Pregnant, Now What?

Finding out you are pregnant can be one of the happiest and scariests moments of your life. Depending on your circumstances, you may be elated to be having a baby and also concerned about how to go about having a healthy pregnancy.

At Expectful, we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time speaking with pregnant women and experts in prenatal health to learn about what it means to be emotionally and physically healthy when you’re expecting and what tools can help you get there.

Before you dive in, we want to let you in on a little secret: you are your best guide when it comes to what’s “right” or “not right” during your pregnancy. Overall, listen to your instincts, your body, and your mind. They already know what’s best for you.

Exercise.

“Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

Although the positive impacts that exercise can have on a woman’s body during pregnancy are well known, things like nausea, exhaustion or fear of harming the baby can hold women back from starting or continuing a regular workout routine. “The most important thing for women to know when it comes to exercising during pregnancy is to listen to their body and move from their core” says Erica Ziel, founder of Knocked-Up Fitness® and The Core Rehab Program. Erica suggests that while it’s ok to continue to workout at a decent intensity, it’s important not to overdo it. If you are suffering from morning sickness or fatigue, it’s helpful to keep this tip from Erica in mind – “You should always feel more energized after a workout and never exhausted.” So, if you find yourself even more wiped out post-workout, it’s best to take some time off to reset.

Erica also recommends that you learn how to properly strengthen your deep core muscles during pregnancy. “By listening to your body and really moving with purpose and with proper deep core activation, you’ll feel better both physically and emotionally.”

What exercises are safe / not safe?

Exercises like yoga, pilates, spinning, running, walking, and barre classes are safe and beneficial during pregnancy. However, hot yoga, contact sports, heavy lifting and high intensity workouts can be unsafe. These can vary based on the individual, so it’s best to speak to your care provider before starting any new exercise routines or continuing any workouts during pregnancy.

For a complete breakdown on what exercises are considered safe / not safe during pregnancy, check out this article.

Making Exercise Modifications

If your favorite sport appears on the list of dont’s, you may be able to continue within reason. Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways to modify your exercise so it’s safe for you and your baby. Below are a few suggestions.

Be In Control.

Avoid doing any exercise where you could accidently fall, get hit in the stomach or lose your balance. Start everything off by asking yourself, “Do I have control here?” If the answer is no, consider trying something else.

This can change from one trimester to the next because your center of gravity is shifting as your belly grows so keep this in mind throughout your journey.

Be Mindful Of intensity.

Instead of running at full speed, jog at a natural rhythm that doesn’t immediately exert you. Instead of a hot yoga or an advanced class, try out prenatal yoga or a class where you can adjust as needed.

Shorten Your Workouts.

As your belly grows, you may become tired more quickly. Pay attention to your energy levels and perhaps cut your workout into two separate sessions, such as a 20 minute pilates routine in the morning and a 20 minute walk in the evening.

Make Space For Your Belly.

Keeping your stomach free of compression is a must. Avoid twisting, laying on your belly, or laying on your back. Instead, try open twist where the twist is coming from your hips or upper back. For more guidance go here.

Nutrition.

“Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.” Astrid Alauda

With pregnancy, as with any healthy diet, it’s important to eat real food as often as possible. “The cornerstone to a healthy pregnancy starts with fresh food” says Tessa Mancini, creator and founder of Lychee Therapeutics.

Tessa recommends eating an array of vibrant and diverse foods. “Eat the rainbow, she says, and be sure to taste the rainbow (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent flavors). Each taste is necessary for optimal nutrient absorption and assimilation, as well as providing the necessary enzymes for digestion and elimination.” Taking charge of your food and creating meals around these flavors will naturally guide you towards a healthier and more balanced pregnancy.

What should I eat during pregnancy?

Most pregnant women will need to be mindful of getting enough protein and particular vitamins and minerals (more on those below). A good rule of thumb is to eat meals that are packed with vegetables, fruits, nuts, dairy, grains, and your choice of proteins such as lean meats (nothing raw or undercooked, see more on that below), eggs or vegetable proteins like beans or tofu.

