Happy Healthy Pregnancy

(republished from my blog, written in November 2008)

I was asked on my advice for staying healthy and strong during pregnancy.  I would say that it is a three point focus: Physical (body), emotional/mental (mind), and spiritual (spirit).

First I will address the one thing that I believe addresses all three:  Prenatal yoga.

Obviously I am biased, as a prenatal yoga teacher,  but I would say this is one of the most essential practices for the pregnant woman.  Not only are you strengthening your body and balancing your mind, but you’re building community and connecting to spirit at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

One caveat before you read any further:  I would encourage you to dig deep into yourself for what your body is longing for during pregnancy.  For some, becoming less active will be very important.  For others, adding more activity will be the key.  Listen to yourself above all “tips.”  Okay, now on to some tips:  I offer the best two pieces of advice for body, mind and spirit.

For your body, I would offer the following:

  1. Walking: One midwife I know recommends 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. Of course you build up to that in early pregnancy, but shoot to be walking as much as you can by 26 weeks, and walk often in the third trimester.  She used to say ‘you’ll either walk during your pregnancy, or during your labor. You choose.’
  2. Diet: A good diet is the building blocks for your baby, as well as making sure you maintain your own balance.   Your baby will get what it needs, even if it means directly from your muscles and bones.  Eat protein (nuts, legumes, meat, dairy, tofu, etc. from varied sources), minerals (5 veggies a day all different colors of the rainbow, fruits, greens), foods rich in folic acid and lots of dark leafy greens. Avoid refined sugar, processed food, and empty carbs (white rice, starchy foods, etc.)  Get your food based organic prenatal vitamins, but don’t depend on these for nutrients.

For your mind, two suggestions:

  1. Learn to stay in the now.  The mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy in pregnancy. If you are first trimester, try not to worry about the birth, or wish the baby would move.  If you are in second trimester, don’t be wishing the baby was here already.  If the baby’s here, don’t be wishing it would sleep through the night. (okay, that’s a tough one)  Be exactly where you are, as you are there. Breathe, learn to watch the mind. Byron Katie’s ‘The Work‘  is very useful for mental activity having to do with other people and relationships.  Meditation, even for five minutes a day, can be amazing.  I recommend beginning with teachers like Pema Chodron (Start Where You Are is an amazing book)
  2. Accept your emotions like weather fronts. Know they are not always as real as they feel. Hormones are real. Emotions can be very exaggerated by these things. Learn when to say, “wow, this is intense, but not real. I’m going to go to bed and think about all of this tomorrow.”  The same is true for anxiety.  You will learn, this year, how to worry effectively.  Your instinctive voice is important, and cannot be heard through all that noise.

For your spirit, I would offer the following:

  1. Stay close to God/Goddess/Creator/Mother Earth. Remember you are a creator, you are creating a life, just as God is a creator. Whatever your relationship is, or what your beliefs are, cultivate and enrich that relationship.  Read spiritual texts that speak to you, connect to your spiritual community, remember to pray.
  2. Find out what faith means. Hope is “I hope this all works out” Faith is “it is already worked out.” Live in faith more and more, strengthen it like a muscle.

If you are looking for a meditation, visualization or favorite practice/exercise to build strength, try a few of these:

I do a thing called “keep ups” that I learned from Gurmukh, which involves taking an exercise/usually yogic, called a Kriya, and continuing it for between 4 and 10 minutes. It is usually both physically and mentally difficult to do. I incorporate it into my yoga classes to practice finding that edge, and pushing through to the other side.  (on a side note:  good music, like Michael Jackson, really helps with keep ups)

The other program I like a lot is Hypnosis. There are three main methods out there:  Hypnobirthing, Hyp Birth, and Hypnobabies.  See which one feels right for you.  It is genius. It really makes a difference in the difficulty and intensity and length of labor.

And lastly , a simple meditation that I love for pregnant women is this: meditation to remove fear of the future:

Sit comfortably. Cradle your left hand in your right, right thumb across the left palm. Bring the left thumb over the right, and tuck that little x of thumbs into your heart center. Breathe deeply feeling the heart rise and fall. This can be done also with your partner sitting behind you (with back support for the partner) and holding your hands in theirs. (you do the mudra, they cover your hands with theirs) This practice is amazing because we take our own feminine, yin, slightly neurotic side, and we cradle it with our own masculine, linear, containing side. We bring the balance into our own being. Having your partner around you  just intensifies that support. So we have our own little fears (left hand) cradled by our own strength (right hand) and then that whole package contained by our partner.

Which brings me to my last offering. Support.

You are not doing this alone.

Just because baby is your little secret, and inside your body, don’t be afraid to ask for support from your community.  When I was pregnant with my son, I had a celebration at the 120th day of my pregnancy with my community, and my partner said to all of them “this is where we commit to supporting, nurturing and inspiring Katie during her pregnancy.” Don’t be afraid to let the support in. It is not that you are deficient in any way, it is that what is being required of you is extraordinary. And your partner, family, and greater community are there to help you give birth to yourself as mother, as you give birth to your child.

Pregnancy is the most amazing miracle, and yet as common as life itself. It can feel like you are the first and only woman to feel all of these feelings, but all mothers have felt them with you. Find a good community of like minded mamas and a good care provider (hopefully midwife, or super compassionate ob) and move with the strength of all the people behind you, supporting you, inspiring you, and guiding you towards your baby!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katie
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 20:55:38

    In case you got the original send out of this post, I am not currently pregnant. this was written in 2008. Sorry! And thanks for the congrats! It was fun to feel pregnant for a night. I promise, I’ll let you know when that adventure begins.

    Reply

  2. Deb McNamara
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 19:06:59

    Katie – i was about to do the same and offer you congrats!!! =) I just sent this post to Stephany Mendzela (now Tosi) who used to teach for you in LA. She is due this spring. Love to you and look forward to future posts… We need a mom’s group reunion!!! Deb

    Reply

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