Congratulations on your big news, mama! Now, it’s time to equip yourself with the right pregnancy self-care.
Pregnancy is no doubt a beautiful thing—it brings complicated emotions of happiness, worry, excitement, confusion, and all of the other emotions you can think of. As much as you want to enjoy every moment that you’re carrying a tiny human being, you need to be mindful about taking good care of yourself and your baby. Thus, protecting your and your baby’s well-being through self-care is important.
Self-care is not always about pampering or treating yourself to a luxurious spa. It is about taking care of your entire well-being. Not sure what to do or where to start? Worry not because here is your ultimate self-care guide during pregnancy.
Nourishing Your Body
The idea of eating healthier meals during pregnancy is no stranger to all of us. Many people would agree that the food you eat can directly affect your health, your mood, and your baby’s development. The right food can give you a healthy pregnancy. The wrong ones can increase your risks of complications and even hinder your baby’s development.
What to eat
You know you can never go wrong with eating fruits and vegetables. Fill your plate with “the rainbow” food. Remember that colorful fruits and vegetables contain specific micronutrients that your body needs. Plus, your baby needs the same micronutrients for its proper growth and development. Salmon, berries, avocadoes, and spinach are known to be nutritional powerhouses that can help in your baby’s development while keeping you elated and in good mood.
You are eating for two during pregnancy, so your hunger levels could increase. There is no harm in sustaining this hunger, but make sure to do it right. Snacks like almonds, string cheese, and grapes cannot just keep you full for a longer time, but they are also nutrient-dense. Sweets are not exactly something to avoid—you can still have them but make sure it is in moderation.
Foods you should watch out for
While there are plenty of foods that are recommended for you to enjoy, you might want to temporarily say good bye to sashimi and sushi if they’re your favorites. Raw and undercooked fish can cause several types of infections including viral, bacterial, or even parasitic. Although these infections will most likely affect you and not the baby, their symptoms (diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, etc.) can affect the baby.
Speaking of fish, you may also want to avoid large marine fish as they potentially accumulate increased amounts of mercury. These fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna, and marlin. Meanwhile, low mercury fish is known to be very healthy to eat during pregnancy, and you can enjoy them up to 3 times a week. Salmon, cod, freshwater trout, anchovies, and haddock are some examples of low mercury fish.
Check out this ultimate pregnancy nutrition guide.
Drinks to avoid
You might be a huge fan of coffee, tea, soda, and cocoa, but during pregnancy, you need to make sure to cut down your caffeine intake. No, you don’t have to avoid it entirely but your caffeine intake per day should not be more than 200mg. Dairy is awesome for your and your baby’s health, but avoid unpasteurized milk, cheese, and even fruit juices. Meanwhile, alcohol is a huge NO as it causes an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
Taking medicines, vitamins and food supplements
Besides your food, vitamins, food supplements, and even medicines have a huge role in your pregnancy journey. Some are highly recommended, while others you might want to consult with the doctor.
Medicines and pregnancy
Avoiding drugs during pregnancy is still best, but there are some cases wherein you can’t avoid them. If this happens, consult your doctor so that you can be prescribed with the right medicines, whether they are over-the-counter medicines or medicinal herbs.
With all of your nutritious food and healthy diet, you still need supplements especially for nutrients that pregnant women massively need. For example, you need a doubled amount of iron in your body during pregnancy so your doctor might prescribe you an iron supplement. If you develop anemia and iron deficiency during pregnancy or you already have it before, you will need a higher dose of iron supplements.
Folate (folic acid) is also an essential nutrient that you need during pregnancy. Folate deficiency increases the risk of your baby acquiring a birth defect of the spinal cord or brain. Thus, you may be prescribed at least 400mcg of folate (folic acid), and may be required to take higher doses (up to 4000mcg) if needed. Just keep in mind that the folate dose of 1000mcg or higher needs your doctor’s prescription.
Prenatal multivitamins containing iron and folate is something that your doctor will recommend, even if you are observing a healthy and adequate diet.
