There you are, sitting on your toilet, holding a stick that you just peed on, watching wide-eyed as little blue lines start to appear and form into a plus sign, one that you’ve waited SOOO long to see…CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE PREGNANT!! You are elated and in shock, crying tears of joy over this very anticipated season that you are stepping into.
Pregnancy is going to be so wonderful! You’ll get to wear those cute maternity outfits, have people dote on you and smile at your bump as they walk by, have baby showers thrown for you, take cute maternity photos…You just know you’re going to LOVE it!
BUT THEN…no sooner had you peed on that stick than you start to feel those first waves of nausea, and then an exhaustion like you’ve never experienced before. And as the pregnancy hormones start to do their thing, loosening your ligaments and rearranging your insides making room for that growing baby, you start to experience hip pain, back pain, groin pain, pain in your neverminds…not to mention the emotions, the cravings, and the constant need to get up and empty your poor, smooshed bladder…It’s not long before you are in need of some serious SELF-CARE!
I’ll be honest with you, my very first instinct when I’m tired and pregnant and hear the term “self-care”, is to picture myself sitting on the couch, feet up, watching Netflix, munching on a big, heaping pile of cheese tots. While this type of thing is certainly fun and necessary at times (maybe minus the tots), this might not always be the best form of self-care.
According to Webster, self-care is defined as “healthcare provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional,” with healthcare being defined as “efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being.” So, before you write your tired, pregnant self a prescription for a Netflix binge and junk food, let me provide you with a list of other, maybe more beneficial ways that you can care for yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
1. Get your body moving!!
I know you’ve probably heard it enough already, and maybe you’re not convinced, but nothing will benefit you more than squeezing those swollen feet into some tennis shoes (maybe a shoe size up for the time being), popping some headphones in your ears, and getting outdoors for a brisk walk or jumping on that elliptical at the gym.
Where a leisure walk is good and enjoyable and can have great emotional benefits, there is actual science behind aerobic, heart-pumping exercise for at least 30 minutes a day during pregnancy and the incredible benefits to mom and baby. When all that extra blood starts pumping (remember our blood volume almost doubles when we’re pregnant), it is carried to other organs in the body oxygenating and energizing them causing them to function at max capacity. Not only that but chemicals and hormones are also released when we exercise that can boost our moods and energy levels, act as anti-inflammatories, natural pain-relievers, and so much more! Not to mention the way it helps to strengthen our bodies to support the extra weight throughout pregnancy AND helps condition us for labor.
But what if your body can’t handle aerobic type exercise during pregnancy? I have battled mild SPD (Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction) with all three of my pregnancies which makes it very hard to move at times. Swimming or taking a prenatal Yoga class are great alternatives (you can find prenatal yoga videos on YouTube if you don’t have any locally). The Birth Boot Camp Core Exercises (which you can learn more about in our Food and Fitness Program or our 10 Week Comprehensive Class) are another great addition to your exercise routine because they can be tailored to almost any activity level.
2. Eat Real Food!
I hear it and have thought it so many times…the “I’m growing another human so I deserve a donut” mindset. I have nothing against donuts, I actually love donuts, but if I take a moment to think about what my body is REALLY asking for, self-care in that moment might mean reaching for a banana instead.
In the Birth Boot Camp Food and Fitness Program, the thing we stress the most when it comes to the prenatal “diet” is super simple…EAT. REAL. FOOD. As much as you can, stay away from the processed, genetically modified, sugary, starchy foods that drain and deplete you, cause inflammation and digestive issues among so many other things, and choose REAL FOOD—food that fuels you and provides energy, fights inflammation, acts as an antioxidant, food that is full of necessary vitamins and minerals, food that helps your body function better. Choose food that restores you. That is true self-care!
It is also suggested that pregnant women take some good quality supplements to fill in the vitamin nutrient gaps where our diets are lacking. Here is a great post on the best supplements for an amazing pregnancy.
3. Find a Webster Certified Chiropractor!
Hopefully by now you’re convinced of how important movement is during pregnancy but a lot of times we need help fighting for our ability to keep moving comfortably throughout our pregnancy, because, let’s face it, sometimes just walking during pregnancy can be painful. Remember how I told you about my SPD? Well it would be so easy for me to just throw in the sweat towel and resign myself to couch potato status, but I want to care for myself better than that. My chiropractor was invaluable in helping me maintain activity during my pregnancies. Chiropractic care has been shown to help increase comfort during pregnancy, as well as provide for optimal baby positioning and even help during labor. I mentioned a Webster Certified Chiropractor which is basically a specialized technique geared towards pregnancy that can drastically help contribute to a safer, easier birth process.
