Taking Care of Yourself While Pregnant
Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer
When you’re pregnant, especially in the beginning, ordinary life may be difficult. When you have a job, other kids, or any semblance of a life, you can’t just take time off! Many pregnant women feel the need to keep pushing ahead, keeping up with their responsibilities, and pretending (as much as possible) that they aren’t exhausted and sick. But you know what? That’s really not the best plan.
We recently announced that we are expecting baby #4. Yes! Modern Alternative Mama is finally (almost) a mother of many. 🙂 At about 11 weeks now, I’m feeling pretty good. But I’ve also made up my mind that this time around (and it’s only taken me until number four), I am going to take care of myself the way I should.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. Remember that.
How Can I Take Care of Myself?
It almost sounds paradoxical. “But I have so much to do! The kids need me to cook and clean and do laundry and help them with their homeschooling, and my husband needs me too….” True. And that won’t change. But if you’re not taking the time to rest, and eat, and refresh yourself, you won’t have anything left to give them, physically or emotionally. You’ll crash.
Worse, by pushing yourself, you could hurt your unborn baby. Stress isn’t good for pregnancy. I had plenty of it in my third pregnancy, with my husband undergoing heavy metal detox the entire time and working quite a lot, plus keeping up with my older two. After that experience, I promised myself I wouldn’t ever be pregnant again when I was that busy and life was that stressful. It isn’t worth it!
Pregnancy is a temporary time in your life but it’s just so necessary to put yourself first, as much as you can. Slow down and be okay with that. Maybe you don’t get as much homeschooling done, your house isn’t as clean, and meals are slap-dash affairs. It’s okay. Give yourself permission to be “less than perfect” right now. You won’t look back on your life and say, “I wish I’d pushed through the stress and had a cleaner house,” but you might look back and say, “I wish I’d rested and enjoyed my kids and my pregnancy more.”
No, Really, How?
Okay, I know. What you want is the practical. You’ve been given permission to take care of yourself, but what does that really look like? If I can do it, while raising kids who are 4 1/2, 3, and 1, (including beginning to homeschool this year) and running my blogs, and supporting my husband (whose detox is still not done), then you can too. 🙂
I tend to buy a lot of fresh fruit, nitrate-free lunch meat, cheese, sourdough bread, etc. when I can’t cook. I can give the kids each a banana and a sandwich for lunch, or some leftover chicken and cheese cubes. They can even get this themselves half the time! My oldest can safely use a butter knife to cut up fruit or cheese for them, and I can certainly sit and supervise this. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be a “real” meal — it just has to be food they can eat (and you too!)
Ask for Help
We have a local group where moms post if they need help or if they can help others. People from the group will come and help you clean, watch your children, or bring you meals. Maybe you have a church group or some friends who can do this. Don’t be afraid to ask! When you’re past this stage, you can return the favor.
Get Your Husband on Board
Husbands are usually good about this, but sometimes they need you to communicate with them about what you’re feeling and what you need. Men are not known for their mind-reading abilities. 🙂 I warned my husband around week 7 or so that the next couple of weeks would be the hardest for me, and that I would need extra help doing the dishes, getting dinner on the table, and keeping the kids entertained. He took them to the playground for a couple hours each night, which gave me some time to rest (and work on my blogs), as well as wearing them out so they weren’t wild for me the next day. He also often did a load of dishes in the morning before leaving for work. These were not things that he “normally” did, but he did them because I let him know I needed some extra help for a couple weeks.
Take Advantage of Energy Bursts
If you’re feeling good and have energy, do something! Bake a triple batch of meatballs and put them in the freezer for easy meals later. Do some grocery shopping and stock up on bananas or other easy snack options. Take the kids out to a playground for awhile. Organize the next few days of your homeschooling lessons. Use the energy you have to do something that is going to make your life easier on days you don’t feel so well.
