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Self Care Practices for Pregnant Women: The Obvious and the Not-So-Obvious

A list of physical and emotional self care practices for expecting mothers to keep feeling healthy during their pregnancy.

July 20, 2020
Maura McLay

During all stages of pregnancy, it’s easy to become lost in a growing pile of to-do lists amid a whirlwind of emotions. You need to prepare for the arrival of the baby by having everything ready at home, you want to tell friends and family and plan special events like showers, and lastly you want to be sure that you and your partner are prepared to become parents. On top of that you’re dealing with the many emotional ups and downs that come with pregnancy and trying to maintain your health. 

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to become disconnected from your own body -- but it’s important to remember that you’re also carrying the tiny person that will soon enter the world. You need to care for yourself for not only you, but also your baby. It’s important to maintain your happiness because it will ultimately affect the emotions of others around you -- and you being happy will be better for your baby. 

Now, let's look at some self-care practices to help ease your ever changing symptoms and make you feel comfortable --emotionally and physically. We’ll start with more common self-care practices and move into ones that you might not have heard yet, but need to:

  • Rest 
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Doing Something You Love
  • Obsessing Over Others 
  • Idolizing False Narratives
Two pregnant women practicing yoga
Light exercise such as yoga is great for expectant mothers.

Rest 

Exhaustion is Real 

Remember that your body is now working overtime -- it’s caring for two people and one of them is growing -- your body is responsible for supporting your baby. Fatigue is a common characteristic of pregnancy and even doing little things may make you feel exhausted. So, take time for yourself to rest, sit down, regain some strength and energize your body. Even if you carve out 30 minutes for a nap, you’ll be thankful for it later. 

But this isn’t limited to physical rest, but emotional as well. Remember in the past when you felt sick and you were told not to google your symptoms? The same can be said for pregnancy. You’ll likely be turning to parenting books, reading stories about how other women have experienced labor, googling how to cope with fear of childbirth, among other things. But doing this can add to the pressure and make you feel agitated that you’re not doing enough or doing it right. So, take a detox from social media and books to rest your mind. Instead, relax and don’t think about anything for 15 minutes, or do something you enjoy that’s fun and not pregnancy related!

Eat Right 

Fight Temptation 

As we’ve mentioned, pregnancy is an exhausting time, and even if you sleep well -- you might still feel tired. As most people do, and as you’ve probably done in the past, it’s easy to grab a coffee, highly-caffeinated drink, or sugary food to boost energy. A caffeine boost is a short term solution to your energy problems. Eat a well-balanced diet and you will see your energy start to increase. Sometimes, eating whenever you feel nauseous can actually stop this feeling too. 

Exercise 

That’s Right, Get Moving 

Even though we’ve discussed the importance of rest, it’s equally as important to try and stay active. Exercise releases endorphins, which is a hormone that improves your mood and decreases your feelings of depression and stress. They increase positive feelings in the brain by diminishing your perception of pain. Getting active doesn’t mean you need to have a high intensity sweat session in the gym -- especially while pregnant. Try going for a walk, doing light aerobics, yoga, or take to the pool for a water workout. 


Woman painting her nails red
Doing something for yourself can be as simple as painting your nails.

Do Something For Yourself 

Actually Style Your Hair 

Sometimes self-care does come down to things that may be considered pampering. Some people in society have made self-care seem like a “taboo.” But the truth is, we don’t always have to put the needs of others before our own. It’s easy to make self-care seem unimportant and shift our focus to things that “are important,” which is why self-care often falls to the wayside. But you’re having a child and you’ll likely want to teach them that putting yourself first IS important and okay. Now is the perfect opportunity to start teaching that to yourself as well. Take the time to do something you haven’t -- style your hair, do your makeup, take a whole day to do nothing -- just make sure you do something that makes you feel good. 

Woman holding a newborn
You may develop “baby blues” after the birth of your baby due to finding out it’s going differently than you imagined.

The Not-So-Obvious 

Stop Obsessing and Comparing Yourself 

As we have mentioned before, most pregnant women read parenting books to get a better sense of how they should raise their baby. But these books should not be taken so literally. Everyone has an opinion, and many people try to make theirs seem like the right way and yours the wrong way. In reality this is not true -- there are a number of different parenting styles and ways to go about it. So, if you do something that’s not in one of these books, or goes against what one of them is saying -- you’re not a failure. If you have serious questions, ask your doctor for guidance. Stop comparing yourself and your parenting style to others -- even though it’s written down in a book doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate truth. 

Don’t Fantasize 

Movies are Not Realistic 

Movies have a way of making childbirth seem fabulous -- it’s blissful and joyful and everyone is intensely happy. But the thing is -- movies are not realistic, yet we idolize them. After the birth of a baby, a lot of moms experience “baby blues.” This can be because you’ve realized that caring for your new baby has been difficult rather than blissful, which may leave you feeling guilty. You may also have fears about raising your baby and feeling inadequate to do so. Understand that other women have also felt this way, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. If symptoms are not managed, it may lead to postpartum depression, which can affect your ability to care for your baby. You can always seek help from a doctor or psychologist. 

Remember these self-care practices during your pregnancy and understand that taking time for yourself is a positive rather than a negative. If you are in a good place, then likely the other people around you will be as well. But if you’re feeling down, this could negatively affect others. So, whenever the stress of preparing for the arrival of your baby has become too much -- take 20 minutes or an hour and do one of the things on this list to help boost you physically and emotionally. 


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