Becoming a mom is a major life event, so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when preparing for your baby’s arrival. Not only does pregnancy affect everything from your body, mood, eating habits, energy levels, and exercise routine, but it can also cause stress—both good and bad, says Aaptiv Trainer Jaime McFaden.
“Prepping for a baby can cause major anxiety,” McFaden says. “It’s okay to feel so many things. It’s the most exciting change of your life.”
Try an Aaptiv walking meditation to relax your body and mind.
So, how can you help minimize that stress and best prepare for your new family member? Here, experts share their tips on what expecting women should do before giving birth.
Make a post-birth plan
It’s an understatement to say that life changes the moment that you have a kid. Having a post-birth plan helps make the first few days and weeks of parenthood that much easier.
Before the sleep deprivation hits, figure out if you need help once you’re home from the hospital, and who can step in. If your mom or mother-in-law is available, organize their stay and prepare their room. That way, once the baby is born, you’ll have in-house support on-hand.
Also, take time to prep your baby’s nursery, pre-wash their baby clothes, and get rid of any hazardous items in the home. Also, have a pediatrician lined up, as it’s incredibly important that newborns receive proper healthcare.
And lastly, when your due date is near, have your hospital bag packed and ready to go.
Continue a regular exercise routine
Exercising (to your comfort and ability) is just as important during pregnancy as it is during other times in your life. While women in the past were told to sit down and stay off their feet during pregnancy, Certified Personal Trainer Jessica Sennet says that health experts now know it’s safe—and good—for pregnant women to work out.
Sennet, who specializes in prenatal and postnatal exercise, says that some women still have hesitations, and worry that working out may harm their baby. “I think the most common concern is that pregnant women want to exercise, but they have no idea how to do it in a safe way,” Sennet says. “There are certain modifications, but being active can be a little bit more difficult.”
Because the body changes so much during pregnancy, Sennet says exercise may look different day-to-day. Still, pregnant women should maintain a regular exercise routine so that their body—and the body growing inside them—is as healthy as possible. (Here’s what to know about working out in your first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester.)
Aaptiv can help you find the right maternity workout for you.
Sennet says that the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are profound. “Your energy will be better, your mood will be better, you’ll have less aches and pains, and there’s less risk of complications in your pregnancy,” she says. She also says that working out helps prepare you for giving birth, which is a physically demanding event.
“You always feel better after you exercise, and the benefits of being regularly active outweigh not doing it,” Sennet adds. McFaden agrees, and says that pregnant women should exercise—as long as the activity is first cleared by their doctor. “It is so important because your body is going through so many changes, and you want to keep your body healthy for the baby.”
Get life insurance
Moms-to-be want to protect their baby before and after they’re born, and life insurance helps with that. While it may be the last thing on your mind, having adequate life insurance means that your partner and child are covered, should anything happen.
Too often, new parents forget about the financial aspect of family planning, or think they don’t need certain coverage. Even if one parent plans to stay at home to care for their child, they should have a policy in place, too, as life insurance can help with the costs of paying for daycare—should a family suddenly need it. Talk to an insurance provider to determine how much coverage is best for you.
Maintain a healthy diet
Registered Dietitian Olivia Cupido says that typical nutritional rules still apply for pregnant women, like eating a balanced diet, but those expecting need to be a bit more mindful of certain nutrient needs, like iron.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body supplies blood and oxygen to the growing fetus, increasing the demand for iron. While there’s plenty of iron-rich foods—like spinach, tofu, beans, and lentils—that you can eat, an iron supplement may also be necessary. If you’re not sure, it’s best to talk to your doctor about your diet.
Another important part of a pregnancy diet? Folate, which can be found in leafy green vegetables. “It’s really important in developing the [baby’s] brain, spinal cord, and neural system,” Cupido says. “A combination of a supplement and [folate] found naturally from diet allows you to make sure [that] you are getting enough.”
Lasty, it’s important for expectant women to get enough Omega-3 fatty acids. Cupido says that while it’s a good idea to stay away from high-mercury fish, you can still get Omega-3s from a variety of sources, including: sardines, salmon, and nuts.
To make sure that you’re checking all your nutritional boxes, Cupido says that pregnant women should also take prenatal vitamins. (It’s important to note that there are also foods that moms-to-be should steer clear from, including: raw or undercooked meat, high-mercury fish, raw or runny egg, and soft cheeses.)
Talk to other moms
Whether you want to chat morning sickness remedies or the best baby strollers, connecting with other moms offers support. McFaden says that seeking out a solid group of positive moms can help ease your worries and fears, while also offering first-hand parenting advice.
Cupido echoes this, and says that connecting with people who are going through similar things in life can help new moms feel less alone. She suggests connecting with friends who are parents, or going online and joining a parenting group on social media. “It’s really important to see what strategies work for other people and to know that they’re going through the same things, too,” Cupido adds.
At the end of the day, no matter how much you prepare, there’s going to be unexpected ups and downs in pregnancy. McFaden says that while bringing life into the world can be scary, it’s also incredibly rewarding. “Breathe, and remember how many women before you have done it,” she says. “You can, too!”