Ask the Kids to Step Up
Young kids can do more than many of us realize. My 4-year-old routinely carries her laundry basket upstairs and puts her laundry away. She empties the silverware from the dishwasher (she’d do the rest of it, too, but she can’t reach to put the plates or cups away). She’s learning to sweep the floor. She can fetch me a diaper or an outfit for my 1-year-old (so can my 3-year-old). Both my older two can pick up their own toys, run dirty clothes to the laundry, set dishes on the counter, etc. Both can get simple snacks out of the pantry or fridge. When I’m not feeling well, I ask them to do these things for me. I sit and coach them. They’re usually quite proud of themselves for being good helpers!
These are great ways to be able to move slower while you’re pregnant. But there’s another issue….
Image by Frank de Kleine
How to take Care of Yourself
How do you actually take care of yourself? What does that look like? Moms seem to do it so rarely that we forget what we need!
Eat When and What You Can
I pretty much blew my food budget in the first month, because there were certain things I didn’t really want to eat (read: was averse to, and you don’t mess with pregnant women and their aversions), and certain things I craved. I personally crave fresh foods while pregnant, so being newly pregnant in August was awesome because everything was in season!
Buy what sounds good to you and eat it. Even if it’s expensive, even if it’s not the healthiest thing ever. Try for healthy (see my book Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods for ideas), but don’t stress yourself out. Eating something is better than eating nothing. A good pregnancy tea can also help curb morning sickness and give you the nutrients you may not be eating now.
On days when I just laid on the couch and didn’t get up, I actually felt worse than when I mixed moving around with lying down. I’m not saying you need to take a 3-mile walk or anything, but at least get up and wander around the front yard or fold a basket of laundry. If you go outside, the sun (and the vitamin D it provides) may make you feel better too!
You’ll feel better if you move around for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Sit back down when you’re tired. But definitely move sometimes.
Take a Bath
Make sure it’s not too hot, but take a nice warm bath. Add some magnesium chloride flakes to that bath. Most pregnant women (most people in general) are deficient in magnesium, and this can exacerbate morning sickness. I had to be very careful to take a bath or a foot bath with magnesium chloride every few days to ward off the worst of the morning sickness. But it worked. You can add a couple of drops of essential oils, too, if you like, but make sure they’re pregnancy-safe.
Take Your Vitamins
Some of you are cringing at just the mere thought. Typical prenatal vitamins often make women feel worse, not better. In my third pregnancy, I couldn’t swallow pills to save my life. I tried exactly once and well, it didn’t go very well. But listen: vitamin deficiency (B vitamins, as well as magnesium) has a lot to do with morning sickness.
You don’t have to swallow a big pill to combat that, though. In fact, I’d recommend against it. Most supplements are difficult for your body to break down and have very low absorption rates anyway. Instead, trying using a liquid herbal multivitamin. I make my own, but if you’re already pregnant and don’t have the time for that, Trilight Health makes one too (and they’re not paying me to say that — I really just used their product a lot!).
This made a huge difference for me. The liquid is sweet and easy to take, and gave me a powerful boost immediately. I could feel a difference within minutes. And if I didn’t remember to take it at night, I really noticed the next day! I felt much, much worse. It was so huge to me that I recommend it to everyone now.
Eat Sour Foods
Low stomach acid can affect some women and that can exacerbate morning sickness, too. There were a couple weeks where I craved sour — vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Squeeze lemon juice into some water and drink it. Make a salad and add extra vinegar to it (or just top with vinegar of your choice, real olive oil, and a bit of sea salt). Indulge the ‘sour’ because it really will help.
My 1-year-old was still co-sleeping when I found out I was pregnant. We quickly cleared out our “library” and put a crib in there for him, and began the process of moving him in there. It took a week or so (I don’t let my babies cry), but eventually he was only waking once per night. Until he simultaneously went through a growth spurt, got two new teeth, and a cold. Oh well…we do what we can! Some days I laid down and napped with him if I was really tired.
