Six things I did to have a healthy pregnancy

Hi, friends! As you know, I’m no longer pregnant (thank goodness), and it took me a long time to get pregnant, but then once I got there — things actually went great. Now that I’m a month out from having Baby Brady, I figured it was time to talk about how I had a healthy pregnancy …

If I had a dollar for every piece of advice I received while pregnant, well … I’d be killing it. I am by no means an expert, and I have learned that everybody’s experience is totally different, but I thought it would be beneficial to share what worked for me. 

That’s because I had a very healthy pregnancy. I felt good the entire time, outside of the initial queasiness, and I even lifted weights the day before I went to the hospital to give birth and taught group fitness classes up until my 33rd week. I was very active, tried to eat right much of the time and also slept like a little baby up until the night before I went into the hospital too. (But really, let’s talk about that phrase “sleep like a baby,” because so far, my baby doesn’t sleep as well as I did while pregnant, because he wakes up a lot, I mean, maybe the phrase should be “sleep like we wish a baby did,” am I right?)

By the way, the most important thing you can do while pregnant is to listen to your body, your gut and the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor or midwife. But it’s always fun to hear the way other people do things, so here’s what I did to have a healthy pregnancy … 

Six things I did to have a healthy pregnancy

Six things I did to have a healthy pregnancy by A Lady Goes West

1. Walking in many forms, all the time, as much as possible.

Walking is the best form of exercise that you can do as a pregnant person. It’s totally free. You can do it anywhere, and you can take it as fast or as slowly as you want. I began walking during my second trimester, sometimes as my workout for the day and sometimes in addition to my workout for the day. 

When I knew I couldn’t do any intense cardio exercise any longer, I switched to incline walking on the treadmill in intervals up until about week 29 of pregnancy, and at that point, even incline walking began to feel a little difficult. I also took Rudy on multiple 10-minute walks each day, and I went on 30-minute walks alone and 1 hour-and-30 minute walks with some girlfriends multiple times a week. Not a day went by that I didn’t do at least a short walk. 

Rudy and pink sneakers by A Lady Goes West

A few things to note while walking: keep your shoulders back and down for good posture, and don’t let the weight of your stomach pull your body forward, and be sure to swing your arms as aggressively as you want. If you find that the weight of your stomach is putting too much pressure on your lower abdomen, you can get a maternity support belt. (I was gifted this one from a friend, and it really helped!) I started wearing the belt during my walks around the beginning of my third trimester, and it really felt like it held the bump up from the hips, so I could move a little quicker.

By the way, if you don’t have the time for a long walk each day, you could also do 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes during lunch and 20 minutes after dinner. Space it out as needed, because you’ll still get the benefits. 

In addition to being good for the body, walking is also a great time to socialize with friends, listen to podcasts about pregnancy or just clear your mind — and that is time you won’t have a lot of after giving birth.

2. Ate at least three nutritious meals a day, with plenty of treats too.

In the beginning of my pregnancy, I was totally averse to chicken and anything green and hated drinking water. But I knew I still needed to get some veggies in my system, so I started adding sautéed white cauliflower rice to lentil pasta dishes, to eggs and more. This was a way to sneak in some nutrition. I also added chia seeds and superfood powder to my morning toast too. Basically, any way I could pump up the nutrition of a meal, I did that.

Even when I wasn’t too hungry, I ate a full breakfast, lunch and dinner — never skipping a meal, no matter what. I was sure to keep healthy snacks on hand, like Larabars and single-serve nut packets, and I also drank a ton of water, by forcing myself. But in addition to all of this healthy food, I think I made my pregnancy even healthier by indulging when I wanted. I ate a lot of ice cream, I ate a TON of grass-fed burgers and sweet potato fries, and I never once counted a single calorie or macro. 

Project Juice smoothie bowl by A Lady Goes West

I don’t think that pregnancy is the time to avoid carbs or worry about maintaining any sort of physique or macro count. I think pregnancy is a time to get in as much nutrition as you can, but also know that you completely deserve to eat crappy food sometimes too. I definitely avoided raw food, unpasteurized cheeses and all the things that are off limits for pregnant women, but I also listened to my gut and doctor and had kombucha regularly, because I love it, so there you go. Oh and my tips for drinking more water include buying lots of sparkling water and flavored waters, eating watery citrus fruits and also chewing on crushed ice too, which I found very enjoyable.

