If there is ever a time to be healthy, it’s during your pregnancy. However, those first few months can prove to be quite testing with regards to maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Some people get it real bad with nausea, vomiting and fatigue all day, and others experience none of the sort. As for me, I had nausea and fatigue all day which lasted up until 15 weeks – it could have been worse, I could have had vomiting as well. Gotta look on the bright side!
With that being my ‘new normal’, I had to change some things up and give myself a lot of grace as my body was going through all those early changes. For those first 15 weeks, my routine and eating habits changed slightly but I tried my best to nourish and nurture my body to the best that I could.
Below I share how I’ve maintained a healthy lifestyle throughout this pregnancy in the following ways:
During that first trimester I tried my best to maintain my original way of eating (which is mostly grain, sugar and dairy free) but needed to adapt it slightly according to what I could and couldn’t stomach. For example I found that cheese really helped with keeping the nausea at bay and was a great nutrient-dense snack. Brown rice crackers were a great bland option for when I really felt nauseas as well as a go-to emergency snack I could keep on hand.
Before getting pregnant I would eat a predominantly higher fat, lower carb diet (with stacks of vegetables) as this is what worked for me and gave me the most energy. But during those first few months of pregnancy a lot of that was tossed out and I needed more fruit and other carbs to sustain me. I therefore became a lot more flexible with my eating so that I could get in a variety of foods during this time.
I began to zone in on my nutrition again, focusing largely on nutrient-dense foods that serve a purpose in my body.
- Green leafy vegetables (for folate, fibre, vitamins and minerals)
- Eggs (for omegas and protein)
- Nuts and seeds (for omegas, fibre, vitamin E and magnesium)
- Coconut oil (for healthy fats – see lauric acid)
- Butter (for healthy fats)
- Fish and meat (for omegas and protein)
- Starchy veg like sweet potatoes and butternut (for vitamins, minerals and energy)
- Coconut and almond milk (for healthy fats)
- Dates (for energy, folate and fibre)
- Dark chocolate (for magnesium)
- Cinnamon, turmeric and ginger (for antioxidant and anti-flammation properties)
- Prenatal multivitamin (this one is my favourite)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (for probiotics and digestive enzymes)
- Spirulina (for vitamins and minerals)
It’s not just about getting your 7 or 8 hours every night, it’s about making sure those 7 or 8 hours are good quality.
This is something I am hugely passionate about and believe would solve a lot of health problems if people got it right. Because the thing is, it’s not just about getting your 7 or 8 hours every night, it’s about making sure those 7 or 8 hours are good quality. And this is super important during pregnancy so that your body can actually cope with all the changes and a growing human inside of you!
A night-time routine is crucial for optimal sleep. Getting to bed around the same time every night is really helpful as well as setting up a routine before bed that triggers your brain to start readying the body for sleep.
I make sure to start readying my body for sleep around an hour before I plan to get to bed. Below is my night-time routine that sets me up for optimal sleep:
- Electronics (tv, phone, computer etc.) off by 8:30pm
- Bath or shower
- Oral hygiene (floss, tongue scraper, oil pulling, brush teeth etc.)
- Read a book and/or chat with hubby in bed
- Sleep by 9:30
You might think I’m crazy for going to bed so early, but I get up pretty much at the crack of dawn (around 5:30/6) and get started on my day feeling super energised. This is what works for ME, find what works best for you and stick to it – your body will thank you!
I found that I needed more sleep during the first trimester and so I listened to my body and gave it that extra time (after getting up at 5am for a snack, of course) 😉
Skin health during pregnancy can really take a knock what with all the hormones racing through your body. Eating good food and staying hydrated is crucial for healthy skin but there are some other things I have been doing to ensure that my skin feels great:
- Spend a little time in the sun, including exposing my belly (vitamin D helps prevent stretch marks amongst other things)
- Apply vitamin E oil daily to growing belly (this keeps skin smooth and supple to prevent stretch marks)
- Moisturise body with coconut oil
- Use chemical free face and body products
Something you may not know about me – I am a classic Type A. That and a tendency towards anxiety is not a good mix. I’ve done quite a bit of work in this area to tone it down in order to heal a variety of things in my body.
