7 Ways to Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
I’m now 12 weeks into my pregnancy with our second child. Even though I learned a lot being pregnant with Cooper, I’ve been thrust into the discovery mode again. I’m realizing new things about being pregnant every day!
Goes to show that there’s always something to learn.
I wanted to share some advice about preparing for pregnancy that I carried with me from the first time around. And I’m throwing in some bonus tips that I wish someone had shared with me leading up to this pregnancy (or even the first).
It’s amazing to me how different separate pregnancies can be for the same person.
That’s what threw me for the biggest loop this time. I was expecting to have a similar experience this time around. Even though some of the symptoms are reminiscent of the first time, I’ve had lots of new and different experiences already.
In all pregnancies after your first, you have a better idea what baby movement feels like. So I’m just now starting to realize that what I may have assumed was stomach rumbling the first time may actually have been Cooper moving around early on.
This baby already seems much more active than Cooper was during my pregnancy with him. (I’m already preparing to have my hands full with this one, especially since Cooper has been SO easy-going…) We saw this baby doing crunches and squiggling all about at our first ultrasound. Makes Cooper look kinda lazy in retrospect!
I’m seriously in for it with this one. I just know it.
Maybe that’s nature’s way of distinguishing our emotions for one baby from the next. With the contrast between this experience and the last, I can already feel that I’m forming a special and unique bond with our second baby.
So even though separate pregnancies can take on their own meaning and direction, there are a few tips that I’d recommend across the board for any woman considering becoming pregnant.
Below are the 7 most prominent tips that stand out the most for me that I want to share with women thinking about getting pregnant.
1) Tighten up on healthy eating before getting pregnant
When you become pregnant, thoughts about food can take on a whole new life of their own. It’s fairly common knowledge that many women experience a difficulty eating food in the beginning of their pregnancies due to morning sickness.
For me, food becomes an absolute obsession. As if I need any help with that. Sheesh.
There are food cravings and food aversions on all ends of the spectrum. Sometimes cravings can become difficult to manage, especially the ones involving sugar….
If you do the best you can to build good habits into your lifestyle before getting pregnant, it is easier to maintain good habits when you’re pregnant.
Since my pregnancy with Cooper, I have focused on building a few key dietary disciplines:
- Replace refined grains with whole grains
- Cut sugar intake
- Reduce intake of foods with preservatives and additives
- Increase intake of foods with higher nutrient density
I did a much better job solidifying my habits before this current pregnancy, and it has been significantly easier to eat well this time around. In fact, I find that my cravings are often for more healthy foods this time around. What a relief.
2) Start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you decide to start trying to conceive
When you get pregnant, your digestive system completely changes. Everything slows down, causing all sorts of issues, namely gas, bloating and constipation. (Lovely, I know…) Due to this slowing of your system, it becomes more difficult for your body to assimilate nutrients from food and vitamins.
Taking a daily prenatal vitamin in addition to a well-balanced diet prior to pregnancy will help you to build stores of all of the nutrients your body (and baby) will need once you become pregnant. It may help you to feel a little better in your first trimester as well.
Your OB/GYN may have already suggested this if you’ve announced your intent to become pregnant, so it may be nothing new. But it’s worth a mention.
3) Load up your magnesium stores prior to pregnancy
Prior to my current pregnancy, I had been taking some supplements to support my nervous system. I’ll talk about that in more depth momentarily.
One of the supplements I used for this purpose was magnesium. Magnesium is often used by people to promote a feeling of calm, and can be particularly helpful in falling asleep more easily at bedtime. I like the magnesium drink called “Natural Calm” in the lemon raspberry flavor, and I still take it now.
After becoming pregnant this time around, I discovered that many women swear by magnesium as a treatment and preventative for morning sickness. I had been using it to help manage some stress. (Also a good thing to get under control prior to becoming pregnant… See below.)
It turns out that building my stores to an optimal level may have helped lessen the impact of any morning sickness I experienced. Coincidentally, I did experience some this time around despite the complete absence of nausea during my pregnancy with Cooper.
Magnesium is also helpful for an issue I mentioned earlier—which would be constipation. If you suffer from this during pregnancy, and you likely will, the most common recommendation is Milk of Magnesia.
Who can stand that stuff? No thanks.
The key here is that it’s the magnesium that gets you moving again, and it doesn’t have to come from the milky or chalky variety.
I’ve just continued to use my Natural Calm magnesium drink (much more light and refreshing), and I added in an occasional magnesium oil spray. A few sources say that absorbing the mineral through the skin is more effective during pregnancy, so it’s another option to consider.
4) Get stress in check for easier conception and a healthy pregnancy
Stress can do so many things to a woman’s body. When I am stressed, I tend to feel it first as a tightening and growing discomfort in my stomach. Sometimes I even notice red spots on my face! It’s seriously crazy.
A few months back, I took some pretty aggressive measures to get my high stress level under control. I knew I wanted to become pregnant in the near future, and I didn’t want the stress to cause problems.
