If you’re expecting, you know that maintaining your health during pregnancy is essential for yourself and your baby. Suddenly, everything you eat, do, or experience isn’t about just you. Your lifestyle impacts the new life you’ve created. Like most moms-to-be, you’ve likely committed yourself to the basics of healthy living. But as you pass from one trimester of pregnancy into the next, there are new considerations to pay attention to and different ways to take care of yourself for each new phase. How is each trimester different? And how can you adapt to make sure you’re doing the most for yourself and your baby-to-be?
The first trimester is about laying a strong foundation for the months to come. During the first weeks or months of pregnancy, you may not even realize yet that you’re expecting. So if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, establishing healthy routines before taking a pregnancy test is important. Once you know that you’re expecting, you will want to meet with an obstetrician or midwife and establish care as soon as possible. Bring questions, concerns, and your basic stats to the first appointment, and be prepared to listen to advice and best practices.
Eating well is especially important in the first trimester. You want to establish a healthy diet that will give you the nutrients and energy to help build a healthy baby, and to keep you nourished, too. In this trimester, take special care to adapt your diet to include the right balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, with a slight increase in calories. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruits, and limit sugar and caffeine.
In the first trimester, many women report bouts of morning sickness, which can make you feel less healthy than before you were pregnant. Combat bouts of nausea by eating smaller meals and snacks or by sipping on ginger ale and apple juice. Fatigue can be at its worse early on in pregnancy, too. Be sure to rest as often as you can and don’t over-exert yourself. This is one of the hidden perks of pregnancy, so be sure to take advantage of it. Your body needs more rest because of the tremendous amount of work it’s doing. Help your body do its job by sleeping more, taking naps when you can, relaxing at home, and delegating chores to someone else in the house.
During the first trimester, give yourself permission to slow down. Remember how much work your body is doing to grow a baby, and give yourself a break. Eat healthfully and readjust your daily diet so that you’re taking in as many nutrients as possible. Along with a nourishing diet, be sure to take prenatal vitamins and to check in regularly with your doctor.
The second trimester is a time to nurture yourself and your baby-to-be. When the second trimester hits, you may find that you feel more like yourself than you have in weeks. Your morning sickness may have passed, and your energy level has likely shot up. If you’re feeling physically well, look into the types of exercise that are advisable for pregnancy, and keep yourself strong and active. Of course, be sure to vet any exercise plans (even something as simple as a daily walk) with your doctor, keeping safety a priority in your mind. Normally, you can do a variety of exercises while expecting, as long as you remember to stay cautious and not overdo it. Walking, jogging, swimming, prenatal yoga, and low-impact aerobics are examples of generally-safe exercises to do while pregnant. Continued exercise is important for many reasons, like keeping muscles healthy for your changing body and increasing your stamina in preparation for labor. Now is also a great time to begin doing kegel exercises, which will keep your pelvic floor strong through pregnancy and after.
As your belly expands, your entire body is adapting to a new way of being. Your posture adjusts, and the new center of gravity can lead to backaches or strained muscles in a variety of areas in the body. During the second trimester, nurture yourself by getting a prenatal massage and easing some of the new tension that’s building in your changing body. Of course, massages are also terrific stress-reducers, and it’s just as important to stay emotionally fit as physically fit during pregnancy.
Continue with healthy eating habits and be sure that you’re consistent with your prenatal doctor visits. There are so many unfamiliar changes that your body might undergo during pregnancy, and you want to keep your doctor posted so that he or she can nip any potential problems in the bud. During pregnancy, your skin is changing, too. At the second trimester, your skin is extra-sensitive to sun, so be sure to use sunscreen and to limit your time soaking up the sunbeams.
If this is your first pregnancy, each day brings a brand-new experience that’s uncharted territory. Keep your doctor informed with any mild concerns, but if you experience any of these symptoms, don’t wait until the next appointment; call your doctor immediately:
- Severe cramping or abdominal pain
- Severe dizziness
- Very rapid weight gain, as in more than 6 pounds per month.
The third trimester is the time to prepare for what’s about to come. The third trimester can be challenging: it’s physically and emotionally taxing, and toward the end, it can be downright uncomfortable. But as your due date quickly approaches, this is the trimester to stay true to your (possibly newfound) healthy habits and prepare for your new arrival.
Your bump is at its all-time biggest, and you may be feeling the side effects in the form of backaches, sore feet, aching hips, or headaches. There are some modifications you can make to soothe your muscles. Use a full-length body pillow while you sleep on your side, so that you have more support. Use a heating pad on your back and your hips. Try and correct your posture if you notice yourself slouching. This is especially crucial post-pregnancy, when your body will be healing itself, so get into good habits now.
The fatigue of your first trimester may return, exacerbated by poor sleep and carrying extra weight. Take down time while you can, and try to stay off your feet when possible. Rest your body and use this last trimester as a phase to slow down, before the baby comes and everything changes yet again. Continue eating healthy, nourishing meals and snacks and drinking extra water to stay hydrated.
During the final trimester, your baby is growing furiously, and that doesn’t leave as much room inside. You may experience heartburn or constipation as a result, so try eating your nutritious meals in smaller servings, and keeping snacks handy at all times for when you suddenly feel ravenous. Another side effect of your uterus expanding is shortness of breath. This can be unpleasant, and can even lead to dizzy or faint spells. Try and be extra mindful of your breathing, and take deep, full breaths as often as possible. Continued exercise will also help with shortness of breath.
Swelling often occurs during the final months of pregnancy, which can lead to discomfort. To reduce swelling, elevate your feet when you sit and try keeping them elevated while you sleep, too. Propping your feet up while you rest can also calm any flare-ups of varicose veins you might experience in the last trimester.
Maintaining your mental health is crucial during pregnancy, and it becomes essential as you come closer and closer to the baby’s due date. Be gentle with yourself, no matter how you’re feeling, and recognize what a momentous time this is. You may want take extra care of yourself during these final months by journaling, talking with good friends, confiding any fears you may have with your partner or doctor, and taking time for yourself and what you love. Pregnancy is a miraculous time, but it is often also a very stressful time. The more relaxed you are, the smoother your transition to motherhood can be.
Cover Photo: @thesonilee