There aren’t many things in life that are more important, or indeed more challenging, than going through pregnancy.
Whether you have just discovered you are having your first child or you’ve already had several pregnancies under your belt, you probably don’t need us to tell you that pregnancy comes with big changes!
Being pregnant is a wonderful and miraculous time, but it’s important that you have trusted information and expert advice to help you wherever you are on your journey, and across different areas of your life.
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Things To Know About Pregnancy For First-Time Moms (And Dads)
Whether you like to go with the flow or prefer to have things more structured and pre-planned, it’s important to understand the dos, don’ts, and recommended advice around multiple topics including:
- Maternity clothing
- Pre-natal care and appointments
- Your overall health including pregnancy symptoms and morning sickness
- How best to celebrate your impending arrival with an awesome baby shower with your nearest and dearest.
Here are some essential areas to think about during your pregnancy.
You’ll find they are very helpful for moms, but also act as great first-time pregnancy tips for dads too!
Food & Drink
You are eating for two now and to help support your baby’s growth, you will typically need to eat at least 300 extra calories per day during your second and third trimesters and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
But sadly not all calories nor all food is created equal, so moms-to-be need to understand the basics of nutrition, and which foods are best avoided while expecting.
Importance of Good Nutrition
During pregnancy, the same principles of health that apply to all of us remain in place, so you should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Protein is worth a special mention because it’s vitally important for your baby’s growth throughout pregnancy.
Getting enough protein (approx. 70 grams per day) can help promote the growth of new body tissue, produce antibodies that support your immune system, develop enzymes and hormones, provide you with vital energy and help contribute to a healthy birth weight.
These processed foods can play a part in a healthy diet and offer a lot of convenience, but it’s better to eat other more natural high-protein snacks like trail mix, cottage cheese, lean meat, and tofu.
Some experts believe you can pinpoint the exact reason for most cravings thanks to your changing nutritional needs, while others believe cravings are not so easily explained.
But what is undeniable (and reassuring!) is that cravings are a completely normal part of expecting.
Sweet foods like chocolate, hot chocolate, candy, and ice cream often appear as the number one craving in research, and on the whole, it should be fine to occasionally give in to these sweet cravings, provided you don’t overdo it and ensure your overall diet is balanced and healthy.
Depending on the foods you regularly like to eat, you might have to make some dietary changes during the time you’re expecting.
Here are some popular foods and commentary on their safety:
- Pizza: Whether homemade, from a mom-and-pop restaurant, or ordered from a chain like Domino’s, pizza is typically safe to eat during pregnancy, provided everything is cooked properly and the pizza is served hot.
- Cheese: The advice with cheese is that pregnant women can safely eat hard cheeses, irrespective of whether the cheese is pasteurized or not. But when it comes to soft cheeses like burrata, you should ensure either (1) the cheese is made using pasteurized ingredients, and (2) if the cheese is not pasteurized, it should be cooked until it is steaming or piping hot.
- Steak: If you’re a fan of a good steak then happily you can still keep these on the menu while expecting, but you should ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked so that the internal temperature is at least 160° F. In practice, this means cooking your steak until it’s well done.
- Tuna: This nutritional powerhouse of lean protein and healthy Omega 3 fatty acids is a great choice for pregnant women, provided it’s eaten in moderation and cooked fully.
- Octopus: Octopus is safe for pregnant women to eat provided it has been fully cooked, which typically means it has been grilled, baked or boiled. Raw, undercooked or marinated octopus should not be eaten by pregnant women since it may contain harmful bacteria.
- Potato Salad: Potato salad is typically fine for pregnant women to eat, provided you use pasteurized mayonnaise, follow correct storage guidelines, and ensure the potatoes are cooked thoroughly.
- Escargot: Technically escargot is classified as seafood, so it’s important to follow the same advice here and to only consider eating escargot or snails if they have been cooked thoroughly, and if you don’t have a seafood or shellfish allergy.
- Yogurt: Both plain yogurt and Greek yogurt are safe for pregnant women to consume because commercially-made yogurt is subject to strict quality controls and must be made with pasteurized ingredients.
