One your first concerns when you become pregnant is how to stay healthy throughout the next nine months and ensure that you and your developing baby have everything you both need to make it to your due date in optimal condition. Fortunately there are many ways that you can start off with a healthy pregnancy.
Even if you are not pregnant yet, or haven’t decided whether you are going to start trying you should definitely start taking a prenatal vitamin. Newly conceived babies need lots of nutrients to get off to a healthy start, and by the time you find out that you are pregnant your will have missed an important first few weeks of development.
Prenatal vitamins are available just about anywhere vitamins and supplements are sold. Sometimes women will find that a prenatal vitamin taken during pregnancy makes them queasy, if this applies to you then try having a snack at the same time to settle your stomach.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy you are probably so tired that the last thing you want to do is run around the block or hop on the exercise bike. Do your best to overcome the desire to crawl into bed and at least aim for a brisk 15 minute walk every day. Not only will you find that your energy level increases, you are also helping to control your weight and increase circulation. You will likely even find you sleep better.
After a few weeks of light exercise get involved with something that you can continue through your pregnancy – like yoga, pilates or swimming. On your days off try to include a walk, and get your partner involved too. We all need to exercise whether we are pregnant or not.
Write it Out
Even in the early stages of your pregnancy it can help you to map out how you would prefer your pregnancy to progress. Rather than worry about all the ‘what ifs’ which will keep you up at night and will not help you or your baby, figure out everything you want out of this pregnancy. One of the ways you can accomplish this is to write out your birth plan. There are many ways to approach writing a birth plan, but most of them include the following:
- Who you want to attend the birth (partner, parents, friends or other children)
- Procedures you would like to avoid if possible (epidural, forceps, etc)
- Positions you would like to try for labor and delivery
- Items you would like to have with you during labor (clothes, music, focal point, etc)
- Where your preferred birthing location will be (home, birthing center, hospital)
Hit the Books
Whether your first child or your fourth you probably have a lot of questions about what to expect during your pregnancy, the birth and caring for your infant. Luckily there are many resources out there to choose from. Reading up on the process can help alleviate concerns and answer questions. Attending a prenatal class is also a good idea, and your partner can participate as well. After all, this is his baby too!
If you have certain risk factors or a family medical history that concerns you then look for information on these conditions and educate yourself. If there is a specific condition that worries you talk to your physician about the testing available for this condition and when it can be performed.
These important pelvic floor exercises will help you with carrying your baby, delivery and recovery. They are easy to do and you can do them anywhere, at anytime. Find your kegel muscles by stopping the flow of urine on the toilet. Once you have identified the muscles you can practice tightening and holding the muscles for 8 to 10 seconds at a time. Repeat 10 times and then take a rest. Do these three or five times per day and gradually increase the number of repetitions.
Amends the Chore List
There are certain things you shouldn’t be doing while pregnant, and one of them is anything that involves bending over, heavy lifting or toxic chemicals. So, take a look at your list of usual chores and hand off anything you should no longer be doing to dad. This includes using ladders or stepstools and changing the cat litter. Wear gloves when you are working in the yard and wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, eggs and fish.
Everyone’s favorite term when pregnant is “eating for two”. However, if you subscribe to this mantra off the bat your will only find that your end up with an extra 10 or 20 pounds in the end. Your weight gain needs to be gradual, steady, and based on healthy foods, not all cake and ice cream. Balance your cravings for sweets and salts with wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy and whole grain cereals. If you are having troubles creating or maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet then a trip to a dietician may be a good idea.
As your pregnancy progresses you will find that your feet are not your friends. Swelling and fluid retention mean that your 4-inch stilettos are no longer an option. Head to the store and buy some comfortable flats that will ease those aching dogs.
Pamper with Care
Pregnancy is the perfect time to splurge on yourself, but it must be done with caution. No saunas or hot tubs, and even extra hot baths are out as they will raise your temperature excessively. Massages are great, as long as you don’t have to lay on your stomach. Also avoid certain essential oils which can cause early contractions, such as juniper, rosemary and clary sage.
Stock Up on Folate
Folic acid is extremely important in helping your baby develop. Any woman who is trying to get pregnant should ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of folate or folic acid. A good prenatal vitamin with folic acid is essential, and you can get folate from fortified cereals, lentils, wheat germ, asparagus, oranges and orange juice.
Get a Lift, Naturally
Caffeine may seem like a good idea when you are dragging your feet in the morning, or when you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon, but in the long run it will not do you any favors and may result in a low birth-weight baby. Instead of reaching for the java, give yourself a burst of energy with some fruit. The natural sugars in fruit will help to give you a lift and give your baby some extra nutrients.
When moms eat more fish while pregnant their children have higher IQs, better motor and communication skills. This is due to the fact that fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which are critical to brain development. However, fish consumption has to be moderated as the mercury levels in some types of fish can be toxic
The FDA recommends that all pregnant women keep their consumption of fish below 12 ounces per week. You should also stick to light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollack or catfish. Certain fish has higher mercury levels and should be avoided, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
Slap on Sunscreen
When you are pregnant your skin becomes more sensitive to sunlight, and excessive sun exposure can give you blotchy spots. Whenever you are out and about wear at least 30 SPF and a hat and sunglasses. It is also a good idea to avoid those tanning beds.
Fly When Prudent
If you are planning on travelling by air during your pregnancy try to plan your trip while you are between 14-28 weeks gestation. This ensures that you likely won’t have a bout of morning sickness in-flight or go into early labor. Prior to booking your flight you may want to ensure that the airline does not have restrictions about pregnant women on board, and get your physician’s go ahead.
While you are flying stay hydrated with lots of water and try to get up and walk around every 30 minutes to cut down on the risk of blood clots. Try to secure an aisle seat on the flight so you can make your bathroom trips without disturbing other passengers.
Control those Cravings
There are two schools of thought when it comes to cravings. One side argues that a pregnant mom’s cravings are meant to fill an emotional void, while others think that it’s the body’s way of telling you that it needs something.
Cravings are great, in moderation. A bowl of ice cream is fine, a gallon not so much. For all of those cravings you give in to try to counteract it with some fresh fruit or whole grain breads. And if you find that you are craving non-food items like dirt, clay or bleach talk to your doctor as this may indicate a significant nutritional deficit.
Learn the Signs
It can be stressful trying to ensure that you are always doing the right thing when it comes to your pregnancy. Alleviate the stress by knowing what signs mean that you should get help:
- Any type of pain in lower back, abdomen or pelvis
- Strong cramping
- Contractions that are 20-minutes or less apart
- Bleeding from the vagina or leaking fluid
- Dizziness, fainting or shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations, difficulty walking, edema (swelling)
- Constant nausea and vomiting
- Reduction in baby’s activity level
Now is the time to spend time indulging yourself, because soon you will find that your free time is somewhat reduced. Go to the spa (see suggestions above), have a girl’s night out and enjoy lots of bubble baths. Not only is this good for you, but by cutting down on stress you will have a more enjoyable pregnancy.