Pregnancy: Nutrition, Mental Health & Exercise Guide

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Pregnancy is a miraculous process that billions of women around the world undergo every year. It’s completely natural, yet it requires a lot of focusing and some decision-making – many women take the responsibility they have to their unborn children quite seriously. So they focus extensively on eating healthy and maintaining a good exercise routine.

However, there’s lots of conflicting advice about what women should and should not eat, fluid intake, what vitamins to take, and what types of exercises they should focus on, and more. Let’s break down the nutrition, mental health, and exercise tips you should remember when you are pregnant and want the best results for yourself and your child.

Three Stages

Pregnancy is split into three trimesters, each lasting for approximately three months. The first trimester includes conception, which is when the sperm fertilizes the egg. The fertilized egg eventually ends up in the fallopian tube and attaches to the inside of the uterus, where it starts to form the embryo and placenta. 

During the second trimester, many women begin to put on weight, due to the necessary increase in calories, and feel fetal movement. They also may be able to find out the sex of their child if they wish to do so via ultrasound. 

Finally, the third trimester is when the uterus expands making up a larger portion of the woman’s abdomen and is when fetus development completes. In these final stages of gestation before childbirth, the fetus and uterus will drop to a lower position.

Symptoms Of Pregnancy

You may or may not notice some signs before you take a pregnancy test. Others will appear weeks later, as your hormone levels change. 

Some symptoms are:

  • Missed period
  • Morning sickness
  • Tender breasts
  • Nipples appear larger, more sensitive
  • Nausea

Taking a home pregnancy test or consulting with your doctor for lab testing will confirm if you’re pregnant or not. A pregnancy diagnosis is measured by the body’s levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hcg) in a urine or blood test

When women receive an early pregnancy diagnosis along with prenatal care, they are more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.

Why Eat Differently While Pregnant?

Simply put, because there’s a baby growing inside you!

Pregnant women need to eat more calories than they would normally. But not just any calories will do. In fact, all or the majority of the extra calories you consume (about 340 to 450 extra calories, in fact) need to come from nutritious sources.

Even a single cup of cereal will include most of them. So you have to consider your food choices carefully.

The Baby’s Organ and Brain Development

The healthier food you eat, the easier time your baby’s organs and brain will have developing correctly. 

Various types of micronutrients and vitamins play key roles in the development of your child, including:

  • Proteins for cellular growth and blood production.
  • Carbs for energy production.
  • Calcium for strong bones and teeth.
  • Iron for red blood cell production.
  • Vitamins A, C, B6, B12, D, and more for things like the development of, organs, skin, and eyes.

As a result, it’s a good idea for pregnant women to take daily multivitamins. This ensures that you meet all of your nutritional needs (and the needs of your baby!) without overeating at the same time. Dr. Livingood’s Daily Multivitamin can help supply nutrients that you need during your pregnancy. 

The Baby’s Birth Weight

Furthermore, eating correctly is vital to ensure that your baby is born at a healthy weight. The average baby weight at birth is 7.5 pounds, though there is plenty of variation around this mean. Still, getting enough to eat is crucial to prevent your baby from being underweight when it is born.

Your Own Mental Health

Additionally, eating differently when you are pregnant is important for your own mental health. Many women struggle with self-image and mental wellness while pregnant, especially since being pregnant adds stress to one’s daily life.

Eating healthily can boost your energy and improve your self-image, helping your mental health along the way.

Foods to Eat

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid overly fatty or sugary foods. However, don’t avoid fatty foods entirely; it’s completely natural for your body to gain a little bit of weight, and your unborn baby needs fat to be healthy as well!

Beyond this general tip, in addition to lots of fruits and veggies,  prioritize these foods to maximize your wellness and the health of your unborn child:

  • Eggs, which are excellent sources of vitamins and protein.
  • Sweet potatoes, which are easy to cook and provide lots of vitamin A and fiber.
  • Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. These provide lots of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins.
  • Clean dairy products including organic cheese, which provide plenty of calcium plus a variety of other vitamins and protein.
  • Wild-caught Salmon is one of the best meats to eat as it is both lean and includes lots of omega-3 fatty acids.

Foods to Avoid

Just as there are foods to prioritize, there are also some foods and beverages you should avoid. These include:

  • Fish species high in mercury, like swordfish, tuna, and marlin.
  • Any undercooked or processed meat, especially chicken or beef.
  • Raw eggs, which may be contaminated with salmonella.
  • Caffeine. You should limit your caffeine consumption or eliminate it entirely as it can lead to lower birth weight for your child.
  • Unwashed produce.
  • Any overly processed foods or foods that have added hormones, like some types of processed beef.

Is Exercise Important While Pregnant?

Absolutely! It’s very important for pregnant women to exercise regularly, both to ensure healthy weight gain and to maintain positive mental health. Exercising can provide an excellent boost to one’s mood and even decrease several uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, like backaches and headaches.

Great Exercises for Pregnant Women

However, you need to be careful about which exercises you perform so you don’t strain certain muscles or joints, like your ankles and knees. 

The best exercises for pregnant women include:

  • Swimming activities, which lighten the load on your joints and bones from the increased weight of your baby
  • Regular walking
  • Ellipticals or stair climbers
  • Indoor cycling
  • Yoga, especially if you want to maintain strength and flexibility

At a bare minimum, try to walk for between 25 and 45 minutes per day. This will burn calories and keep your body limber and comfortable when sitting or lying down.

Exercises to Avoid

There are also some exercises to avoid. You should avoid exercises that focus on the belly (which constrain the muscles around the placenta). You should also avoid exercises that require the extension and flexion of your core muscles. 

Similarly, avoid any sports or exercises that include a higher than average risk of falling or injuring your abdomen. Try to avoid any advanced abdominal moves, like sit-ups or double leg lifts.

Summary

Ultimately, every woman’s pregnancy will be a unique experience. But you can follow the above tips to ensure that you do the best you can for your unborn child and keep your body in shape – this way, you can enjoy physical activity once again after the baby is born.

For more guides on safe exercises and suggestions on supplements or vitamins to take while pregnant, check out Dr. Livingood’s site today!

Sources

Pregnancy Nutrition | American Pregnancy

Physical Growth in Newborns | University of Michigan Health

Nutrition.gov Pregnancy | Nutrition.gov

Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy | American Pregnancy

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