As a mom, your world naturally revolves around your family. Other than looking after the children, you keep the household organized. Life becomes more hectic if you’re also struggling to balance a career with your personal life. As enjoyable as pregnancy and motherhood are, it’s vital to prioritize your wellbeing. Rather than giving you quick fixes, this comprehensive guide to healthy living offers sustainable, long term tips for a healthier lifestyle:
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking during pregnancy can have adverse health effects on you and the baby, some of which can be lifelong. They include miscarriage or stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, and placenta abruption. Your baby can suffer low birth weight, physical defects, brain and lung damage, and preterm birth. There’s also a higher probability of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Research links nicotine abuse to several other health problems. They include cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and a weak immune system. You may already be aware of these effects, but you might still find it hard to quit.
That’s because smoking releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes the habit pleasurable. Every time you try to stop, the dopamine deficiency makes you restless, anxious and even depressed.
Although it takes a lot of willpower to stop smoking, the long-term health benefits are worth it. They include improved blood circulation, sharper taste and smell, more energy, and a boost to your immune system. You’ll also enjoy better sex life and improved oral health. The first few weeks of quitting can trigger extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Examples are headaches, nausea, sore throat, coughing, constipation, irritability, and insomnia. However, if you stay on course, these withdrawal symptoms will pass and lead to positive results. The START strategy helps you quit through the following steps:
- Set a date: Choosing a quit date allows you to plan accordingly and adjust to the new reality without losing motivation.
- Tell family, friends, and acquaintances: The moral support from loved ones boosts your resolve. You might also receive encouragement from a quit buddy who will help you maintain the course when you feel like giving up.
- Anticipate challenges: There’s a high likelihood of relapsing within the first three months of quitting. It’s advisable to have realistic expectations and prepare for nicotine cravings.
- Remove nicotine products: Get rid of your cigarettes, ashtray, and other items that tempt you to smoke. Clean your house, clothes, car, and other personal spaces thoroughly to remove cigarette smell.
- Talk to your physician: A doctor can recommend a guide to healthy living that helps cope with the cravings. Examples are nicotine patches, chewing gum, lozenges, tablets, and nasal sprays.
Identifying your smoking triggers helps with the process. They include particular locations, other smokers, and alcohol
2. Lose Weight
Weight plays an essential role in determining your overall health. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9. You’re overweight if it falls on the 25.0 to 29.9 scale. A BMI of 30.0 and above means you’re obese.
Weight gain has various side effects that may point to more complex medical problems. They include an abnormal menstrual cycle, fatigue, breathing difficulties, constipation, temperature sensitivity, and visual impairment.
Symptoms that indicate life-threatening problems include edema, rapid heart rate, migraines, and sudden vision changes. Although most people link weight gain to an unhealthy diet, there are several other causes.
Examples are hormonal changes, diabetes, prescription medication, kidney problems, and mental issues such as anxiety and eating disorders.
Weight gain is a natural part of pregnancy. However, it may take a while to shed off the extra pounds after delivery. It’s advisable to have a pregnancy workout plan to keep you and the baby healthy.
Most new mothers lose up to half of their baby weight by the sixth week after childbirth. However, Pregnancy exercises help you shed it faster. According to experts, you should attempt at least 30 minutes of daily exercise for most days of the week. Such workouts include walking, swimming, aerobics, and indoor cycling.
Seek your doctor’s advice before engaging in more intense exercises such as HIIT, kickboxing, weightlifting, and outdoor sports. There are various pregnancy-appropriate workouts you can perform for as long as possible before your due date. They include Yoga, pilates, barre, and Tai Chi.
Follow these tips to ensure safety while performing your pregnancy exercises:
- Start slowly, especially if you’ve not been actively exercising in the past. Include warm-ups and warm downs in your routine.
- If you were a fitness enthusiast before getting pregnant, avoid going overboard.
- Avoid steam rooms, hot tubs, and other environments that may significantly raise your body temperature.
- Stop working out if you feel pain, swelling, or other physical discomforts.
- Avoid exercising on your back or prolonged standing once you enter the second trimester. Your growing uterus could curtail circulation by compressing blood vessels.
- Incorporate healthy protein and carb snacks into your workout routines to compensate for low blood sugar.
- Wear loose, comfortable workout clothes.
3. Take Care of Your Mental Wellbeing
According to the WHO, up to 13% of new moms and 10% of expecting women experience mental illness. Although prenatal and postpartum depression is the most common, severe cases can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Other than limiting functionality, it affects the wellbeing of children. That’s because you won’t be in a position to provide them with the motherly love they crave and deserve.