Eating healthy doesn’t always mean eating a lot. If you are at a healthy weight in your first trimester, you probably won’t need to consume extra calories. In the second trimester, you’ll need approximately 340 extra calories per day and in your third trimester, you’ll need roughly 450 extra calories daily.

What are some healthy pregnancy snacks?

Below we’ve broken down some healthy, tasty and customizable snacks to get you through your second and third trimester, all between 275 – 475 calories.

Cinnamon Apple & Nut Butter Toast with Superfood Seeds

467 -475 calories
Whole grain bread: 69 calories, 1 slice, toasted
Apple: 95 calories, medium size, sliced
Cinnamon: 6 calories, 1 teaspoon
Pick your favorite nut butter:
Peanut butter: 190 calories for two tablespoons
Almond butter: 196 calories for two tablespoons
Sunflower seed butter: 198 calories
Pick your favorite superfood seed:
Chia seeds: 70 calories, 1 tablespoon
Ground flaxseed: 37 calories, 1 tablespoon
Pumpkin seeds: 18 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw

Hummus, pita & raw veggies

279 – 301 calories
Hummus: 125 calories, ½ cup
Carrots: 7 calories, ¼ cup, sliced, washed
Celery: 5 calories, ¼ cup, sliced, washed
Broccoli: 16 calories, ¼ cup, chopped, washed
Cauliflower: 6 calories, ¼ cup, chopped, washed
Whole Wheat Pita bread Pocket: 120 calories, medium size
Gluten free mama here…
Swap out whole wheat pita for gluten free.
Gluten Free Pita Bread: 142 calories, medium size

Mexican Baked Sweet Potato

304 – 337 calories
Sweet potato: 103 calories, medium size, baked.
½ avocado: 120 calories, medium size
Salsa, 36 calories, 1 tablespoon
Shredded cheddar cheese: 74 calories, 2 tablespoons
Arugula: 5 calories, ½ cup
Vegan mama here…
Shredded vegan cheese: 40 calories, 2 tablespoons

Banana & Nut Butter

289 – 297 calories
Banana: 105 calories, medium size
Pick your favorite nut butter:
Peanut butter: 190 calories for two tablespoons
Almond butter: 196 calories for two tablespoons
Sunflower seed butter: 198 calories
I’m allergic to bananas…
Swap out banana for:
Apple: 95 calories, medium size, sliced
Pear: 102 calories, medium size, sliced
Top me off with a sweet superfood…
Cacao nibs: 24 calories, 1 tablespoonao nibs: 24 calories, 1 tablespoon

Cottage Cheese with fresh berries & nuts

225 – 281 calories
Cottage Cheese: 203 calories, 1 cup, 2% milkfat
Pick your favorite berry:
Strawberries: 13 calories, ¼ cup
Blackberries: 15 calories, ¼ cup
Blueberries: 21 calories, ¼ cup
Pick your favorite nut:
Walnuts: 50 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, chopped
Almonds: 40 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, sliced
Pecans: 50 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, chopped
For vegan mamas…
Swap out cottage cheese for:
Coconut yogurt: 210 calories, 1 cup
Not a fan of cottage cheese…
Swap out cottage cheese for:
Plain yogurt: 154 calories, 1 cup

Spicy Hard-boiled Egg & Avocado Toast with Super Seeds

324 – 422 calories
Hard boiled egg: 78 calorie, sliced
½ avocado: 120 calories, medium size, sliced
Whole grain bread: 69 calories, 1 slice, toasted
Sunflower seeds: 51 calories, 1 tablespoon
Chia seeds: 70 calories, 1 tablespoon
1/2 Lime: 5 calories
Chili flakes: 5 calories, 1 teaspoon
For vegan mamas…
Swap out the egg for:
Tofu scramble: 94 calories, ½ cup
For gluten free mamas…
Swap out whole grain bread for:
Gluten free bread: 70 calories, 1 slice, toasted
I can’t handle spice right now…
Swap out chili flakes for:
Dried basil: 2 calories, 1 teaspoon

Oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts

276 – 350 calories
Oatmeal: 158 calories, cooked, unsweetened
Pick one of these dried fruits:
Dried Raisins: 108 calories, ¼ cup
Dried Cranberries: 105 calories, ¼ cup
Dried Apricots: 78 calories, ¼ cup
Dried figs: 140 calories, ¼ cup
Pick One Of These Nuts:
Walnuts: 50 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, chopped
Almonds: 40 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, sliced
Pecans: 50 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, chopped
Cashews: 49 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, chopped
Superfood Your Snack.
Swap out your dried fruit or nut for one of these nutrition boosters:
Pumpkin seeds: 18 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw
Dried Goji Berries: 88 calories, ¼ cup
Dried Unsweetened Coconut Flakes: 90 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw

Spinach Strawberry Salad

352 – 354 calories
Spinach: 7 calories, 1 cup, raw, washed
Strawberries: 13 calories, ¼ cup, sliced
Shredded Parmesan: 42 calories, 2 tablespoons
Almonds: 40 calories, 1 tablespoon, raw, sliced
Balsamic Vinegar: 14 calories, 1 tablespoon
Olive Oil: 238 calories, 2 tablespoons
For vegan mamas…
Swap out shredded parm for:
Shredded vegan cheese: 40 calories, 2 tablespoons
I’m allergic to strawberries…
Swap out strawberries for one of these:
Blackberries: 15 calories, ¼ cup
Blueberries: 21 calories, ¼ cup

Ok, Now Let’s Talk Vitamins & Minerals

There are five superstar nutrients that are important for your and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Below are the top five nutrients, why they are important and in what foods you can find them. By incorporating the foods below into your diet based off of your individual nutrition needs and taking into consideration eating foods with a variety of colors, you are setting you and your baby up for a healthy pregnancy.

Folate (folic acid)

Why is this important?
Folic acid helps to prevent serious spine and brain birth defects. Primarily, neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly.

What foods have it?
Dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, beans, peas, lentils, avocado, okra, brussel sprouts, seeds, nuts, cauliflower, beets, corn, carrots, squash.

Calcium

Why is this important?
Especially important during the second and third trimester, calcium helps to build your baby’s bones and teeth. It also supports in growing your baby’s heart, nerves and muscles. Calcium is also important for you during pregnancy because if your baby isn’t getting enough calcium, it will draw it from your bones and teeth.

What foods have it?
Almonds, tofu, bok choy, milk, kale, dates, orange juice, dried figs, oatmeal.

Iron

Why is this important?
During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases by almost 50%. Iron helps to support that increase.

What foods have it?
Iron can be difficult to get from diet alone so speak to your care provider about supplements or taking a prenatal vitamin with iron. High iron foods include: spinach, oatmeal, beef, blackstrap molasses, prune juice, dried fruit, potatoes, white beans, and pumpkin seeds.

Zinc

Why is it important?
Zinc contributes to DNA formation in your baby’s cells. It also enhances immunity and promotes proper brain function for your baby.

What foods have it?
Red meat, turkey, beans, oatmeal, nuts, cheese, eggs.

Fiber

Why is it important?
Fiber helps to decrease constipation and lower blood pressure.

What foods have it?
Almonds, beans, broccoli, collard greens, prunes, pumpkins, pears, blackberries, sauerkraut, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, oranges.

What shouldn’t I eat during pregnancy?

Your baby’s developing immune system is much more sensitive than an adults so staying cautious of harmful bacteria is important. Avoid eating undercooked or raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, and fish high in mercury or shellfish. Steer clear of deli meats, and unpasteurized soft cheeses like brie, feta, goat and blue cheese to name a few.