Overall, my main nutrition tips are to drink WAY more water than you think you want each day, never skip a meal, keep healthy snacks handy, and don’t think too much about your food. Just eat it and enjoy it!

3. Stretching and relaxing, with regular prenatal yoga sessions.

There is a big difference between regular yoga and prenatal yoga. In prenatal yoga, the poses, moves and flow are tailored to a pregnant and transforming body, which means there are no upward-facing dogs, prone-stomach-laying positions or anything that would be uncomfortable or contraindicated for a pregnant woman. If you are pregnant and you go to a regular yoga class, you will quickly realize that many of the moves and twists do NOT work for you and some are even unsafe. And of course, you’d never want to go to a heated yoga class. 

But you don’t even have to go to a studio to get the benefits of prenatal yoga. I never took a prenatal yoga class in person, yet had the full benefits from the program I did at home in my living room.

Ashley doing prenatal yoga outside by A Lady Goes West

I cannot say enough good things about the yoga program that I did 3-4 times a week during my third trimester. It was therapeutic. It calmed me down. It helped me connect with my body. And it ensured that I was properly prepared for childbirth and that my little baby was in the correct and optimal birthing position (which is VERY important and could be a reason why a woman ends up with a c-section, if the baby is not in the correct position to head down the birthing canal). My doula gave me a copy of this yoga program, which also included instructions on how to get in and out of a car during pregnancy (you do it by putting your butt on the seat and bringing both legs over at one time, rather than one leg at a time), how to do a daily inversion off the side of your bed to help with your baby’s position and many more helpful tips. (I did my inversion every single day starting in the third trimester, and I worked up to holding it for two minutes at a time!)

Although I had a tough labor and delivery (which you can read about in Brady’s birth story, part 1 and part 2) — none of that had anything to do with the position of the baby or my health, in fact, he was perfectly positioned, and I was even able to get into some interesting pushing positions due to my mobility, and I’d definitely like to attribute that to prenatal yoga. I know I prepared my body for childbirth with these helpful moves, and I also know that the meditation at the end of the short 27-minute yoga flow was GREAT for getting my thoughts together and calming my racing mind on a few-times-a-week basis.

4. Slept as much as possible, keeping a clean sleep environment.

Many women say that they struggle with their sleep toward the middle and end of their pregnancies, and I was lucky enough not to have this problem. I had four nights total during my pregnancy when I did not sleep soundly through the night, and that’s it. I absolutely attribute my good sleep to the fact that I had a pretty solid sleep hygiene routine in place before getting pregnant. And I made it a point to get as much sleep as I possibly could. I also allowed myself to nap in the afternoons on the weekends as needed too, even though I’m not a huge fan of napping.

After the fatigue of the first trimester went away, I felt fairly energized and rested all the way up until the day I went into the hospital to give birth. (And that feeling of rested has not returned since having Brady, sadly … and I sure hope it comes back one day!)

How to create a better sleep environment by A Lady Goes West

Sleep helps with all of your bodily functions and you just don’t want to skimp on it. If you can’t sleep at night, instead of playing on your phone or turning on lights, I recommend you just try to clear your mind, take deep breaths, lay in the darkness and try to relax. Easier said than done I know, but it’s worth a shot. A lot of pregnant women feel like they should be productive, so they get out of bed and busy themselves, but I don’t really think that’s the answer — but do what works for you.

I’ve written a full post on how to create a better sleep environment, but here’s the gist: cool your room down to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or less, turn off all the lights, including night-lights, try wearing a slumber mask and stay away from technology at least 30 minutes before going to bed. You can do it! And for all my pregnant friends out there — ENJOY that sleep, because it’s about to go away for a while.

5. Lifted weights at least twice a week, pulling more than I pushed.

Yes, you can lift weights while pregnant. And as I said, I lifted weights the day before I went to the hospital to deliver. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I continued to lift heavy weights, but as I progressed, I used lighter weights and modified my moves a bit. I also taught BODYPUMP (a barbell class) until my 27th week of pregnancy and continued to take the class with modifications through my 36th week of pregnancy. By the way, here’s a post on how you can modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant.

