8 Tips for an Easier Pregnancy
Pregnancy is not always a breeze, what with the many physiological and hormonal changes that can throw our lives out of gear, but with a few new habits, you can find ways to comfortably overcome some common pregnancy problems. I’ve also found some remedies for heartburn, relief for constipation in pregnancy, morning sickness remedies and more.
Recognise that your body is doing something really quite incredible. You’re growing a baby! We will try to smooth out our pregnancy journey to the best of our abilities and won’t stress about what we can’t change.
“Everybody leave me alone! I had a busy day being pregnant and have to do it all over again tomorrow.”
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1) Stick To A Nutritious Diet (as much as you can)
What you choose to eat matters before conception, through your entire pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It is easy to give in to those cravings. But make sure to make healthy, nutritious choices along the way. You will have what you need to maintain a healthy body, your energy and give your baby everything they need to grow and develop well.
Vitamin B6 is vital to your baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Vitamin B6 also helps your body metabolise protein and carbohydrates and helps form new red blood cells, antibodies, and neurotransmitters. B-6 deficiency can lead to a form of anaemia similar to iron deficiency anaemia.
Vitamin B6 may relieve nausea or vomiting for some women during pregnancy, though no one is exactly sure why. You should be able to get all you need from a varied diet.
Food sources of vitamin B6: baked russet potato (with skin), turkey, chicken, avocado, salmon, halibut, spinach, chickpeas, banana, hazelnuts.
Iron deficiency is a common form of nutritional deficiency, especially among pregnant women. Fatigue is a symptom of iron deficiency, plus (I might have news for you) you will lose some blood during and after delivery. You don’t want to be anaemic leading up to that.
Iron rich foods: egg yolks, red meat, pork and poultry, shellfish (oysters etc), fish (sardines, salmon, haddock), lentils, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, broccoli, baked potatoes etc.
You can enhance your body’s absorption of iron by eating other foods rich in vitamin C at the same time that you eat high-iron foods.
Vitamin C rich foods: Broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes.
To absorb the most iron from the foods you eat, avoid drinking coffee or tea or consuming calcium-rich foods with meals containing iron-rich foods.
2) Eat Smaller Meals, More Often
Instead of three large meals per day, eat several smaller meals throughout the day. If you are experiencing “morning sickness”, this will keep your tummy occupied. An empty stomach plus nausea and vomiting is a bad combination. Takes hangry to a whole new level!
Chew your food thoroughly, until it is almost liquefied. Wolfing down large meals can cause indigestion and an overly stuffed stomach (that already has less room to expand) can contribute to heartburn. Taking your time also helps prevent overeating.
Eating smaller meals more often can prevent low blood sugar which can cause dizziness.
Why Do Pregnant Women Get Heartburn?
Many women experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the placenta produces the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to seep back up into the oesophagus.
In addition, the growing uterus creates less room for your stomach within your abdominal cavity, pushing the stomach acids back up into the oesophagus.
Some Heartburn Specific Tips:
- Identify the foods that intensify your heartburn and banish them from your diet. The usual suspects: acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, greasy or fried foods, mustard and vinegar, highly seasoned/spicy foods, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine and carbonated beverages and alcohol.
- Liquid foods such as soups, stews and smoothies move through the stomach more quickly.
- After a meal, don’t lie down, and don’t do anything that requires you to bend over.
- To avoid nighttime heartburn, don’t eat anything or drink a lot of liquid for two to three hours before bedtime.
- Sleep propped up with several pillows or elevate the head of your bed. Gently slanting your body upwards, stomach acids will have to travel uphill to reach the oesophagus.
- Talk to your caregiver about prescription heartburn medications that are safe during pregnancy.
3) Sip Liquids All Day
Try to get most of your fluid intake by sipping water or herbal teas evenly throughout your day, between meals. Make your water more absorbable by adding a slice of orange, lemon or lime with a tiny pinch of salt.
