Sleeping and eating are two of life’s greatest pleasures. When you’re pregnant, they become necessities. Good sleeping and eating habits keep you healthy, and they boost your chances of delivering a healthy, happy baby.
Speaking of delivering, how do you know when it’s time to head to the hospital? Keep reading to find out what to watch for in your third trimester.
Catch Some Quality Z’s
“Getting enough sleep is important for mom-to-be and her developing baby,” said Michelle S. Daniels, MD, an OB-GYN with Meritas Health Pavilion for Women. “Pregnant women should try to get about eight hours of sleep every night. However, depending on how a woman feels overall and which trimester she’s in, she may need a few more hours at night or a daytime nap.”
Each trimester brings exciting changes as well as some challenges that can make falling — and staying — asleep difficult. Those challenges include:
- Frequent bathroom visits caused by hormonal changes and a growing uterus
- Leg cramps
- Nausea, which can strike at any time
- Restless sleep due to increased heart rate, shortness of breath and difficulty getting comfortable
If a good night’s sleep is only in your dreams, Dr. Daniels suggests trying the ideas below.
- Use as many pillows as you need to create a comfortable sleeping position.
- Limit your food intake right before bedtime to head off heartburn.
- Develop a bedtime routine that helps you relax and unwind.
- Only use the bedroom for sex and sleeping.
If all else fails, see a sleep specialist to determine if you have a sleep disorder. With treatment, you can get the rest you need.
Eating for Two
“I’m eating for two” is a common joke among pregnant women. Proper nutrition during pregnancy is nothing to chuckle about. Eating more won’t increase your chances of delivering a healthy baby, but eating well can.
It’s true you need to increase your calorie intake while pregnant. Yet, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat too much beyond your normal amount. “Gaining too much weight during pregnancy has been cited as one of the factors contributing to the obesity epidemic because it’s difficult to lose the weight postpartum,” said Brian T. Lovitt, DO, an OB-GYN with Meritas Health Pavilion for Women. “And, obesity carries with it a number of risks to mother and baby during pregnancy.” Those risks include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
“The additional caloric need during pregnancy for a nonobese mother is about one peanut and butter jelly sandwich a day, which is much less than what people usually think of when ‘eating for two,’” Dr. Lovitt said. “For overweight mothers-to-be, it’s less.”
How much weight you should gain differs from woman to woman and depends mostly on your prepregnancy weight and body mass index. “For nonobese women, we recommend gaining 25-35 pounds,” Dr. Lovitt advised. “As prepregnancy weight/BMI increases, that number comes down. On the other hand, a very thin woman might need to gain more.”
Eating foods packed with protein, folic acid, iron and calcium before, during and after pregnancy can keep you and your little one healthy.
Find these nutrients in everyday foods such as:
- Beans and lentils
- Fruits and vegetables (especially green, leafy ones)
- Nonfat milk, cheese and yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive, sunflower and canola oil
- Peanut butter
- Skinless chicken
- Whole-grain and fortified cereals, breads, pastas and oatmeal
Take Your Vitamins
“While getting nutrients from food is preferred, it’s not always feasible,” Dr. Lovitt said. “I encourage women to take prenatal vitamins during their reproductive years. It’s especially important for a mom-to-be to start increasing her folic acid intake prior to pregnancy. This vitamin is crucial to early processes, and its absence can result in significant birth defects, often completed before pregnancy is known.”
Taking an inexpensive over-the-counter prenatal vitamin regularly throughout your adult life can give your body the nutrients it needs. “If you’re planning a pregnancy, start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid at least three months before trying to conceive,” Dr. Lovitt advised.
The bottom line? Be healthy. “When looking together at weight gain during my patient’s pregnancy, whether too much or too little, I regularly ask, ‘Are you being healthy?’ and ‘Tell me what eating healthy means?’ If you’re eating a well-balanced diet and not over-indulging on ice cream and fast food, then the number on the scale isn’t that important.”
It’s not easy to stay motivated and eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet in general, let alone for nine months. “I remind patients what they do in those nine months impacts another human being who may live 95 years,” Dr. Lovitt said. “Most moms appreciate that advice and make the effort necessary to help both their health and their baby’s.”