Since the 1-year-old sometimes sleeps in until 8:30 or 9, while my older kids get up at 7 or so, I would sleep on the couch in the playroom until the baby got up. I was with the bigger kids in case they needed me, but I got a little extra rest. Go to bed early, nap if you can, and steal sleep whenever possible. It’s worth it.
I found I had to break out the maternity clothes at 9 weeks this time. Nine weeks. But the day I did, I found a super cute and super comfortable pair of capris. I was no longer uncomfortable in my slightly-too-tight pants or too hot (since my shorts hadn’t fit for awhile).
If wearing maternity clothes, even when you are weeks away from looking pregnant to anyone but yourself helps you feel better, do it. If you want to wear yoga pants all day, do it. Whatever helps you feel comfortable! And if it’s summer and you want to turn down the a/c because you are just so hot…do that too. 🙂
If you can take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm to give to those around you. This time is fleeting; you will not be pregnant and sick forever. With the help of those around you, and your own focus on moving more slowly, you can take care of yourself and others and get through it. Enjoy it, too!
Modern Alternative Pregnancy
Next Monday, we’re launching a brand new blog! It’s called Modern Alternative Pregnancy, and it’s a resource for all things natural pregnancy — fertility, pregnancy discomforts, care providers, what’s normal and what’s not, preparing for labor, birth, postpartum recovery, and breastfeeding. We have an amazing team of contributors, including many birth professionals. You can follow us on Facebook, and we hope you’ll join us for the site launch! Our first month’s theme is “Informed Consent,” because we believe strongly in women having all the information and making the decision that is right for them.
**I am not a doctor or medical professional. I’m sharing my recommendations above based on my own research, and what worked well for me. I suggest that you use this as a starting place for your own research and/or bring this information to a health professional if you have any questions.**
Great tips. I definitely learned the hard way. I was on bed rest at least for a little bit with each of my pregnancies. I am not pregnant right now, but I know that if/when I am I will be taking tings slow right from the start. Thanks for sharing all your great tips!
Great ideas! Ive only been pregnant 1x , and thankfully experienced zero morning sickness. I did have pretty bad swelling from weeks 28 on, so I gave myself permission to relax and put my feet up at the end of my day. . . dishes and chores can wait!!
I second asking for help from your husband d others. I’m due in two days with our next baby, but right now my husband is at home with our older son and finishing school while I work. I still do a lot of the cooking and shopping for the family. There have definately been struggles, especially with health issues for both of us – I have been struggling with anemia and him with hypoglycemia. Our house isn’t as clean, he has helped with dinner prep, and the past month, any grocery shopping has been a family ordeal so he could come and help me. We’ve also accepted help in any form it is offered. I learned from last time there is no reason to stand behind the “I have things under control, but thank you” line. The office I work in also offers two weeks before your due date to start your maternity leave. I jumped on that and the day I was 38 weeks was the last day I worked. The past week and a half I have really enjoyed not having to worry about the extra stress and be able to focus on preparing for our upcoming birth.
Love this post! I’m almost 7 weeks now with our 4th baby, and not feeling all that great. This post was full of great information. A couple of questions… what is your opinion on taking folic acid. I haven’t taken anything yet. Normally I did, but I also think I eat really well, and I wonder if it’s even necessary. Also, have you ever tried Floradix? I also haven’t taken any prenatals (they make me sick too), but wondering if Floradix is a good option.
I don’t know exactly what Kate’s opinion is, but mine is that if you are eating a whole foods diet, both prior to and during early pregnancy, you shouldn’t need one. Folic acid is easy to get from foods like whole grains, green vegetables, etc. This site has a good list- http://www.folicacid.ca/food-sources. If you’re really concerned about it, you might want to consider taking a prenatal multi that comes from whole food sources (not synthetic vitamins, as most cheaper ones are). The brand New Chapter makes an excellent prenatal and you can buy them at most online or real life health food stores.
