Following a full day of work including postpartum rounds and full clinic schedule, supper with the family, bath and tucking our three children into bed it was finally time for me to kick my feet up and relax with my husband. After all, at 38+ weeks pregnant, I was usually exhausted by suppertime. As we began to relax we discussed a few names. Being our fourth baby, trying to agree on a name hasn’t been easy. A few minutes into the “Fuller House” episode on Netflix we started watching, my pager went off. I was needed back at the hospital where I would have the privilege of witnessing a woman transform into a mother while attending her birth. I peeked in at my three sleeping children, kissed my husband goodnight and headed back into work. Life, including work, keeps women busy throughout pregnancy and many women work up until they go into the labor making it important to take good care of yourself and your body throughout the pregnancy.
One of the first things a woman can do for herself during her pregnancy is to ensure she is getting proper nutrition. How much weight you should gain will be based on your starting weight. While now is not the time to restrict calories or go on a diet, pregnancy only increases a woman daily caloric needs by about 300 calories. It is best to make those calories count by eating a well-rounded diet. Your health care provider will give you guidelines as to foods to avoid during pregnancy. Also, make sure to mention any special dietary restrictions during your first appointment so you and your provider can make sure you and you baby are getting all the nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
Another important step in a healthy pregnancy is drinking plenty of fluids especially water. Drinking plenty of water during pregnancy is important to help support the dramatically increasing blood volume of the woman. Drinking plenty of water will also help with some of the common discomforts of pregnancy including swelling, constipation, and dehydration which can lead to contractions.
As important as what goes into your body during pregnancy, it is also important to avoid intake of certain substances during pregnancy. Besides avoiding certain foods during pregnancy, women should also avoid using illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco use during pregnancy has been linked to many problems in pregnancy including miscarriage, fetal growth problems, placental problems and preterm birth. Every cigarette you can cut back at any time during the pregnancy can have a positive effect on the pregnancy. Caffeine intake should also be limited during this time.
Most women can continue to stay active throughout the pregnancy. Doing moderate intensity exercise most days of the week can help a woman have a healthy pregnancy by: keeping weight gain within a healthy range, reducing pregnancy related discomforts, increasing energy, improving sleep, preparing for labor, and decreasing recovery time. Some ideas for low impact moderate intensity exercises that are great in pregnancy include: walking, swimming, yoga, pilates, or pregnancy tailored work out DVDs at home. Most women can safely exercise up until the day they deliver, however make sure you listen to your body during this time as it is going though many changes and drink PLENTY of water!
Just as important as keeping active is during pregnancy, so is getting plenty of rest. Your body is working hard to grow a whole new life! The fatigue you feel usually pretty intensely in the first and third trimesters is your body’s way of naturally telling you to slow down. Nap if able or if you can’t sleep but have time to rest, put your feet up and read a good book, maybe something to prepare for labor and birth or newborn care. After 20 weeks you will need to avoid lying flat on your back and may need to use more than one pillow to help you find a comfortable position.
If you are expecting, it is one of the most important times to take care of yourself, but the work is completely up to you. Make sure you get regular prenatal care and discuss any concerns you may have with your health care provider.