Welcome to the Well+Good Healthy Pregnancy Guide, a week-long series on how SoulCycle-loving, leggings-wearing, kale salad-obsessed women can bring wellness into the next nine months (and beyond).
When those two pink lines pop up on a pregnancy test, emotions tend to take over. But soon enough, your brain inevitably barges in with all sorts of (frantic) questions.
First thing’s first: Don’t stay up all night trawling Google—you definitely want to stock up on shut-eye while you still can. Plus, when it comes to pregnancy wellness, the internet can be an especially unreliable resource.
Instead, rely on maternity experts who know what they’re talking about. To kick off Well+Good’s first-ever Healthy Pregnancy Guide—a week devoted to wellness when expecting—we’ve tapped the pros to hear about some of the most common queries they receive from their patients.
Once they’ve eased your mind, you can worry about more important things—like which sneakers you should swap for your heels.
Below, maternal health pros answer the most common questions women have during pregnancy.
How do I choose the right care provider for me?
As a birth doula and childbirth educator, I encourage families to think about what kind of birth experience they would want as soon as they find out they’re pregnant. Even better, begin thinking about it before you’re pregnant!
Ask yourself, “Do I want to give birth in a hospital, at home, or in a birthing center? Would I prefer an at-home midwife, hospital midwife, or an OB/GYN?” It’s important to meet with a few care providers and take a tour of hospitals and birthing centers in your area.
Your care provider is the person you’ll see the most during your pregnancy, so you have to trust that they have your best interest at heart. Make sure their philosophies on pregnancy, birth, wellness, nutrition, newborn baby care, and the like align with yours. It can be hard (but not impossible) to change care providers later on in your pregnancy, so it’s best to find the right fit from the start! There’s no right or wrong way to give birth. Just make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision for you. —Morgane Richardson, doula
Is it normal to be this tired?
My patients are often surprised by how tired they feel in early pregnancy. I always tell them that growing a human being is exhausting, especially in the first trimester. That’s a time when the body’s energy is diverted to building the placenta, which is the baby’s life support system. On top of that, changes in hormones, especially increased progesterone, can make pregnant women feel sleepy. That sleepiness tends to come in waves and can be quite debilitating.
Along with the hormonal changes, pregnant women also experience an increase in metabolism at the same time as their blood sugar decreases, which is a recipe for fatigue and brain fog. But usually, the tiredness doesn’t last for the whole pregnancy. Most women feel better by the second trimester.
So I encourage my patients to remember this is temporary, and to give in to the tiredness by scheduling regular naps and downtime. Acupuncture can help with energy levels, too, and is a good choice of treatment because it’s gentle and safe. —Jill Blakeway, L.Ac., DACM, founder and clinic director at The YinOva Center
Are adaptogens and caffeine still okay?
My clients often ask if they can continue to ingest adaptogens during pregnancy. For example, maca is a staple in the diets of pregnant and nursing Peruvian women, where it’s believed to support fertility along with the health of mothers and their babies. But studies can’t confirm that it’s fully safe to take during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Consult your care provider before continuing or consuming adaptogens while pregnant or breastfeeding.
I also get asked whether it’s okay to keep drinking caffeine. I would suggest letting your morning coffee go. When pregnant, the body is already stimulated, working hard to create a baby inside you. Calming foods and non-caffeinated drinks are more supportive to the body and your growing baby. —Paula Mallis, doula and founder of WMN Space
What types of exercises are safe?
While you should always check with your OB, I highly recommend my patients take the time to exercise every single day. The ideal plan is a combination of walking, yoga, Pilates, dance, or weight lifting during the week for 30 minutes a day. I recommend avoiding activities with increased risk of falling, like outdoor cycling and skiing, or any core work in the second and third trimesters.
The intensity level will depend on where you’re starting from, but consistency is the key. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise during pregnancy reduces back pain, leg swelling, and weight gain; reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and c-section; and improves sleep and energy levels. —Tiffany Lester, MD, medical director at Parsley Health San Francisco
Can I still do core workouts?
It’s become standard to replace crunches with isometric ab exercises like planks, modify exercises as the pregnancy develops, and focus on exercises that tone while opening the pelvic region to assist in easier delivery.
For instance, I recommend all of my prenatal clients do 30 cat/cows and 30 malasana squats a day in order to allow plenty of space for baby during pregnancy and delivery. —Christine Bullock, pre- and postnatal fitness expert and creator of Body Re-Born
Are ultrasounds okay?
Patients want to make sure that their baby is okay, which can be particularly tough early-on in pregnancy before you can feel those first kicks. Many parents find ultrasounds reassuring, because we live in such a visual and technologically oriented culture. Ultrasounds are the original selfie!
Exposure to the high-intensity sound waves of ultrasound, however, also carries risks, as delicate, developing tissues and organs have been found to be more vulnerable than was previously thought. Ultrasounds in pregnancy are only recommended for medical reasons, and there’s greater risk with “keepsake ultrasounds,” which [I don’t recommend] without medical indications due to excessive and cumulative exposures. —Eden Fromberg, DO, founder of Holistic Gynecology New York
How do I get ready to deliver?
My clients often wonder how to prep for labor. The main thing I usually recommend is to take the time to prepare emotionally for your baby’s birth and the postpartum period. We tend to spend a lot of time in our heads and busy with our to-do lists, and sometimes have a hard time finding ways to slow down and connect with our bodies (and the little people growing inside them).
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to quiet that “monkey mind” and find the tools that will help you cope with what’s ahead during labor and the huge transition into parenthood. For some women that’s positive visualization or talk therapy or meditation. You have to find your own way and make it a practice. You can’t just do it once the day before you go into labor and have it work. —Natalia Hailes, doula and co-founder of Brilliant Bodies