If you don’t receive treatment for post-natal mental issues, your young ones will likely grow in a dysfunctional setup. This situation will severely limit their educational achievements and potential for a fulfilling lifestyle.
As opposed to the longer-lasting postpartum depression (PPD), you may also experience baby blues. This situation lasts a few days after childbirth. Its symptoms include mood swings, irritability, sadness, anxiety, crying, sleeping problems, and feeling overwhelmed.
PPD might appear as baby blues at first, only for the symptoms to become more intense and last longer. Although it commonly appears a few weeks after delivery, it might begin during pregnancy or even months after childbirth.
You might experience excessive crying, insomnia, overwhelming fatigue, panic attacks, hopelessness, and intense irritability. This situation also makes it hard to bond with your baby, which might elicit feelings of guilt and shamelessness.
Without treatment, PPD might unnecessarily last for months. Some mothers experience postpartum psychosis about a week into childbirth. The symptoms include paranoia, hallucinations, disorientation, and agitation.
This form of mental fragility is dangerous because it can cause you to harm yourself or your baby. It’s advisable to seek psychiatric help if most of the symptoms outlined in this guide to healthy living last more than two weeks.
Related: Coping with postpartum depression
Although there are no distinct causes of mental issues, medical experts outline these two broad triggers:
(i) Physical Changes
A significant drop in hormones such as progesterone and estrogen after childbirth may contribute to PPD. A reduction in hormone production in the thyroid gland may also result in sluggishness and low moods.
(ii) Emotional Factors
Although childbirth is a happy occasion, it can also cause frustration because you’ll rarely get enough rest. Other contributing factors are a loss of identity and feeling unattractive.
Any mum can suffer PPD, but the risk increases if you have a history of depression or other mental health challenges. Other risk factors are multiple births, family members with mental disorders, financial problems, and a weak support system.
That’s why it’s advisable to honor all pre and post-natal appointments. Your doctor can identify the symptoms and recommend a practical treatment plan.
4. Eat Healthily
You’ll likely experience food cravings while expecting. It’s essential to have a pregnancy diet plan that incorporates delicious and healthy options. As part of your guide to healthy living, it’s advisable to prioritize whole meals that contain the most nutritious foods. They include proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, fiber, and carbohydrates. The best examples of foods to eat while pregnant are:
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. They are rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins.
- Legumes, which include peanuts, soybeans, lentils, and peas. They are good sources of first-semester nutrition for you and the baby.
- Sweet potatoes. In addition to their pleasant natural taste, they contain beta carotene, a compound that converts into Vitamin A.
- Fish, specifically salmon which is a crucial source of Omega-3 fatty acids. These minerals are essential in developing your baby’s brain and eyes. However, not all seafood is healthy during pregnancy. Avoid high-mercury types such as marlin, bigeye tuna, and shark.
- This meal is perfect for a pregnancy diet plan because it contains nearly every nutrient your body needs. One of them is choline which helps with the baby’s brain and spinal development.
- Dark leafy greens. Broccoli and dark vegetables such as spinach have fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, iron, and folate. You can also include them in any diet.
Other pregnancy-friendly foods that this guide to healthy living recommends include lean meat, whole grains, berries, avocadoes, and fish liver oil. Remember to drink enough water to keep you and the baby hydrated.
If you’re a new mum, there are various ways of improving the quality and quantity of your breast milk. One of them is to eat more healthy portions to increase your calorie intake. Spreading out your meals also gives your body the energy it needs to create breast milk.
Other tips include drinking more water, reducing caffeine, working out, and consuming calcium-rich foods. Ongoing research shows that adding particular probiotics to expressed milk provides your baby with good bacteria to help them digest breast milk.
It also protects them from harmful bacteria that cause colic and other medical problems such as allergies and obesity. If you feel your breast milk supply dwindling, you can pump more often, which signals your body to produce more.
5. Get Quality Sleep
You’re more likely to develop complications if you suffer from pregnancy insomnia. It’s in the best interests of you and the baby to get as much rest as you can. Your sleep patterns will vary as your due date grows closer.
Cytokine levels also affect how comfortable your nights become. These molecules help in regulating your body’s immune responses. According to research, the more cytokines you produce, the harder it becomes to sleep.
You’ll need more slumber in the first trimester due to a growing placenta. Although the urge to nap will reduce during the second trimester, you’ll also have more disruptions. For example, as your bump grows, the desire to use the restroom will also increase.
