Written by Tara Carnegie
When it comes to taking care of yourself during pregnancy, it can be difficult to determine exactly what you should be doing to ensure the health of you and your baby. Apart from that, it can be confusing to determine which symptoms are of concern and which are typical during pregnancy.
Your overall prenatal health is vital to the safety of you and your baby both during and after pregnancy. This article explores what you can do for your body, what you can do to relieve some of the most common symptoms you'll experience, and other symptoms you should look out for.
Exercise during Pregnancy
Even though you are carrying a child and uterus and may feel like the size of a planet, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends maintaining physical activity during pregnancy. We realize that might be really difficult during your first trimester when you're more tired than usual, and might not want to leave the comfort of your home and pajamas! For some totally workable tips on how to boost your energy and maintain your emotional well-being during this time, check out Babylist's awesome guide to the first trimester.
That means whatever exercise levels you had prior to pregnancy, you should work to maintain those levels of exercise during pregnancy. If you went to the gym twice a week, continue doing that. If you did yoga once a week, continue doing that. If you are a runner, jogger, or tennis player, it is likely that you'll be able to keep up those exercise routines during pregnancy.
But don't start any new workout routines without first asking your doctor, and make sure that none of your workouts are too strenuous or lengthy.
Exercise during pregnancy has several advantages for both you and your growing baby.
One advantage is that during delivery of your baby, pushing will be much easier if your core and legs muscles have been strengthened and your pre-pregnancy weight is easier to achieve after birth if you take care of your body during the pregnancy. While it is not recommended that you work to maintain a low weight during your pregnancy, regular low-intensity exercise can help you control the amount of fat added to your body during those months.
Creating and carrying an unborn child is a great burden on your physical system, so keeping your body in shape will help to ease many pregnancy-related side effects including sore legs, back pain and decreased energy.
Exercising during pregnancy is not a matter of hitting the gym and working up a sweat. You can easily stay fit during your pregnancy by participating in low-impact activities such as yoga, weight lifting (with light weights), swimming and walking.
Yoga during Pregnancy: Yoga has solid health benefits whether you're pregnant or not, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving flexibility, encouraging focused breathing, and promoting healthy stretching. There are modified yoga or modified pilates classes that are specifically designed for pregnant women. These classes will use modified poses that are more ideal during pregnancy and will help you adapt to your altered center of gravity!
If you are going to do yoga during your pregnancy, we suggest avoiding poses that involve being on your back for more than a few minutes, and definitely avoid "hot yoga" or "hot pilates" during pregnancy.
Light weight-lifting during Pregnancy: Most doctors will generally recommend against strenuous lifting during pregnancy. If you're considering lifting weights during pregnancy, this is something you should definitely consult your doctor about. If you do decide to lift weights, we suggest lowering the weight, the repetitions, and the number of sets progressively as you continue through your trimesters.
Swimming during Pregnancy: Swimming or water workouts are an excellent way to stay in shape during pregnancy. Activities in the water involve whole-body exercise, are low-impact, and are very unlikely to lead to injury or strained muscles. Try a water aerobics class, swimming laps, or do your own exercise routine in the local pool!
Walking during Pregnancy. Many pregnant women will walk for exercise, but some find it difficult due to lower back pain. If walking during pregnancy does not give you back pain, then it can be a great way to get outdoors, get moving, and start burning off some extra calories during pregnancy. That fresh air can also help with morning sickness, one of the biggest detractors from being active during pregnancy.
Cycling during Pregnancy. Riding a bike while pregnant can be risky given that your body's center of gravity will be altered and you have an increased risk of injury or muscle strain. A better idea might be to ride a stationary exercise bike at home or the gym.
Morning sickness is often one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and can persist throughout the next nine months. Despite its name, morning sickness does not necessarily happen in the morning. It can happen at any time during the day.
These waves of nausea typically occur during the first trimester and end by the second trimester. However, some women will, unfortunately, experience morning sickness throughout their entire pregnancy.
Normal, run-of-the-mill, morning sickness is not a significant concern when it comes to the health of your baby but it can interfere with the rest of your self-care. If the nausea is beginning to affect your overall health, or you are losing weight because of it, contact a medical professional to discuss home-care or medicinal options.
If you are suffering from morning sickness during your pregnancy, there are a few ways you can attempt to minimize the symptoms:
- Crackers are great to have on hand when nausea hits in case the sickness is caused by hunger. Crackers are easy on the stomach and won’t further upset it.
- Ginger Ale is another good item to have close by. Ginger is often used to calm upset stomachs.
- Water, water and more water! Be sure to take small sips after being sick but it is important to keep your body hydrated.
- Avoid stomach-churning smells and tastes. Your pregnant body is a mess of hormones and even the slightest unpleasant smell may cause feelings of nausea.
- Take it easy and relax. If you are a busy person, this may be your body’s way of telling you to slow down.
Other Pregnancy Health Concerns
Your body is going to do some weird and magical things during your pregnancy and a lot of stress is likely to come from wondering which conditions are normal and which are concerning. Anytime you feel that something is not right, see a doctor immediately. Otherwise, here are some common conditions that you may experience during your pregnancy:
Your body is going to do some weird and magical things during your pregnancy!
Vaginal Bleeding in Pregnancy
For some pregnant woman, spotting may be typical and not necessarily a need for concern. This is a light bleeding that resembles a period and can present itself as red, pink or even brown. However, active bleeding with pain requires a trip to the doctor or hospital. Bleeding can indicate a number of things so it is best to have it checked out.
Stomach Pain and Cramping
While your body is changing to accommodate the growth and arrival of a newborn baby, it’s going to hurt and pull and cramp in many places. Any sort of pain requires some rest but if it persists or becomes extremely uncomfortable, contact your doctor. Whether it’s gas or Braxton Hicks contractions, it’s best to know what is going on.
Morning sickness can cause or exacerbate dehydration due to a loss of fluids and electrolytes in pregnant women. But even if you don’t experience nausea or sickness, it is important to stay hydrated. Prolonged dehydration can cause premature labor and/or distress on the pregnancy, so make sure you are getting your 8 glasses a day.
Urinary Tract Infections, or UTIs, are a common condition for pregnant women but can easily be treated with medication or by drinking lots of fluids such as water and cranberry juice. You’ll know you have a UTI if you notice extreme pain while urinating or that your urine has a foul odor.
Pregnancy is not a sprint, it's a marathon!
The entire process of making and having a baby is a lot of hard work for a woman’s body. Being mindful of how your treating yourself and paying attention to how your body is treating you is important in maintaining health during pregnancy. Use physical activity to develop your strength but listen to your body when it needs to rest and recharge.
If ever you are unsure of whether or not your symptoms are typical or of concern, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or medical practitioner. Maybe your body is telling you slow down but maybe it’s telling you more.