PROMOTING A HEALTHY PREGNANCY
Once you find out your pregnant, so many different things start flooding your mind. First, you’re filled with total shock and excitement. Then, you start to get anxious and worried. For me, and as a first-time expecting mommy, that’s exactly what happened. I wanted to do all my research on pregnancy all in the same day! I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right. I wanted to know what I could and could not do as well as what I should and should not eat! I wanted to know exactly how I can promote a healthy pregnancy! So, here are the tips I’ve learned and use to help promote the best and healthiest pregnancy that my body can possibly give.
1. GET MOVING!
If you want to promote a healthy pregnancy, you must get moving! A healthy body equals a healthy baby. It doesn’t have to be hour long workouts and weightlifting (which you should avoid anyway). The least you can do to promote a healthy body and pregnancy is to go on a walk for thirty minutes everyday if you can. Even if you go every other day, that’s perfect. As long as you’re not sitting on the couch all nine months!
I know the first trimester is difficult to exercise in and that’s why most women don’t — including myself. I didn’t start getting consistently active until around week 12 of my pregnancy. In the 2nd trimester, all your energy comes back and all that nausea is most likely going to die out. Take advantage of it and go out and get moving! It will not only benefit your pregnancy and labor, but it’ll benefit your body for postpartum! You won’t gain as much weight and you won’t have to be so behind after birth. You’ll feel more confident during pregnancy and after!
Just keep in mind, it’s safe to keep your heart rate under 150 BPM while exercising and pregnant. Also, make sure you talk to your doctor about what is safe for you during your pregnancy. If all is well, definitely stay active as much as you can! It’s the perfect way to stay healthy during your pregnancy and to promote a healthy pregnancy.
2. EAT A WELL-BALANCED DIET.
I would say eating a well-balanced diet is even more important than the exercise part. My own doctor didn’t even say she recommends a certain amount of exercise for her pregnant patients, but she always recommends a well-balanced diet. Whatever you eat, the babe is getting. You want your little babe to get as much nutrition as they can from the foods you eat! So, if you’re mostly eating things that have almost no nutritional value, your baby isn’t getting any nutrition (besides what’s in your prenatal vitamins) that they need. The more nutrition they get, the better!
When I say eat a well-balanced diet, I mean to eat a good portion of your fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, nutritional carbs, fiber, and so on. You shouldn’t solely eat carbs or protein — you want a well-balanced amount of all of them! Try to eat a portion of fruits and vegetables on top of your meals everyday to give your babe exactly what they deserve!
But let’s be real for a minute — you’re pregnant, you get cravings, you want cake and ice cream, and you want some junk food once in a while. I do too, don’t worry. No one is saying for you to be on a diet while pregnant, because you shouldn’t be anyway. No one is saying that you cannot have anything you crave either! You can have a little something everyday or every couple days as long as you know how to limit it and stop when it’s enough. Personally, I will usually eat what I want for food as long as I get in some vegetables and fruits that day. I don’t really limit rice or bread because it gives me the energy I need! I just really focus on eating whole and fresh foods. I stay away from processed foods as much as possible! They’re not healthy for you in general let alone during pregnancy. So, eat a good combination of all foods to get as much nutrition to your babe as possible. It’s okay to eat what you crave sometimes, but don’t go overboard. You also want to keep in mind that the healthier you eat, the less unnecessary weight you’ll gain during pregnancy. That’ll save you a lot of work postpartum!
In addition, there are certain foods you should stay away from for the entirety of your pregnancy! Foods such as hotdogs, deli meats, undercooked eggs, meats, and chicken are all unsafe for you to have unless they’re all cooked thoroughly and to a certain temperature to the point they’re steaming hot. Also keep in mind that you should not be eating cold chicken or meats in general. For example, salads that come with cold chicken on them are a big no no! They can harbor listeria — a bacteria that can make you and baby sick. Always eat fresh, HOT, and steaming foods to limit bacteria exposure! Also, don’t take any risks eating food left out at room temperature longer than just two hours! Millions of potentially harmful bacteria grow on food just two hours after being out at room temperature.
3. TAKE YOUR VITAMINS!
This should be a given, but it’s too important not to mention! Your prenatal vitamins are key when it comes to having a healthy pregnancy. Everything in that pill gives your baby exactly what they need to grow and be strong! It’s so important that you take them religiously. It’s also nice to know that if you didn’t eat the best one day, at least your vitamins are giving your baby the nutrition that they need. Don’t rely on them though! Extra is always more.
Prenatal vitamins are not only great for the baby, but they’re great for you as well. They help keep your body in tip-top shape! That’s why doctors recommend women to start taking prenatal vitamins about 3-6 months before trying to conceive. This way your body is already getting what it will need to make a baby once you conceive! They’re so important, so don’t forget them! Also, don’t feel horrible if you forgot to take them once or twice — it happened to me too. Just continue taking them as normal the next day (don’t double-up like birth control, lol!) and you’ll be fine!
