How To Prepare For Pregnancy Physically And Mentally
Planned or unplanned – pregnancy can be both a wild and wonderful ride. While every mother is going to approach the transformative experience differently, there are quite a few helpful things you can do to prepare mentally and physically.
When it comes to pregnancy, the truth is that every person is going to have a unique experience, which makes advice-giving a bit tricky.
While, yes – many pregnancy symptoms, phenomenons and feelings are universal – chances are your ride will be very different than your friend’s, sister’s and maybe even mother’s. Since a side-effect of having kids is offering unsolicited advice to other mothers, what worked for them may not work for you and that’s okay. (Just nod and smile.)
Even though conception and pregnancy stories differ wildly, there are still some incredibly helpful things you can mindfully do to prepare for pregnancy mentally and physically. This is particularly important in the time of COVID-19. Having a baby at any point in time can be intimidating, but going through such an emotional journey during a global pandemic is next level. While it can be easy to spiral into a little ball of fear, we’re here to tell you that there’s plenty you can do to face this exciting adventure head on!
In this article, we’ll go over:
- How to prepare mentally for pregnancy
- How to prepare physically for pregnancy
- Chemicals to avoid during pregnancy
- Our favorite pregnancy products
Scroll down to learn more!
How to Prepare Mentally for Pregnancy
Be aware that conceiving can take a while:
While you might already be pregnant and reading this, there is a high chance that you’re not.
60% of couples who are trying to conceive are successful within the first three months while 85% take a full year. Becoming pregnant can be a long process that may feel stressful at times. It’s okay to seek out counseling, get a second opinion and avoid placing time frames around your life-plans.
Reduce stress in your life:
Some research has shown that stress may negatively affect fertility, but that thought alone can make you feel more stressed.
That’s why there’s no time like the present to start a daily mindfulness meditation practice, which only requires 10 minutes a day with an app such as Glo or Calm. Not only will it help you control stress, but it will also teach you to live in the present moment – an essential skill when you have young children.
If meditation isn’t enough, feel free to say no to unnecessary commitments, log off of social media, or swap your bootcamp sessions for a less intense walking regime.
Make sleep a priority:
I once read somewhere that a pregnant woman’s body lying down is working harder than a non-pregnant person running a marathon. Is it true? I don’t know, but it definitely can feel like it! That’s why you MUST find time to rest.
Surprisingly, it’s not that easy to slip off to sleep when you’re pregnant. While the second and third trimester can just be plain uncomfortable because it’s recommended you sleep on your side, it’s shocking how much you need to pee when you’re pregnant – even during the first trimester.
Couple that with anxiety, restless leg syndrome and insomnia and you might as well volunteer as a night guard to make yourself feel useful. (We’re joking – don’t do that!)
Try to find opportunities to nap during the day, avoid stimulants like caffeine and chocolate, get a great pregnancy pillow and seek out help from your doctor if it’s truly becoming an issue.
Find books and podcasts that resonate with you:
When it comes to pregnancy books and podcasts, there is not a one size fits all. Some people are very literal and like a more clinical approach to their pregnancy while others may need of an uplifting and empowering angle.
That means if someone gifts you What To Expect When You’re Expecting and you can’t get passed page 3, it’s totally okay to pass it on and find the right guide for you!
Be open to change:
Preparing for pregnancy marks the beginning of a series of major life changes that will transform the essence of who you are – in a good way. You’ll discover things you never knew about yourself and grow as a person. While this sounds all hunky-dory, a lot of people actually fear change.
Try to focus on the positive aspects of the changes in your life rather than what you’ve lost or are missing out on. You might not be able to go out dancing all night with your friends (as often), but you and your partner may feel more connected than ever.
Accept that things might not go how you think:
There’s an expectation for women to “glow” and feel unwaveringly grateful while they’re expecting, but for some mamas-to-be pregnancy is a whirlwind of extreme morning sickness, crippling fatigue and other unpleasant pregnancy conditions. (Hemorrhoids, itchy skin, incontinence, restless leg syndrome…oh the joys!)
Hopefully this isn’t the case for you, but it’s a good idea not to set the bar of your expectations too high so that you’re not devastated if things don’t go as planned. It’s OK if you don’t feel the glow – lots of women don’t.
Build a support system:
Studies show that a strong support system has a positive impact on postpartum health and may even reduce your risk of preterm birth. This could be family members, your partner, women in a prenatal yoga class, or even a psychologist.
While you may be tempted to join pregnancy groups online or start participating in message boards, these can quickly become dark holes of anxiety, ill-advised information and unwanted judgement. Our advice: they CAN be great, but tread carefully.
Communicate with your partner:
Talk openly about your joys and fears relating to pregnancy and parenthood and ask them to share theirs as well. This will ensure that your bond is strong and that you’re on the same page when your baby arrives.
Remember – you’ll have nine months to ease into feeling like a parent while they are simply handed a baby one day.
