In an ideal world, we’d all sail happily through healthy pregnancy, enjoying a diet of healthy wholefoods and working out 3 – 4 times a week, whilst hitting our daily water intake target. Unfortunately, for many women, particularly during the first trimester, morning sickness and fatigue can make this easier said than done and by the third trimester back ache, soreness and other pregnancy ailments are also common. However, making healthy tweaks to your habits before and during pregnancy can have benefits that may include an easier labour, more energy and the ability to lose the post-partum weight faster.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Growing another human really is tiring work, but whilst some pregnant women are so fatigued they have to take frequent naps to get through the day, other women experience a number of sleep disturbances ranging from everything from increased need to urinate, restless legs, inability to get comfortable due to their growing size or aches and pains, to experiencing vivid dreams or nightmares.
However, getting enough sleep can be critical to both your physical and mental health during pregnancy, especially if you have other children to care for. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, not getting enough sleep during pregnancy could put you at higher risk for pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Lack of sleep is also associated with longer labours and higher rates of caesarean sections.[i]
Advice on stablishing good sleep habits during pregnancy is much the same as before pregnancy. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, limit watching television or blue light emissions from phones or devices before bed and create an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation. Meditation is a great way to wind down before bed, and many free apps or Youtube videos can be found online to help get you started.
Pregnancy pillows can be helpful in supporting your growing body during sleep and helping you to get comfortable to sleep on your side.
From 28 weeks of pregnancy onwards, pregnant women should avoid sleeping on their back and instead opt to sleep on their side. Several international scientific studies have shown that women who go to sleep in the supine position (on their back), have between 2.5 and 8-times higher chance of having a stillborn baby compared to women who go to sleep in another position.[ii] The reason for this is that when a woman lies on her back, the weight puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, which can reduce blood flow and oxygen to the uterus, placenta and baby by up to 80%.
Exercise during your pregnancy is not only good for you and your baby, and may help you to sleep better, it may also be a great way to take care of your mental health.
‘Researchers have shown that exercises performed during pregnancy have a positive impact on the health of the mother and child, regular physical activity also minimises the risk of developing depression. WHO recommends 150 mins of moderate physical activity or 75 mins of intense training per week. Unfortunately, despite many positive recommendations and guidelines regarding physical activity during pregnancy, currently less than 15% of pregnant women are physically active for a minimum of 150 mins during the week.’[iii]
Some recommended exercises are:
- Gentle walking for approximately 30 minutes every couple of days. This can be done all in one go or 3 lots of 10 minutes of walking.
- Gentle Pilate moves such as
Hands and Knees Cross-Over.
Replace Sugar Loaded Snacks with Wholefoods
We’re not saying that you should avoid sugar altogether, but becoming mindful of the food you reach for and substituting less healthy options for whole food alternatives is a great way to improve your diet during pregnancy. Evidence has been found that sugar consumption during pregnancy may contribute to gestational weight gain and the development of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth.[iv] A recent study also found that increased sugar consumption may have a negative effect on your child’s memory and intelligence.[v]
Drink Plenty of Water
During pregnancy women need to consume even more water than normal, so that their body can form amniotic fluid, flush out wastes and toxins, build new tissue, produce extra blood, and carry nutrients. Plus ensuring you stay hydrated can also help you avoid or ease pesky pregnancy related issues such as constipation and mild hemorroids. The Institute of Medicine recommends around 10 cups a day of total liquid for pregnant women, which is around 2.3 litres.
Womens’ bodies undergo a myriad of physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy, so self-care is particularly important during this time. Tweaking your daily dietary habits and water intake, engaging in gentle exercise, and making sleep a priority, can not only benefit the health of you and your baby, these measures may also be an important factor in maintaining good mental health at a time when many women are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information provided on this website is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters we recommend consulting with your local healthcare professional.