While pregnancy can be a truly wonderful and exciting time, it also brings with it a seemingly endless succession of changes and challenges, both physical and emotional.
You might be experiencing morning sickness, fatigue and physical discomfort. You might be dealing with intense hormonal changes and fluctuations in your mood. Or you might be struggling to process the flood of new information (and other people’s opinions) about pregnancy, birth and parenting that inevitably come your way when you find out you are pregnant.
Every woman’s pregnancy experience is different. Whether you are having a relatively easy pregnancy, or if things are a little bit more complicated than you’d like, it is important that you take steps to look after yourself.
Here are some ways to practice self-care during this time.
Pregnancy can be exhausting. Your body is working overtime. Growing another human being is no small feat, so make sure you take time out to rest and let your body do what it needs to do. Sneak in a catnap when you can. Put your feet up. Lie outside on the banana lounge and soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. Run yourself a bath. Set aside time every day to relax and get some rest.
Resting also helps to calm a busy mind. It is normal to have a lot of thoughts going through your mind at this time – worrying about what you need to get ready before the baby arrives, questions or fears about what the birth will be like, or what life with a new baby will be like. Securing some quiet time each day helps you to slow things down a bit, reset and de-stress.
Get some exercise:
Try to maintain a habit of regular, moderate exercise while you are pregnant. Exercise helps trigger the release of endorphins, your body’s natural pain-relievers and feel-good hormones, and is invaluable in maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing. Regular low-impact aerobic activities like walking, swimming, cycling, aqua aerobics, yoga or pilates are a great way to keep yourself active and ensure that your body and mind are ready for the physical challenges ahead.
As tempting as it can be – try to avoid consuming caffeinated drinks and sugary foods when you are feeling tired. It is important to get the right nutrients into your body when you are pregnant – not only for the healthy development of your baby, but for your own physical and mental wellbeing.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends eating a balanced wholefoods diet. You can access their guide for healthy eating during pregnancy here.
Keep yourself hydrated:
Dehydration can cause fatigue, so keep your water bottle topped up and make sure you keep your fluids up throughout the day.
Managing morning sickness:
If you are experiencing morning sickness and nausea, try eating small amounts throughout the day to avoid an empty stomach. Avoid rich or fatty foods, and be sure to sip on water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated and help reduce your symptoms.
Keep on top of back pain:
New aches and pains seem to pop up everywhere as your body changes and adjusts to accommodate your growing baby. Lower backache during pregnancy and sciatic pain are especially common by-products of a growing belly.
Chiropractic treatment while you are pregnant can help manage the stress placed on your lower back, and also make sure your body is in proper alignment for an easier birth.
Prenatal yoga classes and prenatal massage are also great ways to help keep on top of lower back pain during pregnancy.
It can feel like there is a lot to worry about when you are pregnant. It doesn’t help when well-meaning friends, family members (or even complete strangers!) feel the need to share their “horror stories” about difficult labours and births. Take these stories, and the advice that often accompanies them, with a grain of salt. Focus instead on the incredibly amazing job your body is doing right now. There is no right or wrong way to give birth, and each woman will do what is best for her when the time comes.
Seek help if needed:
Pregnancy is often touted as a happy, magical time, but sometimes it can be downright daunting and overwhelming. Pregnancy can also raise a lot of questions, including some about your relationship, your body, and even your own childhood.
In some cases, pregnancy can exacerbate existing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. These are serious illnesses that can interfere with the health and wellbeing of you and your baby. If you are concerned about depression or anxiety, or if you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important that you reach out and seek help. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Beyond Blue have some excellent resources on mental health and pregnancy, including a list of who to contact if you need help.
This article is intended as a guide only. You should always consult a medical professional for information about health during pregnancy.