Many women are familiar with the concept that stress can affect their monthly cycles. When your fertility cycle is affected, it can cause difficulty in conceiving.
In addition, constant stress during pregnancy is not healthy at all for a developing fetus. Read this WebMD article about how stress may impact your growing baby.
We want baby to be stress free. And it’s a time in your life to enjoy, so we gotta kick the stress to the curb.
There were a few things that I did to lower my excessive stress level. I removed myself from a situation that was causing the majority of my stress. It was a difficult decision, but it had to be done for the sake of my health. Escaping a stressful situation helped tremendously, but I still had some lingering anxiety that kept my nerves on edge.
That’s where the nervous system supplements I mentioned above were helpful. I’d prefer to avoid making any recommendations in this post, because I’m not a trained professional. But I did some research and found some natural, over-the-counter supplements that helped me to relax.
Activities like meditation and yoga can also be helpful if you prefer to avoid the supplement route. I had no idea where to start with meditation, and I actually found a couple of free apps to help me get my feet wet. One in particular that I have found helpful is called Omvana.
And if your life is relatively stress free, that is wonderful! You won’t even have to think about this step.
5) Strengthen your core beforehand so your body can better support your pregnancy
Strengthening your core before you get pregnant may help to prevent or lessen some aches and pains during pregnancy. Get yourself into shape as much as possible before getting pregnant, because the pregnancy hormones will kick in immediately.
Progesterone and relaxin are a couple of pregnancy hormones that your body starts to release upon becoming pregnant. Within a few short weeks after getting pregnant, these hormones cause your joints to loosen up.
Loose joints are joints that easily get stretched too far or even sometimes get knocked out-of-place. If your muscles are weak and loose, the problem is further exacerbated. These issues can cause immediate discomfort, even if you’re early in the pregnancy and haven’t gained any weight.
In some cases, this discomfort can make it difficult to move about.
I have experienced pelvic girdle pain by week 10 during each of my pregnancies. I have been trying to take brisk walks on most mornings to stay as fit as possible, but I’m already encountering increasing pain in my joints the more walking and activity I do.
The research I’ve done has led me to believe that it’s much more difficult to strengthen your core muscles after the fact. And the nurse practitioner at my obstetrics office says that physical activity can potentially make pelvic girdle pain even worse.
With a strong set of core muscles entering into pregnancy, it’s easier to do maintenance work instead of attempting to build weaker muscles.
Take it from me, do what you can to get strong ahead of time!
6) Consider Getting Aligned
I have been diagnosed with a slight case of scoliosis by several practitioners in the past. It hasn’t given me too much trouble throughout my life, but I suspect it has a little to do with some of the structural pains I’ve experienced during my pregnancies.
I’ve been treated by chiropractors for nearly two years, and have also recently completed some work with an osteopathic physician. Both have helped me with alignment issues. Many of these types of practitioners are certified in special techniques for pregnant patients.
This may not be for everyone, as everyone responds differently to treatments. But if you’ve had neck, back or pelvic pain prior to pregnancy, you may consider having a professional take a look.
If you have issues caused by misalignments, they are only likely to get worse the more pregnant you get. You’d be surprised at how early these underlying issues can surface when you become pregnant.
In addition to potentially causing aches and pains during pregnancy, misalignments may play a role in the positioning of your baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “A misaligned pelvis may also make it difficult for the baby to get into the best possible position for delivery.”
Cooper ended up in a breech position the first time around, requiring a cesarean delivery. Considering the fact that I experienced pelvic girdle pain throughout my first pregnancy, I have a suspicion that it could have factored into Cooper’s positioning.
I’ll be receiving regular chiropractic care throughout this pregnancy in an attempt to prevent excessive pelvic pain, and in hopes that baby #2 will not end up breech.
7) Start a collection of pregnancy-related resources
I’m much more relaxed this time, but I was pretty much a nervous wreck being pregnant with Cooper. I needed an enormous amount of info and advice to help reassure myself I wasn’t going to hurt him. (I didn’t really, but that’s what it felt like at the time since everything was so new!)
Maybe friends or family can lend you some books or guides on pregnancy that you can refer to throughout your 9-month tour. Especially during my first pregnancy, I was comforted by having a resource I could carry with me at all times for quick reference.
I personally have found pregnancy websites and forums particularly helpful as well. I really like TheBump.com, BabyCenter.com, and WhatToExpect.com. Each week, I see what all the websites have to say about baby’s development and things I might be experiencing.
I’ve also used several apps on my iPad. There are apps for everything! I found some free ones for pregnancy exercises and yoga that I use nearly every morning now.
I hope that some of my advice has been helpful. This certainly doesn’t cover everything, but sometimes it’s the hidden gem of non-traditional advice that makes the biggest difference.
If you’re currently trying to become pregnant, good luck to you and I hope you enjoy every minute of your pregnancy. Here’s to happy and healthy babies!