By: Caryn Allen
Self care. The trendy buzz word that you’ve probably seen on social media or heard in social circles at least once today already but have you paid attention to self care in pregnancy?. I don’t know about you, but in some ways the words “self care” make me feel exhausted just thinking about them. I’m already exhausted and you want me to do more work so I can say I took care of myself? That sounds like a terrible plan. I’d rather binge a new Netflix show with a cozy blanket and my favorite treat. Right?
But self care doesn’t always mean bath bombs, painted nails, and face masks (though those things are good, too). Self care is about taking care of yourself every day by doing the small and simple things, so that you can be healthy, happy, and prepared for the birth of your baby and the life you’re about to embark on.
We break up pregnancy self care into six categories.
Self Care in Pregnancy
Exercise? Who has the energy for that?
Before you get worried that you’ve got to start a strict pregnancy exercise regimen, I’m here to tell you that you’re probably doing a lot of what you need to already! Are you getting your heartrate up for a few minutes every day? Just walking up and down the stairs could be enough to that for you! Are you doing your kegel exercises? Grab some kegel stickers and put them on the dashboard of your car or the bathroom mirror so you can do those exercises while you’re driving or getting ready for the day. Are you spending a few minutes a day on basic pregnancy exercises (maybe while you’re binge-watching Netflix?). And my personal favorite, are you getting fresh air and sunlight? Even in the winter, it’s important to get outside. Bundle up and take a walk around the block for 10 minutes, and you might be surprised at how much better you feel.
Everyone says it’s important to “eat healthy”, but what does that mean, exactly? When you take a Birth Boot Camp childbirth class, your manual will contain what we affectionately call a “Chow Chart”. It’s a daily log of not only what you eat (with recommended servings listed), but also how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally, what exercises you accomplished, and the goals you have for yourself. Simply logging what food you eat can have a positive impact on the food choices you make. Focus on a whole-foods, well-balanced diet with at least 80 grams of daily protein. Other important things to consider when thinking about your nutrition: Are you taking the supplements you need every day, and are you staying well-hydrated? Check out our recent blog post about how to meet your health goals.
I was listening to Start With Why by Simon Sinek today, and he was talking about how the world we live in now breeds stress in every corner. Even things that used to be simple, like choosing a care provider to attend your birth, has been complicated by insurance companies, both good and bad reviews, the sheer number of providers to choose from, location, and many other factors. There are too many choices now, and it causes stress that we sometimes don’t even realize.
So how do we help the immense stress we feel? Set aside time to practice relaxation techniques at least 3 times a week. Meditate, do some yoga, listen to your favorite music, light some candles…whatever it takes! Try relaxing in different positions, different places, and in different clothing. Just like we train our bodies to go to the bathroom when we sit on the toilet, you can also train your body to become relaxed. But it takes intentional practice.
Birth is 90% mental, and only 10% what actually happens to you. So while physical preparation is important, mental preparation is even more important! Make sure to read pregnancy and birth-related books, watch birth-related documentaries, or listen to podcasts, that highlight positive birth stories. The way media portrays birth is a poor representation of how it really can be, so it’s important to drown out the negative interpretations and fill your mind with positive stories. (Note: Positive stories don’t necessarily mean a textbook perfect outcome.) Take a good childbirth class, ask your care provider important questions about how they practice, and talk with your partner about your hopes and dreams regarding birth and parenthood.
There are a lot of ways to ensure emotional wellbeing, and that’s going to look different for everyone. For me, going to therapy was a huge help to my emotional wellbeing, but that might not be an option for everybody. Give yourself time alone, when nobody needs you for anything, and you can think through your thoughts from beginning to end without interruption. Let yourself cry when you need to! Expressing your fears and frustrations, rather than internalizing and ignoring them, is so important to both your emotional and physical wellbeing. Talk with your partner, a trusted friend, or a therapist, and let your fears and frustrations out before they become explosive, and ask for support and encouragement from those around you.
And that leads us into our last category. Spend time with other pregnant women, whether at church, through a support group, or on social media. The camaraderie you’ll share with these women will help you through the toughest times yet to come. Find a breastfeeding support group if you’ve chosen to breastfeed, so you can have a tribe of supportive, understanding women to help you in your new breastfeeding relationship. Talk with your partner, family members, and friends about the changes that will take place once baby is born, and formulate ways to adapt. Set boundaries and expectations prior to the arrival of your new little one so everyone is on the same page. And finally, seek a supportive birth team who believes in you and will support the type of birth you want to have.
Taking care of yourself — physically, emotionally, and mentally — is an important part of your prenatal care. Find what works for you and stick with it! The preparation you invest in now will pay off exponentially in the future!