Ashley working out by A Lady Goes West

Here are some other tips for lifting weights while pregnant: FOCUS ON THE PULL. As your tummy grows, you shoulders may tend to hunch forward. The best way to counteract that is to strengthen your back and work on pulling exercises like rows and flys, rather than pushing or pressing exercises. Every time I went to the gym for a weights workout, I tried to do two pulling exercises for every one push exercise. 

Some of the best weighted moves for a pregnant person, in my opinion, include sumo squats, goblet squats, weighted hip bridges, lateral raises and deadrows. It’s best to use dumbbells while pregnant too, so you are working each side of the body on its own, rather than using a barbell, in which your more dominant side can take over. Skip the planks and crunches and any move that makes you strain your stomach and core, of course.

When I was pregnant, I did much shorter weights workouts, spent a few minutes doing mobility work and warm-ups before beginning and stretched at the end of each session. Sometimes I worked the lower body one day and the upper body the next, but most of the time, I did full-body sessions, which is always my preference. I liked to do 10-12 reps per move, and three sets of each, usually in a set of three compound exercises total. Here’s a sequence I would often do: sumo goblet squats with a dumbbell, bent over deadrows with dumbbells, weighted hip bridges with a dumbbell. Three rounds of those moves would take me about 15 minutes, which was sometimes enough when combined with incline walking on the treadmill.

Picking up weights is a GREAT way to strengthen your body for pregnancy, delivery and motherhood, so don’t be scared to give it a shot.

6. Listened to the advice of others, but did what I wanted and what worked for me.

I messed up a lot in the beginning of pregnancy by doings things that are “unsafe.” For instance, I was occasionally using self tanner, which is apparently a major no-no, due to some chemicals, and I had no idea. I ate raw sauerkraut for about 15 weeks, which I didn’t realize was frowned upon, and every once in a while, I wouldn’t cook my yolks all the way through. But you know what, I have a very healthy baby, and I had a very healthy pregnancy.

I got my hair done while pregnant, I drank kombucha, used protein powders, ate a lot of sugar, and I didn’t let the advice of others or the scare tactics of the Internet make me completely crazy, because I knew that would not be good for me at all. Even though you want the best for your growing child, I think websites, friends and well-meaning people can make you feel so bad about the smallest errors, or scare you away from eating anything or doing anything at all. But really, if you eat well, move around, go to the doctor and stay away from things like drugs and alcohol and even harsh chemicals (which I mean, DUH), you’re probably going to be okay. Oh and don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins (here’s the one I like), and a probiotic doesn’t hurt either. Don’t go too crazy with trying to be perfect, because heck, that’s NOT going to make you a happy and healthy pregnant gal, you know.

Ashley with a kombucha by A Lady Goes West

Other important things I did to be healthy

A few other things I did to be healthy?

  • Good dental health! I brushed my teeth multiple times a day (even after lunch a lot of days, which was new to me), always flossed and used mouthwash too, as well as got a regular cleaning during pregnancy, because your teeth tend to get more build-up due to your changing hormones. Dental hygiene is key, and dental problems can progress quicker during pregnancy, so don’t neglect your home care.
  • Careful how you sit! Make sure you are not sitting leaned back on the couch too often. Leaning back on your couch or in a chair is not a great position for your hip mobility or for the position of your baby. I tried to avoid this position as much as I could, even sitting on a ball while watching TV or laying on my side.
  • Buy a stability ball! This is a must for all pregnant women. You can sit on the ball at your desk at work and also take it home with you to sit on while watching TV, talking on the phone or whatever else you want. Sitting on the stability ball helps to open up your hips for optimal birthing positions, and also, you can use the ball for laboring when it’s time too. Here’s the one I got. Love it! Fun fact: this ball is also a good thing to sit on for bouncing a baby when you are recovered, as well.

For more details on my pregnancy, including my workouts and week-by-week breakdowns of how pregnancy was going for me and my favorite items, which helped me get through, check out these posts. And don’t miss my post on 15 things you should know about working out while pregnant.