4. Sign up for Childbirth Classes.
You might be asking, what does taking a birth class have to do with self-care? Well, going back to our definitions, self-care means taking care of our mental well-being. If you’re anything like me, pregnancy can induce some pretty strong anxiety, especially when I start thinking about the birth process (thanks to the media and our culture who likes to scare us silly about birth).
When we were expecting our first baby, my husband and I signed up for a 12 week birth class. Let me tell you, it took every bit of those 12 weeks for me to process through the fears I had about birth. The more I educated myself, the more I was able to get into a really good mental space about birth.
Each week, our class included a focused time to practice different relaxation exercises which quickly became one of my favorite times of the week–a time to stop and close my eyes, be still, turn off my brain, and allow my mind and body to deeply rest and release the tension I was carrying from the week. This was not something that came easy for me so practicing weekly was so important and one of the things that has helped me the most in my labors. We also had these “birth talks” which were extremely helpful and encouraging because they allowed my husband and I to process through things we were thinking about with other expecting couples in the same boat. I would look forward to these classes so much and walk away feeling equipped with knowledge, confident in my ability to give birth, and in such a better place mentally.
Along the same lines, I would encourage you to enroll in a Breastfeeding Class and maybe consider finding and connecting with your local La Leche League and maybe even go to a few meetings before baby comes. This type of preparation and community support will be invaluable to you in your breastfeeding journey in helping you feel equipped and prepared.
5. Find a Good Care Provider
Again, what does this have to do with self-care? Well think about how much time you will be spending with your provider throughout the course of your pregnancy. You are building a relationship with this person and they will be heavily involved in one of the most precious events of your life. We know that our relationships can either build us up or tear us down. When you go to those appointments do you walk away feeling cared for, supported and valued? Does your provider really listen to your concerns about pregnancy and desires for your birth? Do you feel like you are allowed time and space to ask questions? Do you feel TRUST for your provider? I would look forward to my prenatal appointments so much and leave feeling refreshed and encouraged. I loved talking with my midwife and was always made to feel like her time with me was her top priority. Nothing says self-care like surrounding yourself with others who you know care about you as well.
There were a lot of other little ways that I was able to find moments of self-care but these were the biggies for me. When I was diligent to make these things a priority, I found that my mentality would go from “just surviving” my pregnancies, to actually thriving in them and enjoying the process.
As far as other practical but helpful ways a pregnant momma can care for herself, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite mommy groups and asked what they do for self-care when pregnant. This is what they had to say…
Magnesium baths! … hubby gives massages, meditation/hypnosis, chiropractor visits, formal prenatal massages, eating chocolate after the kids go to bed , acupuncture, getting more sleep! Reading a good book…. I could keep going. ~Audree
I always take my other kids out on a few dates prior to baby coming… we talk about how baby is gonna need more of mommy than anyone else. So we get some special one on one time before that becomes limited. My girls love it. ~Jillian
Naps, nightly foot rubs from hubby, especially if my feet were swollen, spending time with other pregnant friends. ~Meagan
It sounds so cliche, but healthy diet and consistent exercise does so much for me emotionally during pregnancy. When the fatigue and hormones get the best of me, I only feel crappier when I start skipping the gym and reaching for junk food (which I’ve done at some point during all of my pregnancies Including my current one). Even when it’s the last thing I want to do, if I can just get my heart rate up for 30 min or so and have an extra helping of dark greens at dinner it truly makes all the difference in my mood and energy level. ~Laura
My main self-care is a momma break, my husband will take the kids and I will usually do 1 of 2 things… Go to a restaurant and eat a HOT meal while it is fresh and I don’t have to share it with anyone, or I take a nice hot bubble bath!!! ~Justine
At least a pedicure or two at some point throughout my pregnancy was always lovely! Usually towards the end when it was harder to do it myself. I also enjoyed baths and playing my labor playlists while soaking and meditating on what I thought my birth would be like. ~Whitney
Listening to birth affirmations and reading positive birth stories and books! ~Katie P.
Prenatal massages and chiropractic- seriously saved me with my fourth pregnancy! ~Bethany
My last pregnancy, I gave myself time for a nap every day. The best thing I ever did! ~Kendra
I love keeping a pregnancy journal. Writing out my thoughts and experiences of pregnancy is really helpful. ~Cristi
Regular acupuncture, chiropractor, massages, Epsom salt baths, meditation. ~Bevin
Pregnancy was the one time I splurged on expensive massages and pedicures. ~Rachel
I loved me some Epsom salt baths when I was pregnant! And of course my workouts. ~Katie S.