From the every day to the vacay, from the dining room to the waiting room, many adjustments may be required of someone about to welcome a baby. During pregnancy, nothing that I had to do differently really came as that much of a shock, and yet there were still some small surprises, and most certainly some issues I’d never even really thought about.
Skincare, exercise, and sleep (while with child) were things I had to learn about as I went. For example, and of course other matters of wellness, fitness, and daily life, too.
I found that questions would pop up: Wait, can I eat this? How much of what is OK?
Pregnancy books and a simple resource sheet from my doctor’s office were decently handy tools, and of course, there was the inevitable frantic googling now and then.
When I was pregnant both times in just the last handful of years, I think it might have been pretty handy to have a sort of casual introductory guide, a starting place to help me consider the types of adjustments that may lie ahead (with my own OB, of course, acting as my official resource always, as the doc should for everyone else out there).
And so, here we have it: 20 lifestyle changes women might have to make while carrying.
In childbirth class, a show of hands revealed that quite a large number of women (in my particular session, anyway) regularly slept on their stomachs. The nurse leading the class was making a good point: that after not being able to sleep on their stomachs for months, these ladies might want to embrace the time immediately after childbirth to get in some face-down R&R — before their milk came in and made that position too uncomfortable for another reason.
I found it hard that once that bump was present, I was told by the doc that it wasn’t wise to sleep on my back, due to the potential for restricting blood flow.
Whether it’s being in an okayed position that has you tossing and turning, just having a harder time drifting off, or getting up to pee many, MANY times, in my experience, sleep can be… different (read: challenging) while pregnant.
I love deli sandwiches. No, seriously, like they are, and have been, one of the most delicious foods in the world to me for a long, long time. I would choose going down to the deli/market for a sando, as some call them, over a high-priced steak dinner, Italian cuisine, or you name it, any day.
And I sure did miss them when I was “with child,” as they say.
See, my doctor’s office and every childbirth book and resource I’ve ever read say the risk for listeria (which can be very dangerous during pregnancy) makes consuming the cold-cut meat too risky.
Raw eggs, nitrates, and other fun with food may need to be considered carefully, as well. See FoodSafety.gov for a handy list about it.
Well, I certainly never anticipated becoming a full-time glasses wearer for the first time in my life once I was expecting my first baby.
But pretty quickly, it became evident that contacts were then so uncomfortable that there was just no way it was going to be worth it to wear them.
Dryness was the main issue for me, and so I went from wearing contacts pretty frequently to wearing glasses pretty much exclusively.
The other news? This carried over into the days of breastfeeding, as well.
Surely it won’t necessarily be the same for everyone, but I thought this one was interesting mainly because for me, it came as a complete surprise.
I remember Googling around trying to find out if every female runner out there simply stopped as soon as they were pregnant. I found the stories and pictures of some, to be sure, who kept it up, even while sporting quite visible baby bumps.
And so I decided a might as well give it a go! I was already a regular jogger, so I simply wanted to continue doing it regularly.
But then I also felt a little concerned, to be doing something so strenuous at that time in which I was hosting a little lifeform inside of me. My doctor leaned toward calling it quits, and his reasoning was that it can be easier to experience injuries while pregnant, and wouldn’t that be the worst to have even a minor injury and not be able to take any ibuprofen or anything?
My point? While your doctor, of course, needs to be your source for this and all things health-related, some changes to exercise may be part of the plan.
It’s not like I was making plans with people every day or going out every night. Far from it, in fact, as a twenty-something with a goal of somehow being able to afford to have a baby someday soon…
But I did find that I needed to take it slower socially while pregnant.
First of all, even the relatively short little road trips often required to see family or old friends were often uncomfortable, filled with nausea early on in pregnancy, and being uncomfortable sitting still and needing to pee all the time, well, all throughout pregnancy.
And in general, I just felt more tired, and like my main concern was feeling comfortable. I chose the couch with the recliner kicked up, for example, over my high school reunion.
