11 Tips For Ensuring An Easier Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you probably already know the most basic pregnancy advice: Don’t smoke or be around secondhand smoke. Don’t drink or consume other dangerous substances, and get your rest. (Sleep, after all, is important.) But what else do you need to know?
From taking vitamins to what to do with the kitty litter, here are more than pregnancy tips that can help ensure safe and healthy prenatal development.
1. Take a Prenatal Vitamin
It’s smart to start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you know you’re pregnant. In fact, many experts recommend taking them before you’re pregnant when you’re trying to conceive. This is because your baby’s neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops within the first month of pregnancy, so it’s important you get essential nutrients—like folate, calcium, and iron—from the very start.
Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter at most drug stores, or you can get them by prescription from your doctor. If taking them makes you feel queasy, try taking them at night or with a light snack. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy afterward can help, too
Staying active is important for your general health and can help you reduce stress, improve circulation, and boost your mood. It can also encourage better sleep. Take a pregnancy exercise class or walk at least 15 to 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace—in cool, shaded areas or indoors in order to prevent overheating.
Pilates, yoga, swimming, and walking are also great activities for most pregnant people, but be sure to check with your doctor first before starting any exercise program. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Listen to your body, though, and don’t overdo it.
3. Educate Yourself
Even if this isn’t your first baby, attending a childbirth class will help you feel more prepared for delivery. Not only will you have the chance to learn more about childbirth and infant care, but you can ask specific questions and voice concerns. You’ll also become more acquainted with the facility and its staff. Now is also a good time to brush up on your family’s medical history. Talk to your doctor about problems with past pregnancies, and report any family incidences of birth defects.
4. Practice Kegels
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support your bladder, bowels, and uterus. Done correctly, this simple exercise can help make your delivery easier and prevent problems later with incontinence. The best part: No one can tell you’re doing them—so you can practice kegels in the car, while you’re sitting at your desk, or even standing in line at the grocery store. Here’s how to do them right:
Practice squeezing as though you’re stopping the flow of urine when you use the bathroom. Hold for three seconds, then relax for three. Repeat 10 times.
5. Eliminate Toxins
Because of their link to birth defects, miscarriage, and other problems, you should avoid tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and even solvents such as paint thinners and nail polish remover while pregnant. Smoking cigarettes, for example, decreases oxygen flow to your baby; it’s linked to preterm birth and other complications. A doctor can offer advice and support and refer you to a program that can help you quit.
6. Change Up Chores
Even everyday tasks, like scrubbing the bathroom or cleaning up after pets, can become risky when you’re pregnant. Exposure to toxic chemicals or coming in contact with bacteria can harm you and your baby. Here are some things to take off your to-do-list:
Climbing on step stools and/or ladders
Changing kitty litter (to avoid toxoplasmosis, a disease that can be found in cat feces)
Using harsh chemicals
Standing for long periods of time, especially near a hot stove
Also, wear gloves if you’re working in the yard where cats may have been, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.
7. Check Your Medications
Check with your doctor or midwife before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, supplements, or “natural” remedies. Even OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen should be avoided.
According to the National Health Service, taking this medication during pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage and cause damage to fetal blood vessels. It is best to check with your physician before taking any medication, prescribed or otherwise.
8. Rethink Your Spa Style
Pregnancy is definitely a time for pampering, but you need to be careful. Avoid saunas, which can make you overheat. Ditto for hot tubs. Also, certain essential oils can cause uterine contractions, especially during the first and second trimester, so check with your massage therapist to make sure only safe ones are being used. On the taboo list: juniper, rosemary, and clary sage. The same goes for over-the-counter medicines and supplements containing these herbal remedies. Don’t take them without first consulting your obstetrician or midwife.
9. Eat Well
In addition to drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water each day, you should eat five or six well-balanced meals with plenty of folate-rich foods, like fortified cereals, asparagus, lentils, wheat germ, oranges, and orange juice. Folic acid is crucial for the proper development of the baby’s neural tube—which covers the spinal cord—and is vital for the creation of new red blood cells.
10. Say Yes to Cravings—Sometimes
Truth be told, no one knows why pregnancy cravings happen. Some experts say they are nature’s way of providing nutrients to the expectant parent, particularly nutrients they may be lacking. Others say they’re an emotional thing, driven by hormones or your mood. Regardless, as long as you’re eating an overall healthy diet, it’s usually OK to give in to your cravings.
Just be careful to limit portions—don’t down all that ice cream at once!—and know which snacks to steer clear of. A few foods to avoid: raw and undercooked meat or eggs; brie, feta, and other types of unpasteurized cheese; herbal teas; and raw sprouts.
11. Learn About Postpartum Depression
You’ve probably heard of postpartum depression, but you may not know that 10 percent to 20 percent of expectant people experience symptoms of major depression during pregnancy. This could increase your risk for preterm labor. If you’re feeling inexplicably sad, angry, or guilty—or if you lose interest in activities you usually enjoy or sleep too much—tell your doctor. Therapy, a support group, an antidepressant medication, or a combination of the three will likely help.
That said, not all antidepressants are safe, so be sure to work with a doctor who is familiar with pregnancy-related mental health issues.