Whilst we wouldn’t come between you and your juicer or yoga mat, there are other surprisingly fun ways to boost your health now you’re pregnant
Trying to be perfect when you’re pregnant can feel a little too much like hard work – after all, while you’re busy eating the right food, exercising, and, er, radiating that glow, it can sometimes seem like there’s no time to just enjoy it all. But don’t stress because, often, doing the right thing is easier than you think. And we’re loving these minimum effort ideas…
1 Have A Burger
While we’re not suggesting you spend every night in your local fast-food joint, eating red meat during pregnancy is beneficial for your baby. ‘It provides for your growing blood supply by delivering iron to the body, a mineral the body can’t make naturally,’ says Lovisa Nilsson, nutritionist for the health and fitness app Lifesum. ‘Iron helps build haemoglobin in the blood cells, which is responsible for carrying oxygen via the blood to the growing placenta and baby.’
Go for the best quality meat you can afford, because cheaper processed meat has a high fat and sodium content. And don’t forget your toppings! Hard, pasteurised cheese, such as Cheddar, will add calcium, while sliced avocado will help your baby’s development – thanks to its high dose of folates.
'Go for the best quality meat you can afford - cheaper processed meat has a high fat and sodium content'
2 Put Your Feet Up
Yep, it sounds too good to be true, but according to Dr Susan Turner, GP and mother-of-six, spending time with your feet up on the sofa not only helps you get crucial rest, but also reduces your risk of swollen ankles. ‘Resting for at least an hour a day with your feet above your heart really helps to reduce the risk of water gathering in the lower parts of your body,’ she says.
As long as you’ve done a few short stints of exercise in the day, ideally around 15 minutes long, it’s absolutely what you should be doing. Once you’ve got more than one child it gets harder to rest during the day, so during your first pregnancy this is something you should make the most of.
3 Eat Chocolate
And now, for the best news you’ve heard since finding out you were pregnant. ‘There are significant health benefits from eating a few squares of chocolate every day as part of a balanced diet during pregnancy,’ says Lovisa. Not only does it help ease stress, it can also lower the risk of developing the high-blood pressure condition pre-eclampsia, which can cause a number of serious health complications, including blood clots and premature birth. Woo hoo!
'Chocolate can lower the risk of developing the high-blood pressure condition pre-eclampsia'
What’s more, according to a report published in New Scientist, the chemical phenylethylamine found in chocolate, which makes the brain release endorphins, is passed on from mother to baby resulting in a happier and livelier baby. Opt for dark chocolate, with no less than 70% cocoa, as this will deliver the benefits of bioflavonoids and antioxidants that boost your immune system.
4 Head To The Pub
No, obviously not to neck a vat of rosé, but to spend time with your friends. Pregnancy can be a lonely time, with research suggesting that up to a third of women might experience anxiety or mood disorders, so everything you can do to feel like yourself is important.
‘As your bump grows it can feel that it is creating a barrier between you and those around you,’ says psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg. ‘You may notice some friends becoming distant, but you can’t expect your non-pregnant friends to change their lives to accommodate your life change.’ Try to go along to the odd night out, even if you leave early.
5 Have Sex
More fun than schlepping to the gym, sex can give you a pregnancy health boost. It burns calories, boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and even lowers blood pressure. Plus, a Danish study published in 2011 found that having sex more often can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, due to a protein found in sperm, HLA-G, which can regulate the body’s immune system. Another study found that sex during late pregnancy was associated with a reduced risk of delivering too early.
6 Lie in
Don’t feel guilty about relaxing in bed. Women who slept fewer than six hours a night during the last month of pregnancy laboured for 11 hours longer and had c-sections four times more frequently than women who slept seven hours or more, according to a US study.
‘It’s not easy for every pregnant woman to get lots of sleep, but if you can, then simply enjoy it,’ says Dr Susan. ‘Being pregnant puts a lot of extra demand on the body – growing a new person challenges many parts of you, from your back to your feet – so you will benefit from downtime, whether or not you actually sleep.’
7 Forget That You’re Pregnant
Besides eating well and looking after yourself, one of the best things you can do is just let your body get on with growing your baby. ‘Without us paying too close attention, your body knows what to do,’ says clinical psychologist Mia Scotland.
Try a dose of escapism by reading a novel from another era, perhaps some Jane Austen. Or go for a swim. While you’re in water, you’ll feel weightless and bump-free. ‘Kick back and trust that your body will get on with the important stuff,’ says Mia.
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