If you’re planning to start or expand your family, it’s never too early to begin preparing for a healthy pregnancy. The steps you take now to support yourself physically, mentally and emotionally will pay off with a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
1. A Healthy Pregnancy Begins with Pre-Conception Planning
Did you know that most pregnancies are not discovered until they are 6 to 8 weeks along? This means you must begin at the beginning for a healthy pregnancy. Seek pre-conception advice!
You’ll want to start with your regular doctor, an integrative doctor, a pediatrician or a wellness coach who offers pre-conception services. Start a lifestyle journal that includes:
- What you eat
- What you drink
- Your daily activity
- Medications that you take
This will make it easier for your healthcare provider to assess where your health stands now and what exactly you’ll need to adjust for a healthy pregnancy. This way, you’ll be able to ease into all the changes that come with pregnancy with less stress and anxiety.
More than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so millions of women expose their developing baby to medications. We estimate than more than 1 million babies in the United States and Canada are exposed to drugs during the first or second month of pregnancy.
Even over-the-counter medications can cause harm to an unborn child; however, children whose mothers take Zoloft, Prozac, or similar antidepressants during pregnancy are twice as likely as other children to be diagnosed with autism or a related disorder.
Of course, you want to take every preventative step you can. With the help of pre-conception planning, you can put your mind at ease.
2. Nutrition Dos and Don’ts for a Healthy Pregnancy
At a very basic level, support your body with prenatal vitamins, 8 glasses of water per day and 6 small meals per day. Increase your organic fruits and vegetables, proteins and whole grains.
Though your individual needs may vary, there are a few foods that all women should avoid for a healthy pregnancy. Eliminate caffeine, aspartame, other artificial sweeteners and soft drinks. For example, caffeine has been shown to:
- Cross the placenta
- Cause birth defects
- Cause pre-term delivery
- Reduce fertility or delay conception
- Increase the risk of low birth weight
You’ll cover more nutrition advice during your pre-conception planning with your chosen healthcare provider. He or she will adjust your diet to your individual needs as you progress in your pregnancy.
3. Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Pregnancy
Probably the greatest influence on your overall health, after nutrition, is your ability to cope with stress. Your nervous system controls all of your body’s systems, including digestion and elimination, hormonal and immunity. Stress is so disruptive to your body, that it can render you infertile! You probably have a friend or relative who has told you once she “relaxed” she was able to conceive.
How to reduce stress for a healthy pregnancy:
- Identify your five personal stressors. For example: work, home, relationships, particular commitments, etc. An identified stress cannot affect you as badly as an unidentified one can. Once you are conscious of a stressor, you can do something about it!
- Determine where you can make changes in your life to relieve these stresses.
- Pursue quietness through meditation, prayer, etc.
- Choose a stress-busting activity. For example: yoga, tai chi, personal quiet time, etc.
Your fitness level before pregnancy will dictate the types of exercise you can do safely while pregnant. Walking, which almost everyone can do, is great for a healthy pregnancy. The benefits of walking during pregnancy include:
- Improved posture
- Relief from back pain
- Stronger muscles in preparation for labor
- Improved circulation and flexibility
- Increased or maintained aerobic endurance
- Increased energy level and less fatigue
You can also support a healthy nervous system through routine chiropractic care which we will discuss below.
4. A Healthy Pregnancy Needs a Special Healthcare Team
This special time in your life requires a knowledgeable team of experts to lean on. Find a wellness-minded midwife or obstetrician that will support your desire for a natural delivery. They employ non-invasive procedures and use C-sections only in emergencies and as a last resort. Other special healthcare team members can include a doula and a chiropractor.
You may be wondering what a doula does and why women hire them! A doula:
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint and assistance in getting the information an expectant mother needs to make good decisions.
- Remains by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor.
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and clinical care providers.
Interview doulas to choose the right one for you, just as you would any other healthcare professional. You want to be comfortable with your choice and confident of the rapport you can build with your doula to ensure the best support before and during your delivery.
Speaking of the big day, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the virtues of chiropractic care during pregnancy. Chiropractic adjustments balance the nervous system; we’ve covered this essential element above. The gentle adjustments also help a pregnant woman’s body structurally, positioning the baby for an easier labor and deliver. Who doesn’t want that? In addition, many chiropractors have expanded their knowledge to a variety of complementary medicine modalities. They obtain further certifications so that they can assist their patients with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.
Here’s why chiropractic care supports a healthy pregnancy:
- Helps a woman feel great during the entire pregnancy
- Improves fetal position
- It’s the only source for the Webster Technique
- Shorter labor and delivery
The Webster Technique is a specific chiropractic analysis and adjustment, which reduces interference to the nervous system, improving function of the pelvic muscles and ligaments. This, in turn, reduces the constraints on a woman’s uterus, allowing the best opportunity for the baby to position itself for a healthy birth. This can result in shorter delivery times and more ease during delivery.
There you have it, our short list for a healthy pregnancy. Remember to start planning early and incorporate as many steps as you can. Take exceptionally good care of yourself. As we all know, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy! Ain’t that the truth!