Being pregnant with your first child is an incredibly magical and transformative experience.
In reality, if you don’t know what to expect, it can be hard to find useful pregnancy tips.
Young mothers will do anything for their unborn child, but the best course of action isn’t always straightforward. While doctors recommend plenty of supplements and prenatal vitamins, there are simple things you can do every day to give your baby a fighting chance.
How Your Body Changes During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is the greatest feat our bodies can go through. At any rate, as your baby grows inside you, your body has to change and grow to make room for him/her.
Here’s what to expect during your pregnancy (1,2):
During the first trimester:
- Light spotting or vaginal bleeding
- Experience more extreme senses of taste and smell
- Mood swings
- Super-sore breasts
- Faintness and dizziness
- Frequent urination
- Bulging veins on your hands and feet
- Flushed and plump skin
- Feeling bloated
- Blurry vision
- Feeling clumsier (shift in your center of gravity)
- Increased feeling of happiness
- Skin darkening around your nipples, areolas, navel, armpits and inner thighs
- Skin tags and growths
- Butterflies in your belly
- Stomach rumblings or indigestion
- Swelling in your lower abdomen
- Pregnant belly “pops”
- Sharp pains in your hip, abdomen or groin
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Lower blood pressure
- Low energy
- Low libido
- Sore ribs as your rib cage expands to make room for your ever-growing uterus
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Leaky breasts (colostrum)
- Itchy skin
- Urine leakage
- Increased appetite
- Braxton Hicks contractions
- Lumpy breasts
If you experience anything abnormal during your pregnancy or if your body doesn’t quite feel right, call your doctor right away and don’t take any chances.
Having A Healthy Pregnancy
In order to grow and deliver a healthy baby, you have to be healthy yourself.
Growing babies require plenty of energy and large sums of vitamins and minerals to develop properly. Hence, it’s important to watch what you eat throughout the pregnancy process.
Since giving birth is a very physical feat, it’s a good idea to stay fit and flexible to prepare yourself. Exercising will also loosen up tight muscles and provide some relief from pregnancy back pain (3).
Plus, being stressed can trigger a miscarriage or other complications since your body can’t sustain life while you’re in fight-or-flight mode. This includes impaired brain development (4).
To find out how to have a healthy pregnancy, follow these prenatal care tips.
21 Pregnancy Tips
These pregnancy tips will help you achieve good health and feel as comfortable as possible.
1. Adjust Your Sleeping Position
As your baby grows and your body adjusts, it can be difficult to feel comfortable, especially at night.
Sleeping on your back can put extra stress on your body and baby, especially when it some to your breathing. Sleeping on your belly isn’t comfortable either (5).
While you can get away with just about any position in the first semester, you should exclusively sleep on your left side during the third trimester (6).
First of all, the side-sleep position keeps your spine straight to reduce back pain and increases nutrient and blood flow to the placenta. Better yet, use a pregnancy pillow to make you as comfortable as possible and offer support to your knees, abdomen, and back. You might also find comfort by sleeping in the fetal position.
If you need to, feel free to nap to get all the rest your body needs before your child comes into the world.
2. Prenatal Exercise
Exercise is essential for a great pregnancy and birth. It’s actually very safe to exercise while pregnant. In fact, it will help you control your weight, improve circulation, boost your mood, and give you a good night’s sleep. It’s also a great way to relieve muscle pain and increase endurance you’re the birthing process.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of pilates, yoga, walking, or a mild workout every day. Before trying another exercise, talk to your doctor to make sure you don’t overdo it.
3. Write up a Birth Plan
As your pregnancy progresses, giving birth can feel daunting. But if you plan it out in advance, it can help take some of the edge off. Writing your birthing plan will allow you to feel more in control of the situation and keep you and your family on the same page.
Here are a few things to consider in your birth plan (7):
- Who you want present, including children or siblings of the baby
- Procedures you want to avoid
- What positions you prefer for labor and delivery
- Special clothing you’d like to wear
- Whether you want music or a special focal point
- Whether you want pain medications, and what kind
- What to do if complications arise
4. Practice Kegels
In short, Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to support your bladder, bowels, uterus, and vagina.
