Leading a healthy lifestyle for the baby (and for yourself!) is much more than just eating the right foods. Maintaining - or starting - healthy exercise habits is best for your mental well being as well as weight fluctuation and daily discomforts. We are going to talk about how exercise can help you stay healthy and specific exercises that will help with the many discomforts of pregnancy. There are other important ways to stay healthy like eliminating toxins and essential oils from your home (bet you didn’t think of that one!). Finally, we want to focus on mental health because we know how much anxiety can come from pregnancy and the looming knowledge you are about to have your first baby.
Let’s start with the many benefits of exercise for pregnant women.
If you want to read more on diet specifics for eating healthy during your 9 month journey, read this.
Medical Disclaimer: Modamily Is not a licensed medical organization. Our advice should not be taken as a substitute for advice from a medical professional. You should consult a doctor during pregnancy to determine the best steps for you and your child’s health.
There are several major benefits to exercising during pregnancy. The benefits of exercise remain the same as a non-pregnant person, like reducing stress and anxiety and improving overall fitness. In addition, there are some pregnancy specific benefits.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
- Reduces back pain
- Eases constipation (a common discomfort for pregnant women)
- Can decrease your risk of gestational diabetes
- Healthy weight gain
- Strengthens your heart and blood vessels
- Helps you lose the baby weight post-birth
- Increases stamina and endurance for delivery
- Reduces stress and clears your mind
A specific form of exercise, kegel exercises are to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and target that area. Some benefits of doing consistent kegel exercises include alleviating urine leakage, painful urination, pain in intercourse, lower back pain, constipation, and high urine frequency.
Kegel exercises may be something you already incorporate into your workout regime - pelvic thrusts, fire hydrants, and other common glute exercises strengthen your pelvic muscles.
Don’t Overwork Yourself
No heavy lifting, climbing, or standing for extended periods of time. This is important to prevent daily discomforts from the extra weight of the baby on your muscles and joints, as well as prevent more serious complications like early births.
Also, go buy yourself a pair (or two!) of comfortable, non-restricting shoes. The extra weight can cause your feet and ankles to hurt more frequently, and also other body changes may cause swelling in the feet.
During pregnancy you should eliminate toxins, medications with unsafe ingredients, and household items with harmful chemicals. Now that we have discussed what to do to your diet and life, let’s walk through some of the things you need to eliminate.
Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking
First is the obvious ones. If you have thought about pregnancy at any point before this, you have likely heard you need to cut drugs, alcohol and smoking for the baby. Drugs, alcohol and smoking can cause serious, permanent damage to the baby including lifelong deformities or physical, behavioral, and intellectual problems.
Many pregnant women may not know to stay away from essential oils because it is far less known than the caffeine or drugs and alcohol rules. In the first trimester, essential oils may cause uterine contractions or adversely affect your baby in his early developmental stages. Essential oils are more tolerable in the second and third trimester when the baby is further along in development, but there are still some you should avoid because they may cause contractions.
The essential oils and herbs you should avoid are:
- Bitter almond
- Boldo leaf
- Clary sage
- Deer Tongue
- Jaborandi leaf
- Juniper berry
- Parsley (large doses)
- Savory (summer)
- Thyme red (large doses)
Heat exhaustion can be detrimental to a fetus’ growth. This means definitely no hot tubs, hot yoga, or saunas. Even an extremely hot summer day can be dangerous, and we recommend pregnant women stay inside on these days. If the mother’s temperature exceeds 102 degrees it can affect fetal growth and potentially cause cleft palate. Dehydration is another scary side effect of intense heat because it can impact the level of amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac. This fluid lets the fetus move around and maneuver inside the womb. Amniotic fluid levels drop when the mother is dehydrated. If this occurs in the first trimester, it can result in birth defects, miscarriage, and preterm labor or even liver and kidney problems.
Pregnant women need to stay away from household toxins when possible. Chemicals can affect the baby's brain and physical development. With common chemical tasks like cleaning, either ask someone else to do it, or try to buy clean, all natural cleaning supplies with little to no chemicals.
You should avoid these household toxins:
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Cleaning products
- Bug spray
- Nail polish
- Lead-based products
- Flame retardants
- Dry cleaning chemicals
Once you realize you are pregnant, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist about the medications - even over the counter ones! - that you are using. Common drugs like ibuprofen can thin blood and be unsafe for your unborn fetus. Other medications may contain high doses of Vitamin A- which is also not good for the baby in excessive amounts.
Pregnancy is full of hormonal and body changes which can take a toll on your body. But let's not forget the mental stress it takes to develop a child inside you for 9 months. It’s exhausting, first off. You also are making a ton of decisions for the baby - what color to paint its room to how you are going to pay for finances. There’s also the looming stress of giving birth - in which many things can go wrong, and is knowingly a painful experience. Overall, there is almost no way you couldn’t have at least some sense of anxiety. Let’s go through some ways to ease this stress and benefit your mental health.
Pregnancy is scary! We get that. There’s many ways to make it not-so-scary and less intimidating. We recommend signing up for childbirth classes where you and your partner or co-parent learn about pregnancy and do different exercises in a social group setting. Also, reading plenty of pregnancy books and online articles from reliable sources is a great way to learn about your journey.
Another form of education is talking to doctors and nurses. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - when it comes to your own and your babies health, nothing is a dumb question.
Also, don’t alarm yourself, but take time to learn about postpartum depression. This is very common in women right after birth, so know that it’s not just you.
Have A Support System
Make friends with other pregnant women! From educational classes, pregnancy workout sessions, book clubs and more, there are plenty of ways to get involved with other pregnant women who are going through a shared experience. As nice and empathetic as your co-parent or partner may be, they do not really understand the ups and downs of pregnancy unless they have been pregnant themselves.
Also enlist in family members and friends for help. Cut yourself some credit for growing a child inside you, and don’t be afraid to ask for favors.
Treat yo’ self! If you think you have little “me time” now, just wait until you have a newborn baby. That’s called being busy. Treat yourself now by getting a manicure at lunch, hanging with your friends, renting your favorite movie in the middle of the day or any other way you like to indulge in self care. We’ve gone over how emotionally draining it is to be pregnant, so make sure to take time for yourself to destress. You deserve it.
Also, sleep! Sleeping is so important for the natural fatigue and exhaustion of pregnancy. Self care can be napping during lunch or in the middle of the day and getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night. The baby will thank you!
Other Ways to Stay Healthy
Don’t be afraid to call your doctor if something feels wrong or “off.”
Health goes beyond just what you put in your body, but also includes what goes on and around your body. The first thing we recommend is wear sunscreen for your own skin. The baby is protected from UVs down there, but pregnant women are more sensitive to the sun and can get badly burned. Sunburns increase the chance of skin cancer, and can be cosmetically displeasing leaving permanent brown spots or temporary peeling. You are already pretty uncomfortable during pregnancy, no reason to have to deal with a nasty burn as well.
Washing Your Hands
It’s also super important to wash your hands frequently to keep out common germs. Getting a cold or the flu during pregnancy makes your immune system work harder, which can take away from the baby.