The reality of pregnancy is more than that mythical “glow” and people asking about your bump. There are days when you’re exhausted, feel like a lump and you just can’t face another “When are you due?” question or another handsy nosy parker sticking their hand where it isn’t wanted. Seriously, people!
Then, there are the nights. Is it possible to be this uncomfortable? And honestly, how many times can one person visit the bathroom? You’re supposed to enjoy every minute of this amazing time of your life, aren’t you?
“Relax!” says Andrew Johnson, a clinical hypnotherapist who specialises in pregnancy anxiety. “Pregnancy is a time of emotional and physical change. You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t worry sometimes.” We show you how to make every day of your pregnancy less tedious and more “ta da!”:
Get up right
“Stretching is a fantastic way to start the day,” says midwife and personal trainer Alison Merry, founder of www.bloomingfit.com. “It mobilises the whole body, boosting blood flow and oxygen to your brain. And the perfect time to do it is before you get out of bed — you’re relaxed, warm and your muscles are pliable.
“Point your feet, reach your arms above your head, and stretch from top to toe. Then, keeping feet flat on the bed, bring your knees up and drop them to one side, your arms to the other, to release your lower back. Repeat on the other side.”
“Breakfast is a must,” says women’s nutritional health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of The Natural Health Bible For Women ($29.16). “Carbs give you energy but eating them with protein slows the release rate, so you feel fuller and more energised for longer.”
PM energy hit
Most of us are familiar with mid-afternoon energy slumps, when all we want to do is slide under our desks for a snooze. It can be worse in early pregnancy, because your rapidly growing baby is hogging your energy reserves. This also occurs in late pregnancy — because you feel heavier as the day goes on. Glenville says, “Prevent this by eating a healthy lunch with protein and unrefined carbohydrates, such as brown rice with vegetables and oily fish, or a jacket potato with beans and salad.” Like your well-balanced breakfast, this will keep you fuller for longer.
Walk it out
“Exercise gets blood flowing and oxygen and feel-good endorphins coursing round your body,” says midwife and personal trainer Alison Merry. “A walk outdoors provides a change of scene, fresh air, natural daylight, vitamin D and the rhythmic steps you take have a meditative, stress-reducing quality.”
“A power nap — anything from 10 to 30 minutes — is something all of us should do more often for greater productivity. It’s also a handy skill to acquire for early parenthood,” says clinical psychologist Linda Blair. Find somewhere quiet, lie or sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Focus on inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth until you feel relaxed. She notes, “Don’t worry if you don’t actually nod off, the rest will still recharge you.”
Prepare to snack
“Grazing is key in pregnancy to maintain your mood and energy,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville. “Don’t go more than three hours without food. Try to combine protein and carbohydrates at snack time, too. Try fresh fruit with yoghurt, dried fruit, or a seed or nut mix. Pre-empt regular slumps with a snack. So, if you lunch at 1pm and are usually flagging by 4pm, have your snack at 3.30pm.”
Ease to sleep
If you’re so tired you’re asleep on the sofa before the end credits of your TV drama roll, how can you reclaim those precious few hours before bed?
“Public pools are usually quiet in the evenings, so why not go for a swim one or two nights a week?” Merry suggests. “Gentle exercise helps your body release stress hormones, so it calms you before bed.”
Watching TV also helps you relax, but sit on an inflatable fit ball instead of slouching on the sofa as it is better for your pelvis and lower back. Add some gentle pelvic rocks, tilts and leg lifts during the ads and you’ll be doing a mini-workout, too, which strengthens your core for late pregnancy and labour.
Merry adds, “You could also have a relaxing bath, then do some yoga-style stretches. If your husband’s around, ask him to give you a relaxing foot or back massage.”
As for meals, Glenville advises going for a lighter option, like soup or salad, so that you won’t be plagued by indigestion or heartburn. She says, “If hunger wakes you at night, have a small, carb-based snack shortly before bed to raise your blood sugar, such as a small bowl of cereal.”
During the night
From endless bathroom trips to feeling hot or being kept awake by your kicking baby, there are many barriers to a good night’s sleep. Johnson notes that it’s common for expectant mothers to lie there panicking about being still awake, since they know how important sleep is for baby and themselves. He reckons, “This soon turns into worries and fears about pregnancy in general.”
So, what to do? First, know that insomnia is common in pregnancy and simply resting is good for you, too. “Practical suggestions include avoiding drinking lots before bed, investing in supportive pregnancy pillows and keeping a snack by your bedside,” Merry says.
Listen to some relaxing music to help you nod off. Or distract yourself by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, then slowly working through your body, by tensing and releasing every muscle. Merry notes, “Rather than lying there in the dark, tossing and turning and getting upset, get up, have a walk and a stretch, and sip a warm drink. Keep the lights low and activity to a minimum — or read a book, but avoid the stimulus of watching TV or using your laptop. Then go back to bed, do your deep breathing, and try to relax.”
Hopefully, this will leave you with plenty of energy to enjoy your pregnancy!