Pregnancy is a unique time for women as your body begins to transform in preparation for the baby. What are your expectations while you are expecting? Ok, to be more specific, how do you want to go through your pregnancy? This is an excellent time to make some changes to support her healthy development while maintaining yours. Expecting mothers may now desire to live healthier, manage their stress, maintain an exercise program, or reduce consumption of artificial or unhealthy foods. Changing behaviors is not always an easy task, but many people believe that during pregnancy it is easier to identify habits you want to change and stick to it for 40 weeks and beyond. There is an opportunity now to take all the changes you initiate while preggo and turn them into a total lifestyle shift.
Here are my top ten ways to make a lasting change during pregnancy:
- Be clear on the reason you want to make a change: We often change behaviors because others tell us to do it, or because we know “it is the right thing to do.” If you are pregnant, you know that any step toward a healthier lifestyle will directly impact your growing baby. In order for change to stick, it has to be because it is important to us, or aligns with a core value. Talk with your mate about it. Remind yourself daily why this change is important to you.
- Action feeds motivation: Your goal of the well-being of your growing fetus is a no-brainer. Action feeds motivation, and if we change our behaviors and chose positive actions, this in itself can be motivating. For example, some people make their homes chemical free during pregnancy. The action of cleaning out your household cleaners under the kitchen sink and replacing with non-toxic products is an action that feeds your motivation.
- Plan your change: Changing behavior requires planning! Schedule activities or the desired behavior and treat it as a priority. If something else comes up, decline the counter offers and stick to your scheduled goal. If you wait for a “good time” to do your new behavior, many other activities can seem more appealing. Plan for your change including where, when, how, and on what days you will do that new behavior.
- Make your new habit attainable and fun: Many people choose a habit such as prenatal yoga or reducing caffeine, and establish unattainable routines or worse, don’t plan for the replacement of the morning coffee ritual. Remember, make your goal realistic and have fun! Experiment with new herbal tea flavors, and Google yoga center options in your town, explore.
- Social Support: One of the best predictors of habit change is social support. This is part of the reason that prenatal yoga classes are such a supportive community when pregnant. If you take a daily walk, do it with other pregnant friends, or your mate. Social encouragement and a sense of community go a long way toward happiness and feeling connected.
- Make your habit specific and attainable: Start small with a goal you can achieve, and build on that goal each week. If you say “I want to start a meditation practice during my pregnancy.”, make this goal specific such as “I want to meditate 3 times this week, for 10 minute sits.” Gradual attainable changes create lasting results.
- Be patient: Change is a process! Small changes will add up to big lifestyle changes.
- Acceptance: Motivation, attainable goals, and social support don’t always add up to instant change. We are human, and you are actually creating a life in your body. Your hormones are shifting as are your energy levels. We all have good days and bad days. When we choose a bad meal, skip a yoga class or walk, or fail at a goal we had, we can get right back on track. Stay focused. And don’t be hard on yourself!
- Keep your goal in site: Touchstones, words of encouragement, and images can be kept around the house and office to remind you of your desire to make healthy changes to have the best pregnancy possible. Some women put images of their ultrasound pictures on the fridge or have a post-it on their computer with words like “I am creating a life” or “My baby is worth everything I can give her.”
- Celebrate: Enjoy your successes and reward yourself! Take a warm bath, a day off work, read from a favorite book, go for a walk through nature, even a weekend getaway.
Dr. Lamees Khorshid, Health Psychologist
***Pregnancy Awareness Month is not providing medical advice, in fact, we are not medical practitioners. We are mom’s and caring people that love to talk about pregnancy and parenting and share our opinions and ideas within the social network and community of fellow moms. Please speak to your medical provider before initiating any exercise routine, as well as discuss dietary concerns before making any dramatic changes in your eating. And always use your common sense. Remember your health is important, be proactive and involved in discussions about your health with your doctor or nurse practitioner.