According to the Baby Center: “Kegels may help keep hemorrhoids at bay and possibly speed healing after an episiotomy or tear during childbirth because they improve circulation to your rectal and vaginal area.” (8)
These exercises can also prevent pregnancy-related urinary stress incontinence,
Here’s how to do Kegels them right:
- Start with an empty bladder.
- Pretend that you’re trying to stop yourself from passing gas and interrupt the flow of urine at the same time – it’s a sensation of squeezing and lifting.
- If you’re not sure you’ve got it, one way to check is by inserting a clean finger into your vagina then doing a Kegel. If you feel pressure around your finger, you’re on the right track.
- Hold the pressure for 10 seconds and release for another 10.
- Practice any time of the day, while you’re on the couch or sitting at your desk.
5. Track Your Weight Gain
The saying goes “you’re eating for two”, but it’s not exactly true. According to Web MD “The average pregnant woman needs only about 300 healthy calories more a day than she did before she was pregnant.” (9) Of course, you will experience weight gain during pregnancy.
How much pregnancy weight you should gain depends on your body type before getting pregnant:
- Average weight mother weight gain: 25 to 35 pounds
- Underweight moms: 28-40 pounds
- Overweight pregnant women: 15-25 pounds
And here’s how the weight gets distributed:
- Baby: 8 pounds
- Placenta: 2-3 pounds
- Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds
- Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds
- Blood supply: 4 pounds
- Stored fat for delivery and breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds
- Larger uterus: 2-5 pounds
6. Change Your Shoes
As your belly grows and your center of gravity changes, your feet take on extra pressure. This extra stress can make your arches fall, which flattens out your feet. Pregnancy also causes edema, which makes your feet and ankles swell.
As such, your favorite shoes probably won’t fit as they should, so replace them for comfortable, flat shoes.
7. Skip The Sauna
Being too warm is a bad idea for pregnant women. In fact, a body temperature of 101º F and above during the first trimester can increase your risk of birth defects (10). If you want to head to the sauna, visit one with low-temperature options and speak to your doctor first.
8. Eat Folate-Rich Foods
Any doctor will tell you that folate (folic acid) is essential for fetal development and red blood cell formation. During pregnancy, you’ll have to increase your intake of the vitamin by 200 mcg daily (11).
Foods high in folic acid include beans, peas, yeast, soybean, spinach, artichoke, and asparagus.
9. Cut Caffeine
Simply put, caffeine can worsen your baby’s kicks and punches. Additionally, as a stimulant and a diuretic, caffeine increases your risk of dehydration. Caffeine addiction can also lead to “birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, and increase the risk of low-birth weight offspring and other reproductive problems.”(12)
If quitting caffeine is too hard, wean off the chocolate and coffee and stay below 150 mg – 300 mg of caffeine daily.
10. Stretch your Legs Before Bed
Nighttime leg cramps are all-to-common during the second and third trimester. You can prevent them by stretching your calf and foot before bed every night (13).
Here’s how to do a great stretching routine:
- To start, stand at arm’s length from a wall, place your hands on the wall in front of you and move your right foot behind your left foot.
- Slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel on the floor.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, being careful to keep your back straight and your hips forward.
- Don’t rotate your feet inward or outward and avoid pointing your toes.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Afterward, meditate or do some bedtime yoga.
11. Indulge in Omega-3s
Fish doesn’t appear on most pregnancy diets, but it should. “In a study of almost 12,000 pregnant women, children born to those who ate less than two servings of fish a week didn’t do as well on tests of intelligence, behavior, and development as children born to mothers who ate fish at least twice a week.,” reports the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (14).
That’s because fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for proper brain function and development. To get all the benefits of omega-3s, eat up to 12 ounces weekly of shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, and other low-mercury fish. You can also try vegetarian food high in omega 3. On the other hand, stay away from shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish.
12. Stay Away from Soft Cheeses and Lunch Meat
Some foods may contain bacteria and additives that can hurt your baby.
