Pregnancy Essentials: What You Need To Know

Pregnancy Essentials
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: July 4, 2022

We can all agree that bringing a baby into this world is not just a blessing — it is one of the most important stages of life a woman will go through. However, some may struggle a bit. Pregnancy can take a toll on them, both physically and psychologically.

Nevertheless, our guide to pregnancy essentials, diet, exercise, and general tips will allow women to take care of themselves during this wonderful time and ensure they’re keeping an eye on their health and overall well-being. So let’s start, shall we?

Are you trying to get pregnant? Proper care is crucial even then!

Although many women have had their babies without actually planning to get pregnant, to err on the side of caution is advisable. You never know what can happen, so you should give yourself and your baby the best care possible by taking vitamins and supplements even before you get pregnant.

You ought to visit your doctor, tell them about your plans and see what kind of vitamins and general advice they will give you.

Most of the time, they’ll recommend a calcium supplement (crucial for bone health) and folic acid, which allows for proper organ development in babies.

However, do know that prenatal vitamins usually contain optimal levels of folic acid, as well as iron, calcium and vitamin D, among others. Finding such a supplement would be a more cost-effective solution, and it would ensure your health is in top-notch condition when trying to conceive.

Nevertheless, never try taking supplements on your own. Always consult your doctor first, as they’ll tell you which dosage to pick and when to start taking them.

Getting pregnant: essential factors to consider

In order to get pregnant at all, a woman should keep track of her ovulation. Although it sometimes seems as if you can get pregnant whenever you want, there are only about four to five days when that’s actually feasible. Thus, we’d recommend getting an ovulation tracker so that you can ensure you don’t miss that magical “window” when you can make a baby.

Once your ovary releases an egg, the sperm has to swim to it and fertilize it. After that happens, the fertilized egg will go into the uterus and try to implant itself. If it’s a total success, the woman gets pregnant, and it’s time to think about proper prenatal care.

As far as vitamins go, you will be required to take prenatal vitamins (mentioned above) throughout your pregnancy to avoid any potential issues and defects. Furthermore, if you want to sail through those three trimesters as smoothly as possible, a proper diet and exercise routine is vital.

You want to keep your body healthy and make your uterus the best “ecosystem” there is. That way, your baby will come out perfectly healthy, and you’ll quickly “bounce back” after labor.

What to avoid while you’re pregnant

There are substances pregnant women should avoid completely, as the side effects may be quite uncomfortable and, in some cases, tragic.

Alcohol, drugs, and smoking are just some of them, but seemingly safe things such as unpasteurized soft cheeses and deli meats (both might contain listeria) are also a big no-no. If you have a cat too, then remember to stop cleaning its litter box, as cat feces may contain a bacteria called toxoplasmosis.

Another thing pregnant women should pay attention to is their exposure to toxic chemicals found in cleaning products, paint and similar. Switching to all-natural or DIY cleaners is worth considering, as they clean just as well as chemical-based ones but won’t necessarily damage your or your baby’s health.

Undercooked meat may contain various bacteria, inducing toxoplasmosis and salmonella, while uncooked seafood could lead to mercury poisoning. As such, pregnant women should avoid these at all costs, as they can damage a developing fetus.

X-rays could be dangerous for future mothers too, as radiation can cause a miscarriage, congenital disabilities, and fetal growth restriction. These issues are mostly associated with abdominal X-rays and depend on the level of radiation you’re exposed to. Thus, it’s crucial to inform your health care provider that you are pregnant so that they might modify or postpone the X-ray.

Finally, remember to keep your temperature at an optimal level. High body temperature can lead to problems in fetal development, especially in the first trimester. Because of that, pregnant women are often advised to avoid hot tubs, heating pads, electric blankets and working out in warm weather.

Diet and nutrition: essential food groups

Although you are eating for two when pregnant, that doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much as you normally do.

In the first trimester, there is no need to add more calories, as you probably won’t need them. Instead, you ought to keep your energy levels up.

You ought to give your baby all the nutrients it needs throughout the pregnancy. So stick to a balanced diet full of:

  • Protein
  • Complex carbs
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats

While pregnant, you will gain some weight, but it’s crucial to avoid gaining 50+ pounds.

Per day, pregnant women need only about:

  • 340 additional calories in the second trimester
  • 450 additional calories in the third trimester.

By being active and following a proper, healthy diet, women usually gain about 25 to 35 pounds.

Going below or over those numbers could be detrimental both to you and your baby’s health. As such, try not to overeat or worse, avoid eating. Even when you don’t feel like having a snack, your baby might be hungry. But don’t eat chips — try a healthier alternative, like baby carrots, for example.

Pregnancy essentials: staying active

While expecting a baby, don’t forget that you need to take care of your body too. Pregnancy isn’t the time when you should stop being active.

In the past, women were made to stay in their beds all day because their pregnancies were often risky (no proper prenatal care, no medications, and a completely different lifestyle). Today, if you get a thumbs-up from your doctor, you may stay active.

Still, certain types of exercise are best left for getting back in shape after labor:

Vigorous jogging and running

Sometimes, doctors will recommend slowing down a bit in the later stages of pregnancy. In any case, anything too strenuous could cause you more discomfort than you might expect, especially if you are not feeling well or if it’s too hot outside.

Dangerous sports, such as horseback riding and skiing

Anything that may lead to an injury should be avoided and returned to after the labor.

Essentially, you ought to adjust your regular exercise routine to accommodate the new life you’re carrying in your belly. Therefore, slow down a bit and see if you can find low-impact workouts you might enjoy.

Light daily stretching is advised, and so is pregnancy yoga. Other types of “gentle” forms of exercise include pilates, swimming, and walking.

