Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and magical times in a woman’s and couple’s life and I believe that it should be celebrated as such. From the time that you find out you’re pregnant to the first scan where you see your tiny one and its little heartbeat all the way through to the day you meet your bundle of joy. It should all be super special and each and every little milestone should be documented and taken joy in.
Due to the nature of pregnancy – a tiny human being who is dependent on his/her mamma for EVERYTHING, and ends up taking everything he/she needs to develop and grow until that beautiful day of birth arrives – usually us mums end up experiencing some physical and emotional drawbacks that we’re not necessarily prepared for. I once heard someone describe a foetus in the womb as a, wait for it… a parasite, because it takes everything it needs from its host without giving anything back and mostly leaves the host tired, drained and suffering from some type of negative symptom. Sounds pretty bad huh?
Well today I’m going to discuss some of the things that are helping me counteract many of the common pregnancy symptoms in the hopes that it can help some of you reading this. At the very least I hope you find it interesting enough to store the information in a corner of your brain and call upon it when you find out you’re expecting your own little bundle of joy.
You are what you eat. We all know that saying and I don’t think it’s ever been more true than during pregnancy. Believe it or not our babies develop quite fast in the womb and are all formed by the time they are 12 weeks, which is why they need lots of nutrients from the food that we eat during that first trimester. Even while battling morning sickness, we have to try and get in as many fresh fruit and vegetables as we can, along with loads of iron and fat sources. And since morning sickness only really kicks in from about six or seven weeks anyway, it’s a good idea to use those first few weeks to really kick up your nutrient intake a notch, especially if you were lucky enough to find out fairly early on about the pregnancy. With this pregnancy I found out at 1- 2 weeks and started focusing on what I ate even more than usual.
Some of you may know how I feel about general fast food. If not, I abhor them (this includes foods like McDonald’s, KFC and anything remotely in the same vein) so do your best not to eat it. You don’t need it and your growing baby doesn’t need it. You might have a craving here or there for it, but definitely do not make this type of food a regular part of your diet. And if it is, don’t you think now is the perfect time for you to get your eating habits on the right track?
Here are some of the benefits of eating well during pregnancy:
- You’ll combat that dreaded constipation because your body is getting in enough fibre and water.
- You won’t pick up an excessive amount of weight. Every woman is different and it depends on a lot of things, but in a healthy pregnancy you’re supposed to pick up somewhere between 10kg and 16-18kg. Eating well will help you to stay within a healthy weight range for your body and it will then be easier to lose the weight after you’ve given birth.
Pregnancy superfoods: I eat as much of these as I can. And the beauty of many of these is that you can eat them on their own, add them to meals, make a dessert out of them. The options are endless: plain yoghurt, eggs, spinach, kale, berries, oats, avocados, dried apricots, bananas, beans and lentils, red meat and seafood, salmon being a personal favourite of mine.
Generally, just make sure you’re eating a wide variety of foods with as little junk in there as possible.
Feel free to follow my Nutritious and Pregnant Pinterest board for more ideas.
Take a multi-vitamin
It’s more than likely that your healthcare provider will prescribe a multi-vitamin for you to take for a part of or throughout your pregnancy. It may just be a general pregnancy multi-vitimin or something more specific. In my case I was prescribed an iron supplement as I was diagnosed with anaemia, which means that my blood does not contain enough healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin. These cells are important for carrying oxygen around the body. Luckily the iron supplement helped me out and even though I’m not taking any more supplements and my iron is still slightly on the low side, I’m managing to maintain it at a decent level through my diet, which my midwife is happy with.
Exercising during pregnancy is so important and I think people really underestimate this activity. If your pregnancy is low-risk, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t try to remain fit, or better yet, start exercising if you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle up until you’ve conceived. If your pregnancy is high risk then definitely consult your health care professional before you start exercising. But if you use your 9 months to do nothing but sit around, it can lead to excessive weight gain (which raises your chances of a Caesarean section, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. And taking an extended break from exercise has long-term consequences too. You can easily end up hanging onto that extra weight long after giving birth.
Easy, gentle exercising options include: walking, swimming, yoga, stretching and gentle strength training.
With my first pregnancy I was a walking-machine as I was living in Tokyo and due to the nature of the city you end up walking everywhere: walking from your flat into the subway, jumping onto a train and then making your way from the subway to where you have to be. Basically I was super fit just from walking alone and by the time we left Japan while I was seven months along, my metabolism must have been so high that I only ended up gaining 10kg in weight in total. I also started doing very light yoga, stretching and strength training once we were back in Johannesburg to keep up some form of exercise and it did me the world of good. It all helped me prepare for the birth as I wanted the endurance ability to be able to give birth naturally without any medical interventions and it paid off. I had a beautiful home water birth without any complications or medications. And because I was so fit, it helped me to recover from the birth really quickly. I also lost the baby weight super fast afterwards.
With this pregnancy I’m not nearly as fit as I was with Rupert, but I am eating well and I am going for almost daily walks with him. I’ve also started gentle strength training again as I’m planning for another home water birth so those squats are going to help me when I’m squatting to push #babybarkesthesecond out.
Again, you can follow my Fit and Pregnant Pinterest board for more exercise ideas and inspiration.
Don’t mind the hot chocolate stain from where Rupert spilled it on my dress moments before we took these photos.
Drink lots of water
Need I say more here? We all know the importance of drinking water, but during pregnancy it’s even more important to get our 8 glasses in, more if you’re exercising. So it’s super important that we stay hydrated.
Drinking enough water will prevent dehydration and prevent pregnancy complications such as headaches, nausea, cramps, oedema and dizziness. It can also help to relieve symptoms of morning sickness, acidity and heartburn as well as indigestion. It also helps to keep your body cool. Water further helps prevent urinary infections, which are common during pregnancy. It also eases constipation, haemorrhoids and water retention. It may sound counter intuitive but the more water you drink during pregnancy, the less water your body will retain. This is definitely one of the things that helped me from swelling up from water retention during both my pregnancies.
It goes without saying that you if you’re tired you need to rest. It may be during your first trimester when the foetus is in the throws of developing and you might be overcome by morning sickness, or during the last trimester when your fully developed baby is kicking you so hard and leaving you breathless that you don’t have a choice but to sit down and rest. Whenever you feel the need to rest though, do it and get enough sleep. The dishes can wait, or rope in family and friends to help, but work out a strategy to make sure your body is well equipped to deal with the many symptoms of pregnancy.
When I found out I was pregnant the first time I was in such a state of shock that I asked Michael to make a gin and tonic! That was the last I had alcohol until I was 9 months pregnant and decided to have a small glass of wine with my Sunday lunch. With this pregnancy I stopped as soon as I found out at 2 weeks, save for a Pimm’s cocktail as a celebratory drink when I had just arrived back in England.
The bottom line is, it’s best not to drink for us or our little ones while we’re expecting. Heavy drinking early on can lead to devastating conditions such as alcohol foetal syndrome, and continuous drinking can lead to a miscarriage or premature birth. It can even increase the risk of our babies being still born. So it’s best to just steer clear.
Like I said, I’ve had a little something here and there, but it’s definitely not a habit and I’m rather looking forward to my first full glass of wine once #babybarkesthesecond is finally here with us.
Alright, there you have it: my guidelines for staying healthy during pregnancy. There are too many aspects to address in the scope of one blog post and you know I’m not a healthcare or pregnancy expert, but I really wanted to share my experiences with you in the hope that it can be of some value to at least one person. But do follow me on Pinterest for more pregnancy inspiration and let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. Always talk to your midwife or doctor about your specific pregnancy healthcare requirements.