Emotional.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Just as your body goes through obvious physical changes during pregnancy, your mind goes through emotional changes as well. The difference is that everyone can see your body changing, no one can see your emotions unless you reveal them. “A major contributing factor to the not-so-uncommon experience of women becoming emotionally overwhelmed during their pregnancy is the belief that they are somehow alone or unique in their struggle, when really, becoming emotionally overwhelmed is a shared experience.” says Dr. Lauren Brown, PsyD, Owner/Founder Concord Therapy LLC.

Emotional well-being during pregnancy is Expectful’s top priority because we believe it’s the most neglected part of pre and postnatal care. We call meditation “the prenatal vitamin for the mind” because of all the science that shows it can help benefit both you and your baby’s health and wellbeing. It can also support you across the spectrum of emotions that come up during this time. It’s a great tool for sleep, anxiety around prenatal testing, and easing pain and discomfort.

The Science Behind Prenatal Meditation

Reduced Risk Factors

Research shows that high levels of stress and anxiety increase risk factors during pregnancy, and by keeping stress levels low, you can give your baby a better environment in which to grow (1).

Promotes a Healthier Pregnancy

A study that explored preterm birth found that women who participated in a mindfulness training program were 50% less likely to give birth early than women with no mindfulness education(2).

Reduced Pain During Labor

A study of a group of people who attended a four-day mindfulness meditation training found that they were able to decrease the intensity of a painful stimulus by 40 percent (3).

Enhanced Immunity

Meditation enhances the body’s immune function (4).

A regular meditation practice can help you navigate difficult moments with more self-compassion and be more present during the enjoyable ones.

To get more information on Expectful and the science behind meditation, click here.

Relationships.

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” John Joseph Powell

Pregnancy is a time of great transition on an individual level and on a relationship level. Although your changes may be obvious: a growing belly, fluctuating emotions, and exhaustion, your partners signs could be subtle, if not completely hidden. “Remember you are in the trenches together. You must give yourself grace as you adjust to your new life, but don’t forget to give your partner grace as they are adjusting as well,” says January Harshe, founder of Birth Without Fear. Communication and listening to each others needs will help you better understand what the other person is experiencing.

What changes may happen in my relationship?

Throughout pregnancy, there are four common changes that can occur for women and men in their relationships.

You may become clingy

Many women will experience the fear that something may happen to her partner during their pregnancy or fear that their partner will leave. Sometimes, the pregnancy hormones in your body can create feelings of panic that make it challenging to leave your partner’s side or worry about them doing simple things, like driving a car or flying in an airplane. If you feel these feelings arising, it’s good to give your partner a heads up. Let them know how you feel and ask them to support you through this process. If you find this fear or panic to be too overwhelming, we recommend seeking out professional help. A psychologist or therapist can recommend particular techniques and tools to help manage anxiety, panic, and fear during pregnancy and beyond.

Your partner may not connect to your baby

You become a mom the moment your eyes land on your positive pregnancy test. You immediately start caring for someone else besides yourself and worry about if they are ok. The same thing doesn’t happen for your partner. Although they may be excited to be becoming a parent, they may not feel the same connection to the baby as you do. It’s important to remember this if your partner doesn’t seem as excited about little things like the baby registry or that crazy kick you just felt. Give your partner space. Their connection with your baby will come, it might just take till the moment they can physically hold the baby like you have been all this time.

Things will get real

There are some really odd things that happen during pregnancy. From random body hair, to bleeding gums, to loss of bladder control, constipation, and night leg cramps, there’s definitely an abundance of interesting symptoms to discuss with your partner. Find humor with your partner, your body and yourself.

Sex could be different or non-existent

Intimacy can be tricky territory during pregnancy for a slew of reasons. In the first trimester, women may feel too sick or exhausted. In the second and third trimester, it may be difficult to navigate with your growing bump and your partner might feel uncomfortable with intercoarse all together during this time. It’s important to communicate. Talk to each other about your wants, needs and fears. This way, you can help to support each other through this process and find the intimacy that best fits your relationship.

Community.

