Congratulations on your pregnancy! Whether this is your first, second, or last it’s a great time to reflect on your overall health and the health of your baby. And with vast amounts of ever changing information on the internet, it can be hard to know what’s most important. Fortunately, we’ve taken the time to narrow the focus to our four main pillars that could lead to a healthy pregnancy. As always, check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your health plan.
Pregnancy is a great time to refocus on the basics of healthy eating. Eating a wide variety of whole foods from all food groups is important in order for both you and your baby to get the nutrients you need. Taking a prenatal vitamin is also important to ensure you are meeting all of your nutritional needs but is not a substitute for a healthy diet.
Using the Fitbit Balanced Plate Guide is a great place to start to ensure that you’re getting foods from all groups and creating balanced meals. Here are some other special considerations for nutrition during pregnancy.
Calorie needs. For a singleton pregnancy, calorie needs are the same as pre-pregnancy during the first trimester and are increased by 340 calories per day in the second trimester, and 450 calories per day in the third.
Protein. A woman’s baseline protein requirement during pregnancy is 1.1g/kg of body weight per day (which is increased from a baseline of 0.8g/gk/day for non-pregnant women). This would be 75g of protein for a 150lb woman (use pre-pregnancy weight). Broken up into three meals with 25g protein each it would be just 3 oz. chicken breast, about 4.5 oz salmon, 1 cup greek yogurt, or 1 cup lentils.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrate needs during pregnancy are the same as outside of pregnancy and should make up 45-65 percent of your calories for the day. Focus on getting your carbs from high fiber complex carbohydrate sources like whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans/legumes, and fruit. See the Balanced Plate Guide for ideas!
Fats. Just as before pregnancy, fats should make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Getting healthy fats in your diet can be as simple as cooking with olive or avocado oil, spreading almond butter on some whole grain toast as a snack, or adding avocado to your salad or tacos. Healthy fats, like omega-3s found in fish, are important for fetal brain development. There is also evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of maternal depression.
Folate. Folate is a B vitamin and it plays an important role in preventing neural tube defects in a fetus. Your prenatal vitamin will contain folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, and you can get additional folate in your diet from foods like dark leafy greens, beans/legumes, and whole grains.
Iron. Pregnant women experience a large increase in blood volume. Eating iron rich foods can help to build blood and prevent anemia. Pairing foods that contain iron, such as beef, fish, poultry, and leafy greens, with a source of vitamin C (like oranges, bell peppers, broccoli, or strawberries) can help your body absorb the iron it needs.
Calcium. Calcium is important for your baby’s development. If a pregnant mother’s calcium is inadequate, it can be pulled from her bones in order to meet the baby’s needs, so it’s important to consume at least 3 servings per day of calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, fortified non-dairy milks, and dark leafy greens.
It’s important to consult your doctor about your exercise routine while pregnant and with any concerns that you may have, but it is healthy and encouraged for most women to stay active during pregnancy. If you continue to feel comfortable doing the types of exercise you were doing before becoming pregnant it’s usually okay to continue your routine. However, some women may find that their activity needs and preferences change over the course of their pregnancy.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy. Ideally, this activity should be spread throughout the week. For example, 5 sessions of 30 minutes. Regular exercise during pregnancy has many benefits:
- Improving digestion and regularity
- Reducing risk of gestational diabetes
- Promoting healthy weight gain
- Preparing your body for childbirth and recovery
Here are some tips for exercising while pregnant.
Stay hydrated. Fluid needs are higher during pregnancy (at least 8 to 10 glasses per day) so be sure to drink lots of water before and during activity to prevent dehydration.
Consider a belly support belt. You could also consider supportive clothing later in pregnancy if you experience discomfort while exercising.
Avoid overheating. If you start feeling dizzy, faint, or overheated stop and rest, drink water, and cool down.
Meeting your sleep needs while pregnant can be a challenging and frustrating experience. Many women feel especially tired during the first and third trimesters and yet have a lot of difficulty getting good quality sleep. Here are some common sleep disruptors during pregnancy and tips for overcoming them.
Getting comfortable. Pregnancy often comes with lots of aches and pains. Sore back and hips can make it tough to sleep. Try using multiple pillows to support your back and bump or even a special pregnancy pillow to get comfortable.
Heartburn. Acid reflux is common during pregnancy and is often worse when you are laying down for the night. Try eating small, frequent meals and staying upright after eating. Avoid eating right before bedtime so that your body has time to digest before you lay down.
Refine your sleep routine. Having a healthy and consistent sleep routine can be especially helpful for pregnant women. Creating a calming bedtime routine, having a cool and dark environment, and minimizing screen time are all great strategies for improving sleep quality. Read more on this topic here.
Consistent exercise. As described above, a regular exercise routine can also improve sleep.
Pregnancy can be both an incredibly joyful and stressful experience. Even though you may be excited and grateful to be pregnant it’s completely normal to feel anxious, stressed, or fearful during this time. Creating or strengthening your mindfulness practice can help you stay present and reduce stress. Try out guided meditation or one of Fitbit’s many other mindfulness resources.
Focus on self-care. Find the practices and activities that fill your cup and make time for them. Self-care could mean bubble baths and candles but it may also be going for a walk in nature, making time to catch up with a friend, spending time away from screens and devices, or connecting with a community of other pregnant women.
Keep tabs on your mental health. Though most healthcare providers now screen for postpartum depression and anxiety, this topic may not come up with your provider during pregnancy. Women experience dramatic hormonal changes during pregnancy and postpartum which may impact brain chemistry and lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The effects of these hormonal shifts can be exacerbated by other factors such as lack of a strong support system, financial difficulties, challenging relationships, or a history of mood disorders. Up to 20 percent of women experience mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.
For some women, seeing your body completely change during pregnancy can be difficult. It’s okay if it feels challenging to accept these changes. Give yourself time and compassion as you adjust to your changing body. If seeing your weight gain on the scale is triggering for you consider asking your healthcare provider to not tell you your weight at appointments.
There is so much to think about when you are expecting a new baby. Many pregnant mothers feel pressure to have the perfect diet, exercise routine, and more, and that can be stressful. Remember that no one is perfect and it’s impossible to do it all. Just do your best and don’t forget to take time to rest, give yourself grace, and reflect on the parts of your pregnancy that bring you joy. Bringing a new life into the world is hard work! Go easy on yourself and ask for support from your partner, family, or friends when you need to.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.