Gold Medal

How would you feel after running a marathon?

Not exhausted Very exhausted

Pregnancy is like an extreme sport. The nine months of pregnancy is considered one of the longest-duration, highest-energy activity humans can do. The energy needed in pregnancy is similar to the energy needed for running a marathon. Does that surprise you?

Pregnancy and delivering a baby, or running a marathon, are major accomplishments. Runners know they have to take steps to reset their body for the next marathon. Sleep. Take time off. Damaged and tired muscles need time to heal. Once those steps have been accomplished, they can think about starting to run again.

Women who carry and deliver babies need to regain their strength between pregnancies. Experts recommend at least 18 months between the birth of a baby and getting pregnant again. The shorter the time between pregnancies increases the chance of premature birth and other health risks. Your health care provider can give you family planning options.

Talk to your health care provider about pregnancy spacing if you are older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. The 18-month spacing recommendation may not be right for you.

What can you do between pregnancies to be in your best shape for future babies?

Take folic acid. Folic acid reduces babies’ chances of having brain and spine defects, like spina bifida.

Because half of all pregnancies are unplanned, experts recommend any woman who could get pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid each day, even if they are not trying to get pregnant.

Folic acid works during the first few weeks of pregnancy to prevent birth defects. During pregnancy, take prenatal vitamins with 600 mcg of folic acid each day.

Return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Losing post-pregnancy weight may be a low priority, especially when juggling a baby and life demands. Weight loss is important because it reduces your risk of future pregnancy complications.

Weight loss is possible but may require thought and planning. Get started by recording the food you eat and walking an extra 30 minutes a day. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

Breastfeeding can be a weight-loss strategy, as it burns about 500 calories a day. That is why breastfeeding moms often lose more weight than those who do not breastfeed.

Marathon runners receive gold medals and trophies for a job well done.

Pregnant women also complete an amazing journey, one that ends with the greatest reward of all, a new creation.

Consider these small steps as you plan for the future:

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