Now that you have a baby on the way, taking good care of yourself is more important than ever. That’s because making smart lifestyle choices can directly impact the health of your growing baby. But you don’t have to completely overhaul your lifestyle (unless, of course, you are at risk for pregnancy complications and your doctor tells you to). Instead, making simple adjustments to your physical and mental health can improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy, according to Christine Miller, M.D., a clinical professor of reproductive medicine at the University of California School of Medicine. Here are some easy upgrades she suggests for a healthy you and a healthy baby.
Upgrade #1: Exercise often — every day if possible
“Moderate, daily exercise boosts your mood and can improve your stamina during labor and delivery,” Dr. Miller said. Exercising during pregnancy has several other benefits, including: more energy, improved sleep, less back pain, reduced risk of pregnancy and delivery complications, and speedier postpartum recovery. Power walk around the neighborhood, take a weekly prenatal yoga class, hike a favorite (easy) trail — just keep moving.
Upgrade #2: Drink more water
During pregnancy, your blood is supplying oxygen and essential nutrients to your baby through the placenta and carrying waste and carbon dioxide away — which means your blood volume increases up to 50 percent to handle all this extra activity. So, you need to drink more to support that gain. Drinking water can also help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, UTIs, fatigue, headaches, swelling and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Aim for 12 or 13 8-oz. glasses per day — Dr. Miller said tap water is fine — and if you don’t enjoy the taste, try adding a squeeze of lime or a splash of fruit juice.
Upgrade #3: Choose foods wisely
Getting plenty of nutrient-rich foods during pregnancy is important for giving your baby a healthy start on life. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are key parts of a balanced diet. But Dr. Miller also recommends foods that are low in refined sugar and high in protein and complex carbohydrates for healthy weight gain — things like whole grain toast topped with avocado and egg, or chili with veggies, chicken and beans. And don’t forget to eat healthy snacks to keep your energy up.
Upgrade #4: Indulge your cravings—to a point
“It’s okay to give in to your cravings occasionally,” Dr. Miller said, “as long as you are at a healthy weight and are not at risk for gestational diabetes. Satisfy a sweet tooth with Rocky Road ice cream at the end of a long week, or get your salty fix by sharing fries when out to dinner with your partner. But if you’re constantly craving junk food, try to swap in healthier alternatives to make sure you’re getting the nutritious food you and your baby need—a whole grain bagel spread with fresh fruit jam instead of a doughnut or a handful of pretzels instead of chips.
Upgrade #5: Make sleep a priority
According to Dr. Miller, being tired is a sign that you need to take it easy — for your sake and your baby’s. Try napping during the day, but if that simply isn’t an option, then go to bed earlier. Getting at least eight or nine hours of sleep at night can help you feel better during the day. If that means saying no to nighttime social engagements or powering down your phone or laptop earlier than usual, do it. Your health — and your baby’s — is worth it!
Upgrade #6: Make friends
Find ways to meet other pregnant women, whether that’s through a prenatal yoga or childbirth class, a neighborhood parents group or an online parenting forum. The support, resources and camaraderie from other women in the same boat as you can be crucial for getting through the ups and downs of pregnancy. “These are good connections after you have the baby, too,” said Dr. Miller.
Upgrade #7: Be nice to yourself
Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stress or drive yourself crazy about being healthy. If one day you eat one too many chocolate chip cookies or miss a workout because you’d rather space out in front of the TV, don’t beat yourself up. Try again tomorrow to make healthy choices for you and your baby, and give yourself a break—growing a baby is hard work!