Let’s go back to FoodSafety.gov, which also touches on another matter of lifestyle during pregnancy. Not only might you have to make some adjustments and use caution about what you eat — but there will likely also need to be some awareness of being very careful with food preparation and handling.
Premade seafood, meat, and potato salads… those can be dangerous and are commonly put on the “skip it” list for the preggo set. Meats and eggs need to be thoroughly cooked, so you’ll probably need to bust out the meat thermometer rather than just eyeballing it, and I found I had to be on my toes about all this stuff most especially when at gatherings like parties and BBQs.
I wore high heels (just some platform wedges, actually) one time while pregnant. I never wore any form of heels ever again, like, ever since.
For me, it was the ligament pain that I then experienced, after wearing shoes with such a drastic angle for a long period of time. Although they’d looked flattering with that emerald green maxi dress, there was just no way it was worth it.
Feet can get larger during pregnancy, as well, meaning that those Louboutins don’t even fit anymore anyway. I wore easy to slip on (and kick off) sandals and slip-on sneakers, with really supportive athletic shoes for any exercise.
I am happy to have a venue to point out this one because for me, it was something I was really glad I happened to wonder about and look up when I was very newly pregnant and had not yet even been to that first prenatal appointment, which can sometimes end up being scheduled some weeks out from when you have a positive home test.
Is the stuff in this or that makeup, soap, or cream, safe for use now that I’m pregnant?
Not if it’s salicylic acid, I found, and this was confirmed by my doctor (more info at BabyCenter.com, but your own doc should be your source). This ingredient is found in beauty products marketed to treat acne and wrinkles.
Also, I had to start using lotion, as my skin became drier and more sensitive.
Well, I was already really careful with sun protection, so if I had to make any changes while pregnant, I guess maybe it was being even more careful about it. I went ahead and got some of those just ridiculously big, wide-brimmed hats, for example.
Some find their skin more sensitive, and of course, there’s that whole avoiding-cancer thing, which is why sun protection is always important (see CDC.gov and ask your own doc, of course).
Also, sun exposure can worsen melasma or “the mask of pregnancy” (as is included at the American Academy of Dermatology’s site at AAD.org), which includes dark patches on the face.
For some, there is nausea (thankfully just in the first trimester for this mama of two)… For some, this lasts for quite a while rather than easing as the pregnancy progresses. (Bummer!) Then there is heartburn (for me, not much if at all with my first pregnancy and pretty gnarly toward the end with my second).
The solutions (or at least helpers) for these things, I found, was to eat smaller, more frequent meals, and to be careful about not guzzling water during eating.
Trying to be more of a snacker in this fashion also helped me to simply not feel so incredibly hungry!
My own doctor, AmericanPregnancy.org, and many other sources provided guidelines for how much caffeine was considered safe for consumption during pregnancy.
I tend to be the (way) overly careful type when it comes to stuff like this, and I wasn’t actively in the habit of drinking coffee when I became pregnant, anyway, so I just avoided it entirely. (I even calculated out an estimate to be sure the amount of super-dark chocolate I was eating was technically OK.)
However, if a gal was in the habit of having excessive amounts of caffeine, she might need to make a change. Her doctor would be the one to ask, no doubt.
Okay, ready for it?
“There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Drinking can cause problems for the developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she is pregnant. ... The baby's brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by exposure to at any time.”
It’s straight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov.
Being careful about what is (and is NOT) going into your body may, in case you haven’t noticed yet, be a major theme of the lifestyle changes required while carrying.
I was personally repulsed by the thought and smell of the stuff while pregnant, to the point that I didn’t even want it on someone’s breath who was near me.
My hygienist said that gum issues can be so extreme for some women during pregnancy that they even develop (benign) tumors on their gums.
Any list of how to get ready to be pregnant I’ve ever seen and any book I have ever read, really stress the importance of good dental hygiene for pregnant people.
“It's important for you to take good care of your teeth and gums while pregnant. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase the risk of developing gum disease which, in turn, can affect the health of your developing baby,” says WebMD.com.
So there you have it: If you don’t already, flossing, brushing, and regular dental visits are key (with your own doctor and dentist acting as your resource for all things health and hygiene, of course).
