Here’s How to Feel Awesome Throughout Pregnancy
Don’t hate me, but I’m one of those women who didn’t truly experience morning sickness. Sure, I felt a little off at points throughout the day – the remnants of a hangover, minus the fun night out – but I never got sick.
If you’re in the majority who is likely throwing up right now, please don’t close this tab!
Beginning those first couple months, I considered myself lucky. Lucky to not turn green at the smell of chicken, lucky to not need Saltine’s by my bed at 3am, and especially lucky that my public transport commute in Chicago wasn’t turned into a daily battle of wills.
As my belly grew, I noticed physical changes, like my resting heart rate elevating, and my new struggle to breathe after making it to the door of my 3rd floor walk up. Still, I was feeling pretty great, all things considered.
Once we were openly telling friends and strangers that I was In The Family Way (my favorite way to announce a pregnancy, for the record), I was well into my second trimester and regularly met with the ambiguous question, “How are you feeling?” For weeks, nearly months, I answered, “Pretty good actually, I’ve been lucky so far!”
One afternoon I was strength training at the gym, and it hit me. It wasn’t luck. It was me.
Before I became pregnant, I was an endurance runner who pushed through interval training and long runs, heavy strength training and the occasional yoga class. To me, my new prenatal workouts were taking things “easy”. Finally, I was able to see this new pace in it’s own right, and as the reason I felt so great. I was doing all the things my body – and baby – needed me to do and it was paying off!
Here is what helped me feel awesome, and how you can feel awesome, during a time many women slug through.
I enjoy the challenge of conquering a new pose, and was working on perfecting my headstand before you know who showed up, so I was happy to continue my yoga practice throughout pregnancy. The change here was focusing on the restorative and community aspects of yoga.
I was 12 weeks pregnant the first prenatal class I attended, and was surprised by how the class kicked off. We went around the room sharing our names, how far along we were, and anything that felt great or not so great. I left feeling connected and refreshed, immediately signing up for next week’s class.
Find classes lead by a certified prenatal instructor who knows safe poses so you don’t have to worry about your own modifications. Any class listed as Prenatal Yoga should have an instructor who is certified, but you can always ask the studio or the instructor themself about their training to give you peace of mind.
You can also find a TON of great prenatal yoga videos on YouTube. Some of my favorite are:
Prenatal Yoga Class by Five Parks Yoga
45 Minute Prenatal Vinyasa Flow by Tammy Camp
Prenatal Yoga for Yoga Beginners by Brett Larkin
Yoga is safe during all stages of pregnancy and is a wonderful way to destress and stretch your body. Once you go to enough classes you’ll know enough safe poses that you can easily do a quick 15 minutes on your own, making it possible to do yoga every day!
I made the personal decision to cut out running, but that didn’t mean I turned into a couch potato! I turned to long walks to get my endorphin boost (i.e. stress relief) and get some low impact cardio.
I took the dog on walks of around 45 minutes to over an hour twice a day, or would head to Chicago’s 606 – a train track turned landscaped walking path – for a solo power walk.
Walking keeps your heart strong and muscles toned, making it easier to carry the weight of your growing belly, and labor smoother and possibly quicker. This easy movement reduces the risk of miscarriage and gestational diabetes, plus staves off depression and emotional stress!
The great thing about walking is that anyone can do it no matter their fitness level. Plus, it’s totally free and can be done anywhere.
- Walk solo armed with podcast, music, or audiobook for entertainment
- If you have a dog, make them your walking buddy
- Walk on your lunch break, invite coworkers to make it “a thing”
- Walk with your spouse or a friend after work or on weekends
- Drive to another are to walk for more of an “adventure”
- Just get out there and walk!
Eating (mostly) Right
I’ve always – OK, since some point in college – been a pretty healthy eater. I love to cook, and include veggies, whole grains and lean protein in nearly every recipe I make. Once pregnant, I didn’t change too much. I increased my calories, but didn’t go crazy.
You actually need less than you’d think; no additional calories per day in the first trimester, around 340 in the second, and 450 in the third.
I definitely had more of a sweet tooth, and while I didn’t ignore it, I didn’t let it derail my healthy habits. I got hooked on ice creams brownie sundaes for dessert, so I turned to Halo Top ice cream and homemade zucchini brownies. I allowed myself to indulge more than I normally would, but made sure I got a variety of healthy foods along with those indulgences.
Eating for two (unfortunately) doesn’t mean consuming enough calories for two people. Think of “eating for two” as eating more of the right foods to grow your baby.
Avoid getting caught up in calorie counting, and don’t stress about the number on the scale (don’t even look at it if you can!), your doctor will be monitoring your weight gain and let you know if you need to do anything differently.
Keep your focus on consuming these prenatal powerhouse nutrients:
Folate and folic acid – Spinach, beans, cereal, asparagus
Protein – Cottage cheese, poultry, fish, lentils, milk, eggs
Vitamin D – Fish, milk, eggs
Calcium – Milk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, spinach
Iron – Lean meat, spinach, beans, poultry
I have been doing some form of strength training for over a decade, and once I got the all clear from my OB to continue lifting, I was in the gym 2-3 times a week hitting the weight room. I stuck with a full body routine, incorporating weights and bodyweight exercises that challenged my muscles, but wasn’t overly taxing.
While there were some modifications I made, like avoiding any type of crunch or twisting core movement, my workouts looked similar except with a reduced weight load to ensure I wasn’t gasping for air.
Exercising during pregnancy not only helps you feel better during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, but can help your baby have stronger blood vessels, reducing their risk of cardiovascular problems later in life!
Strength training just 30 minutes twice a week will help your body handle the changes of pregnancy and prepare for the challenges of labor.
First, get the OK from your healthcare provider to start or continue strength training.
Then, find a routine you enjoy. There are plenty of resources, here are a few ideas:
- Moms Gone Strong – Paid program with video and journal support
- BabyFit by Amy – Free series on YouTube
- Hire a certified prenatal personal trainer
- Search for prenatal classes at local gyms
- Fit4Baby – Paid in-person program
One of the best things about being pregnant, is that when you go out and are ready to head home, no one begs you to stay, they actually thank you for coming! My homebody heart was so happy every time I got to peace out and go to bed when I wanted.
In the beginning, you’re super tired and taking a nap or nodding off early is a give in, but keeping sleep at the top of your to-do list will give your body and brain the rest they need to build that baby.
What helped me the most was setting a sleep goal on my Fitbit. Even the act of checking how much sleep I got made me go to bed earlier to get as much sleep as I could. Once the baby arrives you won’t be able to depend on a full night, so take it while you can!
Set a sleep goal, either on a wearable tracker or simply set a bedtime alarm that is at minimum 8 hours before you need to get up. It sounds easy, but setting a bedtime alarm is super helpful since it’s amazing how quickly time passes when you’re on a Netflix binge or Instagram rabbit hole.
When your bedtime alarm goes off, it’s time to wind down by turning off the screens (or retreating into the bedroom if your spouse is a Night Owl), going through your bedtime routine and getting under the covers.
Sleep comes easier to some than others, here are some seep props to try especially as you grow more uncomfortable as the weeks tick by:
- White noise machine
- Pregnancy pillow(s)
- Eye mask
- Essential oil diffuser (use Lavender, Chamomile, and/or Vetiver)
- Invest in a good mattress
Take care of yourself! As you are acutely aware, soon enough your time won’t be your own. Take these next few months to take the best care of yourself as you can. It’s not just for you, but for your baby. There are a host of holistic therapies that can help you function your best, including chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy, reiki, functional medicine, and physical therapy.
Now, go treat yo self (and yo baby)!