Be gentle on yourself:
For way too long, women have been told to ‘bounce back’ after having a baby. While Eastern cultures have long honored the Fourth Trimester, many women in the US do not have the opportunity to take a full 12 weeks to heal post-birth. Or if they do, they feel pressured to be getting out and about or working on their pre-baby body.
While I know it’s hard – try to acknowledge just how much your body and mind will go through and make plans to give yourself as much time and support post-pregnancy as possible.
Prepare your other children:
If this isn’t your first pregnancy, it may be easier in some ways because you’ll know what to expect. (Unless it turns out to be different, which it totally can!)
But on the other hand, you’ll be caring for your other children and worrying about how your family unit will change.
Involve your children in the preparations for your baby’s arrival early on so that they feel connected to their new sibling. See more in our article on How to prepare for your second child.
Trust your instincts:
You can read a thousand books pregnancy, but listen to your intuition above all else.
How to Prepare Physically for Pregnancy
Have a preconception check-up:
Your doctor will ask about your medical, obstetric, mental health and vaccination history. They may also perform physical and gynecological exams, as well as blood tests, to ensure that everything is in working order. It’s a good idea for your partner to get a physical as well.
Make lifestyle changes:
You will most likely have this conversation with your doctor, but it’s a good idea to quit smoking and cut back on alcohol, caffeine and processed food a couple of months before you start trying to get pregnant.
Focus on eating a variety of whole foods and getting regular exercise. Find out more about a nutritious diet in our article on Healthy eating for pregnancy.
Start taking a prenatal vitamin:
Pregnant bodies are working extremely hard to get the nutrients you consume to your growing baby! That’s why it’s important to find a pre-natal supplement that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida that can occur very early in pregnancy. See more on How and why to supplement during pregnancy.
See your dentist:
Gum disease can lead to preterm birth, so have a check-up now.
Switch to natural products:
From your skincare and cosmetics to your household cleaning products, now is the perfect time to remove potentially toxic chemicals from your home. Switch to brands that use only natural, plant-based ingredients. See our Pregnant mama’s guide to non-toxic living.
Check your health insurance coverage and parental leave entitlements:
It’s best to do this as early as possible so that you can make any necessary changes to your coverage and start planning financially right away.
See more on our article on Parental Leave: Do you know your rights?
Invest in a functional maternity wardrobe:
You can look and feel fantastic when you’re pregnant thanks to stylish maternity supportwear that supports you in all the right places and even helps to ease pregnancy aches and pains.
Prepare your body (and mind):
There’s no denying that labor and birth are intense. You may have heard the phrase that ‘labor is like a marathon’. It’s absolutely true and it’s something that you need to physically and mentally prepare your body for.
Once you have the ‘OK’ from your doctor, start some pregnancy-safe exercise like like prenatal yoga, pilates or swimming. It’s also a good idea to research birth education classes that teach you how to use and control your breath and practice stretch, massage and visualization techniques such as the Gentle Birth Method by Gowri Motha or the Marie Mongan HypnoBirthing Method.
Start accepting help:
You’ll need to accept help from family and friends when you’re pregnant and when your baby arrives, so leave your pride at the door and start saying “yes” when people offer to do something for you.
Chemicals to Avoid When Pregnant
At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Test. This means we’ve looked deep into third-party testing, examined ingredients lists and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure it’s free of the chemicals we avoid.
When pregnant, it’s particularly important to avoid the following chemicals:
Parabens – Often used as a skincare preservative, these are known hormone disrupters, carcinogens, and skin irritants. When reading an ingredients list, make sure there isn’t anything with ‘paraben’ on the end such as methylparaben, ethlyparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, or isopropylparaben. But beware: sometimes a company will shorten the word to just methyl, ethyl or propyl!
Petrochemicals – The problem with petrochemicals is that they can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, which is a volatile organic compound known to cause cancer, irritation and damage to your central nervous system. These include ingredients like parfum, fragrance, parafin wax, butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol, mineral oil, toluene, benzene, polyethylene glycol (PEG) as well as ethanolamine and dietanolamine.
Phthalates – Phthalates are used as a plasticizer and are found in nail polish, hair spray, perfumes, lotions, soaps, shampoos and more. As known endocrine disruptors associated with liver and kidney lesions and increasing your risk of certain cancers, they may exacerbate asthma and allergies in children. You will find this on an ingredients list as diethylphthalate (DEP), dibutylphthalates (DBP), diethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) or dimethylphthalate (DMP).
Synthetic Dyes + Colorants – Many synthetic dyes and colorants can contain heavy metals that cause skin irritation and organ toxicity. Be sure to avoid FD&C (Food, Drugs and Cosmetics) and D&C (Drugs & Cosmetics) dyes and pigments such as Yellow No 5 and No 6, Red No 3, Blue No 1 and No 2, as well as Green No 3 and S.
SLS, SLES + ALS – These sulfates are commonly found in shampoos and soaps as foaming agents. They can heavily irritate the skin and cause your body to overcompensate by creating an excessive amount of oil. Look out for and avoid sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laurel sulfate.
Our Favorite Pregnancy Products
All Tot-Tested and Approved, these are our must-have pregnancy products!
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