1. Move Your Body
It is no surprise that exercise is important for pregnancy. There are SO many benefits to moving your body during pregnancy. Here are just a few: Increased energy, better sleep, decreased aches and pains, increased stamina for birth (you will need it!), healthier baby, lower chance of getting Gestational Diabetes, increased circulation (say bye, bye to swollen feet!); some studies even show that women who exercise regularly tend to have children who are more active as they grow up, how crazy is that!?
So yes, exercise is good for your body but it is also great for your mental health; and pregnancy can be stressful, as is any time of transition and change. All you have to do, is MOVE YOUR BODY! Adjust your day so you get more movement, take time to walk, do yoga, swim, get outdoors if you can all of these things will benefit both your physical and mental health. Don’t stress about how, or how much you need to move, just move more.
If you can, practicing pregnancy specific workouts is even more beneficial, as a good program/instructor will address all the specific pregnancy aches and pains, the movements are more specific and they can help position baby for an easier labor (optimal fetal positioning), prep your pelvic floor for pregnancy, birth and postpartum (nope, not with kegels either!), and they prepare you mentally for birth and motherhood. There are so many options, do what connects most with you, but make sure the instructor is education in pregnancy and movement. Prenatal Yoga is obviously my favorite, because it is something anyone can do (I promise!).
2. Learn + Practice a Relaxation Technique
I recommend that as soon as you become pregnant you start researching different methods. Because usually during that first trimester you are not really working out due to low energy, nausea and all that fun stuff, you have the time to get started early. Instead of binging that next episode on Netflix, you can listen to some meditation’s or practice a breathing technique for 10 minutes.
But why? Because once you find the tools that work for you, you will use them forever (who doesn’t need/want to reduce stress?) and you will for sure use them for birth! The more you practice, the easier is it to use the tools in your tool kit to help relax, breathe and get through whatever it is that you are navigating. As a mom of 2, I use relaxation techniques daily!
3. Educate Yourself (knowledge is power)
Okay, first I want to say, there is a rabbit hole here I don’t want anyone to fall down. That 2am fell down the internet hole researching heartburn and now I am super stressed (and tired) because of all the things I read. Spoiler alert! Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
I recommend that you read maybe 2 books on birth, a book on postpartum and take all the classes you can, talk to other women who you trust and are not going to sugar coat it or tell you horror stories.
If you do not know your options, you do not have any.My wish is that all women are educated and knowledgeable about birth, postpartum and motherhood. Because when we first get pregnant, most of us know absolutely nothing (therefore it can feel terrifying and overwhelming), it is our job to educate ourselves, no one else will do it for us.
4. Find Supportive Care Providers
This one is hard, and you have to educate yourself so you know what questions to ask. But first and foremost you need to feel comfortable and trust your care provider. They should spend time with you, listen to your questions, be compassionate, understanding and honest. If not, find someone else! Sometimes that takes some work, and a lot of time talking to your insurance company (not fun, I know). But it is SOOOOOO important that you are treated with respect by your care providers. How you are treated during pregnancy and birth will have the biggest impact on your experience.
5. Find Community
This one is why I created Unfold Yoga, when I was pregnant with my first in 2010 it was so isolating, none of my friends had kids yet, and it was hard to even find a prenatal yoga class. Now I see how much of an impact the community has on our clients, many of these women become friends in pregnancy and continue their friendship after birth and their kids grow up together!
When you take your childbirth classes, talk and connect to the other mamas, take prenatal specific movement classes, connect to other random pregnant women you run into at the coffee shop. We are all in this together, and we are all looking for community and connection. It is so nice to hear that other women are experiencing the same things that you are, and to know that you are not alone. If you cannot find community in person, online communities are the next best option. Find a community of moms via Facebook groups, online fitness programs, or start your own! You won’t regret it.
By doing these 5 things, you are on the way to empowering yourself to have an empowering pregnancy and birth experience.
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April is a mom of 2 girls, and the owner and founder of Unfold Yoga. She has been teaching prenatal yoga since 2011, and is very active in the birth world, working as a birth doula, childbirth educator, placenta encapsulation specialist and a prenatal yoga teacher trainer. She created the Unfold Mama Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training in 2016. April is very passionate about supporting, empowering and creating community for women through the childbearing year and beyond.