Pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period are life-events that mothers, and families have experienced since the beginning of time. Embarking on this journey of pregnancy and parenthood is one like no other. It can be daunting, overwhelming, but most of all, it is beautiful. You are growing a little human in your womb and you are becoming a MAMA! Midwives normalize birth as an event of day-to-day life and from a medical standpoint, modern technology has allowed us to better ensure the safety of mothers and babies worldwide.
Nourishing your body to fuel your baby’s growth and encourage wellness of both mum and bub is something that I think is so important. Here are my 5 top tips for health and wellbeing during your pregnancy!
Like any woman, a mama growing a baby requires a moderate amount of regular physical activity to maintain overall wellbeing. I almost think that it is more important than ever to remain active and healthy when pregnant. Staying active can also prepare you for the demands of labor! Now I do not mean running a marathon or lifting heavy weights...physical activity during pregnancy can be referred to as 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise on most days of the week. Let your body be your guide. You know you are at a good exercise intensity when you can talk normally (but cannot sing) and do not become exhausted too quickly. Activities could be as simple as a walk around the block, or a stroll in the park, or at the beach. Other great activities may include swimming or cycling on a stationary bike.
Exercising during pregnancy can include modified activities of how you were training pre-pregnancy but should not include anything that you have not tried before. I always recommend women to stick to what they know best, and if it seems crazy or intense- maybe give it a go for the first time after your bubba is born. Pregnancy hormones such as relaxing loosen ligaments, which could increase your risk of joint injuries, so remember to take it, easy mama.
As pregnancy progresses, your body will naturally gain weight, and you will experience changes in weight distribution and body shape. This results in the body’s center of gravity moving forward, which can alter your balance and coordination. Additionally, your blood pressure drops in the second trimester, so it is important to avoid rapid changes of position...from lying to standing and vice versa. Watch out for those dizzy spells’ mama!
Ligament pain, joint discomfort, and symphysis pubis separation are some of the most common things that I come across during this time. These discomforts are difficult to cure completely without the birth of your baby, but the pain can be managed effectively through light exercise every day. Physical activity can also help manage some high-risk pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Moving your body can regulate your blood pressure and maintain healthy blood sugar levels to keep you on track. Exercise should always be a part of these care plans (when safely recommended by your medical professional) to effectively manage the issue at hand.
Always remember to listen to your body when exercising and never push yourself to the point of exhaustion when pregnant. Avoid raising your body temperature too high, for example, do not soak in hot spas or exercise to the point of heavy sweating. If you have any questions, it is a great idea to speak to a personal trainer or pregnancy trained physiotherapist.
Good wholefoods diet, sunshine, and the correct vitamins
Eating a healthy and balanced diet goes hand in hand with maintaining physical activity. Nourishing your body with whole foods and hearty nutrients is essential for your baby’s growth and development. Seeking medical advice from people who are experts at this type of stuff could be a great place to start (if you can). A naturopath, nutritionist, or dietician are certified professionals in all thing’s ‘health’. Each profession is slightly different, and they focus on various aspects of your wellbeing. They can investigate what nutrients in your diet you may be lacking and recommend various supplements or foods that need to be consumed in higher densities. They will know what is safe and unsafe during pregnancy.
It is common for mamas to become iron deficient during pregnancy so keep up those leafy greens like spinach! Increasing your protein during pregnancy may also be something to consider as you are generating healthy new cells of your baby’s bones and organs. You will probably find that you are more hungry than usual, but you do not need to 'eat for two'. Aim to stick to regular portion sizes, however, choose options that make you feel ‘full’. Gestational diabetes is common in pregnancy and is caused by the pregnancy hormones and the way insulin is absorbed. Maintaining a healthy diet is extra important for those mamas as their blood sugar levels need to be regulated.
A few foods should be avoided during pregnancy and this is usually because of the increased risk of contracting food poisoning which can be detrimental for your bub. Various types of food poisoning have the potential to cause miscarriage and stillbirth. Avoid soft cheeses that are unpasteurized and pre-made salads. Always cook your food ‘well-done’- eggs, meats, and fish, if these are things in your diet. Unfortunately, mama, this also means steer clear from seafoods like shellfish, sashimi, and raw oysters. Other substances such as alcohol and tobacco are not recommended during pregnancy as they cross the placenta and can cause harmful defects to your baby. If you aren’t sure, check in with your health-care provider to be safe.
With a healthy diet comes hydration! You may find yourself thirstier than usual when you're pregnant and it is recommended that you drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Having a refillable water bottle with you always can help. This reminds you to pick it up and take a sip often and before you know it, you have gotten through the whole thing. Coconut water is packed full of electrolytes that help with hydrating your body.
During preconception, you may benefit from seeing a specialist such as a dietician, to do something as simple as a blood test- this can give you the information on what prenatal nutrients you need to achieve, to reach optimal health. It is important to take prenatal vitamins for the health of your baby. Speaking with a professional regarding your prenatal vitamin, or supplements can ensure you are meeting your and your baby’s needs, as every mama is so different.
Switch to natural products:
Something that often gets missed during pregnancy, is the importance of switching to natural, toxin-free products if you aren’t already using these. What we use on and in our bodies each day, can have a huge impact on both our health and our baby’s health.
One study that looked at toxins and pollutants in pregnancy, found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from newborn babies. This study clearly depicts the importance of environmental factors in overall health.
Household products like toothpastes, cleaning supplies, and makeup and deodorants are often full of synthetic ingredients and chemicals.
As we all brush our teeth twice per day, every day - a very simple and easy swap is changing your toothpaste to a naturally made toothpaste such as Grin Natural. We know that the mouth absorbs much of what we put in it, so it’s important to use products that harness the power of nature and omit artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, fragrances and sweeteners!
