Being pregnant is a huge undertaking when you really think about it — you're growing an actual human within your own body. Sometimes, the thought of that can be overwhelming, and you can feel like you're going to make a mistake or do something wrong. Yes, there are some restrictions as what you should do, eat, or be careful about when you're pregnant, but overall, maintaining a simple, healthy lifestyle is really the best thing you can do. There are even some daily habits you should start during pregnancy to keep you and your baby safe and nourished. Continuing these things postpartum can contribute to maintaining your mental and physical clarity and wellness as a parent.
If you have a high-risk or otherwise exceptional pregnancy, you will likely have a stricter set of care and wellness restrictions throughout your pregnancy. Following your doctor's guidelines is always of the utmost importance, especially when you're pregnant. For women in good health with typical pregnancies, some simple lifestyle changes can help to promote strong health and development of both you and your baby. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your diet and health routines, and be sure not to overdo anything or make drastic changes immediately. Bodies often need time to adjust, and going slow and steady is a good way to become healthier.
In effort to provide the best care for your little ones, don't neglect yourself. After all, if you are weary and weak, how well will you be able to parent? Self-care has become recently trendy for a good reason — your own health and wellbeing has to be prioritized in order to be the best you for those around you. These habits can start you on a good path.
1. Hydrate Properly
Let's face it, most of us don't drink enough water. It's easy to forget, and it's also easy for you to think you're not thirsty when you actually are. Hydration affects every part of us, and this is especially true when pregnant and breastfeeding.
"It seems simple," holisitic nutrionist Jessica Waller, MS, tells Romper, "but the number one tip women should start in pregnancy is drinking adequate amounts of water." The rule of thumb for most adults is to drink about half your body weight in ounces, notes Waller, but during pregnancy, women should be trying to take in around 80 to 90 ounces per day, and during lactation, around 100-plus ounces daily.
Getting creative is key to maintaining hydration, as drinking plain water can get a little stale, especially when you're pregnant and your tastes are all out of whack. Infusing your water with fruit, cucumber, citrus, or herbs can give you some fresh flavors. "Seltzer, herbal teas, and coconut water all count towards the hydration goal, too," mentions Waller, "but there's nothing quite as hydrating as filtered water." Because your water intake goal depends on your weight and wellbeing, check with your doctor to see what a good number of daily ounces is for you.
2. Take Your Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are inclusive of most vitamins and minerals needed for healthy development of a baby in utero (in conjunction with a healthy diet). Dr. Jennifer Wider, MD, tells Romper, "Taking a prenatal vitamin can start during the weeks leading up to attempting to get pregnant (if you're the planning the pregnancy) and should continue throughout the pregnancy and into breastfeeding. These vitamins are formulated with all of the essential vitamins and minerals needed to support the mom and growing fetus."
It's easy to forget to take vitamins daily, so setting a phone alarm can help to make it a habit. Keep them on your nightstand if you're more inclined to take one at night, or carry some in your purse if you tend to remember your vitamin when you're out. Your doctor or a nutritionist can recommend a brand that will work for you — some women with constant morning sickness tend to do better with a whole-foods based supplement that are supposed to be lighter on your stomach.
3. Stay Active
Staying active and keeping up with moderate daily exercise is a great way to build up the strength and stamina needed for labor and delivery (they don't call it labor for nothing). Going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery is the hardest work your body will ever do — regular exercise can help your body both do that work and recover quicker afterwards. Of course, you should check with your doctor for specifics related to how much and what kind of exercise is safe for your specific pregnancy.
Most gyms and specialty centers offer great prenatal classes, and there's plenty of at-home videos available online for those who prefer to work out solo. "Some exercise classes focus on strengthening core muscles during pregnancy," Dr. Rachel Gelman, DPT, PT, tells Romper, "because as the baby grows a woman requires more support and stability to maintain these changes." Even walking daily for 20 minutes can be beneficial, Gelman notes.
4. Keep Up With Kegels
We all know doing daily kegel exercises is beneficial to keeping our pelvic floor muscles strong, but chances are, you're not doing them. As it turns out, daily kegel exercises become even more vital during pregnancy (and after). Vaginal delivery obviously puts a lot of strain and stress on your pelvic floor muscles, but even without a vaginal delivery, the process of labor and pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor and results in weakened muscles. And, weakened pelvic floor muscles can affect things such as lower back support, sexual function, bladder and bowel control, and pelvic organ support. So, yes, it's kind of a big deal.
Joanie Johnson, Co-Founder of FPC, Fit Pregnancy Club, a pre- and post-natal fitness studio in New York City, tells Romper, "Learning to breathe properly and activate the inner core unit (diaphragm, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, multifidus muscles), is the single most important exercise every woman should start practicing." This sort of exercise, according to Johnson, involves inhaling a deep belly breath while relaxing all of the muscles of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor. On your exhale, she says, imagine you are wrapping the muscles of the transverse abdominis around to hug the baby closer to you, while simultaneously lifting up through your pelvic floor (like a standard kegel).
5. Maintain A Healthy Relationship With Food
With the many body changes that accompany pregnancy, along with a society that maintains a lot of pressure for women to "keep" their bodies and "get them back" after pregnancy, it's no surprise that women get a little worried about food when they pregnant. What should I eat? How much should I eat? How much weight should I gain? Of course, your doctor will give you guidelines for all of these questions, but in general, eating a variety of healthy, wholesome food in small meals through the day is where to begin.
Dietician and fellow mom Meghan Cichy, RDN, tells Romper, "Appetite changes are common and can result in both increases and decreases in food intake." It can be trying to adhere to a strict diet, as you don't know what you're going to crave one day, and what will make you sick the next. Instead, Cichy says, moms should approach feeding themselves with flexibility and compassion. "By giving yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy, and in response to your body’s cues of appetite, hunger, fullness, and satiety, you will be able to ebb and flow with your body and provide supportive nourishment as your baby grows," she notes.
Start with eating more vegetables, adds Waller. "Filling up on fibrous veggies will help keep women feeling nourished, energetic and satisfied throughout pregnancy and beyond, not to mention they can do wonders to fight inflammation and sluggish digestion — two big culprits during pregnancy," she tells Romper.
6. Sleep Well
Your sleep life is bound to get pretty rocky after pregnancy (really, it's no joke). But, if you're going to try to maintain some sort of sleep routine when you have kids, you should start now. "A woman's body during pregnancy is in overdrive with growing a new life," says Dr. Wider. "Getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep is very beneficial."
And, try napping, says doula and mindfulness coach Becks Anderson. "Naps are simple, but can be incredibly helpful for keeping your energy up, balancing your hormones, and generally making you cope better with things." Pretty soon, you'll be sleeping only in nap-lengths, so might as well start now.
Making some small lifestyle changes beginning in your pregnancy can be the start of a better you. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new routines or diet changes.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.