Congratulations! Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience. However, over the next nine months, your body will experience many changes. Developing good habits in the first trimester can help your body deal with the multitude of changes it will face in the coming months. Here are four great habits to start early, and maintain throughout the pregnancy, in order to make the next nine months a truly enjoyable experience.
Invest in Good Vitamins
Taking quality vitamins is essential for both you and your growing baby. Providing your body with all the vitamins it needs reduces the likelihood that you’ll experience overwhelming exhaustion. In fact, your body will pull nutrients it needs for the baby first, so it’s essential to take vitamins to keep your body healthy and functioning on its normal level. Prenatal vitamins, however, have a reputation for causing nausea and GI discomfort, so consider investing in a good quality “whole food” vitamin which will minimize the amount of discomfort and nausea you’re likely to experience. Folic acid is an essential component for proper neural tube development in the first weeks of pregnancy and should be taken regularly preconception as well. Iron, calcium, Vitamin D3 and DHA are other important components that are often found in insufficient quantities in prenatal multi-vitamins and should be supplemented separately, either through food or via an extra single mineral vitamin.
Are you aware that many vitamins are fat soluble? This means that they require fat in order for the body to absorb them. Be sure to include healthy fats whenever you take vitamins to ensure that your body is receiving the most nutrients possible. For example, take vitamins with yogurt in the morning, or in the evening if a dinner includes a healthy fat such as olive oil. Another tip for maximum vitamin absorption is reducing or eliminating caffeine. Caffeine inhibits the absorption of several vitamins including calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B and D. Starting in the first trimester to eliminate caffeine will help the body optimize the nutrition it receives from daily vitamin supplements. If you’re paying for the vitamins, you should be getting the most out of them!
Find Natural Solutions
Now that you’re pregnant, you’ve probably read the OB’s list of medications you should avoid. The list is long, including aspirin, ibuprofen, most decongestants, and cold medicines. Don’t worry! Many natural solutions exist to replace these temporarily off-limit solutions to common aches and pains.
For general pains and headaches, consider massage or acupuncture. Although more pricey and time intensive than aspirin, both of these alternative health practices offer relief for pregnant mothers. However, always share your pregnancy with a licensed professional when booking an appointment. Several areas of the body must be avoided during pregnancy to avoid miscarriage.
Purchasing a humidifier and a neti pot are both great alternatives to traditional decongestants. Several humidifiers on the market today even allow you to insert Vicks into a special slot in order to breathe in eucalyptus-infused air to further combat decongestion. Neti pots, currently increasing in popularity in the US, are a simple way to flush congested nasal passages. All that’s required is a neti pot, typically available at your local pharmacy, warm water, and saline packets. Mix the water, squirt up the nose, and let the solution drain—pretty simple! It may feel weird the first time you try it, but rest assured, it gets easier and will work when used appropriately.
As your baby grows, so will your appetite. Starting good snacking habits in the first trimester can ensure that the food you eat keeps you full and won’t pack on too many pounds. Consider replacing ice cream with flavored yogurts such as Key Lime or Chocolate. Craving salt? Pop some popcorn in a cast iron skillet instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips. Craving something sweet? Have grapes and strawberries ready and easily accessible in the fridge instead of chocolates in a bowl. Need something crunchy? Keep baby carrots at the ready. Craving chocolate? Avoid candy bars and bake some brownies—but replace the oil with applesauce or pureed sweet potato. The type of calories you consume can determine the health of your baby, the ease of your pregnancy, and how much weight you’ll gain. Snacking smart early makes it easier to maintain in the long run.
Commit to Exercise
Starting an exercise routine now will help you stick to it later, especially towards the end of your pregnancy. Consider finding a low-impact but satisfying routine which includes walking, free weights, and stretching. Yoga is an excellent option, and many studios offer pre-natal and post-natal yoga classes; a local studio may also offer Mommy and Me yoga classes, which aim to help a new mother regain her figure while bonding with her newborn through modified yoga poses. Invest in a great pair of walking shoes, and break them in with a killer playlist. Experts recommend at least thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day; if you can squeeze in more, all the better! And don’t forget about those Kegel exercises. Strengthening the vaginal muscles can shorten your labor and make recovery faster.
Developing good habits in the first trimester will make these habits become second nature. Once you find a routine that works for you, your body will be on auto-pilot. Instead of missing that Rocky Road, you’ll be craving Yoplait’s Whipped Chocolate or Stonyfield’s Pure Vanilla. Replacing drugs such as decongestants with natural solutions is not only healthier during your pregnancy, but post-delivery as well. And remember: repetition is key in forming new habits and don’t be afraid to ask your partner or friend for support when changing your snacking or exercising habits!
Kathryn is a baby-wearing, cloth diapering, DIY mom to her quickly growing and pretty cute toddler. When she isn't researching and writing about natural approaches to pregnancy and parenting, she's acting out her favorite children's books or singing off-key made-up songs.