Some women might be skeptical about doing physical exercise, in the fear of harming their baby in the process. The truth is, physical exercise is extremely helpful during pregnancy as it provides both physical and emotional benefits to you. You, along with other pregnant women without complications should be encouraged to do strength-conditioning and aerobic exercises as part of your healthy lifestyle and to maintain a good fitness level all throughout your pregnancy.
Physical benefits of exercise
Physical exercise brings numerous health benefits that you may enjoy during pregnancy.
- Better weight control. Your body carries your baby for 9 months, nourishing it and helping it grow and develop. Excess weight can cause problems during pregnancy as it can get in the way of you body taking care of your baby.
- Decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications. Physical exercise during pregnancy has been proven to decrease the risk pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia, hypertension, gestational diabetes, lower back pain, caesarian delivery and more.
- Preparation for the physical demands of the entire pregnancy and motherhood journey. You need enormous physical strength as you undergo labor and delivery. Motherhood, especially for infants is also a tough job that requires all the strength you can muster. Physical exercise during pregnancy will prepare your body for the demands of motherhood.
Emotional benefits of motherhood
Physical exercises do not just provide physical benefits—your emotional health is also being taken care of when you do it. Here are some of the emotional health benefits of exercising:
- Improved mood. Walking at low intensity even for a few minutes can not only increase your energy but also improve your mood. An aerobic exercise for at least 10 minutes can also have a positive effect on your mood.
- Reduced stress. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, says Elle Woods and it is true on so many levels. So, try to go out in the sun and take a walk around the block and notice yourself smile more.
- Lowers the risk of anxiety and depression. You might have heard of post-partum depression, and while this can happen to anyone, there are things you can do to avoid it. Physical exercises help your body release endorphins and other happy hormones and brain chemicals and these can enhance your sense of well-being.
Things to avoid
As physical exercises are recommended for you during pregnancy, there are also some physical activities that you should avoid. It is also important to be mindful of the routines you are doing. Exercises to avoid include weightlifting, martial arts, heavy-lifting, gymnastics, high-altitude training, and supine exercise position. If you are unsure of which exercise routine you should do or avoid, speak with your doctor.
Being cautious about your physical activities also includes being aware of your body’s warning signs. If you are performing physical exercises and experience the following, stop exercising and see your doctor immediately:
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the face, hands, and feet
- Vaginal bleeding
- Walking difficulties
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive fatigue
Clean beauty routine
Many women are fond of skincare and makeup. You could be one of them—with cabinets and drawers full of facial cleansers, moisturizers, foundations, face powders, lipsticks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but during pregnancy, it pays to take the time if the products you’re using are safe for your baby. You also need to consider that there are a lot of changes that are happening to your body, including increased hormone levels that can make your skin drier, more sensitive and decrease its ability to resist dirt.
Start with clean beauty
You might have heard of clean beauty before. You might actually be one of those who are already using clean beauty products. Clean beauty doesn’t have to use natural ingredients, and they don’t necessarily have to be vegan. You just need to check if they contain unwanted ingredients. Here’s the list of ingredients you need to watch out for:
- Parebens – a link between paraben exposure and gestational diabetes mellitus has been found in a 2019 study.
- Fragrances and phthalates – fragrances are usually synthetic chemicals whoel phthalates help fragrances last longer but they are associated with reproductive and hormonal harm in children and men.
- Formaldehyde – usually found in keratin smoothing treatments, formaldehyde is known to be a human carcinogen.
- Petroleum (petrolatum) – these mineral oils are listed as carcinogens by WHO.
- Hydroquinone – usually found in skin-lightening creams and serums, hydroquinone has been linked to cancers, decreased immune response, and certain skin conditions.
- Talc – unpurified talc can be contaminated with asbestos, a known human carcinogen. Studies linked a famous brand of baby powder to cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma because of the talk found in the product.
- Triclosan – commonly found in body soaps and mascaras, it has been linked to liver fibrosis, skin cancers, and hormone disruption.