And I love Floradix, personally. It is made from foods and herbs, and is entirely natural and very absorbable. I have taken it many, many times and each time I do, I notice a tangible difference in my energy levels (if low iron really was my issue) within a couple days. It is very highly recommended by many midwives and naturopaths that I respect, and I think it’s one of the best options out there if you need to take an iron supplement. I will also say that during my last pregnancy I discovered TriLight Health and their liquid herbal products. I used their pregnancy iron formula for much of my pregnancy, and I felt that it also did an excellent job, my iron levels stayed great throughout, and I liked the taste better than the Floradix. You can only purchase it online, through their website- http://www.trilighthealth.com/.
Thanks, Stephanie! I actually have found Floradix tablets, so I prefer that over the liquid.
Great advice! I am almost at the end of my 1st pregnancy and had been feeling great till the 8th month. Now I HAVE to nap, at first I felt guilty and would want to push through but now I rest whenever I need (this includes post-breakfast naps!).
Exercise has been a life-saver for me, I always feel much better after I get my body moving, this also helps with the slower digestion that pregnancy brings.
Aww…can’t believe I don’t “need” this post anymore after my fast & furious labor this morning! 🙂 My biggest tip? Give yourself grace…you may have to slack in some areas like housework, etc. for a while to get the best rest. And…eat lots of smoothies! Smoothies are so quick & easy to make & a refreshing way to pack in the nutrition. I especially enjoyed green smoothies & peanut butter/protein smoothies this pregnancy. I would “spike” them with my Trilight liquid herbs, probiotics, etc.
Yay! I saw on Facebook! Can’t wait to see some pics. 🙂
Great post and congratulations! I am 22 weeks pregnant with my first right now. I am currently feeling really good, but had a rough first 14 weeks, and still find myself suddenly having to take a nap. I have found that it is essential to be tuned in to my body. That way, I can follow my cravings for healthy foods, and I know that I feel better when I exercise and get enough rest. Since I work from home and this is my first, I haven’t had too much trouble with the amount of work I have to do, and I am so lucky that I can take a nap in the middle of the day if I need to, but I know this will be a huge issue in subsequent pregnancies. I have bookmarked your post to come back to then!!
I have been taking the New Chapter prenatals since before I became pregnant and I love them!! It makes me feel good to take it daily because i know that on days when I struggle with my diet, I am at least getting a base amount of nutrients. And because it is whole food based, I am not worried about toxicity.
My first little one is three weeks old now, and I had a remarkably easy pregnancy. I struggled with prenatal vitamins too, and found liquid vitamins *so* much easier to take! I think next time around I will consider the Trilight ones, since they seem so highly recommended.
Eating enough was a struggle for me too. The middle trimester found me exhausted on the sofa. Planning snacks and meals is something at which I need to do better.
Great post Kate! I am due October 11 and enjoyed the useful suggestion. Our 2 year old has been the most difficult to deal with but I take on board your suggestions to communicate with hubby !
I am about 4 weeks pregnant I just found out First time so I’m kinda scared that I didnt know about folic acid what do you guys recommend? Thanks.
Congrats! I personally just recommend eating a balanced, whole foods diet to get what you need, and taking a supplement like cod liver oil, for extra vitamins and fatty acids. Of course, cod liver oil doesn’t have folic acid, but you can get plenty of it from fresh whole grains, leafy greens and many other whole foods. If you’re particularly worried about it, you haven’t had a very healthy diet prior to your pregnancy, or if you’re having a hard time eating well due to nausea, then the best type of supplement to take is one that is whole-foods based. One brand that I recommend is New Chapter, and you could either take their B vitamins, or you could take their prenatal, which is excellent.
thank you so much for this blog- this has really helped and especially for the trihealth recomendation- ive tried alot if things that havent worked for me. I was feeling hopeless-not anymore!
While I was prenant, my friends got me a massage from Le Petite Retreat Day Spa near Paramount Studios in LA. It was a day to relax and enjoy a personalized experience all about me! I loved it!
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