“Home is a safe place, a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It’s a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.” ― Gladys M. Hunt

As we touched on in the emotional support section of the guide, having someone to communicate with during pregnancy can change your entire experience. “We are not meant to be on this journey alone, and women need other women especially during this time,” says Taryn Longo, creator and founder of Wild Heart Mama. Taryn believes that pregnancy is a time when you are finding yourself within this new identity of motherhood. Being surrounded by a supportive community of women can guide you towards trusting your thoughts, feeling and decisions. “When we can assemble a support system for ourselves, we have taken the first step towards owning our power.” says Taryn. It’s helpful to note that not all communities will be a good match for you. Researching various online or local groups can allow you to see which ones speak to you the most. To join Expectful’s Facebook community, go here.

There are things that happen during pregnancy that only women who are pregnant or have been pregnant can understand.

Why join a pregnancy community?

There are numerous benefits to joining a community while you are pregnant. Below are three reasons why being in one could change your journey.

The Power Of Relatability

There is a tendency during pregnancy to think you are alone in your thoughts, observations and experiences. This can lead to self-doubt or feeling like something is wrong with you. When you can communicate with women who are going through the same transitions as you, you’ll notice that they have the same questions, uncertainties, and insecurities. This not only allows you to feel understood, but it also helps you to step into your own individual power.

A Safe Space To Learn

Pregnancy communities offer a unique space to ask questions openly and without judgment. This will help you to receive honest and kind guidance about any questions you might have. The best part is that there will most likely be new and seasoned mamas within these groups. This gives you the opportunity to learn from women who have been through pregnancy before.

Compassionate Support

When a group of pregnant women mindfully get together, whether that be in person or online, it is with the intent to help, nurture and care for women within their circle. When you find the right group for you, you will feel uplifted from the compassionate support that surrounds you.

Interested in joining Expectful Facebook Community? Click here to join.

Birth Planning.

“Women, don’t ever apologize for your behavior or choices during birth. When you OWN your experience and take pride in your journey, you help other women do the same thing. – Lauralyn Curtis

During childbirth, many women feel like they are on the verge of losing control. A birth plan can help you stay focused by also allowing you to remain calm even if unexpected events occur. “The most important thing to know about planning your birth is knowing your options. You have so much control over your own birth. Know what types of providers are in your area, how they each practice, and realize that you have the ability to leave a provider that you are not happy with.” says Yukie McGregor, creator and founder of Dallas Birth Guide.

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a written statement of your preferences for the birth of your baby. This is a simple way for you to convey your wants and needs to your care provider and anyone else who will be involved in your birth.

What questions should be answered in a birth plan?

In short, you want to answer any questions that are important to you. Below is a list of possible wants / needs for during and after birth.

During Labor Questions

  • Who do you want to be present?
  • Do you want to be mobile, or do you wish to stay in bed?
  • Do you want to take pain medications, or not? Do you have a preference for certain pain medications?
  • How do you plan to stay hydrated? (sips of drinks, ice chips, IV)
  • How do you feel about fetal monitoring? Do you want reassurance about your baby’s well-being at all times?
  • Do you want to listen to music, meditation or any other soothing / helpful sounds?
  • Do you prefer minimal noise or conversation?
  • Would you like to not think about time, or know the time?
  • Would you like encouragement or positive reinforcement from those around you?
  • Do you want your care provider to suggest more effective positions for laboring and pushing when possible?
  • Do you want your care provider to suggest ways to help prevent tearing during pushing?

During Birth Questions

  • Who do you want to be present?
  • Do you prefer a certain position to give birth?
  • Do you want to listen to music, meditation or any other soothing / helpful sounds.
  • Are you for or against an episiotomy?
  • If you need a cesarean, do you have any special requests?
  • For home and birth center births, what are your plans for hospital transport in case of emergency?

