If you’re a mother-to-be or hope to get pregnant this year, it’s more important than ever to focus on healthy habits to help you have more energy, less stress, and fewer aches and pains.
As a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) who helps support and educate women of all ages on healthcare, I am passionate about developing a lifestyle that promotes health and happiness. An important part of any healthy physical foundation is to adopt good self-care—common sense activities such as exercising, drinking plenty of water, eating a health diet, and getting adequate sleep.
But if you’re pregnant or hope to start or add to a family this year, it’s critical to bolster your essential life-giving foundation—for you and the baby that depends on your good health. So in addition to swapping out cocktails for mocktails, cutting back on caffeine consumption, and giving up raw sushi, now is the time to adopt some habits that will serve you well during pregnancy and after that bundle of joy arrives.
#1 Get Focused
When it comes to weight, I always encourage women to look at the big picture—if you need to lose weight, do it in a healthy, intentional way, and always consult a medical professional. Stay away from fad diets, drinks, pills, and other tempting weight-loss trends that will leave you frustrated when the pounds pile back on. Weight loss is less about a numbers game and more about adopting sensible eating patterns, regular exercise, and an overall healthy approach to living.
#2 Get Balanced
One effective way to overhaul a sketchy diet that relies on added sugars, empty calories, and trans fats is to replace it with healthy choices—and consider your importance as a role model for your baby-to-be and family. Set a good example by eating a balanced diet rich in the good stuff: lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods, which are high in sodium. Practice smart snacking with carb-and-protein combos such as yogurt and granola or trail mix with dried fruits and nuts. Replace a drive-through burger-and-fries lunch with a salad in a jar that you prepare at home. Sip on water infused with slices of lemons or cucumbers in lieu of a calorie-busting espresso drink. But don’t deprive yourself entirely—slip in a bowl of ice cream, a slice of cake, or a cookie when those cravings arise.
#3 Get Physical
If you’re pregnant, a robust exercise program may not be the best choice unless you are already physically active. Most women can continue to perform regular exercise and their bodies will tell them when to slow down or adapt their current program to their pregnancy. If you have access to a swimming pool, water can be a calm and refreshing refuge, creating a kinder, gentler workout and relieving aches and pains and improving circulation and endurance. Walking helps keep you healthy, too. Physical activity is proven to not only be healthy, but is a good way to reduce stress.
#4 Get Sleep
Of course, getting plenty of restful sleep at night should be part of anyone’s game plan. But when you’re pregnant, extra R&R comes in handy. Consider slipping in a nap during the day—maybe a half-hour break during lunch or a 15-minute power nap in late afternoon. You’ll be surprised that additional downtime will not only help you sleep better at bedtime, but it can also reduce physical stress such as high blood pressure and headaches that a growing baby can cause naturally.
#5 Get Realistic
Luckily the notion that women have to be superheroes is disappearing along with other outdated pressures from society. Sure, we all want to be accountable and responsible and achieve great things in our life, including motherhood, but it doesn’t mean we have to overextend ourselves and become physically, emotionally, and mentally depleted. Decide what’s urgent on your to-do list, what’s priority, and what can wait. Delegate to your spouse, partner, sibling, or best friends. And by all means, treat yourself to a weekly mani-pedi, yoga class, or movie. Enjoy life—an attitude that helps us all lead healthier, more balanced lives.