Advice I Gave Before Being Pregnant Versus My Real Life Experience
I’m Jen, a pelvic floor physical therapist. I found out in October 2018 that I was pregnant with my first! After working with many women during pregnancy and postpartum for over five years, I was stoked to start the journey myself and be better able to see if my pregnancy advice was legit. I’m going to share with you the advice I gave to moms in their first trimester: what I talked about in the clinic, to my friends, and in my book –Your Best Pregnancy Ever. Then I’ll include how this advice panned out for me in real life.
Tip One: Stay Active at the Start of Pregnancy
The Advice: Find ways to workout and move your body that feel good to you: yes to this! So many studies and my clinical experience show that staying active during pregnancy can help mama feel better during pregnancy and improve her postpartum recovery as well as baby’s development.
Real Life: During my first trimester, I was hit with fatigue and nausea. I found that working out actually made me feel better (or some days at least not worse), so I sucked it up and got some sort of intentional movement. Some days the fatigue or nausea hit me harder and I skipped the workout and rested. I soaked in the sleep when I could. I learned that I still highly value physical activity for pregnant mamas including myself, but that it was also important to listen to my body and find a balance between pushing past some of the tired days and other days enjoying rest. I enjoyed moving through walks with my dogs, yoga, step class, strength training, short runs and adventurous hikes.
Tip Two: Work on Relaxation Techniques
The Advice: That includes deep breathing and self-care strategies to honor your body, mind and soul during this time.
Real Life: Big yes! Especially on those rest days, but even on the active ones, I attempted to listen better to my body. I was careful about what I said ‘yes’ to, so that I didn’t overbook my schedule. I worked on diaphragmatic breathing at home and at work. I journaled, listened to good music and took some baths.
Tip Three: Start Connecting with your Pelvic Floor
The Advice: It’s important to know how to contract, relax and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles while understanding how to coordinate this with your breath, movement and everyday life.
Real Life: I was lucky enough to get “only” the constant nausea for weeks, but not the actual vomiting. In preparation for my pelvic floor being able to handle morning sickness should it strike, I definitely upped my pelvic floor exercise game. Find a balance between contracting and relaxing both in isolation throughout the day (sitting, standing, lying down) as well as with movements (getting up from a chair, lifting, bending, exercise routine). If you’re not sure how to contract or relax your pelvic floor, or have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction (urine leakage, pelvic pain, pelvic heaviness, etc.), please reach out to a pelvic floor PT near you or check out our virtual sessions. I love how many mamas in their first trimester have been reaching out to us for prevention or early treatment feedback
Tip Four: Eat Nutritious Foods and Stay Hydrated
The Advice: Simply put, being mindful of properly fueling your body as it creates new life is essential.
Real Life: It was much harder than I thought. My very first wave of nausea hit with onions. I was so revolted. As someone who’s never been a picky eater and literally always wants to eat food, that was one of the most bizarre experiences for me so far. There were a few weeks where I really did not feel interested in veggies and craved bland foods like bread and crackers. I tried to sneak some veggies in where I could and tried to add quality sources of fat and protein to the bland carb choices I craved when possible. But it didn’t come easy to me and I humbled myself during this experience. Lucky for me as the first trimester came to an end and I transitioned to the second trimester, I felt I was able to eat most foods again and could start picking nutritious foods that energized me, gave me quality sources of protein, fiber, fats and carbs. I will say that staying hydrated with water was really helpful to my nausea and energy levels. So that part felt right. I just kept refilling my Klean Kanteen every chance I could get!
Also, I’ve been using a squatty potty for years and continue to highly recommend getting a stool of some kind in early pregnancy if you haven’t already. This can really help improve bowel movements by better relaxing the pelvic floor muscles that wrap around the rectum when you get your knees higher than your hips. And breathe during your bowel movement!
Tip Five: Visualize Your Pregnancy/Birth Experience
The Advice: It’s never too early to begin to build up a team around you – interview midwives, OB/GYNS, find a pelvic floor PT near you, a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, a mental health counselor, prenatal yoga, prenatal fitness instructors, etc. You want to have options in mind for if/when you need them or to contact for wellness and prevention. You do not need to build up your whole team right away, but it’s nice to have options and give yourself time to ask friends, professionals, social media, etc. for recommendations and to set up interviews.
Real Life: I interviewed my midwife team once during the end of my first trimester to get to know them, their services and my insurance/financial options, but waited to set up my first intake appointment until I started my second trimester. There’s no right or wrong way. Just do your research and see what options, both local and virtual, feel best to you.
Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure to download my FREE resource — 5 Myths We’ve Been Told About Pregnant Bodies! I correct common pregnancy myths and give you tons of tips to help you feel strong and healthy for 40 weeks and beyond.
Jen Torborg, PT, DPT, CMTPT, is a pelvic floor physical therapist and author of three Amazon bestselling books: Your Best Pregnancy Ever, Your Best Body after Baby, and Your Pelvic Health. Jen treats clients in Ashland and Bayfield, Wisconsin through Orthopedic & Spine Therapy.