My personal recommendation is Grin Natural’s strengthening toothpaste, perfect for pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a very overwhelming time for some mamas and families. It can often be described as a ‘juggling act’ of many different factors. Trying to prepare for your baby, whilst maintaining a job, a lack of sleep, and managing all of the minor discomforts of pregnancy is not as easy as you may think. It takes one to experience it to fully understand. Hormonal changes can also affect your mood and impact the way that you deal with common occurrences in day to day life.
Perinatal mental health refers to your mental wellbeing at any time during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. We often hear about postnatal depression, but feelings of anxiety and feeling ‘down’ can occur at any time during pregnancy. Mamas may often spend a lot of time worrying about their baby and in turn, their own mental health and emotional wellbeing may take a back seat. Pregnancy is a crucial time to act upon these feelings and reach out. Speak to your partner, a trusted friend or family member, or your midwife! As midwives, we are here to help! Not only do we look after clinical things, but we check in on your psychosocial state and see how you are managing in your home life. If you do require further assistance there are a number of support networks and resources that we can put you in touch with.
There are screening tools that are used in Australian maternity care to look at your mood and current feelings. At your initial appointment, your midwife will conduct a psychosocial assessment that looks at the psychological and emotional aspects of your life. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a questionnaire that evaluates your feelings over the last 14 days. Various scoring can indicate whether you could be at risk of perinatal anxiety and depression. Your midwife will discuss all outcomes with you and will never refer or recommend support services without your consent. At any point during your pregnancy if you feel the need to redo this screening tool- ask your midwife. Midwives work as members of multidisciplinary healthcare teams and can refer you onto mental health teams, social workers, and psychologists.
My advice to you is to take it as it comes and be easy on yourself. A helping hand from someone you love may be all it takes to get you through those final weeks. A mama growing a baby is truly mind-blowing - it's definitely not easy, yet it is still spectacular, and you should be proud of how far you've come. Remember, you are never alone and there is always help close by.
There are many great resources available to you. You can chat with your health professional for their recommendations. Two great resource that I recommend is Postpartum Support International & National Perinatal. They have a wonderful website, info sheets, and a hotline that you can ring.
Find out more here
Connecting with your baby every day
40 weeks (ish) can be a long time to get to know a little bubba you haven't even held yet! You don't need to wait until your baby is born to bond with them. Pregnancy can be the perfect time to start forming an attachment with your baby, which is very important for their development once your baby has arrived.
At around 18 weeks gestation, your baby will begin to hear the sounds of your body, such as your heartbeat and your stomach rumbling. Moving forward to approximately 26 weeks, a baby may react to noises both inside and outside the mama's body, they become very familiar with mama's soothing voice. Try talking to them, reading books to them, and singing to your baby. They will become so in tune with the sweet sounds of mama that you may notice it begins to calm them in the latter weeks of pregnancy. The outside noise your baby hears inside the uterus is about half the volume we hear. However, unborn babies may still startle and cry if exposed to a sudden loud noise.
Unborn bubbas do have a sense of memory and playing familiar sounds like your favorite song can be a way to connect with them. Playing it frequently during pregnancy can get those thoughts flowing and you may notice that this becomes a very handy trick once your baby is born. Mamas say that their baby’s know and LOVE the songs that were played during pregnancy.
The sense of touch and movement! Your baby will form a pattern of movements that is specialized to them! The best way you can check in with the health of your baby is by monitoring the movements. You can’t feel the objective ‘normal’ for a baby’s movements because no pregnancy is the same, however, you are an expert at the subjective view of your OWN pregnancy and movements. This can be a way to bond with your baby too! When your baby kicks, respond to it with some light counterpressure. They will become familiar with your touch mama. You can gently touch and rub your belly or massage it. Remember mama- you are the best judge of your bubs movements. If they feel different or decreased, give your midwife a call straight away.
Mamas say their favorite part of their pregnancy appointments is hearing their baby’s heartbeat- if I’m honest with you… it’s mine too. Did you know that your baby’s heartbeat sounds a bit like a horse's gallop? The placenta can make more of a ‘whooshing’ noise, but the heartbeat usually sounds like horse hooves! Ask your medical professional if you can record the sound of that sweet heartbeat for you to show your friends and family! Hearing it for the first time can be so exciting. You can also connect to your baby through the specialized scans and ultrasounds!
Another fantastic way to bond with your baby is to prepare your young family for their arrival. By preparing your toddler or child for the upcoming birth, you can help them to bond with the baby. This may include talking to them about the baby, reading stories about pregnancy and babies, allowing them to touch your belly to feel the baby kicking, and preparing a gift together for the baby. It can sometimes be a difficult adjustment for the family vibe going from 1 to 2 babies at home, however, you can get through the rough patch and before you know it, your little ones will be growing up besties together.
Health can cover a range of topics that are not necessarily regimented to what you may have thought mama. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing during pregnancy is a pivotal part of your journey. Embrace it, live through it, remember it, and I am sure you will never forget it.
You are amazing mama, what a wonderful job you have done so far! You can do this!
Brought to you by our pregnancy and motherhood expert, Aliza Carr. Aliza is a midwife and perinatal mental health specialist and the founder of @bumpnbub and www.bumpnbub.com, a platform designed to provide education and support to pregnant and new families. Aliza is passionate about natural living, sustainability and educating mothers and new families. Aliza will bring the Grin Natural community more midwifery support, tips, and education.
*Please note this is general advice only and should never replace medical advice. If you have any concerns or worries, please contact your health professional.