Books, magazines, and friends throw a hundred different pieces of advice at a pregnant woman. Do this. Don’t do this. This may help. That won’t help. In the middle of all this advice, pregnancy may seem complicated and confusing. But sometimes, the simplest pieces of advice are overlooked. What is the best thing you can do to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy? Exercise and eat well.
Exercising for a Healthy Pregnancy
Exercise during your pregnancy can help reduce discomfort and increase your strength for labour. The International Food Information Council Foundation recommends that pregnant women do thirty minutes of moderate physical activity every day (or nearly every day). Pregnant exercise may get more difficult as your growing tummy gets in the way, but you can adjust your workout or type of exercise to accommodate baby.
Pick exercises that are easy on your body and your baby. Walking is gentle; running is jarring. Water exercise like aquafit is a good choice because the water cushions your body, while also providing resistance to give you a good workout. I started doing aquafit during my first pregnancy and have enjoyed it on and off since then. Other gentle exercise choices include biking, weights, and resistance machines.
If you’ve never exercised before, start carefully. Pick something that you are comfortable doing (e.g., if you hate water, don’t go for aquafit). Don’t push yourself too hard. Consult your doctor if you have any pain or concerns.
In your third trimester, pregnancy toning can help you prepare key muscles for labour. You can also look around your local area for prenatal exercise classes. These are sometimes offered through local community centres, baby stores, or fitness centres.
Eating Well for a Healthy Pregnancy
Most women think that, while they are pregnant, they need to eat for two. However, you only need to increase your calorie intake by 15% or 300 calories, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. That’s equivalent to about two granola bars or an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana. Instead of trying to eat more, try eating smaller meals, with small snacks in between—like your baby will when he or she is born.
Listen to your body telling you when you are hungry or not. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. If you are hungry—don’t stuff yourself; eat slowly until you feel your body tell you that you’ve had enough. I kept a few granola bars or Nutribars in my office drawer or purse so that I could snack as I needed to, which also helped stave off nausea.
Another good idea is to make healthy, delicious swaps in your food choices. For example, try making your own snacks and chocolates with wholesome, healthy ingredients, instead of buying processed foods. Add more vegetables to your meals. I like keeping baby carrots in my fridge as a quick and easy snack option. Other ideas include celery and peanut butter (protein and a vegetable, which could help with morning sickness) or broccoli with homemade dip.
Vitamins are also an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Make sure that you are taking a good multivitamin or prenatal vitamin. If you have questions about the vitamin, ask your doctor for his recommendations on what vitamin to take or what to look for in a vitamin. One key ingredient in your vitamin should be folic acid, as this is crucial to your baby’s developing brain. Some women find that a whole foods supplement is easier on their stomachs than standard vitamins.
Eat a healthy breakfast to start your morning right. If morning sickness is a problem, try eating breakfast in bed. Have a piece of toast or a small muffin before you climb out of bed.
Did you exercise during your pregnancy? What were your go-to healthy snacks?
I am not a medical doctor; this article is based on my own experience and research during my pregnancies. I encourage you to consult with your maternity care provider about exercise and diet while pregnant.