Since you spend most of your waking hours at work, your on-the-job habits, meals and beverages can have a huge impact on your health. While this is always the case, during pregnancy, it’s even more important to be aware of your daily habits.
Here are a few things to be paying attention to.
1. Examine your meals.
Whether you pack your lunch, use your on-site cafeteria or head out of the office every day, now is an important time to examine your dietary choices. Assuming you are over the worst of your nausea and morning sickness, follow obstetrician recommendations regarding what foods are best for pregnant women.
In addition to any dietary supplements your doctor may recommend, you should be sure to focus on getting enough whole foods and nutrition from all the major food groups: vegetables, fruits, proteins, healthy fats and grains. This can be harder than usual if you eat a lot of meals on the run, or at work.
For busy career women who often don’t have time to cook elaborately, this may be an important time to make a more permanent change. If you cook well, you can find time-saving recipes. Or, if you don’t know your way around the kitchen (except mostly to the microwave), these days there are many food and meal-preparation services that cater to different palates and dietary goals/restrictions.
Eating fresh, home-prepared food is one of the best ways of controlling the nutrition you and your baby receive — and is something you may want to continue after you have your baby, since before you know it, you’ll be challenged with feeding your toddler nutritious meals and establishing healthy eating habits for them.
2. Snack carefully.
During pregnancy, you may find your appetite has started to really crank up a notch. It’s common to find that your morning or afternoon munchies come on stronger than usual.
To prevent lapses in judgments at the office vending machine, pack yourself healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, cut-up raw veggies, yogurt and cheese. Keep whatever dry foods you can — even at your desk — for sudden drops in your blood sugar levels. This sort of preventative practice is the best way to keep you from grabbing the cookies and candies that may otherwise be really tough to avoid at work.
While it’s normal to worry about weight gain, it’s a normal and natural part of pregnancy. Don’t deprive yourself of extra calories if you are gaining the appropriate amount of weight according to your doctor. The range of what is considered healthy weight gain has been put forth by the American Pregnancy Association.
3. Stay hydrated.
A huge percentage of the weight gain you develop during pregnancy is actually just increased body fluid. But that doesn’t mean you should stop drinking water and other healthy fluids!
If you are cutting back on caffeine in your pregnancy, you may have to make up for your latte or coffee habit with more water or healthy beverages. Remember that fruit juices, even the all-natural kind can often come with a lot of extra sugar and unnecessary calories.
One way to make sure you’re drinking enough water is to simply bring a large water bottle with you to work (e.g. a 1 liter bottle). Make sure you drink the contents of your bottle through the course of the day; setting it at your desk will be a handy visual reminder to reach for it instead of a soda.
4. Prioritize movement and exercise.
Over 80% of all U.S. jobs are sedentary, or require very little physical movement. The American Heart Association believes that this change in the way we work, as well as the fact that we all work more hours is related to obesity and other health risks.
If you sit most of the day and then sit in your car during your commute to work and home, consider taking a mid-morning, lunch time and mid-afternoon walk. Even standing up and walking for 5-10 minutes is better than nothing. Just a little bit more movement may also improve your mood and clear your mind. Standing and stretching can also improve any lower back pain you may be experiencing.
Alternatively, consider standing (or walking, if that’s remotely possible) for a meeting or telephone conference call if you are experiencing discomfort or simply want a change from standing.
While fitting in exercise is always a challenge, most pregnancy experts say it is completely safe — and even advisable — to exercise during pregnancy. Your and your baby may benefit from a workout before or after your workday (or even in the middle of it, if that’s possible during your lunch break).
Particularly towards the end of your pregnancy, you may find that it becomes hard to sleep well. It can be physically uncomfortable to lie in bed and a variety of aches and pains can make it difficult to even sit comfortably.
At work, you can make things feel physically better by keeping a pillow at your desk. One corporate attorney who worked long hours at her desk told us she bought a malleable small foam pillow for her chair that was meant for people who needed lumbar support. Ultimately used it in all sorts of contortions (including sitting on top of it) to get more comfortable whenever she had to ease odd aches and pains at her desk.
To be at your best (for the sake of yourself, your baby and your work), try to get as much sleep during your pregnancy as you can squeeze in. If this means taking naps on weekends, or just going to bed an hour or two earlier, seize the opportunity!
6. Give yourself a break.
Yes, it’s important to take care of yourself. And everyone will tell you that whatever you’re eating, your baby is eating too. But it’s also okay to give yourself a break now and then. If a chocolate chip cookie is the thing that’s going to get you through the afternoon, go for it. Even if you gain a little weight during your pregnancy, you will certainly be able to lose it after baby comes.
Self-care only gets harder after your baby arrives, so take advantage of your pregnancy to establish healthy habits for eating, drinking and sleeping that you can hopefully return to (at least in some form) once you’re past the newborn months.