Staying adequately hydrated will help with preventing headaches, oedema, constipation, cramps, But if your body feels not great, drink up and there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel better.
Why Do Pregnant Women Become Constipated
Increased levels of the hormone progesterone slows down the wavelike contractions of your intestines, making digestion sluggish. You may experience constipation, especially if you have to up your iron intake. This along with your growing child pressing on your bowels.
Constapation Specific Tips:
- Slowly increase fibre content – vegetables, beans and fresh fruits.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Move your body every day. Sitting still or lying down for prolonged periods of time will slow your bowels even more.
- Eating quickly and taking big bites will make you swallow a lot of air alongside your food, enhancing flatulence.
4) Add some fresh ginger to your diet
For thousands of years, Arabic, Indian and Asian healers have known the healing properties of ginger. Ginger (ginger tea or ginger ale) not only helps ease an upset tummy but has also been shown to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Inhibit rhinovirus (which can cause the common cold)
- Increase circulation
- Reduce wind and painful spasms
How to Make Fresh Ginger Root Tea:
Slice a 2cm piece of fresh ginger root thinly on a sharp diagonal, making about 4 or 5 slices total. Combine ginger and water (optional 1 tsp dried oregano and/or rosemary) in a small saucepan or teapot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until mixture is a dark colour and smells strongly of ginger, about 10 to 15 minutes total. Strain mixture into a mug. Stir in 1 tsp honey to taste and enjoy.
Refreshing Citrus Ginger Ice Lollies:
For morning sickness try these. Don’t worry if you don’t have Lolly Pop moulds, you can make these in ice cube trays.
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- Juice of 1 Lime
- 2 tablespoon of honey
- 1 inch piece ginger, grated
- 4 shredded mint leaves
- 1 cup water
- Put the water and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Add the honey and mint leaves and simmer for another two minutes until the honey has dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Pour the mixture into a jug through a fine strainer pressing down hard on the ginger and leaves with the back of a spoon.
- Stir in the lemon and lime juice.
- Pour the mixture into your ice lolly moulds. Leave room at the top of each for the stick and room for the lollies to expand as they freeze.
- Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Remove from the freezer and add the sticks to the ice lollies and put back to freeze until solid.
5) Exercise or just Move!
Continue to exercise for as long as you and your doctor say you can. Exercise will not only help you maintain a healthy weight but it helps fight fatigue. As long as you don’t overdo it. It also means that childbirth will be easier to recover from. I promise you won’t regret it.
Walking in the fresh air is an amazing activity to take up once your energy allows. Build up the distance slowly.
Swimming is an amazing exercise while pregnant, just being able to float in a pool is going to feel amazing to your aching joints and tired muscles. Taking the weight of the baby off your pelvis is good for relieving swelling of the legs and feet too.
Taking up a specialised prenatal exercise class is an amazing way to meet fellow mums to be. Prenatal Pilates and Yoga are wonderful to take time for you, relax and relieve aches you may be experiencing. See my post below for some guidance about prenatal exercise:
6) Wear Loose-fitting Clothes and Shoes
Opt for the loose-fitting maternity wear, tight clothing is only going to put more pressure on your already full abdomen which could worsen heartburn.
Your breasts will continue to grow throughout your pregnancy just as your stomach does, meaning they need support! Keep getting fitted for bras which are comfortable yet supportive and not restrictive to your breast tissue. The frugal option is to buy some bra extenders to wear your current bras longer.
It’s time to invest in comfortable shoes that properly support your feet and allow your toes to spread. No heels, unfortunately. Your feet themselves and your pelvic floor will thank you later.
This is a hormonal side-effect, plus your sensitivity to outside factors like smells and moisture in the air can trigger nausea. This tops the list when it comes to things you don’t look forward to when trying for your baby. The good thing though is that there are ways to minimise morning sickness.
Morning Sickness Specific Tips:
- Eat a small snack right before sleeping.