After Giving Birth

  • Are you wishing to delay the cord cutting for baby? Would you like to wait until cord stops pulsating to cut?
  • Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
  • Do you want eye ointment to be administered on your baby?
  • Do you want the heel poke test to be done at a future check up, or on the day of birth?
  • Do you wish to breastfeed immediately after birth?
  • What are your preferences for your baby’s care? (when to feed, where to sleep)

The most important thing to remember while creating a birth plan and giving birth is that the main priority is to have a safe and healthy delivery for mom and baby. It very unusual that everything will go as planned but there’s power in visualizing what could be. It’s a great guide for your journey.

Pregnancy Apps.

“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself during pregnancy is stay informed and have some fun. Pregnancy apps allow you to track your baby’s development, see how your body is changing with bump photos and learn how to navigate your emotions. They can be great tools for understanding all of the uncertainties that come up during this time.

Keep in mind that too much of anything isn’t always better. Choose apps that help you to feel inspired, safe and hopeful, not overwhelmed.

Best Baby Development Tracker

The Bump App

Why we love it…
The Bump App gives you something to look forward to week to week with their fun fruit-to-baby size comparison, new baby development updates and facts about how your body is changing. They also have an in app planner that helps moms-to-be prepare for each doctor visit and easily set up their baby registries.

How much does it cost?
FREE

Best Mom Development Tracker

Glow Nurture App

Why we love it…
This customizable app will help you track your pregnancy symptoms, improve your health by logging daily and keep all your information in one place so you can discuss it with your care provider. Speaking of appointments, you can set reminders for doctors visits and taking your medication within the app. You’ll also get tips for maximizing your health, emailable charts, expert advice and more.

How much does it cost?
Subscription platform
$7.99 month-to-month
$3.99/month for 1 year
$59.99 for lifetime

Best App For Dads

Who’s Your Daddy? App

Why we love it…
Written for men, by men (with some guidance from midwives), this app provides humor and information to help first time dad’s get through the next nine months of pregnancy. It also provides dad with helpful daily tips, weekly updates and a due-date countdown tools so they are always in the know.

How much does it cost?
$2.99

Best Meditation App

Expectful App

Why we love it…
I mean, could we really leave this out knowing how much it improves the lives of moms-to-be every day? Expectful’s app provides you with trimester specific meditations that help you reduce risk factors, improve sleep, decrease stress, boost immunity, increase feelings of connection and reduce pain during labor. They also have meditations for nursing, couples meditations and a whole motherhood library for your fourth trimester.

How much does it cost?
$9.00 month-to-month

Best For Bump Photos

CineMama App

Why we love it…
Turn daily photos of your belly into a fun animation of your pregnancy. Whether you take growing belly photos with their simple belly grid and photo editor, or use existing photos, you can create a keepsake CinaMama movie that’s guaranteed to please. The best part though, you can also add titles and soundtrack to your belly movie making it even more fun to share with your friends and family.

How much does it cost?
FREE

Best 3D Graphic Development

Sprout App

The only app that features next generation 3D interaction that allows you to experience your baby’s world in never-before-seen detail from within the womb. It also has real-to-life interactive movements, kicks, heartbeat and more. Enjoy their personalized tracking tools, kick counter, and contraction timer as well.

How much does it cost?
$3.99

Enjoy this time.

Whether you are nearing the end of your pregnancy or just getting started, let this guide be a place where you come for support and information. Refer back to it when you need and know that you are always the leading expert on you, remember to listen to how your body feels, nourish your mind and be kind to yourself.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, contact care@expectful.com. We’d love to hear from you.

References:

  1. Whirledge, S., & Cidlowski, J.A. (2010). Glucocorticoids, stress, and fertility. Minerva Endocrinologica, 35(2), 109-125.
  2. Sriboonpimsuay W., Promthet S., Thinkhamrop J., & Krisanaprakornkit, T. (2011). Meditation for preterm birth prevention: A randomized controlled trial in Udonthani, Thailand.. International Journal of Public Health Research, 1(1), 31-39.
  3. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K.T., Kraft, R.A., Gordon, N.S., McHaffie, J.G., & Coghill, R.C. (2011). Brain mechanisms supporting modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), 5540-5548.
  4. Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., … Sheridan, J.F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.