4. DON’T DO DRUGS OR BE AROUND SMOKE!
Okay, another given, but still so important. You should know to not do drugs the moment you find out you're pregnant or in the weeks after ovulation. This includes drinking, smoking cigarettes or hookah, or any other street drug. Drugs are not healthy for yourself let alone a tiny baby that is trying to develop! Even if it’s just one puff, one sip — do not risk it. It’s not worth affecting the development of your little babe!
In addition to not doing drugs, don’t be around it either. I’m talking about smoke! It’s something you will inhale even if you feel that you aren’t. It will be inhaled through your nose, your mouth, and even your skin. It’s toxic to be around for you and your baby. Second-hand smoke is absolutely horrible for anyone, but especially for a pregnant woman and a tiny fetus! Stay away from people smoking — it’s not worth the damage that could be done. Think about the harmful effects it can have on the baby you so badly want!
5. HYDRATION IS EVERYTHING!
If you thought hydrating yourself was important before, you have no idea how important it is now! You need more than the average person now that your body is growing a tiny human! You need all the water you can get in order to form amniotic fluid, produce extra blood, build new tissue, carry nutrients, enhance digestion (which you will definitely need to enhance while pregnant), and to flush out waste and toxins! Simply by those reasons, you should know how crucial it is to drink a ton of water each day.
Personally, I always struggled drinking water since I was a young girl. So, it was hard for me to step up my hydration game once I got pregnant! But since I learned just how vital it is for me to increase my intake, I forced myself to drink more and more. If there’s anything I want in the world, it’s a healthy pregnancy, so forcing myself to drink water was easy. I asked my OB how much water she suggests I drink a day and all she said was to drink so much water that your pee looks like faint lemonade! Other resources say pregnant women need to drink ten 8 ounce glasses of water per day! That’s five water bottles... And now I’m realizing, I should drink two more bottles of water today to reach my goal! Go grab yourself a bottle!
6. LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE, GIRL!
First, let me answer your question if you’re confused — yes, you can have caffeine! BUT you need to know how to limit it and where to draw the line. Drinking way too much caffeine, especially in the first trimester, can affect your baby’s development and could increase risk of miscarriage. So, you need to be responsible in knowing how much you can drink! According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is safe for pregnant women to consume up to 200 mg of caffeine a day, or around one daily 12 ounce cup of coffee. However, before you brew yourself a huge cup, do your research.
There are tons of different types of coffee with different levels of caffeine in the same amount of coffee that you are drinking... So, it’s best to stay on the safe side and drink much less caffeine than 200 mg. Also, keep in mind that coffee isn’t the only thing that has caffeine! There’s caffeine in tea, sodas, and even chocolate that will add up in your 200 mg daily limit. So be smart and calculate your caffeine intake and play it safe by limiting your caffeine to about 100 -150mg per day, just in case!
I am a lover of all things caffeine — especially coffee and Pepsi! During my first 12 weeks of pregnancy, I made it a point not to drink any caffeine (being nauseated helped me not want it anyway). A couple weeks into my second trimester, I started off slowly. I began drinking only 2 ounces of coffee in the morning (which helped my migraines disappear), then as weeks went on, I increased it to 3 ounces, and then 4 ounces. A typical 4 ounce brewed coffee only has 48 mg caffeine in it. That’s nothing! Starting at 20 weeks, I started drinking a little more caffeine on some days, but I make sure to keep it under 150 mg! However, I do also keep in mind the amount of chocolate I consume that same day as well. If I drank two coffees that day, I wouldn’t eat chocolate. So, just be smart about your caffeine intake and you’ll be fine!
Read more details about caffeine during pregnancy here.
7. AVOID GETTING SICK!
I know most times, getting sick is by accident and totally inevitable. However, during pregnancy, you should make a conscious effort to be more aware of your surroundings to prevent yourself from getting sick. If your friends, family, or partner happen to be sick, try to avoid them! It’s for the best and I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, getting sick sucks — obviously. But there’s more to it than that... When you’re pregnant, you’re already dealing with all of these symptoms, the last thing you need are more symptoms! On top of that, you can’t take most mediations while you’re pregnant... So, if you become sick with the flu or a severe cold, it’s going to have to get rid of itself the old way.
Secondly, if you’re sick with a severe infection or your body temperature changes to risky levels, it can affect you and your baby. Pregnant women have weakened immune systems, so a cold or flu that didn’t really impact you much before might be a lot harder to fight while pregnant. In saying that, having a weakened immune system, you are more susceptible to getting sick than those who are not pregnant. So, the best thing you can do is avoid people who are sick, continuously wash your hands and sanitize, take your vitamins, hydrate, and give your body nutrients it needs to be as healthy as possible!