We mustn’t forget to work out those pelvic floor muscles while pregnant. If they stretch out too much, pregnant women may experience varying levels of discomfort, not to mention bladder incontinence.

Also, relaxation techniques can do wonders while one is pregnant. These can help you sleep better and avoid stress, which is, as you will see, an infamous red flag that could put your pregnancy at risk.

Avoiding stress

Leading a stressful life may sort of work while we’re not pregnant, but once there’s a baby inside us, we ought to keep our stress levels down.

Stress is the way our body reacts to any sort of demand that can be linked to either our brain or body. As such, it has its pros and cons.

In some cases, stress can make us more aware of our surroundings and keep us safe; for example, if we want to avoid stumbling down the stairs, we’ll “stress” a bit and pay attention to where we’re going.

Nevertheless, copious amounts of stress are not beneficial to a seemingly healthy person, let alone a pregnant woman.

If stress plagues a pregnancy, it could lead to:

  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  • Physical pain and aches, such as back pain and headaches
  • Anxiety and mood swings, as well as a lack of self-esteem
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Decreased immunity, which makes us more prone to infections and diseases

But how can anyone combat stress when it’s sometimes an involuntary reaction to what’s going on around us? Here are a few ideas.

Coping with stress: essential steps to take

Always remember that your attitude plays a crucial role in how you react to stress. If you are negative, you will respond negatively to it. However, if you maintain a positive attitude and decide not to worry about trivial things, stress won’t be able to affect you as much as before.

Perfectionism is unattainable, and if you yearn for it, you will never win. The most important thing to do while you’re pregnant is to enjoy that period of your life and relax. Everything else will be resolved when the right time comes.

Make the baby your priority and strive to go through some relaxation techniques on a daily basis. That will allow you to cope with regular stress and tension the everyday life can bring upon.

Avoid stressors as much as possible, including people who may not understand that they shouldn’t be causing you stress. Talk to them and try to resolve differences in a peaceful manner.

Eat right, take your vitamins and do what your doctor tells you to do. There is no need to worry about potential issues if your prenatal care is top-notch.

Build a support system around you, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to them. They will provide reassurance and peace of mind you’re craving.

Set aside time during the day to take care of YOU. Read a book, listen to your favorite music or relax in any way you deem fit. Enjoy your quiet time and connect with your baby during those moments.

Smoking, drugs, and alcohol

Avoiding cigarettes

Quitting smoking before you get pregnant is a great way to kick a nasty habit and ensure you don’t experience any discomfort or complications during pregnancy, including high fetal heart rate.

But that’s not all. Smoking doesn’t add anything to the pregnancy equation — it can only make you feel horrible. What’s more, it may lead to:

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Pre-term delivery
  • Low birth weight of the baby
  • Respiratory issues
  • Birth defects

Drug abuse during pregnancy

Drugs are a definite no-no while you’re pregnant, as whatever you’re taking, the baby is ingesting too.

Using drugs can lead to a myriad of problems mentioned above, as well as congenital disabilities, drug dependency in babies, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Alcohol and babies

Some doctors might say that a glass of wine now and then could be good for your baby. However, given that babies cannot process alcohol the same way we can, this is a bad idea all around.

Alcohol can prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen and nutrients, so it’s best to stay away from it throughout those nine months.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can, among other things, lead to:

  • Facial abnormalities (wide-set eyes and cleft palate, for example)
  • Speech and movement difficulties
  • Intellectual disability, delayed development, vision impairment, and behavioral disorders
  • Health issues (problems with heart and kidneys, as well as deformed fingers and limbs).

Therefore, it’s essential to avoid dangerous substances while you’re pregnant. In the end, having a healthy baby is completely worth abstaining from things that may harm it while it’s still growing in you.

Dental health during pregnancy

Every person out there should know that good oral hygiene consists of brushing your teeth regularly and using floss to remove food bits from between the teeth. However, when a woman is pregnant, not fixing decayed teeth in advance or delaying a dentist appointment can lead to a variety of problems.

One of the most common ones is periodontal disease, which may cause premature birth or low birth weight. Additionally, pregnancy gingivitis is not uncommon and should be addressed regularly to avoid infections and discomfort.

Tips for future dads

We cannot forget about men and how they experience pregnancy.

While their partners are pregnant, they may start to experience nausea, abdominal pain, and similar aches, which may cause some unnecessary worries. If they are healthy and the doctor says they’re fine, it’s likely they are experiencing sympathy symptoms.

These are also known as couvade syndrome, which is not as uncommon as it may seem.

It just so happens that some future dads feel jealous they cannot experience pregnancy or may be a bit worried and anxious about handling a baby. Thus, they mimic both psychological and physical pregnancy symptoms.

In the end, if you think you have this syndrome, the only cure is to address the cause. Don’t worry — that won’t make you any less of a partner or future father.

Finally, remember that women are the “victims” of hormones while they’re pregnant. They may experience mood swings, pain, behavior changes and other symptoms that will make them appear a bit hard to handle.

The most important thing is to provide support and ensure they know how much they’re loved and cared for.

Having a baby is a wild ride, and both of you are the passengers. As such, share the responsibility and aim to do what’s best both for your baby on a daily basis.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, we have shed some light on what you can do while you’re pregnant to cope with stress and remain healthy and happy.

When you’re growing a baby in your belly, it’s essential to prevent issues and ensure you’re getting enough rest and nutrients you need. Remember to ask your doctor for advice too, go in for regular check-ups and make life as peaceful as possible.

Both your physical and mental health are important while you’re pregnant. As such, make sure you’re putting in the effort each day and preparing for your bundle of joy without any stress, worries or health risks.

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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