Most prenatal mamas understand the importance of regularly seeing their doctor throughout pregnancy. And it’s common knowledge that certain supplements (iron, folic acid, etc.) should be added to the pregnant woman’s diet. But aside from this, many American women are unaware of how to boost their own health during pregnancy. In this post, we take a look at some of the self-care techniques pregnant women can follow to make pregnancy more comfortable and enjoyable. And of course, these self-care habits will also make for a healthier baby, since a healthy mother makes for a healthy child.
1. Practice Prenatal Yoga.
Prenatal yoga offers many different benefits. By setting aside time to practice mindfully moving your body through yoga postures, you can get grounded and offset the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy. Yoga’s systematic approach to stretching and strengthening the whole body means that you’ll also have less soreness and discomfort during pregnancy and labor. Finally, yoga’s strong focus on breath gives prenatal yoga participants a real mental edge heading into labor.
Many of our prenatal yoga students tell us that they really notice a difference when they can’t come to class—more soreness, poorer sleep, and less mental buoyancy are just a few things they experience when they have to miss class. We recommend practicing prenatal yoga at least once a week throughout your pregnancy.
If yoga isn’t your thing, know that the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense activity per week for pregnant women. If you were already more active than that before becoming pregnant, you can probably keep up your workout schedule, assuming your doctor gives the green light. Walking and swimming are two great, low-impact ways to stay active during pregnancy.
2. Get Prenatal Massages Regularly.
Like prenatal yoga, prenatal massage can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Indeed, an article published in the November 2012 issue of Massage Magazine found that prenatal women who did yoga or got massages experienced less anxiety, depression, anger, and back and leg pain that women who got only standard prenatal care. Moreover, birth weight and gestational age were greater among the infants of mothers who had received yoga or massage.
No one ever claimed that pregnancy was comfortable. Prenatal massage helps relieve the pain and stiffness of pregnancy while reducing stress levels.
3. Drink Lots of Water.
During pregnancy, blood volume increases significantly—plasma levels increase by about 50%, while red cell mass increases by about 18%. This not only allows for the increased blood flow to the growing fetus; it also ensures proper blood levels following labor-induced blood loss. To ensure that your body has enough liquid to produce this additional blood—and to maximize your overall health during pregnancy—it’s best to drink at least 64 ounces of liquids per day, or eight 8-ounce cups. Avoid drinking more than 12 ounces of caffeinated liquids per day; there is some evidence that excess caffeine can cause miscarriage. Getting enough liquid during your pregnancy will also help minimize swelling, constipation, hemorrhoids, and your chance of developing a bladder infection.
4. Get plenty of sleep.
You may feel exhausted during different parts of your pregnancy—and no wonder! You’re building a whole new person inside you, so it makes sense that your body will need more rest. As you get further into your pregnancy, side lying will probably be the most comfortable position. To avoid limiting circulation to the uterus, some doctors recommend side sleeping with the left side down. There’s a big blood vessel to the abdomen and uterus running down the right side of the body; lying on your left side keeps this blood vessel open.
5. Watch what you eat.
Like the old adage goes, you are what you eat. And when you’re pregnant, your baby is what you eat, too. A well-rounded diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, and protein is a good idea. Limit fat intake as OHSU research suggests high-fat prenatal diets can increase the rate of stillbirth. This one section of prenatal self-care is complex enough to justify its own blog post, so for now we will refer you to a comprehensive collection of research regarding a healthy prenatal diet.
Just as many Americans are looking to adopt personal habits that are good for preventative health, many new moms hope to maximize their health by visiting our prenatal spa. Southeast Portland (and beyond) families know they can count on us for prenatal massage, yoga, and community support, such as new mom groups. If you’re looking for massage or prenatal yoga, Portland, Oregon new moms, come visit Zenana Spa and Wellness Center. We offer a free week of movement classes (including prenatal yoga) for new students.