Colds and flus aren’t ever fun, but avoiding them might be even more important during pregnancy. Regarding the flu, WebMd.com says, “The illness can be more severe when you’re pregnant, and it may last three times longer in moms-to-be. You may be more likely to get complications like pneumonia, too, that could lead to hospitalization. And a serious flu raises the risk of preterm labor and delivery.”
I think I was asked at least three times by the staff at my own OB’s office if I had gotten my flu shot yet (I had).
Fortunately, there are some simple steps/potential lifestyle changes may help avoid getting sick: washing your hands often, avoiding crowds, staying away from people who have colds, and not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, as WebMD.com also covers. (And once again, all health advice should come from your own doctor.)
I’ll cover the simple changes I personally had to make when it came to medication, leaving your own doctor to give you information and advice on the matter based on your particular situation.
I had to stop taking Advil to treat headaches. I was told Tylenol was the only pain reliever that was considered safe to use for aches and pains.
I wasn’t on any prescription meds, so whether or not any current ones were safe during pregnancy wasn’t an issue for me personally, but that may be something to consider.
My doctor was able to clearly and confidently explain to me which things were safe for treating common ailments and colds, and I was grateful.
I found that pregnancy was a good time for yoga (and AGAIN, your own doctor really must be your guide for which physical activities are cool to do during your pregnancy).
I found walking to be relaxing, due to the exercise and the fresh air, both.
I realized that just taking a moment to meditate helped me to feel well from time to time.
With big life changes on the horizon and hormonal changes at play, it wasn’t always easy for me, personally, to feel easy-breezy around the clock.
But hey, pregnancy was a great time to practice managing stress, seeing as that I’d soon be taking care of a newborn baby.
I personally started taking them during the year leading up to when we started “trying” to become pregnant. I mean, I wasn’t even really sure that we’d make the decision to go for it any time quite so soon, but I sort of figured I might as well.
“According to the CDC, all people between the ages of 15 and 45 should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, whether that's in the form of a prenatal, a supplement that only contains folic acid, or fortified cereal,” says Self.com.
And so, to support a healthy pregnancy and help prevent defects, it’s a vitamin a day.
If you aren’t already on ’em, your doc may recommend starting them ASAP. I found that having them with my more hearty meal of the day helped to avoid stomach upset.
Women I worked with as well as yours truly stopped working (and sometimes went on medical leave from work) in some instances while they were still pregnant, rather than working right up until the baby was actually born.
Various medical conditions, such as back problems, preeclampsia and more may arise, and it will be your own doctor’s call as to whether or not you are cleared to continue working.
The type of work you do may, of course, be an important factor here.
Whether it’s deciding to call it quits while pregnant or being approved to go on leave (similar to parental leave after the baby is born), this may be one pretty big lifestyle change for some women out there.
For those who are jet-setters, frequent flyers, ocean crossers, or world travelers, a significant change, may be when the time comes that it’s no longer considered safe to fly.
MayoClinic.org calls out 36 weeks as the number that often means flying is a no go. A woman’s doctor, as well as the airline she intends to travel with, may impose restrictions.
Medical complications can affect a doc’s decision on whether a mom-to-be is cleared for take-off, too.
Commenters at BabyCenter.com (and me) were told the third trimester was the time to stay grounded, and that was just the doctor’s standard advice in my case.
TheBump.com includes the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it can be safe to travel in the third trimester, and also includes stories from women being told to stay on land earlier due to carrying multiples.
Sorry to say if that salmon roll is your special weekly treat, or if the local sushi bar has become your happy place, but, as is touched on at FoodSafety.gov, raw fish isn’t usually considered safe for pregnant people.
“Avoid Raw Seafood” that government site says, plain as day, elaborating in a more detailed page, “Raw seafood may contain parasites or bacteria including listeria that can make a pregnant woman ill and could potentially harm her baby. All seafood dishes should be cooked to 145 °F.”
They also provide guidelines for types of seafood to be selective about (including, for example, smoked fishes).