By the way, I’m also planning a post about my biggest postpartum healthy tips, so if you have any specific questions, let me know in the comments or send me an email. Thanks for stopping by the blog, friends!

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Questions of the day

If you’ve been pregnant, what was your favorite exercise to do during that time?

What’s your number-one healthy tip you swear by in your life?

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20 Comments

  1. I loved my big ball when I was pregnant as well, it really helped to keep my hips happy. During my first pregnancy I really loved my spin class and was able to stay with it till the end, I just modified intensity as needed.

    1. Hi Emily! I agree that cycling/spin feels surprisingly good — I took SoulCycle at like 30 weeks pregnant or something like that hahah. Anyways, SO happy you used a ball too. Do you still use it?

      1. Only for exercise now (and the kids like to play with it). When they were newborns I would sit on it and bounce them to sleep sometimes though.

  2. I totally agree that you can’t follow ALL the advice from others or the internet. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to follow all the ‘rules’. I definitely think the lifestyle tip I swear by is to drink water and get moving a bit everyday.

    1. Hi Patricia! We’d ALL go crazy if we tried to listen to every piece of advice out there. And staying hydrated and moving are the KEYS for sure. It’s amazing how much drinking water does for you! Happy Monday, lady!

      1. AH, but some advice is out there to protect the BABY from the medical risks that are still a bit unknown. While you can’t go crazy and follow every piece of advice, I do tend to think it is 9 months, can’t you live without your favorite drink, caffeine, or getting your hair done? It just seems a bit selfish to do those things while pregnant and sadly, just because you had a healthy pregnancy does not mean you won’t discover health issues with your baby later on that may be linked to these behaviors you did while you were pregnant. My nephew was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and they look back to certain activities while the baby was in neutro to try to figure out how the chromosomes formed. Just seems to me why risk it? Especially for people that spend SO long and hard trying and hoping for a baby!! I’m super glad you had a healthy pregnancy, but I do find some of your advice risky to be spreading to others under the disguise of how to also have healthy pregnancies.

        1. Hi Kate, First of all, I’m really sorry to hear about your nephew, and I hope that he recovers. However, I do feel the need to respond to your comment. I wrote this post about things I did. And I said multiple times that people should listen to their doctors and their gut — thus my advice is merely sharing my experience — not giving a prescription to a single person — that’s incredibly clear in this post. As far as you questioning whether I’ve put my baby’s health in jeopardy with my choices as being selfish, I think that is wrong and fairly bold of you to say (and knowing that you’ve read my blog before, you also know I’m nothing but a positive person and have RARELY been critical of someone’s comment to me on my blog — I appreciate your readership and thoughts, but I have to speak up if you go after something like this). I researched and verified with reputable sources all of the things I did during pregnancy. And I even brought a bottle of kombucha into my doctor to check it out to make sure it was okay I drank it — it’s a health drink, not a cocktail. And caffeine? I don’t even drink coffee, and my small mug of green tea a day is negligible — NOTHING that would cause a problem — my doctor said it was harmless. Anyone who is reading this post will see that I am offering tales of what I did and giving reasoning, but I’m also telling them over and over again to make their own choices. I never did anything risky at all, and avoided a TON of things that I could have safely done, that many other people do. It’s also important to note that stress is one of the most significant and harmful situations someone can be in, and so if a pregnant woman chooses to have an extra cup of coffee on a bad day to feel better about some stressful things, I don’t think that is a selfish choice for them, nor is it our place to judge. Wanting a child, being pregnant and then giving birth is completely selfless. I understand that the terrible health issue with your nephew is fresh in your mind, and I’m truly sorry about that — but it’s not fair to say that I’m offering risky advice.

          1. I can absolutely appreciate your response and I apologize if my comment came across attacking you and your decisions. I was a little taken aback by your statements like, “But really, if you eat well, move around, go to the doctor and stay away from things like drugs and alcohol (which I mean, DUH), you should be good to go. Oh and don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins (here’s the one I like), and a probiotic doesn’t hurt either. Don’t go too crazy with trying to be perfect, because heck, that’s NOT going to make you a happy and healthy pregnant gal, you know.” It sounds causal and it DOES sound like advice to me when you say “you should be good to go!” My nephew’s health situation is fresh in my mind and I am pregnant with my second child. I do make choices based on some of the experiences that have shaped my life, as I am sure you and others do the same. I know you are an incredibly positive person, just wonder if some of the statements you made in your post were the most well-informed.

