My pre- and postpartum journey

Dear readers,

First, I am happy to share the good news: in 2023 I became a mother!
I was doubting about sharing my journey around the pregnancy from training and health perspective for a long time but a few ladies who are just at the beginning of a similar journey asked me to do so :) (*).

For some ladies it comes ‘natural’ relative early in their lives to become a mother, between 20-30 years of age, which is the most ideal from health perspective. I was 39 when this moment came which is far from ideal if I take the chronological age into account purely but life hardly ever goes in the way as people would like to see it going…I was at least in a good physical shape when I got pregnant, just a few weeks after the Masters Swimming Championships in Rome, August 2022. Although in 2022 I was already preparing for the pregnancy journey which meant that I did only one triathlon race and shorter distance than I normally do. During that season I saw my body changing a bit, my weight and fat percentage did go up. It does not have to be the case for everyone but for me it happened like that – it was not easy to see and digest but I was hoping that it’d lead me to the direction I dreamt about. 

Once I got the positive news of the pregnancy I did not want to take unnecessary risks; I know that doctors and experts do have mixed views how good it is for a pregnant woman to do high impact sports (jogging, jumping etc). For me it was a natural decision to stop. Around 2nd month of pregnancy jogging even at a slower pace was not comfortable so I stopped doing that. I had later one last attempt around 16-18 weeks and though at the time I felt good during some short jog/walk workouts after the session I felt uncomfortable. It was not worth it.

I hardly did any cycling training since my last full distance triathlon (Sept 2021) as such my cycling shape was really non-existent at the beginning of the pregnancy already. I did commute to work (7-8k) during these months by MTB, pretty much that was it.

What I enjoyed the most during my pregnancy was swimming. I did go ahead with swimming 1-2x per week until week 39. These were short sessions, 20-30mins, around 1k but it kept me running and I felt really fit afterwards. Somehow my muscles did not enjoy the competition pool after a while as such I went to the kid pool and the grandmas there did not like that I was swimming among them (you are too quick 😊 – I felt like a whale and my normally 1:40/100m pace was above 2mins/100m but yeah…) but I preferred the warmer water.

Regarding nutrition in the first trimester I got covid which altogether was my worst week of the pregnancy, I could hardly keep anything down. For the rest only eating veggies was a challenge but the midwife also calmed me that (almost) all women do have some challenges at that period, and the multivitamin would help. I went ahead pretty much with my normal nutrition pattern. Coffee I could not even smell but that's not a big issue :) 

I went ahead with own weight strength training, online yoga videos, pre-partum exercises; I tried to keep my shape up through the whole journey. I enjoyed walking as well pretty much until week 40 when it became very warm and around that time the belly was also becoming a burden to move around.

My little lady enjoyed being in the belly until 41 weeks but then it was time to take action and help her start her journey in the big world and not to take extra risks... Fortunately without complications she was born in June 2023 😊

In The Netherlands if there are no complications, you spend the first night already at home which happened to us – you go through the biggest change of your life within a few hours physically and mentally but there is a tiny little being in the co-sleeper next to your bed who you need to take care of already that night... It sounds magical and it is but at the same time it’s also a huge  "OMG what the heck will I do" feeling…we have managed. 

After giving birth I was told that the upcoming days I’d be super sore, however it was not the case – I had much pain though from stitches and pain killers became my best friends to be able to feed her, to be able to lift her... Everything needs to heal, it's no joke that you should take the most rest possible in those first weeks... 

I have to say that the amount of weight I gained was quite OK, it was 10 kg (I went from 67kg to 77kg). The first time I weighed myself appr 1 week after giving birth I was back to 67kg already. Not that I had any targets or so but I was interested how my body would change.

I have followed the 6-weeks post-partum recovery exercise of Aniko Gog (a former Olympic triathlete) and I have to say it helped me a lot. It was not long, 10-15mins per day but it gave me also a bit of off-time, if my baby was sleeping I could do a few short exercises. I have prioritised these daily 10-15 mins quite high after the needs of my baby. 

Things what people do not frequently talk about: it takes usually a few weeks until women stop bleeding and everything is settled to an OK pre-partum shape (of course that’s again super individual and the total recovery takes 9-12 months if it  happens at all), and of course during that time it’s not really OK to go swimming. Once the doctor approves and you do not bleed any more, you can start slowly the low impact sports such as swimming. Around 2 months postpartum end of summer we were at my parents place where I could swim a few times and I enjoyed a lot. Cycling I started also after 3 months by going 30 mins max. Running is of course the tricky part as it comes with a high impact, it can easily take 6 months as well when you can start. I have started around 4 months, with a few mins jogging per training and I am still slowly building up…

Looking back I really hope I did the right things, but if I could go back I'd do even more pre/post-partum stabilization exercises to keep the core even stronger...

Do I have any sport goals for this year? To feel fit again – as much as possible a year postpartum but I do not want to do anything “too much” and “too quick”. 
There is a half distance triathlon in my agenda for the end of June, 13 months postpartum. I hope I will be at the start line but the most important as of now is my health so I shall see...

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to drop an email to me at .

Cheers, Dora