From the moment I saw those two little lines appear, I knew I was in for the ride of my life. With my pregnancy coming to a close very soon (any day as I write this), I can officially say that I’ve really enjoyed being pregnant. I know that every person and pregnancy is unique, so I’m grateful for having had such a positive experience, but I like to believe that living a healthy lifestyle and keeping a positive mindset played their part. And so today, I’m sharing my tips for a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Eat twice as well – not twice as much
First things first: pregnancy does not require you to eat for two. Yes – your body does need an extra boost of calories to support the life growing inside of you, but this is only required as of the second trimester. The exact amount of weight to gain by baby’s arrival should be individualized as it depends on your starting weight, but we’re generally talking 300-500 extra calories per day until the end of your pregnancy, the equivalent of about two more snacks per day. Besides food quantity, quality of maternal nutrition also plays a critical role. Not only does good nutrition ensure the healthy development of the fetus, but it turns out that the nourishment baby receives in the womb can affect their risk for disease into adulthood, in a phenomenon called fetal programming. Essentially, this means that baby’s in-utero exposure to adequate intake of calories, protein, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can shape their health for life. So although pregnancy doesn’t grant you permission to eat twice as much, it certainly is motivation to eat twice as well, isn’t it?
First things first, a quality prenatal supplement is a must and should ideally be started three months before conceiving. Your healthcare provider is best positioned to advise you on proper dosage and whether any additional supplements would serve you. I’ll be talking about specific nutrients and foods for pregnancy in an upcoming post, but until then, feed your growing bump a diet based mostly on whole, unprocessed, single-ingredient foods, since these are the most concentrated sources of micro and phytonutrients you can find. Think:
- Brightly coloured vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Nuts, seeds, avocados
- Beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Lean proteins
Eat every three hours
Eating small meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day accomplishes a few things. In the first trimester, it’s a great way to ward off morning sickness and nausea, both of which tend to intensify on an empty stomach. As of the second trimester, these smaller, more frequent meals not only ensure a steady supply of calories and nutrients to you and baby’s multiplying cells, but they also help manage common digestive symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion. Here are some of the snacks I reached for during my pregnancy:
- Fresh fruit and nuts
- Brown rice cakes with peanut butter, banana, and cinnamon
- Hummus and vegetables
- Berries and ricotta
- Greek yogourt with slivered almonds
- Chia pudding
- Green smoothies
If there’s one thing my husband will remember from this pregnancy, it’s the number of times I called on him to refill my water glass. What can I say, pregnancy makes you ridiculously thirsty and with the physiological changes your body is going through, notably the increase in blood volume, it’s no wonder why! I know the frequent trips to the washroom may dissuade you from keeping up with your water intake, but remember that proper hydration helps support your growing baby not to mention that it also alleviates any constipation you may be experiencing. So keep the water bottle handy, drink up and check your urine – pale yellow is a sign that you’re on the right track.
Move your bump
Keeping active is one of the single most important things you can do to keep a healthy body and mind throughout your pregnancy unless of course, your healthcare provider has instructed you otherwise. From managing pregnancy symptoms and weight gain to promoting better sleep, maintaining strength and muscle tone and preparing you for the marathon that is childbirth, the benefits are endless.
Not active before pregnancy? Contrary to what you may have been told, now is a wonderful time to start moving your body. You’ll definitely want to discuss your routine with your healthcare provider so he can confirm the go-ahead, but the important things to remember regarding exercise during pregnancy is to keep the intensity comfortable, avoid over exerting yourself, avoid any activities that may put you at risk for falling or injury and most importantly, you want to always listen to your body and do what feels good.
I maintained my usual exercise routine for my first and second trimesters because I felt great. This included a combination of boxing, spinning classes and weight training, for a total of 3-4 training sessions per week. Once I hit my third trimester though, my body was craving slower sessions. This is when I turned to yoga, walking and the occasional body weight training session which, let me tell you, thank to the extra bump weight, definitely gave my muscles a run for their money!
