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Pregnancy self-care essentials

Your overall wellbeing is important during pregnancy – for your benefit, and for your baby. Obstetrician Dr Chris Russell shares some good habits to get into.

Close up of pregnant woman's belly

Getting into a good routine during pregnancy can help ensure both you and bub are safe and healthy before, during and after birth. Try to establish your pregnancy routines as early as possible and keep them up throughout the pregnancy.

Eat a variety of colours every day

Your baby needs a range of vitamins and minerals as it grows and develops. One way to ensure that your bub is getting a good variety of nutrients is to make eating a broad colour spectrum of fresh vegetables part of your daily routine. Set a goal to eat a range of colours each day – think green, gold, purple and red.

As well as including plenty of vegetables, your diet should be high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, sugars and trans fats. To make sure you’re eating the right amounts and right types of foods, it may help to follow a meal plan. Talk to your obstetrician for diet recommendations that are right for you.

There are certain foods that you need to avoid while pregnant. Soft cheeses, raw seafood, pre-prepared foods, deli meats or anything that contains raw egg may harbour strains of bacteria that can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour. Basically, if you think bacteria could thrive on the food, it’s best to avoid it while you’re pregnant.

Your preferred frequency and size of meals may change during pregnancy. For some women, spacing out smaller meals throughout the day can feel better than eating three large meals, particularly if you’re suffering from morning sickness. And remember, you’re not actually ‘eating for two’ – stick to similar portion sizes to what you would normally eat.

MORE: What should you eat (and not eat) during pregnancy?

Get active on most days

Talk to your obstetrician about exercising during pregnancy – they can give you advice on what’s best for you. For most pregnant women with no health complications, you should try to be physically active on most days of the week. Generally this means incorporating half an hour to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise (like walking, swimming or riding a stationary bike) into your daily routine.

How you can keep active during pregnancy will depend on your pre-pregnancy fitness and how far along you are. Most types of exercise are feasible in your first trimester but as your bump grows, you’re likely to find activities such as swimming, walking or using a spin bike preferable.

Being active during pregnancy will improve your energy levels, alleviate pain and discomfort, and lower your risk of pregnancy complications. And if that’s not motivation enough, staying fit during pregnancy also prepares your body for giving birth.

Drink plenty of water

As part of your pregnancy routine, it’s important to stay hydrated. Generally, this means aiming to drink at least two litres of water each day. Dehydration can have serious consequences for your baby so must be avoided. This can be a particular problem if you’re suffering from severe morning sickness. Drinking plenty of water also helps with constipation and tiredness, and reduces the risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).

If you’re not used to drinking much water, it may help to buy a big water bottle and carry it with you so you can track how much you’re getting through. Sip steadily throughout the day – don’t wait until you feel thirsty, as this means you’re already dehydrated. Frequent trips to the bathroom and pale or colourless urine are signs that you are hydrated. It’s especially important to stay hydrated when exercising or if it’s hot outside, so drink more in these conditions.

Schedule some you time every day

Building a routine that helps you maintain good mental health during your pregnancy will benefit both you and your baby.

What works will be different for everyone. For some, doing regular exercise can be great for mental health. For others, a yoga or meditation practice is effective. Or it might just mean scheduling some time to rest each day. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression during pregnancy, talk to your doctor or call the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline.

Get a good night’s rest

Considering how physically and emotionally demanding pregnancy can be, it’s no wonder a good sleep can make all the difference. Unfortunately, having difficulty sleeping is a common problem during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, pain and discomfort.

Prioritise having a good night’s rest by establishing a pre-bed routine that gives you the best chance of falling asleep and having good-quality sleep. Your exercise and relaxation routines will both contribute to you having a good sleep. It might also help to have a warm bath or shower, read a book or do stretches before bed. And talk to your doctor if you’re suffering from restless leg syndrome or pelvic pain, as some supplements can help relieve these symptoms.

It’s safe to sleep in whatever position you find comfortable until 26–28 weeks of pregnancy. After 28 weeks, there’s an increased risk of complications if you sleep flat on your back. With your growing bump, sleeping on your side is the best option. You don’t need to restrict side-sleeping to being on your left – sleeping on either side is safe, so opt for the one that helps you have the best sleep.

MORE: Dealing with fatigue during pregnancy.

Set a routine that works for you

There’s a lot to manage and plan for during pregnancy. By establishing a good routine that helps you maintain a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, sleep well and keep an active body and a calm mind, you’ll be able to focus your energy on preparing to welcome your bub into the world.

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