Many pregnant women tend to forget about themselves. Instead, they focus all their attention on the preparation for the coming child. Yes, I’ve been there myself. It’s easy to understand: you just can’t wait to meet that little angel growing inside of you. However, being calm and relaxed, eating well, and getting enough rest each day is not just beneficial for your own well-being, as it is equally important for the baby.
Why you should take care of yourself during your pregnancy
As a mother of a 6 months old little girl, let me tell you one thing: caring for a newborn baby doesn’t leave a lot of room for taking care of yourself. I’m very happy that I did a lot of things for myself during my pregnancy. It has been like charging my battery and it has given me strength to cope with those first difficult months of the newborn stage.
I truly believe that focusing on your own well-being during the pregnancy will actually help you to become a better mother. A mother who eats healthy, gets enough exercise, keeps in touch with her friends and asks for help when in need, has many tools at hand to become a great parent.
I would like to share my best tips on how to take care of yourself during pregnancy:
Mental Health Exercises (or Hypno-birthing)
Mental strength can be trained, just like the physical one. Take extra care of your mental health during pregnancy so that you can have a better labor. The most powerful tool in preventing pain is all about getting into a mental balance. Relaxing between contractions is a way of managing and reducing pain.
For me, constructing a positive target image was necessary as I was very afraid of labor. I learned that hypnobirthing exercises and affirmations can help to open up the body and mind. The breathing exercises are effective, easy to learn, and very helpful for natural labor. There are many apps on hypnobirthing available, some free and other with a small charge.
Changing thought patterns can take some time so do not postpone the work until the last week before the labor. Start by replacing the thoughts about pain, fear and losing control to thoughts about a powerful woman in control. This is where hypno-birthing is so great. In simple terms, it is all about positive reinforcement and it helped me greatly in preparation to the big day.
Vitamins and Nutrition
When you are pregnant you need more vitamins and minerals than normal. I definitely ate more vegetables and fruits during my pregnancy. Also consider taking dietary supplements that are especially made for pregnant women. These vitamins often include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D as well as the antioxidants C and E vitamin. Supplementing with Omega-3 and extra iron can also be a good idea.
Pregnancy itself requires no more than 300 extra calories per day, which is just a little bit extra – not exactly whole pizza every day. Overeating isn’t good for you or your baby. The pregnancy shouldn’t be a time to splurge in fat and sugar. It is actually the time in your life you should be eating the healthiest you can. Try to ignore those unhealthy cravings and eat some healthy snacks instead.
I made sure to have fruits after every meal and when I had nausea I looked for anything healthy that I could eat. There are crackers with good macro-nutrients that can help you get through those three first month of nausea.
You may notice that with so much happening you will feel like you don’t have the time for it all. Being pregnant can indeed be very stressful. Balancing work, doctors’ appointments, and your social may be challenging.
For me it was super important to balance these everyday tasks with my personal needs. You don’t have to be ashamed to sometimes simply prioritize yourself.
My recommendation is to take breaks often. If you are away from home, ask if you can have a rest in a bed if it’s a long visit. Take micro naps, ideally about 20 minutes, during the day. Remember: relaxation reduces pain.
Try to Stop Worrying
Many pregnant women, including me, worry about whether they “know enough”. At some point I decided I didn’t want to read any more books about becoming a parent as they just gave me anxiety. Reading all the pregnancy books, mama magazines, listening to all podcasts I could find, and asking other mothers about their horror birth stories didn’t really give me any comfort – just exactly the opposite.
My recommendation is to talk to your midwife often about your questions and worries. Prepare yourself by taking care of your body and mine holistically. We are all different and I have great respect for those who want as much info as they can possibly get. But for me it got to a point where I had enough. If you notice that the information overload is just giving you anxiety, take a step back.
Exercise as much and as long as you can
As it is well known, a balanced exercise routine is great for pregnant women during a normal pregnancy. However, if you have problems with e.g. pelvic girdle pain or high blood pressure, you should consult your doctor or midwife first.
When exercising cardio training, avoid reaching your maximum heart rate. Keep in mind that your heart rate increases faster when you are pregnant, you lose your breath easier because you have increased blood volume and increased oxygen demand. Ideally, your heart rate should be below 150 beats per minute, about 70% of maximum heart rate.
With weight training, it is better to do more rehearsals than to exercise heavily. Focus on strengthen the back of your body. Having a strong back will help when the belly starts to grow. Be careful with ab training. Don’t do crunches and other things that can lead to postpartum diastasis recti.
As a pregnant woman, it is extra important that the physical movements are performed correctly. If you feel unsure of how to exercise it’s better to take a dedicated class.
For me yoga was a life saver. Not only does it include mobility but also deep relaxation and meditation. Make sure that the teacher has experience of how the exercises impact the pregnant body.
Whatever you do, always remember to listen to your body. You know which exercises suit you and when it is time to rest.
Use mama oil on your belly
There is this product called stretch mark oil. I primarily didn’t do this to counteract stretch marks. I did it because it gave me a little moment when I stopped, caressed the little belly and did something nice for my skin. My favorite one had a nice scent of lavender that’s also relaxing and soothing. Caressing my growing belly made me feel very connected with the baby.
Say good things to yourself
I am still working on this one, but I have to say I’ve come a long way. I have been an expert on always finding ways to talk down on myself, turning situations into “it must be something I did wrong” and never think I am good enough. But something changed during my pregnancy – I had enough of putting myself down. I wanted to be a good role model for my baby and I needed to start working with myself on my self-worth.
I started reading a lot of spiritual and self-help books on the topic. One may think that it shouldn’t require getting pregnant to find this strength in yourself, but it has helped me to see the big picture.
Try this: as soon as a nasty or degrading thought of yourself pops up in your head, think about whether you would say so to your best friend. Would you call your best friend ugly or inadequate? Would you really do that to someone you love? Then you shouldn’t do it to yourself.
These are my 7 tips on how to best take care of yourself during pregnancy. Remember, taking care of yourself as a mom is the first step to best take care of your precious little one. As they say on every flight’s safety instruction, “put your oxygen mask on first”.
For more tips on how to make your pregnant life easier, check out this post on Pregnancy Life Hacks.
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