If there is ever going to be a time in your life to get fit and healthy, it’s pregnancy. Not only are you taking care of your body and your health to be able to nurture your precious little life in the best way you can, you’re actually also taking care of your body post-baby. Really! For some women, their health is important anyway, but more so when it is time to try to conceive. A baby needs you to have a certain level of health and being in a healthy weight bracket can really go a long way to ensuring that your pregnancy is healthy all the way through. The earlier you adopt a healthy eating and exercise routine, the better your body will recover after labour. Once you’ve carried a baby in the womb for nine months, your body changes irreparably in terms of its shape, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep extra and unnecessary weight on. You decorate a nursery for the arrival, but until then it’s up to you to keep the baby safe.
Granted, with symptoms and side effects like morning sickness, sometimes being healthy is difficult. Sometimes food aversions that come with pregnancy means that the only thing you can stomach for the first early weeks is toast – and that’s okay! You can only eat what your body allows and hope that once the first trimester has passed, your hormones can settle and you can eat a balanced diet again. Foetal development depends on you eating correctly, lightly exercising and taking the right prenatal vitamins. There’s going to be a lot of changes happening to you during pregnancy, other than the bump you’ll grow housing your child, and you should anticipate your life changing big time.
Before you even begin trying to conceive a baby, look at your health. Do you drink? Do you smoke on a regular basis? If yes to either of these, it’s time to start cutting down, quitting and detoxing the chemicals out of your body. You can gently move your alcohol consumption to one glass of wine a week and you can take champix tablets to help stop smoking. There are studies you can read to see the effects of both alcohol and cigarettes on your baby and if you make a start with quitting, you’ll be in great shape when you start trying to conceive. When you take the plunge to begin trying for a baby, start out with folic acid and eating a balanced diet before you’ve even conceived. If you are overweight, striving to get to a healthier size will mean less risks during pregnancy and labour and you can avoid gestational diabetes and further strain on your heart.
Taking folic acid up to the twelfth week of pregnancy will optimise your baby’s development of the brain and reduce the risk of neural tube defects significantly. Your body will undergo a lot of change in the early trimester, as you are effectively building a human from scratch. You’re building bones, cartilage, a heart, a brain and limbs and this particular stage will make you exhausted! Extra blood is pumping around your body and your hormones are working overtime to help this little scrap of life develop into your piece of immortality in the world. The sickness you may be feeling is your bodies way of trying to rid itself of an invader. That’s not to say you would lose your pregnancy, but technically it’s a foreign body inside you and until the placenta takes from the corpus luteum in around the ninth week, you may find yourself hugging the toilet bowl. Eat what you can here and try and stay as hydrated as possible. In extreme cases, you may need hospital treatment for sickness. This is called hyperemesis gravidarum and it basically translates to sickness around the clock.
As the pregnancy moves closer to labour, you may be thinking about breastfeeding. Taking classes and understanding which foods are best for milk production is important and knowing that oats and fenugreek can help you produce good quality, fatty milk will help! You want your baby to grow correctly without you putting on unnecessary pounds through the pregnancy. Some weight is okay – in fact, some weight is imperative for the baby to grow healthily. But if you stay active and you eat a good balance of fruit and vegetables, you’ll not have a harder time in labour. You may even find that you lose some weight during pregnancy as you shift from your usual diet to consciously eating better. Eating for two? That’s just a myth! You only need 500 calories more per day in pregnancy to accommodate the blooming life inside. Ensuring external factors like painting a nursery and heavy lifting are all done by someone other than you can also help you during the pregnancy as you won’t be putting your body under any undue strain. You also wouldn’t be breathing in any chemicals that can make you sick!
Your pregnancy can be healthy, your body can be healthy, you just have to make the time to take steps to make it so. Pregnancy is a beautiful gift and if you treat your body as the temple it is, you can ensure your child grows as well as it can do inside. It’s important to remind yourself that you are sharing your space. If you crave chocolate cake, have some – never deny your body what it wants. Speak to your doctor about what your cravings mean. If you crave ice, you likely are anaemic. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s so true! So try and curb the ice craving with some leafy vegetables and if that doesn’t work, fill up those ice cube trays!
A healthy baby is the end goal and a labour that progresses peacefully is an empowering experience that all women should anticipate excitedly rather than fearfully. Enjoy your pregnancy knowing you have taken every precaution and made every provision for your health, and you’ll find you’re less likely to succumb to postnatal depression. Congratulations on your pregnancy and good luck!