Sleeping during the third trimester will be trickier for various reasons. They include back pain, leg cramps, weight gain, and baby kicks. This guide to healthy living includes valuable tips for sleeping during pregnancy.
One of them involves creating a bedtime routine that relaxes your body. Examples are taking a warm shower, drinking a healthy caffeine-free beverage, reading a book, or getting a massage. Some snacks are also known to promote sleep.
You’ll also need to switch sleeping positions while pregnant depending on how far along you are. Once you hit 20 weeks, it’s advisable to rest on your left side because it enables proper blood flow to your baby, kidney, and uterus.
Avoid heartburn by elevating your head on pillows. Steer clear of fried, spicy, or acidic foods because they might worsen the issue. If you don’t sleep well at night, it’s a good idea to take naps during the day.
Your diet also affects the growing fetus. Sugary or spicy foods at dinner might make it more active when you’re trying to catch a good night’s sleep. If you suffer nausea, try snacking on dull items such as crackers to keep yourself full.
Another reason for sleep problems might be body temperature levels. Since it tends to be higher when you’re pregnant, you might sleep better in chillier conditions.
6. Reduce Alcohol Consumption
This guide to healthy living wouldn’t be complete without touching on alcohol and its effects on your pregnancy. Study after study shows that it’s harmful to your baby. There’s no safe amount or type of alcohol for pregnant women.
Alcohol in your system passes on to the fetus through the umbilical cord. This situation can have a range of results. Other than miscarriage and stillbirth, your baby risks suffering fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). They include:
- Poor memory and coordination.
- Learning difficulties.
- Hearing or vision impairment.
- Poor judgment and reasoning ability.
- Kidney, heart, and bone problems.
- Physical abnormalities such as a smaller head, shorter height, and low weight.
Your baby has a higher likelihood of suffering anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Even an occasional glass of wine is harmful. Therefore, make efforts to completely abstain from alcohol if you plan on having a baby.
This habit can cause problems for your young one even if you consume it in the first few weeks before confirming you’re pregnant. Since the brain develops throughout the process, exposure increases the risk of central nervous system problems.
If you’ve been struggling with alcoholism but would like to become a mother, it’s advisable to join a rehab first. If already pregnant, avoid situations that may tempt you to partake. Finally, a dependable support system is crucial. In addition to family and friends, your partner or spouse should also walk this journey with you.
7. Maintain a Regular Exercise Routine
Physical exercise has several benefits for pregnant women, new mothers, and their babies. They reduce the risk of complications, facilitate comfortable deliveries, as well as helping you heal and shed baby weight faster. This guide to healthy living recommends at least 3 hours of moderate aerobic workout sessions per week if you’re expecting. The target should be to:
- Stay emotionally and physically healthy.
- Help you maintain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
- Manage, reduce, or eliminate swelling, back pain, and discomforts associated with pregnancy.
- Sleep better and reduce stress.
- Prepare adequately for the big day.
Swimming, Yoga, Pilates, stationary cycling, and brisk walking are some of the physical exercises that are suitable during pregnancy. Be sure to inform your instructor of your condition so they can modify your workout program.
Although physical exercise is beneficial, you should only proceed after clearance from your doctor. Some conditions during pregnancy make it unsafe to perform strenuous workouts. They include vaginal bleeding, preterm labor, multiple pregnancy, cervical insufficiency, and severe anemia.
Even if you’re healthy enough to work out, avoid dangerous exercises that might complicate your pregnancy. Examples are lots of jerking movements, high altitude events, and sports that may expose your belly to forceful contact.
Although your life as a new mom might revolve around your new bundle of joy, it’s vital to make time for exercise. Improved physical health helps you manage mental and physical health, which also benefits your baby.
An appointment with a qualified physiotherapist will create a workout plan to rebuild your core strength. Kegel exercises also strengthen the muscles around your vagina to help you control bowel movement and enjoy your sex life.
It doesn’t get less hectic with older kids. You’ll have doctors’ appointments, school events, cooking, and other pending tasks. While planning for these activities, be sure to include some time for yourself. It’s easier to share these responsibilities with your partner or a friend.
If you follow this comprehensive guide to healthy living, you’ll have an enjoyable pregnancy and motherhood journey. You don’t have to implement every tip. Start with the most suitable ones for your situation and incorporate the rest as your tolerance or comfort levels increase. The benefits to your mind and body will help you achieve a perfect work-life balance.