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12 ways to have a happy pregnancy

Pregnancy_Reuters.jpg

(REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

You’re elated that you’re pregnant, but worries and fears— about your and your baby’s health, labor pain, and how your life’s going to change— coupled with weight gain, out- of-control hormones and trouble sleeping, mean you’re probably counting down the days until you give birth.

Take heed—you can have a happy pregnancy with some simple changes. Try these:

1. Put your smartphone down.
There will always be “what if” questions, when it comes to pregnancy health, but information overload doesn’t help. Get your primary information from your doctor and only search for what you need to know.

2. Stop aiming for perfect.
“There is no such thing as a perfect mother,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect.”  

Making mistakes is actually part of being a good mom, she added. Instead of striving to eat 100 percent healthy all the time (despite morning sickness), give yourself a break and do the best you can.

3. Be grateful.
One of the best ways to de-stress is to focus on gratitude since it reduces the stress centers in the brain. Whether you’re grateful for your baby, your partner, or that you can take a nap, think about or write down what you’re grateful for each day.

4. Nix worry.
All that worrying not only increases your stress, but it can transfer anxiety into other areas of your life.

“It makes our emotions more intense,” Lombardo said.

Worry can also take a toll on you physically, making pregnancy aches and pains worse.

5. Exercise.
A study in the journal Psychology and Health found that exercise can boost your mood, likely due to the endorphin rush you get from a good sweat session. Working out 30 minutes most days is best, but even a brisk walk can help if you’re not up for the gym.

6. Try visualization.
Most of your fears stem from experiences that you’ve had or that you’ve heard repeatedly, such as how difficult your mother’s labor was, said Dr. Catherine Shainberg, a psychologist and author of “Dream Birth.”

Try this visualization technique: Imagine your fears are dead leaves on a porch and then sweep them away.

“Once these images are cleared away, we can create new, healthy images,” she said.

7. Focus on love.
Stress hormones can transfer to your baby, so the more loving emotions and thoughts you have, the better.

“It changes the biochemistry of your body and you want your baby to be in an environment of love,” Lombardo said.  

8. Relax and meditate.
According to a recent study in the journal Psychology & Health, pregnant women who participated in a mindfulness meditation program had reduced stress and anxiety. Meditation can also help you focus your attention on the here and now and it may even help with morning sickness.

9. Ignore unsolicited advice.
Other moms are already giving you advice and, while it’s because they care, it’s stressing you out.  What’s the best way to handle it? Acknowledge it, say “thank you,” and make your own decision for your family.

10. Let go of expectations.
You hope to have a natural birth or make homemade baby food but they may not happen. Don’t sweat it. Definitely have a plan, but be flexible and accept that a different outcome is ok, too.

11. Embrace it.
Instead of getting hung up on weight gain, stretch marks and varicose veins, recognize that these changes are temporary. What matters is how you react now.

“You may not have control over it, but you always have control over your emotional reaction,” Lombardo said.

12. Don’t think too far into the future.
You might be worried that your career will take a hit or your relationship with your partner will change. You won’t know how things will go until you give birth, so start to focus on what’s important right now. The rest will fall into place.

“Be true to who you are and focus on what you want,” Lombardo said.  

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.