          2. Hi Kate, Thanks for writing back. Congrats on your pregnancy with your second. And I can totally understand that a particular topic like prenatal health would be sensitive to you, based on what you’ve gone through, and I’m hoping your pregnancy is going well. I hope that anyone else that is reading the post takes it in its entirety and not just the couple of informal sentences at the end that you highlight — I’ll make a slight modification based on your concern. Best of luck to you and your little one on the way! 🙂

  3. Love this post! I’m not pregnant but am looking forward to that day. I’ve been having issues with my period since 2012 (maybe 5 since then…. with 4 of them birth control induced) and worry that it’ll affect my fertility in the future. The 5-6 OB/GYNs I’ve visited haven’t yielded a conclusive answer/treatment plan. I’m happy to hear about these tips!

    1. Hi Nicole! Sorry to hear you are having issues with your cycle. Did you get a chance to read my ebook? It’s all about hypothalamic amenorrhea — which I suffered from and recovered from, after I got no answers from doctors on what was going on with my period either a couple of years ago — ultimately leading to me getting pregnant. Lots of tips in there, so you should check it out here: https://aladygoeswest.com/fitandfertile/

      I hope you figure things out soon! Let me know if you have any questions! And thanks for saying hi! 🙂

  4. Yes! I’m 30 weeks pregnant and it’s fun to look back on what I did/didn’t do during this pregnancy. I have eaten deli ham a few times (in really good Croque Monsieurs from French bistros), have probably had more sugar than I normally would, and have kept up with CrossFit 3-4x a week since the beginning. I’ve modified a TON and now am being more cognizant of anything like split squats that would twist my pelvis out of alignment.

    I’m sure I’ve had a burger or two at medium or medium rare and honestly, been okay with it.

    Thank you for the stability ball recommendation – now that I’m working from home, I’m going to get one!

    1. Hi Molly! Sounds like you’ve been pretty balanced and smart about your pregnancy, without going too crazy! Nice work on continuing with CrossFit! And I hope you enjoy the ball, lady! Enjoy the last few weeks!

  5. Great post. Sounds like we did things very similarly. I also could not even look at chicken from about week 7 – 14. haha. Though I never had any issues with regular water. Pregnancy is such a cool/special/weird time. There are lots of things you can do right/wrong but I liked your motto of doing what is best for YOU.

    1. Hi Kelli, I still don’t love chicken after not wanting it while pregnant heehe. And that’s great you did well with water the whole time — I really had to force myself. And I’ve definitely learned how different everyone’s experience is! Glad you had a healthy pregnancy, lady!

  6. I can’t get my head around Kombucha, I’ve tried so many types it’s crazy and I want to like it but I can’t! Healthy is hard!!! Especially when pregnant. I have so many resources that I turn to, some better than others. Right now I am reading William Manger’s book called Live Longer, Live Better and this has become my go to. Especially learning that I can continue to do so much while pregnant, that’s been such a good discovery!!

    1. Hi Patty, I hear that a lot of people are not into kombucha at all, which is totally fine, because you can get the benefits from it elsewhere too! I have never heard of the book you are reading, but I appreciate the rec. There’s SO much you can continue to do while pregnant. Hope you feel good, lady! Thanks for saying hi! 🙂

  7. Hi, long time reader, first time commenter, and newly pregnant. I was hoping you could address diastasis recti. Is there anything you did in your pregnancy to avoid it?

    1. Hi Nataly! Thank you for reading! Have you read this post? https://aladygoeswest.com/15-things-you-should-know-about-working-out-when-youre-pregnant/ I made sure not to STRAIN my abs — I stopped doing crunches about mid-way through my second trimester, and if I felt a strain during planks or push-ups, I would stop the move or modify to my knees — even while teaching classes. I also made sure to get in the bed from the side — like sitting, laying on my side and rolling over, if that makes any sense and never sitting straight up in bed. I also did a lot of deep breathing and bridges to help strengthen my pelvic floor. Hope this helps! 🙂

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