- Eat something before getting out of bed. This will help settle your (empty) stomach before your day begins. Dry toast maybe.
- Try to stay away from hot (more fragrant) foods. Let them cool to room temperature first.
- Avoid meals with potent smells or spices and greasy foods.
- If you suffer from persistent vomiting. Make an extra effort to stay hydrated.
- Pack a survival kit to be prepared on the road and in public in case of accidents. Your survival kit should contain the following: A clean top, a small bottle of mouthwash or mints, (just in case) plastic bag, wet wipes, stash of crackers to munch when your stomach begins to feel upset.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that affects up to 3% of expectant mothers. “This is morning sickness like a hurricane is a little bit of rain.” ~ Dr. Jennifer Ashton. Pregnant women with hyperemesis gravidarum feel nauseous all the time, throw up so often that they can’t keep enough food and fluid down, leading to dehydration and weight loss. It’s an extreme form of morning sickness. See your doctor if you are worried about having this.
You may have heard of it. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, suffered from this, during both of her pregnancies, she was admitted to hospital for treatment.
The first three months of pregnancy can be exhausting. Your body is growing the placenta to support your baby for the rest of your pregnancy. Then comes the morning sickness!
Sleep is vital. Listen to your body and sleep when you need to sleep. Take naps when you need them and go to bed early to get a good amount of sleep at night.
In the third trimester, remove yourself from any overly demanding physical activity. Make yourself comfortable as much as you can to get a good nights sleep. Use cushions, additional sheets and mattress covers, you name it. Everything is allowed. An idea is to use a pregnancy pillow, which can provide incredible support for your belly, back, head and legs.
Why Are your Feet Swelling?
It’s normal to have a certain amount of swelling during pregnancy because you’re retaining more water. In addition, your growing baby puts pressure on your pelvic veins and your vena cava. The pressure slows the return of blood from your legs, which forces fluid into the tissues of your feet and ankles. Call your doctor if you notice swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, more than slight swelling of your hands, or excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles.
- Lie on the left side while resting. This helps blood circulation.
- Don’t sit or stand for long periods of time. Take short walks to get your legs moving.
- Avoid foods high in salt. Drink plenty of water.
- Keep your legs and feet high when sitting and circle your ankles. Avoid crossing your legs.
8) Practice Relaxation
Being calm and relaxed is extremely important. We can’t avoid all stressful situations. But we can manage our day to day stress.
Get up early enough in the morning to get going on the day with ease, rather than rushing about. Take this moment of introspection for yourself.
Practice relaxing from head to toe, each time you lay down. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply a few times. Then think about the very top of your head, take a deep breath and as you exhale, relax the muscles on the top of your head. Next, think about your temples and ears: breath deep and relax your temples and ears. Continue working through every part of your body, ending with your feet. Often, people fall asleep before they get all the way through this relaxation technique.
Breathe in peace and courage. Imagine this cleansing breath swirling and soothing around the tension. Then acknowledge the fears and worries that are out of your control and breathe them out, sending them far away, leaving peace and calm in its wake. Bonus: it’s perfect to do this during labour as well!
“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we” – Ina May Gaskin
If you suffer from any of these complaints, don’t worry. There are many ways to combat them, and before you know it, your pregnancy will be over and you will be a happy mother of a precious and beautiful baby. It is worth it!
My disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Before you make any changes to your lifestyle check it over with your healthcare provider first.
I hope you have found something for you in this post. Any pregnancy tips you want to include here?
Let me know with a comment below!
I am Emma McAtasney, founder of a boutique Pilates studio in Dundalk, Ireland. BASI trained Pilates instructor, BarreConcept instructor and prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist.
I developed my Belly Only Pregnancy Programme in order to provide a library of workouts for expecting mums to have access to throughout their pregnancy.
I love working with successful, courageous 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 and focus on living your best life!
Together, let’s create a lifestyle that gives us health and happiness for a lifetime!