My husband was a long-distance runner in high school. He spent his teen years training, eating and sleeping well, and teaching himself how to prepare his body and mind for competition. When I first discovered I was pregnant I found myself thinking about his racing techniques. I, too, wanted to get my mind and body ready for the big event: giving birth to my first child. And from the moment I knew that life was growing inside me, I started to think like a runner. I watched what I ate, I quizzed my doctor for exercise suggestions, and for the first time in my life I went to bed early and took naps whenever I could.
Many women approach the months leading up to childbirth with a mixture of apprehension and excitement—and often a twinge of fear. These seven tips will help you overcome your anxieties and prepare for one of the hardest but most rewarding "races" you'll ever run.
Balance Your Diet
Just as a marathon runner seeks out high-energy foods, a pregnant woman should make nutrition a priority. "Prior to pregnancy, attaining and maintaining a healthy weight through a well-balanced diet and regular exercise is the number one thing a woman should do to prepare her body for labor," says Sherry S. Rumsey, a certified childbirth educator and doula in Los Angeles. In addition, Rumsey extols the virtues of "good" fat. "Get enough good fat in your diet from sources like flaxseed oil and avocados," she advises. "Good fat helps to ensure that your tissues are strong and pliable, making them less likely to tear."
Ximena Rossato-Bennett, a doula and childbirth educator based in New York City suggests the following simple rules for a better diet and healthy, strong body before and during pregnancy:
- When you put together a meal, choose whole foods whenever possible. The closer food is to its natural state, the healthier it is for your body. Eat raw (well-washed) rather than cooked vegetables, for example.
- If you eat meat, try to buy free-range poultry and meats with no additives or antibiotics added. Even regular grocery store brands are making an effort to offer a selection of natural meats, so it's not always the more expensive option.
- Be a smart shopper and read labels. Choose the product with the least amount of artificial colors and additives.
- Opt for brown rice instead of white rice.
- When eating out, choose a salad with grilled chicken. Avoid soda and fries. Choose whole-wheat bread rather than white.
- If you can afford to spend a little more money on groceries, buy organic, antibiotic-free dairy products.
- Choose decaffeinated coffee if cutting out coffee altogether isn't an option. Better yet, drink decaffeinated tea!
- Use whole milk rather than half-and-half in your tea.
- Drink water. Drink water. And then go ahead and drink some more water!