People get busy this time of year—and we’re not talking about holiday parties: National statistics show that most babies are born between July and September—making winter the most common time to conceive.
But that’s not all. Thanks to the holidays, this is also the time of the year when people are most likely to get a new Fitbit tracker.
If you’re a mom-to-be, don’t delay on activating your device; your tracker can be a great way to monitor whether you’re hitting many of the prenatal wellness goals your doctor is likely to recommend. Below, how your body—and dashboard—may change during pregnancy.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING
Obstetricians and gynecologists share some signs and symptoms of pregnancy that may show up on your dashboard—category by category.
Resting Heart Rate. A higher resting heart rate may be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. (Just check out the 14-point jump that one Fitbit user saw in the first month she got pregnant!) But as noted in the Buzzfeed article above, early changes in resting heart rate are likely due to an increase in body temperature. “Pregnant ladies run a little hotter,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
The biggest change to resting heart rate usually happens in the second trimester. That’s when circulating blood volume increases up to 50 percent to provide adequate blood flow to the growing baby. As a result, a pregnant woman’s resting heart rate can increase up to 20 beats per minute, says Sheila Chhutani, M.D., a board-certified obstetrics and gynecology doctor at Gyn/Ob Associates in Dallas, Texas. [What is resting heart rate?]
Food Log. Your diet shouldn’t change too much when you’re pregnant. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans still apply, says Chhutani, and yes, you can still eat sushi and cheese despite what you may have read online. “In the U.S., sushi has to be frozen prior to serving, which is what kills parasites, so sushi is OK,” says Chhutani. “But if you go overseas and see them take it out of the water and slice it up, that’s risky. Steaks need to be cooked to medium, soft cheese is ok as long as it’s pasteurized, as are deli meats if they’re nitrate-free.”
That said, if you’re at risk for anemia (i.e. low blood counts usually caused by not having enough iron), your doctor may have eat more iron-rich foods, like dark, leafy greens, says Chhutani. “During pregnancy, as the baby grows and develops its own blood, it takes iron from the mom,” says Chhutani. “If the mom does not have adequate iron stores, the baby takes what it needs and leaves the mom lacking, which results in anemia.”
You may also need to eliminate certain foods from your diet if they trigger heartburn. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the valve between the esophagus and stomach to relax. This combined with pressure exerted on the stomach and intestines from the growing uterus makes it easier for stomach acid to travel into and irritate the esophagus, says Minkin. Trigger foods are different for every woman, but common culprits include foods that are acidic (like citrus and tomatoes), spicy, or fatty. Food logging can help you identify your fire starters. [How to track your food with Fitbit]
Calories In: Although you’re technically “eating for two” that doesn’t mean two grown people. “Most pregnant ladies only need 300 extra calories a day,” says Minkin. Which isn’t that much—especially when you consider that one Snickers bar contains 250 calories. “What typically happens is you start snacking more,” says Chhutani. “You have a plate full of food that you can’t finish but feel hungry two hours later. Try eating smaller portions more frequently, and make sure you’re not overindulging.” [How many calories do you really need?]
Weight. Gaining massive amounts of weight during pregnancy isn’t a given; “a lot depends on what your pre-pregnancy weight is,” says Minkin. “We usually encourage a woman of ideal body weight to gain in the vicinity of 25 to 35 pounds, but if she is significantly overweight, she may not need to gain any weight at all.” To find out the amount of weight gain that’s appropriate for your body, check out the Institute of Medicine Weight Gain Recommendations for Pregnancy. “I hand this chart out to my patients at the beginning of their pregnancy,” says Chhutani. “We’ll calculate their BMI and then determine how much weight they should gain.” [How to set a weight or body fat percentage goal]
Water Intake. Women should drink throughout the day regardless of if they’re pregnant. “I tell my patients to drink enough water that their urine is clear to light yellow,” says Chhutani. The amount of water it takes to achieve that is personal to you and your activity level, but if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, says Chhutani. Bottom line, she adds: “Do what your body needs.” [How to set a water consumption goal and log your intake]
Exercise. “In the past, experts recommended keeping your heart rate below 140, says Chhutani. But now they focus on the activity, how conditioned you are and how you feel. “If you were doing an activity prior to getting pregnant you can continue,” says Chhutani. “But listen to your body. Don’t totally exhaust yourself. You don’t want to do that when you’re pregnant. If you’re used to getting your heart rate to 160 and you still feel good there, that’s ok. But if you get to 160 and you feel exhausted—and you might with the extra weight and blood flow—you might not be able to do as much.”
Depending on what your activity of choice is, you may also have to make some changes based on what’s safe for moms to be. “It’s not recommended to do any contact sports,” says Chhutani. “Horseback riding is also not recommended because of the potential of falling. Even cycling isn’t recommended after the first trimester because your center of gravity changes, putting more strain on your lower back and increases the risk of falling. But running, walking, jogging, the elliptical, and water aerobics are all fine unless a patient has a medical reason not to do them.” [How to track exercise and activities with Fitbit]
Step goal. If you’re used to hitting 10,000 steps a day and your doctor says it’s ok to continue, go right ahead and keep on stepping. If not, talk to your doctor about increasing your step goal. “Walking is fabulous,” says Minkin. “I encourage my patients to do 10,000 steps a day. For most people it’s a good thing.” [How to change the activity goal on your tracker]
There doesn’t appear to be any data on whether your stride length shortens as your belly grows, but it’s a possibility if a woman acquires a “waddle” in the ninth month. “As the baby’s head settles into the mother’s pelvis, that pelvic pressure may change how she walks,” says Chhutani. “Outside of that I wouldn’t expect stride length to change.” If you think your stride has shortened (or that your step count is off), change the default stride length on your Fitbit.
Sleep. Expect to see your sleep pattern fluctuate throughout your pregnancy. “During the first trimester, the common theme is that all pregnant women want to do is go to work and come home and go to bed,” says Chhutani. “They feel chronically fatigued. Typically at end of the first trimester, the energy part comes back and they start getting back into more normal sleep habits.” The third trimester is characterized by restlessness and frequent awakenings. Sleep disruptions increase because women are more uncomfortable and having to get up and go to the bathroom more often. “I think this is your body preparing to have a baby, getting up every three hours to feed,” says Chhutani. “I recommend napping if you’re able to.” [How to see your sleep data]
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. 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.