Essential Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Pregnancy
Self-care became quite a trendy topic but simply put, self-care is about choosing what is best for your health. Self-care or looking after ourselves becomes so important during pregnancy.
You need to take care of your body so that your body can take care of the baby growing inside of you. That is obvious. But remember that the physical affects of stress and anxiety are not good for us or our growing babies so it is incredibly important to factor in our mental and emotional health during pregnancy.
With my first baby arriving soon, I want to make sure I am looking after myself to the best of my ability. Every kick reminds me to make better choices and to prioritise my health. We cannot pour from an empty cup, so making sure I am cared for (by myself) means that I can care for my tiny baby better. It is important to be in the best possible condition for the job.
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Here are some self-care ideas to do just for you before your little one makes their arrival! While I have found all of them to be safe for me and my baby, we are all unique. You should consult your doctor/midwife before making any big lifestyle changes during pregnancy.
1. Make yourself a priority
As women, we are natural caretakers of others, pregnancy is the one time in our life that we should ensure our own needs are met first. Taking care of yourself physically is of course important, but taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally is just as vital.
Something that helped me was to make myself a priority. It felt a little selfish sometimes, but I knew that if I didn’t take care of myself mentally and emotionally, I wouldn’t be as healthy. I made time each day to consider how I was feeling and to do what I needed for myself.
2. Have any Aches Treated
It's really not worth it to grin and bear any sort of chronic pain. See a professional, reputable physiotherapist or osteopath and have the issue looked at straight away. You may be lucky to have a women's health physio who specialises in pregnancy related aches and pains nearby. Go see them if you need to.
I recently began to feel pain at my pubic bone, I knew this could potentially get worse. So I booked an appointment to see a nearby Osteopath who works miracles (in my opinion). Within a day or two that pain subsided. 100% worth the visit. They can often fit and supply pelvic/back/belly support belts to see you through the end of pregnancy too.
3. Get an Early Night
There’s no denying you always feel happier and healthier when you wake up after a restful night’s sleep. I know, sleeping while pregnant can be nearly impossible, and very uncomfortable. But setting an earlier bedtime for yourself and getting as much sleep as you can will do wonders. If you can, work an afternoon nap into your schedule.
Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin, and people who are deficient in this neurotransmitter are more likely to suffer from depression. Pregnant women need a few extra hours rest at night, and benefit from naps during the day too. Boost your serotonin levels by making sure you’re getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night during pregnancy.
4. Take a break
I still want to be doing it all, but I really can’t. I burned myself out on two occasions by trying to plough on through long days and ended up having to cancel my classes instead. A tad counterproductive. Be willing to prioritise and let the unimportant things go. I now teach a smaller number of classes and reorganised my schedule into shorter days so I can rest more.
Tackle projects while you have surges of nesting energy, when you need to, take an afternoon to put your feet up and read a book, enjoy an uninterrupted nap or take an evening off from cooking dinner and order in everyone's favourite.
With sleeping becoming nearly impossible at night, allowing yourself this time and mental space to rest and rejuvenate during the day can be just what your batteries need to recharge. Your body and your baby will thank you.
5. Eat a Nutritious Diet
I promise you that eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of quality fibre rich fruit, vegetables, beans and drinking plenty of water will help you feel much more on top of your game. Your baby is depending on you for all of his/her nutrients, and your body can easily become depleted. Think of eating for two as eating enough nutrients for two, especially the rapidly growing little person inside your belly. He/she needs them!
I have actually found it easier to stick to healthy choices now that I am pregnant. I do feel it's my responsibility to nourish my baby well. I take my prenatal supplement every day and now toward the end of my pregnancy I am eating more beef to really top up my iron stores before birth in case I experience a lot of blood loss. I have also begun snacking on dates throughout the day to help prepare my body for labour.
6. Be active every day
Do something to get yourself moving every day! I know that sometimes we have to choose resting, but exercise is good for you and you’ll feel a lot better once you get moving! This may be a morning walk in your local park (lot's of benches) or a relaxing swim. It doesn't have to be overly strenuous exercise.
Look for a local prenatal exercise class. These classes are tailored to suit the needs of your pregnant body, prepare you for labour and birth and often include a relaxation to send you off with a sense of calm, ready for a good night's sleep.
You may like my free Prenatal Workout Series.
7. Make time for the things you love
One of the most daunting things about pregnancy is the overwhelming feeling that your life is about to change drastically. Make sure you keep the hobbies and rituals that give you your sense of who you are.
