Nourishing Your Body During Pregnancy, Cont.

*written by one of our staff nutritionists Emily Blasik

In part one of nourishing your body during pregnancy, we covered the basics of building a nourishing nutrition foundation for pregnancy, including the essential nutrients that are critical for this season of life and how to prioritize all of them through food and supportive supplementation. In this blog post, I want to touch more on the self-care aspect of pregnancy that includes things like movement, sleep, and relaxation—as these are just as important to good health outcomes as what you eat. Again, the things I share here are simply based on my own personal experience and are not to be taken as medical advice. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Get Moving (In a Way that Feels Good)

The best prenatal exercise you can do, in my humble opinion, is also the easiest: walk. Walk everywhere—around your neighborhood, outside with a friend, to your local coffee shop… This might come as a surprise if you’re used to hitting the gym hard every day, but don’t underestimate the health benefits of movement in general. Not only can moderately paced walking lower glucose in the blood and improve insulin sensitivity—a huge thing for those at risk for gestational diabetes—but it also prepares the body for labor by boosting cardiovascular function and toning the muscles used in delivery. Plus, it’s a low impact exercise, which is preferable for your joints.

I made it my goal at the beginning of my first and second pregnancies to walk at least two miles twice a day outside (hello, vitamin D!) if the weather was nice. On the days that I am only able to fit in one walk—like now, during the summertime, when it is excruciatingly hot by noon—I replace my afternoon stroll with a 20-minute at-home workout from the Wilma fitness app. These extra workouts are fun and I love building my strength with something other than cardio, but I truly believe that walking so much during my first pregnancy was what contributed the most to my relatively easy labor and postpartum experience. Not to mention, it also helps to prevent varicose veins, which is a common side effect of pregnancy—especially for someone like me who struggles with poor circulation in general. And the best part? It’s free!

If you’re used to doing more intense exercises and want to continue your regular fitness routine, this is okay, too—as long as your doc has signed off on it. Still, try to listen to your body, take breaks often, and respect the recovery process. Don’t set intense fitness goals or train for a marathon right now. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Prioritize Sleep

This goes without saying, but good sleep will become a rarity once your baby is born—so girlfriend, get those ZZZs in while you can! Strive for no less than eight hours a night, and if you’re able, choose naps over caffeine if you’re tired throughout the day. Our circadian rhythms take quite the beating when we’re up at all hours of the night with a newborn, so now’s the time to really show our bodies some love with some extra shut-eye.

A few tips for quality sleep:

+ Ditch blue light devices after 8pm; read a book instead of scrolling through Instagram (or at least wear blue light blocking glasses).

+ Stick to a relaxing evening routine.

+ Take a warm bath and follow it up with magnesium spray.

+ Sip on a golden milk latte or hot cocoa before (see recipes below) bed for blood sugar balance.

+ Purchase blackout curtains for your bedroom or wear an eye mask to sleep.

+ Wake up at the same time each morning (preferably with the sun).

+ Invest in a sunrise/sunset simulation alarm clock.

Preparing for Birth

Aside from daily movement and quality sleep, I wanted to highlight a few more things I have done/am doing to prepare for a pain-free birth and postpartum experience.

1. Chiropractic Adjustments: About halfway through this pregnancy, I started seeing my local chiropractor for weekly adjustments. If you are experiencing any sort of discomfort, this can work wonders! For example, they improved my lower back pain during my last few months of my first pregnancy—and since I started getting them preventively this go-around, I haven’t had any pain so far. Even if you’re feeling pretty good, getting your hips and pelvis into proper alignment can help your baby move into the best possible position for birth. (Our daughter was breech at 20 weeks but with just a couple of adjustments, she was facing head down by 24 weeks!)

2. Pelvic Physical Therapy: Pregnancy and labor put a LOT of pressure on our pelvic floor (aka the muscles, ligaments, connective tissues and nerves that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum), and if we don’t know how to use our pelvic floor muscles properly (most women don’t, TBH), we can start to experience unwanted symptoms related to weakness or dysfunction. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not need to see a Pelvic Physical Therapist until after giving birth, but I highly recommend reaching out to one before then if you’re experiencing the following: straining or pain during bowel movements, a heavy feeling in the pelvis or a bulge in the rectum, or incomplete urination with leaking. These can all be signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, and a Pelvic PT will provide you with the proper exercises to strengthen those muscles and ligaments involved in delivering a baby.

3. Prenatal Massages: I’ll be honest, nothing relaxes me more than a massage (pregnant or not). While there are many benefits associated with relieving pregnancy-related muscle aches and pains, I enjoy them purely for their ability to get me out of my head and into my body. (And anything you can do to relax during this time is a win!) You don’t necessarily have to pay a fortune for this either—my husband serves as a pretty decent masseuse when I’m in a pinch. Grab your partner, your favorite body oil, and drift into peaceful oblivion. It could also be helpful to envision your ideal labor and delivery process during a massage, because you’re more likely to think positive thoughts while relaxed. Mental preparation is just as important as the physical stuff!

4. Sex: Okay, I’m probably the last person that should be talking about this one, because other than a good massage, I don’t really like being touched when I’m 28+ weeks pregnant. That said, there’s pretty good evidence that sex can help prepare the body for birth in a number of ways. For one, semen may help to soften the cervix, preparing it to open when labor starts. It’s also been said that sex (specifically in the third trimester) can help prevent perineal trauma and tearing during delivery. But at the very least, sexual activity and orgasm in particular stimulates the release of the feel-good “bonding hormone” oxytocin and aids in the relief of anxiety and depression. All good things! If you’re in the mood, it definitely can’t hurt. (Unless you’re a high risk pregnancy, which in that case, ask your doc!)

A Few of My Favorite Prenatal Things

Before I wrap up, just for fun, here are a few things that have been making my pregnancy much easier:

+ PharMeDoc Pregnancy Pillow

+ Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve

+ Pink Stork Morning Sickness Bundle (especially love the magnesium spray!)

+ Traditional Medicinals Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea

Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland

Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols, RDN

When it comes to maintaining a healthy pregnancy, stick to the basics. And above all, mama, just try to be mindful that you’re growing a human being—a task that requires so much self-care. (Think face masks, dry brushing, warm baths, and all the “me time” you can afford!) You’re in for an adventure, and now more than ever is the time to treat yourself.

And in case you missed it in the last blog post here are some podcast episodes from the Are You Menstrual? Podcast Amanda did about her pregnancy that you might find helpful.

If you feel like you need more support with your health during your pregnancy we do offer our 1:1 support to pregnant women, you can learn more here about working 1:1 with the team.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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