With each pregnancy, a flood of emotions can arise. Being both a stressful and beautiful time for expecting mothers, navigating the complex series of challenges and blessings of pregnancy is anything but easy. While moms who have already navigated the hurdles of their first pregnancies know generally what to expect, every pregnancy can be different.
Taking care of yourself both physically and mentally during this time is crucial for optimal growth for mother and baby alike. From eating the right foods to ensuring proper medical care, there’s a lot to unpack when you’re expecting. Fortunately, countless moms have experience that can prove to be vital guidance when expecting your latest arrival.
From nutritionists in New Hampshire to midwifery schools in Texas, we have scoured the world in search of the most poignant health tips to ensure your bundle of joy arrives both happy and healthy, all the while ensuring your health as well. Let’s take a look at some healthy tips that all moms-to-be should follow.
Plan Your Birth in Advance
A huge aspect of maintaining a healthy pregnancy involves being prepared for what may arise. Being aware of how to handle various cravings, when you’ll need to see medical professionals and what symptoms may be cause for concern are all vital pieces of information to possess. Likewise, given the natural stresses that can arise during any pregnancy, having a game plan in place can help minimize some of the stress points that you’ll experience.
Early in the pregnancy, it’s imperative to sit down and craft a pregnancy and birth plan for you and your child. This covers everything from the manner in which you plan to give birth to whether you’ll permit yourself certain foods and beverages.
Planning for the birth itself is crucial, and being prepared for when the day arrives is made easier when a plan is written and formalized. According to advice from medical professionals and midwifery schools in Texas and throughout the country, some of the most common points to consider include clothing/packed bags to take with you to the hospital, preferred delivery positions, pain medication preferences and suggestions for ambiance in the delivery room itself.
Monitor Your Weight
You may hear rumors floating around regarding pregnancy and weight gain, but not all of that advice is particularly sound or true. When “eating for two,” the amount of weight that an expecting mother should gain is generally impacted by their pre-pregnancy weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, the less you weigh before a pregnancy, the more weight you should expect to gain. For those who have a normal BMI or who are underweight, gaining anywhere from 25 to 40 pounds should be expected. For those who are overweight or obese, 10 to 20 pounds of weight gain is the norm.
Gaining too much or too little weight during a pregnancy can have health consequences for both you and the baby. If a mother gains too much weight, this can actually increase the chances of her developing high blood pressure or diabetes during or even following the pregnancy. It can also dramatically increase the chances that your only option for delivery is a C-section.
If you have failed to gain any weight or are not gaining the expected amount of weight, then immediate medical attention is required. The chances that your baby is suffering from malnutrition and/or that a serious health complication is developing is quite high in these situations.
Follow a Healthy Eating Plan
There is much to consider when developing a healthy diet plan during pregnancy. Not only does the amount of food that you’re eating matter but what exactly you’re eating matters as well.
First of all, let’s talk about quantity. If your weight is following the guidelines mentioned above, then you are likely consuming an adequate number of calories. It is not uncommon for women to not gain much weight until their second trimester. Don’t be alarmed if you’re 10 weeks pregnant and have gained little to no weight; most mothers find a need for increased consumption between the fourth and eighth month.
In terms of balancing your diet with the right choices, similar advice can be followed as if you were simply looking to get into shape (with a few notable exceptions). A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, complex and whole grains and healthy sources of protein is mandatory. It’s also generally a good idea to limit salt, sugar and fat intake.
Avoiding a few key substances is also imperative. Alcohol and tobacco products are obviously unacceptable during pregnancy as they dramatically increase the chances of causing damage to your baby. Many mothers also opt to avoid any type of fish that can be high in mercury, as the concentration of mercury can be more potent to babies ingesting it. Last but not least, cravings for substances that are not food should be avoided: talk to your doctor about these cravings as they are likely an indicator of malnutrition or a lack of certain vitamins.
Know Your Activity Limits
The short and simple fact regarding activity during pregnancy is that mothers-to-be should absolutely find ways to be physically active. There are numerous documented benefits of being active while pregnant, which include ensuring both you and your baby are gaining proper weight, alleviating strain on your back and legs and improving both mood and posture.
Despite this, there is a limit to how much exercise an expecting mother should have. It is advised that pregnant women avoid high-impact exercises and those that require substantial balance. Additionally, any sort of exercise or activity that may involve physical contact (such as basketball and football) with other people should be avoided.
Pregnant women generally require the same amount of exercise time-wise as they did pre-pregnancy, meaning 30 minutes per day of aerobic activity is ideal. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, however, consult with your physician before engaging in any strenuous activity.
Join the Proper Support Groups
Having a team of knowledgeable people at your side who understand your struggle is crucial in surviving any challenge. While the addition of a new one to your home may be a blessing, it can also be a physical and emotional roller-coaster at times. This is why having a support group or system in place will be beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Especially helpful for first-time moms, support groups can help you understand confusing or complicated aspects of pregnancy. They are also great emotional outlets when dealing with stress or worries in general. While having a close group of fellow mothers, friends and family members in real life is ideal, there are many online pregnancy support groups that offer plenty of TLC as well.
Something as simple as your clothing may seem innocuous enough during any pregnancy – after all, there are many other concerns that are more pressing. However, your choice of attire during these months can have an impact on your overall health.
Take shoes as an example. There is a general correlation between weight gain during pregnancy and swelling in the feet. This can make your existing shoe collection feel tight and uncomfortable, while also harming your balance (your center of weight shifts during this time). Choosing shoes that do not restrict your feet and allow for comfortable movement can help prevent painful flattening out of the feet and can even have a positive impact in reducing fatigue.
Investing in some new maternity wear can also help improve your overall mood and mental health. As your existing clothing gets tighter and more revealing, it can make expecting mothers feel self-conscious and even damage their self-esteem. Opting for looser clothing that you can wear during these months can actually give you more confidence than wearing older clothing that is temporarily too small.
Of all the concerns during pregnancy, being clean might not seem like one of the biggest. Yet it can be a crucial component in remaining healthy and avoiding key diseases and illnesses that impact both mother and child alike. There are numerous infections that can cause immense birth defects and complications for your baby – and many of them you can come into contact with on a daily basis.
Infections such as strep-B, chickenpox and cytomegalovirus are more common than you might think. Thankfully, most mothers have little to worry if they simply wash their hands at regular intervals. When away from home and/or a clean bathroom, some hand sanitizer can go a long way toward reducing the risk of any infection.
Likewise, being on your hygiene game during pregnancy is also important. While the latter stages of pregnancy for some can be exhausting and make even taking a bath or shower frustrating, maintaining good daily hygiene habits is crucial. Anything from dry skin to vaginal infections can be caused by improper or irregular hygiene during your pregnancy, so be sure to bathe regularly.
With an excellent diet, a bit of exercise, good hygiene, support groups, well-fitting attire and a birth plan, even the biggest stresses of pregnancy can be navigated with easy. These tips combined will help you remain as healthy as possible during your first, second and third trimesters. Always remember that staying healthy during pregnancy is just as much about your bundle of joy as it is about you, so be sure to follow these tips in anticipation of your newest arrival!