Whether it’s going to see live music or a film, scheduling an evening of pampering or keeping up with a local book club, it’s important to make small pockets time for the things you enjoy.
8. See your friends.
During the later stages of pregnancy, just getting out of the house can be difficult. Even though you may be exhausted, it's crucial to find the time to spend with your friends before your little one arrives. Human contact and friendship is important for good mental health, so make sure to put in the time to nurture those relationships.
Make a date with your besties for lunch, dinner or even a spa day – while you have the time to do so! If you can't face heading out, organise a chilled girls night in, order take away, put on some good music and relax with them. Aim to regularly phone or send a quick text to family and old friends, staying connected to your circle of friends and having a good chat will calm any worries you may be feeling.
9. Meet other mums
Any mother will tell you, having other mum's who know what you’re going through can be a sanity-saving connection. I have joined every Irish pregnancy related Facebook Group that I could find. I know I can ask a question inside one of these and have other mum's share their experience and give me great advice. Anything I can help with, I try to reciprocate. Plus, a few of my close friends have young children and have been a great support to me so far. Thank you if you are reading xo
Locally, I have looked for the local breastfeeding groups and I'm looking forward to getting my Postnatal Mum and Baby class going again. Look for local meetups and classes in your area to meet other mum's.
10. Schedule an Evening of Pampering
As an introverted and slightly sensitive person, alone time is a necessity for me to feel recharged. One of my favourite ways is to take myself upstairs, light some nice candles, put on relaxing music and enjoy a quiet evening of pampering. I enjoy a warm Epsom salts bath, pedicure, manicure, face mask, hair mask whatever I have the time and inclination to do.
As our bodies change and become softer and more feminine, this pampering can be just what we need to feel how beautiful we really look when pregnant. I always feel so much more confident after my pamper sessions.
11. Treat Yourself to the Salon
A professional manicure and pedicure (especially when you can barely reach your toes!), a facial, blow-dry or cut. Whatever makes you feel great, get in there! I recently had my hair trimmed and it's so much easier to manage now. It's made me feel a little better about myself now that my belly is huge!
I have a few of my regular appointments booked in the weeks before baby is due so that I won't have to worry about how I'll get to them when baby is here. Plus I know that those first few weeks will be a time when plenty of photos will be taken and I'll regret not planning ahead and making it easier to get myself ready when we have visitors calling.
12. Allow Yourself to be Romanced
It’s nice to reconnect with those who love us. Plan a date night(s) with your husband/partner before baby arrives. It can be hard to leave baby for the first time just to head out for the night. So enjoy those romantic dinners now. Chat through your expectations for what life will be like when baby is here and plan on how to keep this romance in your relationship in those early days.
13. Prep some meals for when the baby is here
Although this isn’t as fun as some of the other suggestions, it is something your future (very tired) self will thank you for! Make a few simple meals that you can store in your freezer and easily defrost and reheat each day. That way you can have some home cooked, healthy options easily at hand and you won't have to stress about cooking each day.
14. Visit your Doctor if you have any Concerns
Attending your antenatal appointments can be a pain, especially at the end of pregnancy when they become more frequent, your bigger and need to pee all the time! But going to the doctor and making sure all is well is an important part of late pregnancy. Both for the physical health of you and your baby but also for your mental peace of mind.
We had a scan this morning and it was really great to hear that the baby is growing well and in a "great position for birth". I've just had the best day since hearing that news. Hopefully he stays there!
No one is immune to worry, but anyone can choose to do what nurtures our health, calms our mind and makes us feel confident. Love and care for yourself, because you deserve it. It's time to acknowledge and celebrate creating the beautiful life within you.
How do you practice self-care during your pregnancy? Any other recommendations for other expectant mums?
Leave me a comment and let me kn ow!
I am Emma McAtasney, founder of a boutique Pilates studio in Dundalk, Ireland. BASI Pilates instructor, BarreConcept instructor and prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist.
If you are looking for more help with staying healthy, fit and toned during pregnancy while protecting your core to help prevent Diastasis Recti and pelvic floor issues postpartum, make sure to check out my online Prenatal Pilates Programme.
I have put my heart in soul into this programme in order to provide a library of safe effective workouts for expecting mums to have access to throughout their pregnancy.
I love working with women from all over the world – like yourself – to give you clear, applicable information, support you in truly creating core strength, fall in love with your strong and healthy body!