- Ice Cream: Ice cream is generally safe to eat during pregnancy, and this typically includes both the pre-packaged variety, as well as gelato. But take extra care with soft serve, because soft serve machines have the potential to be breeding grounds for listeria.
- Deli Meat: Ham, salami, Parma ham, prosciutto, chorizo, pepperoni, and other deli meats are not cooked but are cured and fermented instead. As a result, they may contain listeria or salmonella bacteria, or toxoplasma parasites, so pregnant women are advised to avoid deli or processed meats, and any meat that has been cured or smoked. This also means a snack like beef jerky is best avoided while expecting. Fully cooked meats are fine, however, so a pepperoni pizza for example is fine, provided the meat has been thoroughly cooked and is piping hot.
- Coffee: Experts say you should have no more than 200mg per day when pregnant (there is 100mg in a mug of instant coffee). Thankfully there are plenty of good alternatives to coffee while pregnant, from the obvious (decaffeinated coffee) to options such as herbal teas and fruit smoothies.
- Alcohol: If you like the occasional alcoholic drink, you may be a little worried that you’re going to be in for a long and potentially boring nine months because pregnant women are advised not to drink any alcohol while expecting. But fear not, because there are some delicious mocktails out there, and both big brands and craft producers alike have recently launched alcohol-free versions of beer, wine, and spirits including gin, tequila, and bourbon.
Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your baby in several ways, including helping reduce back pain, ease constipation, decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, promote healthy weight gain, improve your overall fitness, strengthen your heart and blood vessels, and help you lose the baby weight after your baby is born
Physical activity does NOT increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery, and ideally moms-to-be should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week during the first, second and third trimesters.
Activities To Avoid
While pregnant, you should avoid activities that put you at increased risk of injury. Examples of exercises or activities to skip include:
- Contact sports and sports that put you at risk of getting hit in the abdomen, such as ice hockey and basketball.
- Activities that may result in a fall, such as skiing, ziplining, surfing, and horseback riding.
- “Hot yoga” or “hot Pilates,” which may cause you to become overheated.
- Scuba diving.
- Activities performed above 6,000 feet altitude, unless you already live at a high altitude.
Pregnancy Safe Activities
There are plenty of things you can still do safely during pregnancy, and some popular activities and exercises that pregnant women can enjoy with or without your partner include:
- Swimming in the ocean (or in a pool).
- Stationary biking
- Modified yoga
- Weightlifting, which includes deadlifting and squatting
- Riding a motorbike (we’ve included this in the pregnancy-safe activities, but the ultimate decision is down to what you’re comfortable with)
Staying Safe & Healthy
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times by now; when you’re pregnant your body undergoes massive changes, so it’s good to understand what you can and should do to help you remain safe and healthy.
Some important things to understand during all stages of pregnancy include:
- Hormonal changes: Your changing hormones during pregnancy can take you on one heck of a ride, and one of the most common side-effects is feeling nauseous, lightheaded and throwing up white foam. Heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux are also common pregnancy side-effects. Things like eating smaller, more frequent meals, limiting your caffeine intake, avoiding spicy and fatty foods, spending time outdoors and drinking plenty of fluids can all help tame morning sickness and help reduce those embarrassing gurgling sounds!
- Avoid extreme temperatures: When it comes water temperature – think baths and showers – it’s important to avoid extremes, so freezing cold baths or swims, and hot showers or a dip in a tub that’s too hot should all be avoided while expecting. If you are looking for some temporary pain relief for sore muscles, it’s good to know that heating pads are safe to use during pregnancy, but there are some precautions you should take, such as not applying it directly to your skin, and ensuring you don’t use one for longer than 10-20 minutes per session.
- Stay out of the sun: Sunshine can undoubtedly be beneficial for pregnant women and can actually reduce the likelihood of pre-term birth. But given you now have more sensitive skin than usual, and dehydration comes with severe risks (especially for your baby), it’s a good idea to avoid excessive exposure, wear sun protection, avoid getting burnt, and above all always use common sense. You can also burn more easily when pregnant, which is another reason to be extra careful when you’re out in the sun and a great tip can be to stay out of the sun between 10 am to 2 pm, which is when the sun is at its strongest.
