Pregnancy can be an exciting but stressful time. As you get ready to welcome a new person into the world, your body will undergo big changes, both visible and invisible.
Understandably, you’re going to have questions about how to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
To help you, I’ve picked out the 3 things people ask me about most when they get pregnant: staying active, diet, and how to manage the common health complaints during pregnancy.
The first question most newly pregnant people ask me is ‘Can I carry on exercising?’ The answer is not that you can, but that you should.
Here are some of the benefits of staying active while pregnant:
- Reduced cesarean section ratesref1
- Healthier weight gainref1
- Improved management of gestational diabetesref1
- Reduced constipationref2
- Shortened laborref3
Exercising during pregnancy could also be good for your baby. Studies link healthy body weight, cardiovascular health, and nervous system development in children to staying active while pregnant.ref4
So what sort of exercise should you be doing? Aim for 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week. Walking, swimming, yoga, and strength training are all safe, but speak to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Whatever exercise you choose, go gently. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can still carry a conversation while exercising.
Here are some things to avoid when you’re exercising during pregnancy:ref5
- Any activity where there’s a risk of direct impact to your belly
- Exercise in hot weather
- Lying on your back for too long, especially after 16 weeks
The second question people ask is usually about what to eat during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to give a one-size-fits-all answer because there are so many different healthy diets.
My advice is to continue eating a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. And, of course, plenty of fruit and vegetables. Your calorie intake will need to increase as your fetus starts to grow. Speak to your doctor about the right amount of calories for your body type at your stage of pregnancy.
There are a few things you should try to avoid while pregnant:ref6
- Unpasteurized milk
- Soft cheeses and blue cheeses
- Raw or undercooked meat
- Raw eggs
- Fish with high mercury content
- Organ meat like liver, heart, and kidney
- Unwashed fruit and vegetables
- Multivitamins and supplements containing vitamin A
Speak to your doctor before you start taking any supplements while pregnant.
Managing common health complaints
Most pregnancies follow a healthy course without too many problems. However, you can expect to experience some health changes. Here are some ways to manage the most common ones.
Experiencing a bit of morning sickness during your first trimester is normal. It should stop around weeks 16-20.ref7 Try eating small meals more often, and avoid foods that are more likely to give you an upset stomach. If your morning sickness doesn’t go away or you’re struggling to keep food down, call your doctor.
Constipation during pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but it’s normal.ref7 Drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fiber, and making sure you stay active will help you stay regular. Talk to your doctor before taking laxatives.
Being pregnant can be exhausting work. You’re growing a new human after all. Try to get as much sleep as possible, and take naps in the day if you need to. Avoid taking any over-the-counter medications to help you sleep. Speak to your doctor if fatigue becomes a serious problem for you.
I hope these tips will help you on your way to managing a healthy pregnancy. Until next time, take care of yourself.
Himan, S.K., et al. Sports Health, (2015), doi: 10.1177/1941738115599358
Trottier, M., et al. Can Fam Physician, (2012), PMID: 22893333
Mayo Clinic. “Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move!” Accessed April 2021
NHS. “Exercise in pregnancy.” Accessed April 2021
NHS. “Foods to avoid in pregnancy.” Accessed April 2021
NICE. “Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies.” Accessed April 2021