How to Have a Healthy Natural Pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy isn't luck. Sometimes things happen in pregnancy you're not expecting, and sometimes there are pre-existing conditions. But you can take many steps towards having a healthy, natural pregnancy. This page outlines some of the steps you can take and choices you can make as you grow your baby.
Your Pregnancy Diet
Diet is one of the first things you should pay attention to when you find out you're pregnant. Eating small, frequent snacks that include protein can help with morning sickness in the first trimester, and by about halfway through your pregnancy you should be eating a full, nutritious prenatal diet.
Remember, your meals go to more than just your baby. Your blood volume expands starting in around week 8 of pregnancy; by 28 weeks of pregnancy, you have added 50-60% more blood than you had pre-pregnancy! Your food also nourishes the placenta, umbilical cord, builds your baby's blood supply, supports your body, and helps you keep up with all the extra work your organs are doing to sustain your baby. This blood volume and nourishment to your uterus are vital for a safe, natural birth.
A day with plenty of protein, good fats, salt, and a variety of vegetables forms the basis of a nutritious pregnancy meal plan. Animal foods such as meat, dairy, and fish are important during pregnancy and are packed with far more nutrition gram for gram than plant foods, so they should be part of your pregnancy diet. Plant foods, especially vegetables, are also important as they provide lots of vitamins and minerals. Fat gives you energy, builds your baby's brain, protects you from depression, and allows your body to absorb all the nutrients in your food.
One of the most frequent questions I get in my online birthing classes is “what kind of exercise should I do?” My first piece of advice is always to do what your body tells you to do… in other words, don't push yourself too hard.
But you should do some exercise during pregnancy. It helps your blood volume increase, brings plenty of oxygen to your baby, increases your stamina and endurance for labor (which is an athletic event), and perhaps best of all, keeps you feeling great.
Walking is vital during pregnancy. Walking keeps your pelvis aligned properly, helps your baby line up properly, and generally makes for an easier labor. It's recommended you try to get 3-5 miles of walking in every day. This isn't power walking. It's walking at an easy pace, and can be broken up throughout the day.
It's also good to do some resistance work during pregnancy. Resistance bands, pregnancy-safe kettlebell routines, etc. are good options. Prenatal yoga is a soothing weekly (or daily) routine for many moms, and emphasizes squatting and breathing, two vital pregnancy skills. Prenatal belly dance is one of my favorites for getting your heart safely pumping while bonding with your baby and relishing your beautiful pregnant form.
Emotional Ups and Downs
It's completely normal to have a wide range of feelings during pregnancy – excitement, joy, awe, shock, apprehension, sadness, and happiness. Most of the time pregnancy brings a variety of feelings, and most of the time those feelings are easy to deal with.
But prenatal depression can and does happen. I have always considered pregnancy and babies blessings and enjoyed fairly smooth pregnancies. My fifth pregnancy, however, was a real struggle emotionally for me. I value the experience now because I can help mothers in my classes who are struggling with prenatal or postpartum depression.
In any pregnancy, even the most joyous, start with taking care of yourself physically. Eat well. Make time for walking. Prenatal yoga is also a gentle way to bond with your baby. Get enough sleep and nap if you need to. Here are some tips for enjoying pregnancy:
- Simplify meals – use one-skillet/casserole meals, slow cookers, simple lunches, etc. Pack a cooler with snacks and simple lunches if you'll be at work, on the road, etc.
- Make time to be outside a little every day, even if just to walk to check the mail or walk around the block
- Walk daily, even if only for a little bit. Ease into a prenatal workout routine you enjoy: yoga, belly dance, or any prenatal exercise class/DVD that appeals to you. Don't overdo it and favor resistance work, squatting, and body work over aerobics
- Talk to your baby, write to your baby, read a book on baby care, shop for baby items, etc. – whatever appeals to you. These things help you bond with your baby
- Take birthing classes; childbirth classes help empower you, help you make informed choices, and help you understand how to work with your body and your baby for a safe natural birth and a great start bonding with your baby
More Info on Natural Pregnancy Basics
- Importance of your pregnancy diet
- Balanced prenatal nutrition outline
- Vegetarian pregnancy diet considerations
- Vegan pregnancy diet considerations
- Morning sickness
- Pregnancy weight gain
- A prenatal exercise primer and recommendations
- Pregnancy exercise: what, when, and how
- Handling prenatal depression
- Walking Through Shadows (my personal prenatal depression story).
- Common Pregnancy Complaints
- Planning a Blessingway
Photo by Ben Klocek