- Understand the importance of hydration: Typically moms-to-be should drink around 8 to 12 cups of fluids (64 to 96 ounces) on a normal day, and much more on a hot or humid day or when exercising. Becoming dehydrated can be dangerous for your baby, so look out for these signs of dehydration: urinating infrequently, dark yellow urine color, dry mouth or tongue and feeling tired, light-headed, or dizzy. If you experience any of the below you should be taking in a lot more liquid. Staying hydrated is also a great way to help contain or reduce other common symptoms like oily or greasy hair.
- Beware certain activities: If you’re a fan of the odd massage then you should know that while these are generally safe for moms-to-be, it’s a good idea to seek someone who has received prenatal training, especially if you’re getting a foot massage. Body piercings are also worth a special mention because according to both medical and piercing professionals, you should avoid getting a piercing of any kind during pregnancy due to your weakened immune system.
- Lean on your partner for support: You might be the one carrying your baby, but for most people, this is a two-person show! It’s a good idea to take your husband to key appointments so they can better understand what you’re going through and have the chance to ask any questions they may have. Your partner’s support during labor will also be invaluable, so make sure your man is well prepared and their hospital bag is packed well ahead of time. If you’re feeling particularly generous you may also want to consider buying them a push present, which really is a thing for men as well!
- Seek out experts: If you are feeling nervous or anxious about an upcoming pregnancy appointment then rest assured this is completely natural, especially if this is your first child. A good midwife is worth their weight in gold, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 depending on where you live and your preferred birth location. Most women find this support to be invaluable, and if you are using a midwife, make sure you make the most of it by preparing a good list of questions to ask during your appointment. When it comes to what to wear to your ultrasound appointment, a loose-fitting, two-piece outfit typically works best.
- Day-to-day changes are normal: You might be surprised to learn that your bump can change in appearance from day to day, and can even be soft on some days and hard on others. These changes in appearance are typically nothing to worry about, and there are several reasons why your bump might look different from day to day including bloating and gas, your baby’s position, and whether you have an empty stomach. Some women love to flaunt their bump proudly, while others may want to hide it, especially if you are concerned about workplace discrimination or are getting married soon.
Should You Stop Driving?
There are no laws stating pregnant women cannot drive when expecting.
So in most healthy pregnancies, it should be safe to drive provided you listen to your body and follow common sense, for example not driving when you’re tired or unable to physically operate the vehicle as normal.
5 scenarios when you should think twice about driving:
- You Are Nauseous
- You Feel Fatigued
- Your Mobility Is Too Restricted
- You Are Uncomfortable (Especially On Longer Journeys)
- You Are In Labor
Driving Tips During Pregnancy
Here are six other tips to help keep you and your imminent new arrival safe when on the road:
- Wear Your Seatbelt Correctly: According to experts, when pregnant you should (1) wear a three-point seat belt, (2) make sure the shoulder belt goes over the shoulder, collarbone, and down across the chest, between the breasts, (3) ensure the lap belt is worn as low as possible under the abdomen and the baby, (4) adjust the seat belt to fit as comfortably as possible and adjust the seat too if necessary.
- Check Your Medication: That’s because certain medicines can make you drowsy or impair your driving ability in some other way.
- Eliminate Distractions: Turning off your cell phone will help you focus better on the road, your surroundings, and on your driving.
- Bring Some Food & Drink: Take plenty of water, and pack some easy snacks like trail mix or protein bars, both of which are great options as they don’t require any special storage.
- Stay Cool: Avoid driving in hot weather or in the heat of the day unless your vehicle has air conditioning to keep you cool.
- Build In Frequent Stops: Factor in things like toilet breaks, stretching your body, eating and drinking, and giving your mind a break for a few minutes.
How you spend your maternity leave is a personal choice, so moms should never feel under pressure to do anything they don’t want just because it’s the “done thing”.
Typically maternity leave activities can be classified into two categories: before and after your baby is born.
In the months and weeks leading up to childbirth you may want to focus on things like resting, preparing for birth, and spending some quality time with your partner.
Once your little one is born and the fun really begins, it’s usually a good idea to think about how you can best bond with your baby, and to do whatever it is that will ensure you make the most of this special time before you head back to work or focus more of your time on any other activities.