When I polled some of you over on Instagram a while back, there was quite a bit of interest in the topic of how to stay healthy during pregnancy – so I thought I’d finally share my thoughts and some actionable tips that any pregnant mama can use to be at her best! Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but I do have a strong interest and a background in nutrition and fitness, so take my tips with a grain of salt and of course, always consult with your OBGYN to be sure these things are right for you.
My Past Pregnancy Experiences
All of my pregnancies have been similar in terms of how I’ve felt, because I’ve now experienced three GIRL pregnancies – not sure if I’d feel differently or have different symptoms with a boy! One thing has changed significantly between pregnancies, though, and that’s how I’ve treated and fueled my body each time.
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was a runner and ran pretty much daily – so I kept that up for as long as I could while pregnant. I think I made it to 32 weeks before it was just too uncomfortable and then I started walking the rest of the pregnancy. Also, I ate whatever I wanted so there was lots of cheese and some processed food in my diet. Surprisingly, I only gained 24 pounds total, but I attribute that to the balance of staying active vs. eating whatever I wanted.
We found out about baby #2 right before we embarked on a big move from Virginia to Tennessee, so we were displaced quite a bit the first few months of pregnancy. That means I didn’t focus on working out and really didn’t pick it back up until I was feeling better in the second trimester. I also ate whatever I felt like during this pregnancy, though I was so sick that most days it was chicken noodle soup and crackers. I think I gained 28-29 pounds this time, so I could see the effects of not staying as active that time!
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How I Was Able to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy This Time
This pregnancy started out differently, as I transitioned to a Paleo lifestyle after our second daughter was born and thus haven’t indulged in any cheese or too many carbs this time! Despite how sick I was early on, I focused on trying to eat as balanced as possible and eating whatever veggies and fruits I could handle at the time. I also made an effort to stay active. Below, I’ll share my favorite tips on how to stay healthy during pregnancy.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Easier said than done, I know! Personally, the fact I’d already been eating mostly Paleo helped me stay on track from the beginning of pregnancy. I seemed to naturally crave cheese and carbs with my first two pregnancies, but since it had been 2+ years without dairy and most forms of gluten, I found my body didn’t really crave these things this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I did (and still do) indulge in carbs like bread and french fries occasionally, especially in the first trimester when I was so sick, but I was also able to continue eating lean protein and certain green veggies (spinach was my BFF this time around – in salad form or sauteed!). My advice is to try and eat as balanced as you can – figure out which healthy foods your body will tolerate and don’t be afraid to eat them over and over until you can expand your options. For me, things like broccoli and green beans didn’t sit well early on, but I could put spinach in anything for a little boost of greens.
I also dabbled in the FASTer Way to Fat Loss program the past few months to see if I was eating the right balance of macronutrients and I really felt good from eating such a balanced diet! Now that the 7 week-program has ended, I am trying to stick closely to the macro goals I used for my day-to-day diet. You can read about my experience here and get 30+ FASTer Way to Fat Loss meal ideas in this post!
I think women are sometimes scared to continue their workouts once they find out they’re pregnant – I understand that because I was there, too! That was one of my questions when I found out I was expecting our first baby and my midwife reassured me that staying active was not only safe but recommended for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. The biggest thing to do is listen to your body and only do exercises that feel okay – obviously, fitness gets harder as pregnancy progresses, but if something actually hurts, you probably shouldn’t be doing it! Like I mentioned, with my oldest, I ran regularly and kept that up until it got too painful around 32 weeks then I started walking around 4 miles at a time. I didn’t work out much at all early on in my second pregnancy due to moving and feeling sick and I definitely think that affected how I felt overall – which wasn’t great! I did start back somewhat in the second trimester and would alternate running and walking and doing an occasional Beachbody maternity workout.
This time, I made an effort to stay active from the very beginning and noticed it really helped me get through the exhaustion and sickness of the first trimester. I give a lot of credit to Pure Barre, which I didn’t start until after having baby #2 – I wish I’d done it during all of my pregnancies though! It’s such an effective workout, yet it’s low impact, so it’s easy to keep it up as your belly grows. There are certain things you’ll need to modify as you progress, especially when it comes to ab exercises and anything that requires you to lay on your stomach. Overall, though, you can keep up the same pace throughout pregnancy and I love the mind/body connection I get from taking a class. I did have to finally give up my favorite Pure Reform classes, because the strain on my body from using sliders was getting to be too much at this point in pregnancy (that class is very challenging!).
I’m also trying to maintain my strength this time around by incorporating some Beachbody LIIFT4 workouts during the week. If I’m not feeling it, I’ll put the girls in the double stroller and we’ll take a 3-ish mile walk around the neighborhood, which is definitely not easy with the hills in our neighborhood!
Rest When You Can
This one is my nemesis – so much easier said than done. In some ways, I feel like I have more endurance with my third pregnancy since I don’t have a choice but to take care of kids while taking care of myself. I remember when I was pregnant the first time, I literally napped every evening when I got home from the office while my husband cooked dinner! I barely napped when I was pregnant with baby #2, sometimes when my toddler was napping but otherwise not at all. I’m honestly not much of a napper, but this time, I just make sure I stay off my feet and rest while the girls have their naptime. I admit this is the time I usually do blog-related work, but just focusing on taking a breather and not doing stuff around the house for 1-2 hours makes a difference. I also don’t feel guilty relaxing on the sofa in the evening after dinner – it’s just necessary at this point when I also have two kids to take care of all day long!
Take the Right Supplements
This one will definitely vary depending on your individual needs and your doctor’s recommendation! In general, pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin at the very least for baby’s development in the womb. I’ve tried several prenatal brands but vitamins tend to make me nauseous, so I found that these prenatal gummies work best for me personally. Depending on your diet, you may need other supplements to round out your daily intake, but I find that eating enough fruit, veggies, protein and fiber is all I need to meet my daily recommendation. I also use collagen in my coffee or oatmeal for a boost of protein and to improve my skin’s elasticity and appearance. I’ll also occasionally drink Shakeology or make a protein pancake with it, which my doctor okayed when I was pregnant with my second daughter.
Drinking enough liquid was a challenge for me during my first trimester this time – I was just so nauseated that I had a hard time having anything weighing down my stomach. Obviously, it’s so important to stay hydrated with water, so I had to get creative! I had lots of crushed ice, which helped a bit with my nausea and I also drank quite a bit of decaffeinated tea. I had trouble with bubbly drinks early on, but now I can handle a La Croix every now and then, too. I am also luckily able to drink ice water again, so I try to drink at least half my body weight in ounces each day. I have one cup of regular coffee in the morning and then some days, I’ll have an iced decaf coffee in the afternoon.
Honestly, there are so many things you can do to optimize your health while pregnant but these what I’d consider the building blocks for how to stay healthy during pregnancy. It’s a good idea to discuss all of this with your OBGYN and don’t be afraid to ask questions – even ones you think are silly! I recently asked my doctor if it was safe to continue doing bridges/pelvic tilt exercises at this point in pregnancy because I was honestly unsure if it could cause baby to become breech and she said it’s absolutely okay. I just didn’t want to do anything that would potentially affect baby’s health or the outcome of delivery down the road!