Recommended skincare routine
So now that your beauty drawers are potentially free of products with unwanted ingredients, you can start establishing your skincare routine. Here are some tips that you can do to keep your skin healthy during pregnancy.
- Moisturize every morning. Even if you are not pregnant, moisturizing right after shower is the most luxurious feeling. Although, during pregnancy, moisturizing your skin can be tricky but remember that you need moisturizing now more than ever. The surge of hormones, the expanding and stretching of some of the parts of your body can cause your skin to be dry, tight, and even itchy. Use a rich, pregnancy-safe moisturizer and apply it all over your skin both morning and night, and as needed.
- Do not skip exfoliation at least once a week. Pregnant or not, exfoliation is important for your skin. It removed dead skin cells and other impurities that clog your pores. Exfoliate your skin at least once a week so that your other beauty product can seep deeper through your unclogged pores.
- Minimize your stretch marks and scarring. Some women treat their scarring and stretch marks as battle scars and are proud of them. You should too, but there is absolutely nothing wrong too if you want to minimize them. Apart from your rich moisturizer, you can also apply oils and serums that especially formulated to treat scarring and stretch marks.
Get some rest and always have a good night sleep
Pregnant women are recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a day. However, several factors can affect these numbers like genetics, your sleep quality, and all the symptoms that change in your body are happening.
Sleep expectations during pregnancy
If you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, let go of your worries because it might just be normal. Here’s what to expect from your sleeping pattern while you’re pregnant.
First trimester: Your placenta is growing and your body would crave a huge amount of rest and sleep. During this period, you’d always feel sleepy and you’d notice wanting to take naps more than usual and going to bed earlier. The best thing to do is to just give in to this urge and give your body the rest it needs.
Second trimester: During this period, you’d notice that you are gradually going back to your normal sleep routine. The sudden urge to take a nap more than usually is gone. However, as your baby and abdomen grow, you might experience interrupted sleep as you’d need to go to the bathroom a little bit more than usual.
Third Trimester: As you enter this period, you’d feel more tired than usual due to lack of sleep. Different factors could be affecting the quality of your sleep, including back pain, baby kicks, leg cramps, and a more frequent urge to go to the bathroom.
How to get better sleep during pregnancy
Considering all the factors mentioned above, you can still do something to get the quality sleep you need while you’re pregnant. Below are some suggestions:
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. All bedrooms should be sleep-friendly, as it is the place where we do just that—sleep. If you do not have enough time, money, and energy to paint your bedroom to a cooler and more neutral color, then you might just want to add curtains that it’ll do the trick. Declutter your bedroom and make sure that everything is in its place so as not to distract you while trying to sleep. Use cotton beddings especially in warmer months, so you’d be comfortable as you sleep at night.
- Remove electronics near your bed. Most of us are fond of using our phones before bedtime, and as much as it gives us enjoyment, it is not a healthy habit. Keep your electronics away from your bed at avoid using them at least 90 minutes before bedtime. Remember that blue light imitates the daytime light so closely that your body thinks it’s still the day when you should already be sleeping.
- Relieve your stress. There are times when you get too stressed that it affects your sleep quality. Physical activities like exercising can help you release endorphins which in turn help in reducing stress. If you’re not into exercising, mindfulness meditation or massage therapy can also help relieve your stress.
- Get yourself a pregnancy pillow. A pregnancy pillow supports your changing shape; thus, it can provide you with the kind of comfort that only you and other pregnant women understand.
Self-care is the most important thing you should do for yourself, and so much so before, during and after pregnancy (post-partum period).
Keep in mind that you are growing and taking care of a tiny human being inside of you, so you have that to consider as well. Always be mindful of what you put inside your body—what you eat and what you drink can affect your health and your baby’s development. Your physical activities also play a big role in keeping yourself and your baby healthy, so speak with your doctor and discuss what kind of physical activity you can do depending on your pregnancy risks.
However, the most important of all is to just cherish each moment of this journey. Give yourself all the love you need and deserve, as it will also transpire with your baby. Enjoying the gift of motherhood is the best way to take care of this miracle.