new mums
Based on my experiences I’d encourage other new mums to get out for a walk and enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits of gentle exercise outdoors. My 3 top tips are:
1. Listen to your body
As much as it's amazing to get outdoors, don't try to do too much too soon, especially if you’ve had a difficult labour or birth. You can start by just going around your block or to local parks to build up your fitness again.
2. Build up your confidence
Gradually go out further afield and work out what you need to pack, and, importantly, what you don’t need. Pack light, keep calm and have faith in yourself and your baby. It’s not the end of the world if you forget a muslin or run out of wipes. You can always have a reserve bag in the car or pop into a shop.
3. Don’t panic if your baby starts to cry
It can feel horrible being in an unfamiliar situation with people staring at you. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you know your baby and can respond to their needs.
Advice from the NHS
The NHS recommends keeping fit during pregnancy and advises 30 minutes of walking each day. Once baby is born the NHS advises that regular activity can relax you, keep you fit and help you recover. Doing some gentle exercise can help to boost your mood.
Walking during pregnancy helps reduce morning sickness, constipation, cramps, and more. Find out how to enjoy walking safely during your pregnancy and beyond.