These days, there are so many do’s and don’ts of pregnancy, some are awesome and many are ridiculous. Prioritizing what is right for you and your baby can be difficult to say the least.
Do: sleep, hydrate, take your prenatal, exercise, get regular check ups, choose your provider, get a doula, find a pediatrician, get a carseat, figure out where your baby will sleep, buy too many baby clothes, daydream about baby snuggles, thigh dimples (theirs) and milk-drunkeness.
Don’t: consume alcohol (at least not hard liquor), caffeine (okay, we all need a cup of coffee sometimes), eat raw fish, raw cheese, entire pizzas, or anything else that tastes amazing.
Especially don’t: stand for people touching your belly without permission, wait in long lines for the toilet (cut to the front!), answer any questions about your cervix or how dilated it is (Any other questions about my boobs, vagina and reproductive organs that you’d like to ask, Susan?), and don't stress about having a pinterest worthy nursery because - let’s be honest - the kid will likely be in your room for the first six months anyway, and you’ll be happy to set up a space that matches their personality.
A “Do” that we’d like to see more of is people owning their nutrition and health during pregnancy. Your body is essentially a badass 3-D printer that is knitting together a new person getting ready to push them out into the world. Your body needs a ton of raw construction materials to build your baby and if it isn’t coming from your nutrition/diet, it will be taken from your body instead, leaving you feeling tired, run down, anemic, and with terrible baby brain (did you know our babies steal our gray matter to build their own brains?!).
Babies need protein, healthy fats, calcium, minerals, and trace elements to grow and thrive; our bodies need them too. Over my years working as a doula and being a pregnant person, I’ve seen how the foods that we eat can impact both our health and the health of our babies. While some pregnancy related conditions will happen no matter what, many of us can avoid things like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and pregnancy induced hypertension by making simple changes in our nutrition and exercise.
Preeclampsia is a condition that leads to a major increase in heart disease later in life. Gestational diabetes in your pregnancy put you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, means the daughter you’re pregnant with will be more likely to develop it during her own pregnancies, and GD babies tend to spend more time in the NICU after birth in an effort to control their blood sugar. Pregnancy induced hypertension is one of the most common reasons for induction of labor, and induction more that doubles your risk of cesarean if you’re a first time mom.
And while it is totally possible for some women to push out 9, 10, 11 pound babies without any complications, do you necessarily WANT to? Would you be surprised to know that there are some foods that we can avoid (e.g., cow’s milk) so that we can build a more appropriately sized baby? You likely can push a 9lb baby out with the support of a good provider, time, patience, and freedom of movement, but wouldn’t 8lbs be a bit more comfortable?
So where can you learn more about these things? Lots of ways! Take a pregnancy nutrition class. Check out some books at the library (What to Eat When You’re Expecting is a good start). Book a consultation with a nutritionist. Talk to your doula or provider about smart food choices. Do these things earlier in your pregnancy, and really start focusing on good foods after you’ve moved past any morning sickness. And it’s never too late to make good food choices! Even if you’re in the final weeks of pregnancy, there are foods you can choose that will help your body to labor more efficiently, prevent tearing, and promote postpartum healing.
There’s lots of things about pregnancy that we can’t control - like random rib pain on the right side, WTF is that?! - but we can take charge of our nutrition and how we treat our bodies as we prepare for birth. Small changes go a long way, even something as small as eating more vegetables or protein.