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Healthy Pregnancy: Essential Tips and Unconventional Truths

Bearing a child can be one of the most beautiful times in a woman’s life but, equally, one of the most confusing! From what we read online, research in books or even hear from our prenatal care team, the suggestions we round up can contradict each other. I’ve been a nutrition coach for years and have assisted many clients through their pregnancies, but I also recently went through the process of bearing a child myself. Since then, I’ve learned even more about all of the obstacles and stressors that women commonly face during these months. Below are some of my best suggestions for self care and optimum health during pregnancy. 

Learn to manage your stress. 

My ultimate goal throughout my pregnancy was to be as stress-free as possible – which isn’t easy when you are a self-proclaimed workaholic! To boot, reading up on the pros and cons of different child care options, toxic diapers or baby care products, and prenatal care and delivery differences are enough to make your head spin and you feel like you're doomed to make a mistake! We decide, however, how much mental space and power we give these thoughts. I always suggest letting the constant influx of advice roll off your back, while making sure you're allowing yourself self-pampering opportunities and meditation time. There will always be someone who you deem is doing it “better” than you. Remind yourself of this tendency, and simply do the best you can while enjoying being pregnant versus stressing out about it.

Get enough sleep. 

As your belly grows, it can be increasingly challenging to get comfortable at night. Nonetheless, make a point of getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Not only will this help your energy and your baby's growth, but it will also support your metabolism during and after pregnancy. Not to mention, you may not see that 7-8 hour window again for a very long time once baby has arrived! If you're not a great sleeper, try bathing or showering before bed, which helps release melatonin (your internal sleep hormone), keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and shutting down artificial lights (e.g. cell phones, tablets) a good hour before bed. As an avid melatonin user, I stopped taking the supplement while pregnant and instead used a lavender essential oil on my feet to help sleep as well.

Be in good hands.  

Doula, midwife, conventional doctor? There are all sorts of articles online that recommend certain professionals over others. This decision, however, should really come from you. With whom would you be most comfortable, given your needs and personality? With whom would you enjoy partnering the most in your pregnancy journey? You need to be able to trust the professional you choose and feel that both of you are on the same page. Initially, I thought I would choose a midwife but ended up partnering with my doctor because of the confidence and trust I had in him already.

Nourish your body.  

Now is the most important time of your life to eat a nutrient-dense, healthy diet. However, most of the nutrition information online focuses on controlling weight or avoiding certain foods. Talk about stressful! Instead, focus on nourishing your body with foods that are high quality and minimally processed. Protein is a must (especially because you are building a body inside of you!). Make sure you include protein at all meals as best you can along with healthy fats. Fish (rich in omega-3 fats), eggs (full of choline to support brain development in baby) are some powerful foods to include in your routine. Take advantage of help from a nutrition coach to create meal ideas that sound appealing and offer ample nutrients.

Know the real expert.  

One of the best things my prenatal physician did for me was to actually empower me as the boss in my pregnancy journey. I was in charge of my health, and he was literally only there for simple guidance. Every pregnancy is different, and it’s important to listen to your body and instinct. If you're not comfortable with certain protocol that tend to be routine during pregnancy, do your due diligence by researching and making a decision based on better knowledge of your body and immune system. 

Focus on the right number.  

During your prenatal visits, you’re going to get weighed - again and again. Don’t view that number as an indicator of how healthy your child is or how your pregnancy is going. There are general guidelines of “how” much weight is normal, but everyone is different - and every pregnancy is different. The best advice I got from my doctor was this: I shouldn’t try to control how much weight I put on but let my body naturally determine that for me. If I continue to practice healthy behaviors and eat when I'm hungry (choosing healthy foods most often), the weight would take care of itself, and my body would know what to do. Instead, I focused on other measures such as my blood chemistry, baby’s heart beat, my energy and blood pressure to determine how the pregnancy was going.

Supplement wisely.  

Pregnancy is the right time to start taking supplements if you haven’t already. A prenatal vitamin is a must (look for one with Metafolin®) along with ample omega-3’s. I had already been on a sound protocol of multivitamins, omega-3’s, vitamin D, probiotics and magnesium for years based on my health goals and personal metabolism. When I found out I was pregnant, I bumped up my omega-3’s (to support brain development) and vitamin D (to help support immune function), knowing I would need even more of those two key nutrients during this time even though I was also switching my multi to a prenatal version. Base any additional supplements on your specific body needs, and work with a nutrition coach as well as your doctor if you have any questions. I often recommend a protein powder to my prenatal clients who have animal protein aversions during their pregnancies.

Move enough.  

Especially during that first trimester, you may not have the energy or even feel like putting in an intense workout. Instead, focus on moving your body throughout the day and getting in your 10,000 steps. I felt a little morning walk on the treadmill did worlds for my energy as I started my day. By the time I hit the second trimester, I was back to my typical cardio routine. If you're on the other end of the spectrum, don’t start an intense cardio program just because you're pregnant. Many women deem this necessary to prevent gaining "too much" weight, but that effort, particularly if you're not used to that exertion, can turn into an additional stressor on the body. Instead, continue the routine your body has already adapted to. If you’ve been doing nothing, slowly increase your frequency and duration of activity, and focus on movement throughout the day. For personalized support and guidance, see a fitness professional.

Lift heavy things.  

For women, it’s imperative to strength train. Not only does it support your lean tissue and bone density, but it also makes you better able to lift and carry that baby once he or she is here. (They grow quickly, don't they?) Not to mention, labor will likely be the most intense physical (and rewarding) exercise you’ll ever go through! Most women can continue their current routine during pregnancy, but if you're not used to a strength training program, work up to at least 2 times a week or find a coach to help you with a program. This is particularly important in the latter half of your pregnancy as your center of gravity changes with your growing belly! I’m also a huge advocate for Pilates reformer exercises, as they helped me learn to use and take control of my core muscles, which later helped me through labor. 

Do you have additional questions or think you'd appreciate individualized support in your nutrition and fitness through your pregnancy? Talk with one of our coaches or trainers today! Thanks for reading, everyone.

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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