Sound nutrition, regular exercise, reduced anxiety, nourishing sleep—chances are, you’re well aware of the standards of self-care.
But those basics amplify in importance when you’re not only caring for yourself but also for the baby you’re nurturing. From avoiding high-mercury foods to dodging secondhand smoke, every decision you make during your pregnancy can have an effect on your child.
Here are eight healthy pregnancy tips to enhance your and your little one’s health:
1. Invest in a scale
For some women, getting pregnant is synonymous with permission to have German chocolate cake for breakfast and snack with abandon long past nightfall. But “eating for two” is a misnomer and potentially deleterious to your and your baby’s health. You want to eat enough to help them grow to a healthy size but excessive weight gain can increase your risk for gestational diabetes, render your pregnancy uncomfortable and complicate your delivery.
Gaining too little weight, on the other hand, can be just as damaging, upping your child’s chances of a low birth rate and the developmental issues that often accompany it. To that end, purchase a scale or use the one you’ve got to track your weight. Additionally, check in with your doctor to ensure you’re gaining at an ideal rate.
2. Strengthen your pelvic floor
Pre-pregnancy, may not have given much thought to your pelvic floor—that diamond-shaped cluster of muscles and ligaments that supports your bladder, womb, and bowels—but the region takes on a utilitarian and crucial role when you’re expecting. Bolstering your strength though consistent pelvic floor exercises may lead to an easier delivery, a diminished chance of incontinence in the future, and accelerated post-birth recovery.
3. Find savvy ways to indulge cravings
The cliché of midnight runs for pickles and ice cream exists for a reason: Shifting hormones and, it’s believed, possible nutritional deficiencies, can drive a vegetarian, gluten-free mama-to-be to ordering an extra-large pepperoni pizza. If your diet is healthy overall, giving into those cravings here and there—while staying mindful of portion size—shouldn’t be much of a problem.
But at the same time, it’s essential to think outside the box—the ice box, that is—when it comes to cravings. A desire for sweets may be your body’s way of signaling that your state of happiness has declined, for example; remedy it with non-food, mood-boosting tactics, such as savoring a long walk in a nearby park, meeting a close friend for lunch or getting a prenatal massage.
4. Hydrate like a marathon-runner
Nourishment doesn’t just arrive from food, exercise, social connections and sleep: It also comes in the form of the healthy fluids you put in your body. Making sure that you’re drinking enough water can ward off constipation and, as Today reports, “provide for the expanding blood volume that carries nutrients and oxygen to both the mother and baby.” Tired of plain old water? Add a slice of lemon, cucumber and mint to your next glass: All have a cooling effect that may help with those “I’m so hot I could faint” sensations.
5. Read the ingredients on your personal-care products
You’ve committed yourself to going alcohol-free, you’re no longer in charge of the litter box, and you’re making a point to stay away from places that might put you in contact with toxins (hello, casino floors). But what about your personal care products? Makeup, cleansers, lotions—all may contain compounds that could be injurious to your and your baby’s health. Aim for scent and synthetic-free products, and toss anything that contains perfumes, dyes and those “unpronouncables,” such as phthalates and parabens. The same rule of thumb out to be applied to your cleaning suppliess.
6. Take a prenatal vitamin
It may be impossible to consider but the fact is, you’re growing a complex, beautiful human being whose future depends on how you treat them while they’re growing. Prenatal vitamins are a big and important part of this process, supporting everything from healthy vision to blossoming brain function. One to consider? Vitacost’s ROOT2 Vegetarian Prenatal DHA, which is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids that support healthy fetal development.
7. Get outside
The benefits of nature cannot be overstated—just look at the growing trend of forest bathing—and they’re especially critical (and wonderful-feeling) during pregnancy. Part of this is due to getting sufficient vitamin D. Known as the Sunshine Vitamin, this nutrient serves a key task in terms of bone health, overall health, and your baby’s future health. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reports that the need for vitamin D is even greater during pregnancy. With that in mind, spend at least fifteen minutes each day outside—preferably while getting some exercise, with a friend, or with a book that cultivates hopefulness and confidence. Which brings us to the next point:
8. Use your “off” time with care
In the latter part of your pregnancy, you may choose to slow down at work or with social engagements. This is your time to nest, of course—hence your increased interest in that adorable nursery—but it’s also a great time to get acquainted with what awaits you. Reading books on child development and parenting won’t provide you with a user’s manual on raising your offspring but it may give you tips, information, and insights that will prove to be invaluable. Visit your library, ask for recommendations from moms you trust, peruse the parenting “shelf” of Amazon and select titles that both align with your principles and might expand your knowledge. It’s power, after all—for the present, and for what lies ahead.