Your Healthy Pregnancy Guide
Whether you’re that person charting your periods and taking prenatals a year in advance, or you just about fell over when you saw those two pink lines appear, you’ve probably got some questions. One of the first that comes to mind is: how do I have a healthy pregnancy?
It’s true that pregnancy can come with *a lot* of anxiety. You’ve never done this before. If you’re lucky enough to sleep through the night, that’s amazing. But for many of us, we’re up at 2 AM ruminating over a million “why ifs.” What is the best prenatal vitamin? How much do I eat for two? Will my belly button ever pop back in? Is my face wash safe? Can I sleep on my back? Should I stop exercising now that I'm pregnant? Will I ever sleep again?
As soon as you answer one question, another arises. While we can’t promise you won’t consult Dr. Google every chance you get, we can help get you started on the right track. There are some evidence-based right and wrong ways to do this pregnancy thing, and fortunately most of them are low lift. Here are some key things you can do to stay healthy during pregnancy, according to the experts.
You might experience some pretty intense fatigue in the first trimester, then the second trimester balances things out with bursts of energy that keep you nesting into the wee hours. You might find yourself 24 weeks along, itching to paint the living room ceiling and replant your flower beds (yup, it happened). But then tiredness creeps back in and by the end of the third trimester, it looks a lot more like exhaustion. Getting enough sleep is important right up until childbirth. A study published in the journal of Neurobiology of Stress showed that loss of sleep even in the final week of pregnancy can increase a mom’s stress level, hinder immune function of the placenta, and impact the level of kynurenic acid in your baby’s brain, which can disrupt neurodevelopment… yikes. Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, especially when the chance will soon disappear into thin air (just ask any new mama). And if pregnancy insomnia, swelling, and aches are getting the best of ya, there are some amazing mama-safe products that actually work.
mother glows best
That notorious pregnancy glow is a *very* real thing. No bronzer necessary. You surprisingly have your heart to thank… your blood volume is boosted by up to 50 percent when you’re pregnant. That being said, not every expecting mama feels like Halle Berry. You might find your skin is oilier or dryer, and you can chalk that up to hormones like progesterone and estrogen. As a result, acne similar to your teenage years may rear its ugly head. These issues pose no risk to your baby, but the skincare products you use to treat them certainly can. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy like parabens, sulfates, retinoids, and more. Some women may also experience melasma—aka the “mask of pregnancy.” It occurs when the melanin in your skin reacts with all that progesterone you’re producing. The result? Brown spots may appear on your face and body (fun fact: it’s the same reason why your areolas turn darker and you get that line trailing down your belly). The good news? Melasma also poses no risk and often fades post-delivery.
get your blood pumping
If you were active before pregnancy, it’s a good idea to keep it up as long as your provider says it’s safe. And if you weren’t—no judgement—just check in with your midwife or doctor first before jumping into a brand new routine. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to choose activities that have a low risk of falling or injury. Avoid planks, pushups, crunches, or any movement that puts extra pressure on the pelvic floor. And be especially mindful of your movements due to the release of a hormone called relaxin. It helps your tendons and joints expand… totally necessary for childbirth, but not so helpful when it comes to avoiding injury. Increased blood flow to specific parts of the body has some pretty great perks: vibrant skin, lush locks, more pleasurable sex. On the flip side, as your uterus grows and places more pressure on the vena cava, circulation can slow. This leads to lower blood oxygen levels, poorer sleep, and yes, cankles. Regular exercise can help offset these side effects, and it doesn’t have to be too intense. Taking daily walks or hitting up that prenatal yoga class can do wonders. And if you don’t want to leave the house, here are some quick pregnancy-safe exercises you can try.
protect the pelvic floor
If you’ve never cared about your pelvic floor before, you might after pushing out a baby. Pelvic floor disorders involve more than incontinence and diastasis recti (aka ab separation). They can come with varied symptoms like constipation, hemorrhoids, and pain during intercourse. See why we want to prevent this? What can you do to avoid pelvic floor damage during pregnancy? We’re glad you asked :) We already told you to nix the ab workouts, and you should also make use of our Pregnancy Support Belt to help relieve some of the pressure your uterus is putting on those organs down below. Try to gain an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy at a steady rate. Be mindful when getting up from seated or lying down positions. Practice pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels and pelvic tilts. Last but not least, remember that your pelvic floor is more delicate during the postpartum months. Give yourself enough time to heal internally—even if you feel and look good externally—before jumping back into exercise or lifting more weight than your baby.
