Pregnant women exercising

Staying fit during pregnancy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate many unwanted symptoms associated with pregnancy, and even result in an easier childbirth. Focus on what your body needs to perform at its best, inside and out, to aid your child growing inside of you. Follow these expert tips to maximize your vitality throughout your pregnancy and help set you up for a quicker post-pregnancy recovery.

1. Eat a Clean Diet

Eating a clean diet simply refers to eating fresh, whole foods, such as produce, meat and grains. The clean eating lifestyle guideline eliminates processed foods that contain preservatives and chemicals, often referred to as packaged foods. The guideline also discourages refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.

While processed foods are not deemed dangerous for pregnancy, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, of Ingrain Health out of San Diego, told Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine that processed or packaged foods contain a high amount of sodium, which can contribute to pregnancy-induced hypertension, or preeclampsia.

Providing your body with whole foods will allow your unborn baby to receive optimal nutrition. Other benefits of eating clean while pregnant include improved energy and mood, feeling fuller longer and bowel regularity.

Audra Meadows, MD, MPH, an obstetrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital advises pregnant women to avoid the following foods to lower their risk of food or mercury poisoning:

  • Raw or rare meat
  • Liver
  • Soft cheeses
  • Sushi
  • Raw eggs
  • Mayonnaise
  • Unpasteurized milk

2. Supplement With Vitamins and Minerals

Though a pill will not replace a well-balanced diet, pregnant women need extra folic acid and calcium, according to Meadows. Other supplemental vitamins and minerals to consider are vitamin c and zinc. A daily prenatal vitamin can help ensure you and your baby are getting the daily recommended amount of necessary nutrients. Consult with your health care provider before adding any type of supplement to your diet.

3. Drink Plenty of Water

A pregnant woman needs to drink more water than the average person since the placenta and amniotic sac require water to develop correctly. Dehydration is dangerous for anyone’s health, but it is especially dangerous for pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association warns dehydration can cause complications, such as low amniotic fluid, neural tube defects, low breast milk production, premature labor and birth defects. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.

The APA further advises pregnant women to limit caffeine intake because caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic, and crosses the placenta. Not only could too much caffeine be risky for your unborn child, but caffeine increase urination, which could lead to dehydration. Pregnant women should also avoid alcohol during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Drinking alcohol while you are pregnant increases your risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

4. Exercise Safely

Exercise is a crucial element in staying fit during pregnancy, but consult with your health care provider before beginning or continuing an exercise program. A regular exercise routine can help ease aches and pains, improve posture, prevent gestational diabetes, increase stamina and energy, and make for an easier labor and delivery, according to WedMD. Physical activities like walking, stretching, yoga and swimming help to improve flexibility and build muscle, which is healthy for both you and the baby.

Moderate exercise that includes aerobic activity and strength training is typically sufficient for a pregnant woman, according to Bonnie Berk, creator of Motherwell Maternity Fitness Plan. While exercise is beneficial for most pregnant women, if you have any of the following medical conditions, speak with your health care provider before exercising.

  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Low placenta
  • Weak cervix
  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Previous or recurrent miscarriage
  • History of premature births

5. Relax and Reduce Stress

Trying to relax or reduce stress while you are pregnant may seem like an impossible feat, but doing so will help create a healthier environment for your baby inside the womb. Whether you choose to read, take a stroll through the park, listen to soothing music or snuggle with a puppy, relaxing with your unborn baby can help you form a closer bond. Deep breathing exercises, such as those practiced in meditating, can not only help you relax during pregnancy, but can even help ease the pain and discomfort of labor and delivery.

6. Get Adequate Sleep

It can be tough getting a good night’s sleep, and it can be even tougher when you are pregnant. However, getting an adequate amount of sleep is important for your health and the health of your baby. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. The APA suggests sleeping on your left side, with your knees bent and a pillow between your legs, to improve blood flow to your baby. It is not advised to sleep on your back as doing so can decrease blood circulation to your heart and baby.

7. Engage Your Brain

Pregnancy can be a tumultuous time, even if it is a joyous one. With everything that needs remembering, and the onslaught of new parenthood fears, you may experience scattered thoughts and poor memory recall. The brain normally has a hard time processing two tasks at once and a surge in hormones can make multitasking almost impossible, according to Sleep and exercise are vital to the brain’s health, and engaging in puzzles, strategy games or intellectual conversation can help to refocus your brain on a single task.

8. Receive Regular Health Care

Pregnant women need prenatal care throughout their pregnancy. Women who do not receive ongoing care during pregnancy are much more likely to deliver a baby with low birth weight, according to Meadows. Prenatal care includes medical care, counseling, support, and education on pregnancy and childbirth.