Pregnancy is nothing short of a challenge. Your body is changing on a daily basis, you’re experiencing ups & downs and aches & pains, and you’re organising a lot for when your newborn arrives. So, maintaining a healthy active lifestyle can be difficult to fit in. But there are a few ways that you can achieve it, mostly by taking it day-by-day, taking all pressure off yourself and listening to your body. Here are our top four ways:
1. Stay hydrated
It goes without saying that staying on top of your water intake helps at the best of times. But while you’re pregnant, it can be hard to remember to keep on top of how to stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses if possible); our body is made up of a large percentage of water, so it makes sense to keep hydrated. Steer away from fizzy or carbonated drinks as they can reduce the absorption of vital nutrients. Limit your amount of caffeine to the recommended daily amount 200mg. Tea and coffee may also lead to loss of nutrients, so consider replacing these with a healthier alternative, caffeine-free drink. If having tea or coffee drink a glass of water afterwards, as they have a dehydrating effect too.
2. Eating habits
Eating for two? Wouldn’t that be great! But did you know that it’s only in the third trimester of pregnancy that you may need to up your daily calorie intake by 200 calories (which is equivalent to a slice of toast and a banana!)? What matters most is quality not quantity, and most important is that you get all the essential nutrients you need.
Try eating foods from different colour groups throughout the day, such as green vegetables, tomatoes, yellow peppers and bananas, blueberries or blackberries. Remember the five a day rule for fruit and vegetables, even a glass of fresh fruit juice or vegetable soup can contribute to your intake. And remember your iron-rich foods too.
Have regular meals per day and don’t skip breakfast. If you like to snack between meals, select healthy bites such as fruit, oatcakes, dried fruit or nuts. Try to err towards your healthier pregnancy cravings, rather than the sugar-filled ones.
Whilst you will want to stay trim and fit during pregnancy this is not the right time to embark on any dieting regimes or ‘fad’ diets, many are not nutritionally suitable for pregnancy.
The key is to stay healthy, enjoy your pregnancy and know that you are doing your very best for your baby. Your body is doing an amazing thing and a good diet is important to maintain your energy levels!
3. Regular exercise
Regular physical activity can contribute to good health by helping with weight management and improving fitness, sleep and mood. It can also help you cope with labour and get back in to shape after the birth of your baby. Find out more information about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy here.
It’s important to do something you enjoy so that you are motivated to keep it up, especially when you are feeling tired as you no doubt can be, particularly in the first and third trimesters. Examples of aerobic classes you can consider are, swimming, dancing, walking; aqua aerobics and a stationary bike. If attending an aerobics class always inform your instructor that you are pregnant, or you may prefer to check out classes specifically for pregnancy. Remember exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
Some tips to exercise safely during pregnancy are:
- always warm up and cool down afterwards, don’t get over-heated, stay hydrated, and rest if you need to. Listen to your body.
- If you feel uncomfortable stop and seek advice.
- Avoid extreme twists and sudden, fast changes of direction as this may wrench vulnerable muscles and ligaments.
- Avoid straining your back and ensure you have support available when performing stretches and balance exercises.
- For aerobic classes, ensure you keep one foot on the floor and do not perform high kicks, jumps or leaps as this places strain on your body.
- After 16 weeks, do not exercise whilst lying on your back, a major blood vessel can become squashed by your growing baby in this position. Do not attempt any vigorous exercise that could cause physical injury.
4. Improved sleep
It is important to respect your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Aim to have a good 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t work too late or watch TV prior to bedtime, both activities are stimulating, and it takes time for the brain to switch off.
Eat your evening meal earlier rather than later and take a relaxing bath or shower before bedtime. Try going to bed approximately the same time each night and keep the bedroom lights low, quiet and free of electronic devices including TV.
If you’re struggling while you’re in bed with hip, back or coccyx pain, try a pregnancy pillow to take the weight off your back and to support you in the places you need. Also, try some gentle pregnancy yoga to decompress the pressure, a bath and/or a hot water bottle on your back before bed.
It’s important for you to try to reduce your stress levels throughout your day, which a good night’s sleep can do wonders for.