To stay safe, don’t eat:
- Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, and goat cheese
- Uncooked or undercooked meats or fish
- Lunch meats and hot dogs
13. Protect Your Skin
Your skin is more sensitive to the sun when pregnant. This means that you’ll be prone to burning and chloasma (skin discoloration). Above all, protect your skin with an all-natural sunscreen, wide hat and cover-up, and moisturize with organic skin care. You’ll also want to avoid going outside during peak sun hours for healthy skin throughout your pregnancy.
14. Fly During your Second Trimester
Ah, the age-old question: can you fly while pregnant?
According to the Mayo Clinic, flying while pregnant is safest during your second trimester, after morning sickness has subsided. At this time, your fetus is well implanted and growing steadily, ensuring that you won’t suffer from early complications (15).
You can also travel early into the third trimester, as long as it’s before the 36th week. Before flying pregnant, speak to your doctor, check with your airline, stay hydrated, and walk regularly to promote circulation.
15. Indulge in Some of your Cravings
We all know what it’s like to be craving sweets. But, sometimes, cravings are your body’s way of saying that it needs specific nutrients. To make your growing child has all he/she needs, cave in once in a while.
16. Know When To Ask For Help
Your body will communicate with you if there’s anything wrong with your baby. Luckily, with early intervention, many of these complications can be handled quickly and remedied.
Call your doctor if you (16):
- Have signs of preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition, such as
sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet, visual problems (such as dimness or blurring) or severe headache.
- Have pain, cramping, or fever with bleeding from the vagina.
- Pass some tissue from the uterus.
- Think or know you have a fever.
- Vomit more than 3 times a day or are too nauseated to eat or drink, especially if you also have fever or pain.
- Have an increase or gush of fluid from your vagina. It is possible to mistake a leak of amniotic fluid for a problem with bladder control.
- Have any vaginal bleeding or an increase in your usual amount of vaginal discharge.
- Experience pelvic pain that doesn’t get better or go away.
- Itch all over your body (usually in the evenings at first, then throughout the day as well) with or without dark urine, pale stools, or yellowing of skin or eyes.
- Experience painful or frequent urination or urine that is cloudy, foul-smelling, or bloody.
- Feel unusually weak.
17. Treat Yourself
Pregnancy can be rough, as your muscle ache, your moods change expectantly, and your bladder gets full faster. To stay cool through it all, treat yourself with little relaxing activities every day. Take a nice warm bath, drink some calming peppermint or chamomile tea, and enjoy some pampering “me” time.
18. Get Out The Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a great way to hydrate your skin as it expands to accommodate your growing belly. Better yet, this habit will help prevent stretch marks and help your skin bounce back after giving birth.
19. Go Swimming
Swimming creates a weightless environment to stretch your muscles, ligaments, and joints. Also, the sport relieves aches and pains and keeps you active.
20. Stay Away From Toxins
To avoid exposing your unborn child to toxic chemicals, stop using chemical cleaning solutions and avoid paint fumes. You can also use natural remedies for common ailments and tell your general practitioner that you’re pregnant to avoid x-rays and other questionable treatments.
It’s also important to stay away from (17):
- Androgens and testosterone derivatives, such as danazol
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as enalapril and captopril
- Coumarin derivatives, such as warfarin
- Folic acid antagonists, methotrexate, aminopterin
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- Organic mercury
- Streptomycin and kanamycin
- Trimethadione (no longer available in the U.S.) and paramethadione
- Valproic acid
- Vitamin A and its derivatives, such as isotretinoin, etretinate, retinoids
- Fertilizers and pesticides
- Oral contraceptives
- Nail polish
21. Try a Pregnancy Massage
Getting a prenatal massage “can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health,” says the American Pregnancy Association (18).
A maternity massage can also increase blood and lymph flow, fight nerve pain, and reduce swelling. Just be sure to visit a certified massage therapist familiar with prenatal massage. She should not use any juniper, rosemary, and clary sage essential oils during the massage.
To stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, make sure to follow these pregnancy tips, go to all your doctor’s appointments, and listen to your body throughout. Don’t push yourself too hard, especially during your first trimester. Most of all, stay calm and relaxed as much as possible. It’ll all pay off once you have your newborn in your arms!