Build a village
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but you need a strong support system during pregnancy, too. Here are some key people and professionals to consider adding to your village:
After finding out you’re pregnant, up to twelve weeks can go by before meeting with your provider. Until then, a dietitian can provide some much-needed support, answer questions and help you sort through some of the conflicting information you may have come across after hours of Googling, such as:
- What to expect when it comes to pregnancy weight-gain – and how to welcome it without anxiety
- Wellness tips for common pregnancy ailments such as nausea, constipation, and heartburn
- Which foods and products should be avoided during pregnancy
- Which foods and supplements should be included in your diet to optimize your and baby’s health
If you would like to setup a session with an MN dietitian, contact us here.
Pelvic floor physiotherapist
Pregnancy and childbirth can take quite the toll on your pelvic floor, weakening its muscles and putting you at risk for postpartum problems such as urinary incontinence, pelvic pain or pelvic organ prolapse. So while most people would only consider prenatal physiotherapy for pregnancy-related pain like back ache, I consider a pelvic floor assessment an important part of the prenatal wellness regimen and strongly recommend it, as prevention plays a big part in recovery. Consulting during pregnancy was how I became aware of my diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and since then, I am very careful whenever I engage my core and know to begin rehabilitation exercises soon after baby arrives. If you’re in the Montreal area, contact ASK Physiotherapy.
While you could attend a regular yoga class if you’re cleared for it, classes tailored to pregnancy are especially helpful at getting your mind and body ready for childbirth. From labouring positions to visualizations, breathing and pain management techniques, I found what I learned during these sessions to be extremely valuable.
Pregnancy comes with changes that are physiological, yes, but psychological and emotional too, all of which are completely natural. But if prenatal stress and anxiety become overwhelming, working through it with a professional can do tremendous good for both you and your baby as you transition to motherhood. Also, given the significant number of Canadian women affected by post-partum depression, a serious illness but completely treatable with the proper support, having a referral on hand for yourself or a friend can come in very handy. If you or a relative need support, contact my friends at Connecte psychology.
If you plan on breastfeeding, I highly recommend having a good recommendation on hand. As natural as it may be, breastfeeding requires perseverance and often times support. Having an expert to turn to can be extremely reassuring and comforting.
I was lucky enough to have had my closest friends fall pregnant at the same time as I did, making it easy to bounce questions and concerns off one-another throughout our pregnancies. If you aren’t in the same boat, create a support squad of friends or family members that you can turn to during your pregnancy and more importantly afterward, during the postpartum period. Remember: there’s a difference between support and unsolicited advice. These people should leave you feeling reassured and supported, not judged and overwhelmed. If you’re struggling to find people who fit these criteria, look for social support groups in your area.
Mindfulness has been a part of my personal and professional practice for years and something I continue to work on every day. But I have to say that nothing has helped me cultivate body awareness as well as pregnancy has. The physical and hormonal changes you experience make you vulnerable to stress, anxiety and mood swings which is why mindfulness is such an important practice: it works to reconnect your mind with your body and ground you in the present. Practicing the art of tuning-in to your body’s signals and internal wisdom not only helps reduce anxiety during pregnancy but also builds the muscle for mindful motherhood. Here are some tips to help you practice mindfulness and body awareness:
- Learn to listen and slow down whenever your body tells you to.
- Savour baby’s movements. Stop and experience kicks with all your senses. Close your eyes, feel and describe…there’s life inside of you!
- Uncomfortable? Oh, I feel you sister. Try to focus on your breathing, using your breath as an anchor and reminder that this discomfort will pass and that your body will get you through it.
- It’s easy to get caught-up in worry, but catch yourself before you lose yourself in all that could go wrong and in elements beyond your control. Remind yourself of where you are, that you’re safe and that all that matters is what’s here right now. You are resilient.
- Integrate mindfulness practices into each day: seated meditation, walking meditation, mandala drawing, yoga and conscious breathing.