If you are pregnant, like me, while Covid-19 is still infecting people, be sure to take extra precautions while going out, if you have to. Covid-19 isn’t fun in general — imagine while pregnant and with a weakened immune system! That’s no bueno. Pregnant women are considered to be part of the higher-risk group... Although they haven’t found many fetuses getting infected by the virus when the mother has it, there has been cases where babies were born with it. This virus is still so new, so we don’t have a lot of information except to be extremely careful!
8. KEEP A STEADY BODY TEMPERATURE.
Your body temperature doesn’t only change when you get sick — it also changes from your environment! As I mentioned earlier, having an increased or decreased body temperature, while sick, can affect the baby since you’re basically their apartment and they’re your tenant. It’s like your AC or heat dramatically changing temperature to the point it makes you uncomfortable — now, imagine a tiny fetus!
There are ways you can make sure you keep a steady body temperature. For example, do not go in hot tubs, saunas, or take very long hot baths since it can quickly raise your core body temperature to an unsafe level for your baby. In addition, heating pads are only safe to use for about 15-20 minutes on a low setting. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women should never let their core body temperature rise above 102.2° F, especially in the first trimester since it can increase risk of miscarriage because high temperatures can disrupt the development of vital proteins.
Although I absolutely love taking warm baths and using heating pads (especially for an aching back, which is very common during pregnancy), I try not to as much as possible. If you desperately need to take a warm bath or use a heating pad, it is recommended to only do so for about 15-20 minutes at most. But of course, speak to your doctor for more details and about what’s considered safe for your pregnancy.
In addition, keep in mind that being in the hot sun for long periods of time, especially while active, can also change your body temperature. So, if you live in a very hot state, such as Florida, it’s probably best to avoid being active outside on very hot days just to be safe. Personally, when it’s above 82° F outside during the day where I live (Chicago), I don’t even bother going out for a walk that day. It’s way too hot for me, especially with the sun, and we tend to feel much hotter than we did before pregnancy because our body temperature is already higher while carrying a baby! So be safe out there and always wear sunscreen!
9. GET YOUR SLEEP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
First, I should say that sleep, along with water, is probably one of the most important things to help keep our body healthy and functioning properly. Getting enough sleep does so much more than we think! I taught psychology to high school students and when I used to get to the chapter on sleep, I made sure my students truly understood the importance of sleep!
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that one of the ways for an expectant mother to help give their baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth is to practice good sleep hygiene. Although sleeping can be tough for many women, if not most, all throughout pregnancy (thanks to surging hormones and major body changes), it’s important that we try and get enough of it for many reasons.
Getting enough sleep while pregnant helps improve your immune system (which you need to prevent getting sick and because we already have weakened immune systems simply because we’re pregnant!), brain function, and most importantly, it helps regulate growth hormone levels! The babe needs those! It is recommended that pregnant women should spend at least 8 hours in bed each night so they can get at least 7 hours of good sleep. If you can get more, awesome!
Plus, you’re going to want all the sleep you can get while pregnant! Take advantage of it before that baby comes, because you’ll probably forget what it feels like to have good sleep or to be able to sleep at all, for that matter. At least that’s what I’ve been told by every mother I’ve known ever. So, ladies, take your sleep time seriously and get in bed! Oh, and naps are always great for us, too!
10. REDUCE YOUR STRESS LEVELS!
I can’t even keep track of the amount of people who told me to not stress myself out and to avoid getting stressed, including my doctor. Stress truly impacts our minds, bodies, and souls in general... So, imagine while pregnant. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to reduce your stress levels as much as humanly possible. If that means dropping drama-filled friends or family members, do it. No one is more important than your baby. If that means leaving more time for yourself to relax in peace and quiet, do it. Do whatever you need to do to reduce that stress!
I know that pregnancy and all the things that go with it can be stressful all alone, but take a deep breath in and relax. There are ways to make yourself less stressed about the process! Get yourself organized, make a schedule, and take your time doing things that need to be done, but in a timely fashion. If getting things done for the nursery is stressing you out, then check out my blog on 5 Efficient Ways to Plan for the Nursery! It’ll help you really figure it all out.
So, why is reducing your stress levels so important? High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure (which is not good for pregnancy) and heart disease. During pregnancy, stress can increase risk of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks) or a low-birthweight baby (weighing less than 5 lb 8 oz). The reasons are clear as to why reducing stress throughout pregnancy is crucial!
Also, don’t freak out if you’ve felt stressed out for a few days or had a huge fight that stressed you out with your partner — that’s not going to impact your pregnancy. Life happens. When it comes to impacting your pregnancy, I’m talking being stressed out for very long periods of times. For example, life events that happened to be traumatic or devastating, such as losing a loved one or going through a hard divorce, etc. Those could be possible factors in increasing your stress levels for a significant period of time.
So, do what you can do to limit and reduce your stress as much as possible for the sake of yourself and your baby. Find ways that will help you do so, like going for walks or doing some relaxing yoga. Go to a spa once in a while for a pamper day (be mindful of what facials you get while pregnant) or get a pregnancy massage here and there! Do what you need to reduce your stress and to promote a healthy pregnancy!