I remember my pregnancy (about eight years ago) as being both a beautiful and challenging time. On one hand, I was working hard to take very good care of myself and to be mindful of everything I consumed (food, drinks, entertainment). I remember thinking it was the healthiest I've ever felt in my life.
At the same time, I was tired, had persistent heartburn, and could never find a comfortable sleeping position at night (despite purchasing a giant, specialty pillow that resembled an anaconda).
At that time in my life, I wasn't as immersed in yoga, meditation, spirituality, and self-care as I am now. While I can't benefit from the insights of my hindsight, I'm honored to share some self-care tips for new mamas-to-be, in the hopes that you'll be able to apply some of these tips for yourself and your little one.
Start with Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation notes that pregnant women might need extra sleep at night (a few hours extra!) or could benefit from taking some naps during the day (note that some means more than one).
In my own pregnancy, I didn't sleep that well at night and I was working full-time. I found it difficult to take naps because it felt like there was always something else I should be doing. Looking back, I wish I'd thrown those "shoulds" out the window and enjoyed my own nap time.
Even if you are working full-time, try taking a thirty-minute nap before dinner. One the weekends, more than one nap might be warranted. Remember, you're sleeping for two!
I spoke to a friend recently about how I hadn't painted my toenails since last summer. Even though it only takes about ten minutes, I talk myself out of it by telling myself there are more important things I could be doing. This week, I made a point to make a different choice and I'm happy to report that I have pretty, red toenails staring back at me.
Sometimes, we can talk ourselves out of self-care by telling ourselves that other things are more important. I'm starting to learn to talk back to that voice. Self-care isn't selfish and if we don't take care of ourselves, who else will?
When your baby arrives, he or she won't be shy about demanding your attention. Making time for self-care will only get more challenging. Use this time before the birth to notice how you talk to yourself about self-care and to practice positive self-talk. You are worth it.
A good friend of mine is due next month and she recently made time to get a prenatal massage. I had one of those when I was pregnant too. Looking back, I'm wondering why I only had one! Look for a masseuse who is trained in pre-natal massage and ask around for recommendations. If your partner or loved ones ask how they can help you through your pregnancy, don't hesitate to ask for a gift certificate to a local spa so that you can enjoy some body work and relaxation.
While my yoga practice was not as intense as it is now, I did practice some yoga when I was pregnant with my son. I think that it helped me to stay centered and to send him positive energy. He was ten days overdue so I happen to think he really loved the mellow home I'd created for him in my belly.
The Mayo Center notes several benefits to pre-natal yoga including improved sleep and reduced stress. Make sure to practice with a certified pre-natal instructor and to do your own research about safe and unsafe poses.
Restorative yoga classes are a particularly lovely way for pregnant women to unwind and release tension. Remember that in the early months of your pregnancy, it might be not obvious that you're expecting so it's important to let your yoga teacher know so that they can provide you with safe modifications.
Move Your Body
In addition to yoga, other types of exercise are a great way to take care of yourself when pregnant. I had my son in February, so my outdoor options were a bit limited. I can remember spending a lot of time walking on the treadmill and listening to music.
One day, I was walking next to another pregnant woman who ended up becoming one of my closest friends. For me, walking was my best exercise option. Swimming, gentle weight training, or indoor cycling on a stationary bike are all safe options for pregnancy.
Whatever self-care routine you choose to create for yourself, remember that it won't only benefit you, but also your entire family. You are the person who will teach your baby about self-care, and there's no time like the present to start sending them positive messages.
Remember, if you have any questions about safety, consult with your doctor or midwife. Finally, harness the power of habit in your self-care routine. Create a list of self-care options and try to do one thing each day from your list. By establishing this habit, when life gets busy, you'll be more likely to make self-care a priority.