find your chill
Does it seem impossible to empty your mind right now? Welcome to mamahood. If you’ve never meditated before, now would be a great time to try. A study published in the journal of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology notes that mindfulness practices can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress during pregnancy, which may continue to benefit you postpartum. While we know meditation is good for your mental health, that doesn’t make it any easier to find the time. Luckily, the Expectful App features meditations for every stage of pregnancy and has ones you can do in 5 mins or less. Can’t get into meditation no matter how hard you try? You’re not alone. Some people can’t visualize with their eyes closed or fall asleep every time they try. The end goal is relaxation, but there’s no right way to get there. Try paying attention to the feeling of your feet on the ground as you walk, listening to your favorite music, taking a sitz bath, or even cleaning. It’s all about being in the moment and letting go of what you can’t control—something you’ll get to practice *a lot* when you become a parent :)
you are what you eat
So is your babe. The food you ingest flavors their amniotic fluid, giving them an early start on developing their palate. If you aren’t consuming dense nutrition regularly, your body will pull from your nutrient stores to give babe what they need. Battling morning sickness—which isn’t just in the mornings btw—can make following dietary guidelines a pretty brutal task. Roughly 70 percent of pregnant women struggle with some degree of “morning” sickness, making it super important to slip in nutrient-dense foods where you can. Anemia during pregnancy is also a very real thing, but the thought of downing organic organ meats a few times a week might make you feel sick. Here’s our hack: sneak ‘em in by pureeing raw meats and freezing them in an ice cube tray. When you make chili, tacos, spaghetti—anything well-masked by sauces or ground meats—toss a few frozen cubes into the mix. You won't taste them, and you and babe will reap *all* the benefits.
the vitamin vortex
Speaking of nutrients… who knew choosing a prenatal vitamin would be such a big deal? If you’ve looked online recently, you’ll find a version for everyone. Vegans are covered. Those with MTHFR gene mutations know where to find their methylfolate. And even the moms with severe morning sickness can find gummy and liquid versions they can stomach. How’s a girl supposed to choose? And which brand is the best?Here’s our advice: focus less on the brand and more on the nutrition label. The FDA doesn’t approve supplements—and believe it or not, prenatal vitamins still fall under this category. Make sure you’re aware of the critical mineral components prenatal vitamins should include, and be sure to discuss your individual needs with your doctor. You may need more than just one daily pill to maintain a healthy pregnancy. If you’re anemic, you might need an additional iron supplement, and most prenatal vitamins do not include DHA leading many moms to seek it out other ways such as in food sources or cod liver oil.
combat anxiety with education
If you want to feel prepared for the months and years ahead, nothing will resolve your anxiety and Google-induced insomnia as much as knowing the facts. The more you understand what is happening inside your body and what to expect during all those prenatal appointments, the more at ease you will feel around the entire process. If you’re someone who loves to control and micro-manage everything, this inclination might lead you to think you need to prep your body for labor. The truth is our bodies hold the wisdom—they’ve been managing to do this thing mostly on their own for centuries. So when you’re in tune with the natural experience your body is going through, you can sit back and enjoy the journey. There are always exceptions to the rule, but most of these nine months should run on autopilot, and your body merely needs your support.
the wrap up
Staying healthy during pregnancy starts with nourishing your body with a variety of nutrient-rich foods and maintaining a steady weight gain. Don’t forget your prenatal vitamins and try to exercise regularly even if it’s just firing up a podcast and going on a walk. Weave in meditation or other mindfulness techniques throughout the day, and don’t stress about things that are out of your control. Your mental health translates to your physical health, anda healthy mama makes for a healthy babe. Lean on your friends, family, and practitioners for support, and if you’re ever looking for additional resources, guidance, or product rec, we got you.