Pregnancy is a beautiful, introspective journey filled with every emotion under the sun. You’re eating for two, moving for two, maybe even dreaming for two! It’s easy to get caught up in all things baby, but protecting your well-being is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, too. And while prenatal massages are downright blissful, self-care isn’t always synonymous with pampering. Here are some easy ways you can exercise healthy self-care during pregnancy – no spa visits required.
Nourish Your Body
Food is medicine, and the right choices can bolster your mood, deliver key nutrients and help your baby grow. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal – the more colorful, the better! Aim to “eat the rainbow” as often you can. Nutritional powerhouses like salmon, avocado, spinach and berries are particularly good for baby’s development. And they get bonus points for boosting mom’s mood.
Since you’re eating for two, sustaining hunger levels throughout the day is essential to a healthy self-care routine. Carry nutrient-dense snacks like grapes, almonds and string cheese in your bag to stay satiated between doctor appointments and registry to-do’s. Want a sweet treat? Please don’t deprive yourself! (Side note: when you “graduate” from pregnancy to motherhood, Milkmakers lactation cookies and bars fuel dessert cravings and help promote milk production, too). And if you’re battling the queasies, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
As you get heavier and your bump protrudes, exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but the feel-good benefits of physical activity are undeniable. Even 20 minutes of moderate aerobic activity is guaranteed to lift your spirits. Want a free workout you can do anytime, anywhere? Lace up your sneakers and go for a walk. Prenatal yoga classes, swimming, and water aerobics are considered safe for pregnancy, as is indoor cycling if you exercise caution and spend most of class in the seated position (I personally did modified cycling classes until 37 weeks, with the blessing of my OBGYN and the help of a heart rate monitor). Ask your doctor or medical practitioner what a safe sweat session looks like for you based on your fitness level, and be sure to wear a monitor or smartwatch to track your progress. Try not to exceed a heart rate of 140 and make whatever adjustments you need for a comfortable workout.
Permission to Pause
To say life is hectic these days would be a serious understatement. During pregnancy, it’s especially important to set boundaries and say no (guilt-free!) to anything that doesn’t serve you. Give yourself a time out every time you need it. No questions asked! Even pro athletes schedule rest days to recover and rebuild muscles. In much the same way, your body is working overtime to take care of the tiny human inside. Taking ample time to meditate, sleep, or read – whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries — is 100% encouraged and necessary. True self-care is listening to your body, so if you need a midday nap, now is the time to oblige. Consider pregnancy your 9-month permission to pause, guilt-free. Go ahead, treat yourself! Your to-do list can wait.
Spend Time Outdoors
Self-care may start from within – but being outside in a natural setting amplifies it tenfold. In Japan, there’s an ancient practice of forest bathing called shirin-yoku – while there are no actual baths involved, forest therapy is the art of becoming one with nature in pursuit of deep, meditative relaxation. Spending time in nature’s embrace can lower cortisol levels and help calm your mind during pregnancy and beyond. Whether you simply take a walk around the block or head to a tranquil body of water or botanical garden near you, just breathing outdoor air and being near trees has therapeutic, stress reducing superpowers. You can combine meditation and exercise with your time outside for a double or triple dose of self-care. All you need is comfortable shoes and fresh air. Your body — and spirit — will thank you.
Clean Up Your Beauty Routine
Clean beauty is having a major moment and it’s easy to see why. Many personal care products contain chemicals, phthalates, parabens, and other ingredients that can be harmful to your health. Pregnancy is the ideal time to assess your beauty arsenal and replace what you can with vegan, nontoxic brands. Not everyone gets to enjoy that coveted pregnancy glow – unwelcome changes in facial texture, pigmentation, acne or moisture levels can also occur. Reclaim your radiance with a kinder, gentler skin care routine that’s better for both you and your little one.
Unplug One Full Day a Week
There is so much noise in the digital universe – from emails and social media to the nightly news, we’re bombarded with information 24 hours a day. Unrealistic ideals or expectations fostered by social media can be especially detrimental to health and well-being during pregnancy. If you can, schedule at least one digital detox day per week. Use the time gained to connect with family and friends face to face, prep for baby, or relish in solitude (though let’s face it, you’re never truly alone – that sweet kicking baby is your constant companion!). Since it’s fleeting, pregnancy can be a time of great reflection. By tuning out the outside world, you can turn inward and be present, making much-needed space for yourself.
Soon enough, you’ll be in full-fledged baby care mode. In the meantime, don’t underestimate the power of pregnancy self-care!