But when I got pregnant I often found myself feeling quite guilty for not keeping up the pace I had before. It was my husband who gave me a figurative slap across the face (he is super kind and gentle so it was more like a stern statement) by telling me that I could not continue with my pre-pregnancy pace. He sternly but lovingly told me that I needed to take it easy. What a relief it was getting that ‘permission’ from him. Sounds silly but I needed it.
In the first trimester, I felt like I could nap all day even after getting a really good night’s sleep. Due to the fact that I work for myself and have a super flexible schedule, I chose to listen to my body and took a nap when I needed to.
Taking it easy during this time is so important so as to allow your body to do what it needs to for the baby.
Here are some key lifestyle changes I have made to intentionally get more rest:
- Sleep until I wake up naturally
- Take naps if I need to
- Asking for help with things i.e. dishes, cleaning, carrying, cooking etc.
- Not over-extending myself for people (I tend to be somewhat of a people pleaser)
- Keeping track of unrestful thoughts and changing them
- Doing more calming activities in the day (yoga, deep breathing, reading, swimming etc.)
Deep breathing has been such a useful tool in my life but especially during this pregnancy. Another word for it is diaphragmatic breathing and involves taking slow deep breaths in through your nose and slowly releasing back out either through your nose or mouth. This stimulates the vagus nerve and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). It helps to bring your heart rate and cortisol down, relaxes the muscles in the body and helps to boost energy.
I try to do this multiple times in the day, especially when I feel myself getting stressed or anxious or if I just need a mental boost to continue with work.
Check out this link for three breathing exercises you can incorporate into your day.
Being pregnant can be scary. It brings out so many doubts and fears and often forces one to face things that have been suppressed. What I have found to be most helpful in dealing with all of this is my faith. I love that I can surrender these things to God and trust that he will take care of me. Prayer, meditation and reading the bible having been my go-to tools when anxious thoughts, uncertainty and overwhelm creep in.
Did you know that regular exercise during pregnancy can boost your baby’s athletic potential? Research has also shown that it helps with your baby’s brain development. Not only that, but there are a vast range of benefits (including but not limited to an easier labour and delivery) that exercise has for the pregnant mum.
Exercise has always been a big part of my life, ingrained into my routine. So it wasn’t difficult for me to continue with exercise throughout this pregnancy. The first trimester was of course a little harder and at times I had to really convince myself to get in a workout. But it was always worth it. During that time I slowed things right down by doing much lower impact exercise like walking, yoga and pilates instead of my usual weight training, speed walking and jogging.
After those first few months I regained my energy and picked up my exercise a bit more, making sure to get a workout in 6 days a week. I have been doing the following since the end of trimester one:
- At home yoga (once or twice a week)
- At home pilates (once a week)
- At home body weight strength workout (once a week)
- Walking (once or twice a week)
- Weight training with light weights (once a week)
Each of these types of exercise have been modified for pregnancy so I am not pushing myself nearly as hard as I was before. I make sure to take it slow and listen to my body to prevent injury or over-working myself.
At the moment (33 weeks) I am finding it difficult to walk for more than 15 minutes. So I have adjusted my workouts to be more stationary and will incorporate short bouts of walking in the day (often just walking to the store or a cafe) for extra movement.
The most important thing you can do is pay attention to what your body needs. Do your research, try out certain things and go with what feels good. Everyone’s body and pregnancy is so unique and so a one-type-fits-all approach makes no sense and can actually be dangerous.
To sum it up, here are the key aspects of a healthy pregnancy in my opinion:
- Eat nutritious foods
- Prioritise quality sleep
- Get ample rest
- Incorporate deep breathing
- Tap into your spirituality
- Move your body
I hope this is helpful for you whether you are expecting or planning to get pregnant in the future. Let me know what you have found to be useful in having a healthy pregnancy!