Keep your maintenance minimal
Hair dyes, eye lash extensions, spray tans, mani-pedis, teeth whitening, cosmetics – pregnancy is a great time to revisit your beauty routine, adopt a more minimal approach and ask yourself what you really need. Although versions of these treatments are safe, being responsible for the growth and development of another life certainly made me want to become smarter about the safety and necessity of the products I was using. In fact, I had been long at work revamping my routine but it wasn’t until we were trying to conceive that I finalized my switch, clearing out all my harsh house cleaning products and cosmetics and replacing them with more gentle, natural (but still effective) alternatives. If you’re interested, the Skin Deep database and other resources from the environmental working group are a great place to get started.
I strongly believe that outer chaos creates inner chaos, which is why I do my best to keep things minimal and clutter-free in my home. But man, baby gear takes up space…and fast. Here were some of the elements on my to do list that helped me stay organized and keep my inner chaos low. I recommend getting a head start since most elements on this list take much longer than anticipated and because you never know how you will feel come your final trimester.
- Decorate the nursery
- Organize the nursery (dedicate space for storing toys, stock and organize the changing station with diapers, wipes and and baby care products)
- Wash, fold and store baby clothes (with a dedicated space for clothes that won’t yet fit)
- Unbox and setup baby gear (and stock up on batteries!)
- Prepare breastfeeding station (comfortable chair, nursing pillow, easy access to nipple cream, breast pads, washcloths)
- Unbox, sterilize and store bottles if you don’t plan on nursing (keep in mind all babies are different, so plan a few different options to find the right fit)
- Store any baby gear you won’t need until baby is older (ex: feeding chair, toddler toys and exercisers etc.)
- Pack your hospital bag
- Plan budget and settle finances for when baby arrives
- Prep and freeze meals for when baby arrives
- Schedule a deep-cleaning of your home close to your due date (in case you aren’t up for it yourself)
- Squeeze-in some self-care before baby arrives; prenatal massage, hair cut and alone time to just sit back, read and relax
Be kind to your pregnant body
Here are a few comments I received during my pregnancy:
“I can’t wait to see you get fat.”
“Are you even pregnant?”
“Woah, you’re huge!”
“Your fingers look chunkier.”
“You’ve gained on your butt and thighs.”
Now, I’ve always had a pretty strong and positive body image. Which I’m thankful for because let me tell you that when the crazy changes your body goes through during pregnancy are met with endless scrutiny and commentary from others, it can take a toll on anyone. I’ve talked about the importance of avoiding body-image comments on the blog before, but when you’re pregnant, it appears that people completely lose their filter and anything goes. So if you’re not pregnant and reading this, then I urge you: the next time you meet with a pregnant woman, ask her how she’s feeling or how her pregnancy is going instead of commenting on her size…she knows.
Most women I work with in practice come in with weight and body image as their top concern during pregnancy. The fear of gaining too much weight and losing their bodies forever overwhelms them and fills them with guilt because it’s really hard to admit being preoccupied with your body when you’re given the gift of carrying a child. If this resonates with you, then here’s what I need you to know:
- Pregnancy weight gain is not all fat gain. The numbers increasing on the scale are mostly the result of the natural (and temporary) physiological changes that come with growing a baby; increase in blood volume, uterus size, breast size, amniotic fluid, placenta growth, water retention, fat stores and of course, your baby.
- Use this mantra whenever you’re feeling down: My body is undergoing transformation with a purpose. This will help redirect your thoughts away from your harsh inner-critic and refocus on the purpose of it all: growing a healthy baby. I know it can be hard to see your body change before your eyes and beyond your control, but being negative is unhealthy, unnecessary and will only set you up for eating emotionally and beyond your needs, which will only make you feel worse and less in control of your body and mind. So stay patient, trust your body and let it do its thing. Your body is amazing.
Now I want to hear from you in the comments below:
Which wellness tip do you need to work on most?
This information is intended for general use only and is not to replace medical advice. For recommendations that meet your specific health needs, contact your physician, registered dietitian or other healthcare professional.