Being pregnant means growing a new person in your body; a monumental task that takes up huge amounts of physical, emotional and mental energy. It’s a period of time when we can feel pretty emotional and up and down which isn't surprising given how many new hormones are running through our body. It can also be a time of worry - worry about the pregnancy itself, worry about your impending arrival and how you may cope, worry about how you will cope with another baby (my current concern as we have a super active toddler, Jack) People expect mums to be tough when in fact, there is actually very little emotional support for pregnant mums - we have lots of midwife checks but very rarely are we asked how we're feeling. On top of everything, I perceive a pressure on pregnant mums to feel and look good which, when your body is going through so many changes from putting on physical weight to hormones pumping through your body to just general feelings of sluggishness, can be difficult to cope with.
For this reason, relaxing in pregnancy is absolutely crucial. You have to take care of yourself and much of the time, no one is going to remind you to do so. Given the hugely busy lives we lead, it can be so easy to forget or not make time for resting but I promise you, it is crucial to carve out the time and understand how important it is to take it easy, especially when we know that around 10% of mums to be are affected by antenatal depression. So whether you work full time, or you’re a stay at home mummy, or you’re somewhere in between, here’s a few quick and easy ways I take time out throughout my day during my pregnancy:
1. I know it sounds simple, but just lighting a scented candle at the start of the day (if I have time to get ready slowly – so not on a working day then!) or at the end of the day makes me feel heaps more relaxed. My current favourite is the Neom Home Happiness candle which is a blend of white neroli, mimosa and lemon and smells absolutely divine without being too overpowering – which is important especially in those early months when the wrong sort of smell can induce nausea. Lighting incense can also have a similar effect and just sets the tone for a relaxing space, which is exactly what you need.
2. Run yourself a bath (or better still, have one run for you!) and have a nice long soak. I have got into the habit of bathing with Jack, which as lovely as it is, is just not the same. So I make sure to make time for a soak just for myself. I've recently started using Magnesium flakes which are 100% safe in pregnancy and really help ease muscular pain, which I am finding a huge help as over the past two weeks I've developed awful lower back pain. Lying in the bath, letting my mind and body go, feels amazing and once I step foot out of the bath, the pain just disappears (albeit momentarily).
3. Even a nice shower can work wonders – and if it's strong enough, I like to direct the water onto my lower back as I find this relieves pain too. I use the Sukin body wash which smells divine and leaves my skin super soft.
4. Applying stretch mark oil can turn a simple wash in to a mini pampering session. I use the Pai Dual Stretch mark system which consists of two bottles - one is oil-based for the evening and the other is more of a cream. Both are absolutely divine and of all the stretch mark oils or creams I've tested, this is by far my favourite.
5. Doing pregnancy yoga has been one of the most important activities for me during my pregnancy. I try to go to a local class once a week or if I cant make it, I just do some gentle exercises in my living room in the evening. In fact, if you search on my @mamalinauk instagram for #toddleryogachallenge you will see some of my favourite recent pregnancy yoga moves. Not only is pregnancy yoga incredibly relaxing, it also teaches you breathing techniques for labour, which I also use in my pregnancy just as a means of de-stressing.
6. Another wonderful way to wind down is meditation. I'm by no means a meditation expert, and I don't practice regularly. But when I do, I wonder why I don't do it more often. I simply sit or lie in a quiet, softly lit room, put on some calm music and close my eyes. Sometimes I visualize my family together and our new addition, or just do some gentle breathing. The great thing about meditation though is that really, you can do it anywhere. There have been a few times on the tube on the way home, after a particularly busy day, where I've just closed my eyes and done some quick meditation (Who cares if people stare? You'll have your eyes closed anyway so won't see them!)
7. Cooking - and I'm not advocating doing anything too adventurous if food is really not your thing - but even just preparing a simple meal in the evening or the weekend can help you zone out and relax. Cooking seems to take me to a different place, and really helps me unwind. And when I say cooking, I really do mean something as simple as scrambling some eggs and enjoying a good hot drink.
8. DISCONNECT! This is by far one of the most effective, and my personal favorite, ways of taking time out. I don't think you can underestimate how much good it does us just to switch our phone off, or put it out of sight, even just for half a day or an evening, allowing you instead to curl up with your partner, read a book, play a game. We try to do this one evening a week, which isn't nearly enough but it's a start. Don't be a slave to technology - which is so easy to become in these hyper -connected days.
9. We have been practicing hypnobirthing in anticipation of my labour. The beautiful thing about hypnobirthing is that whilst it prepares you for labour, it also arms you with some amazing relaxation techniques in the run up to labour during your pregnancy. So my husband and I do readings, visualizations and breathing before we go to bed at least a few times a week, and often put on positive affirmations and gentle soothing music to fall asleep to. It's incredibly soothing and without fail, I always sleep so well after we've practiced.
10. And last but not least, heading into nature can be one of the most soul-lifting and relaxing things to do. It can be as simple as sitting in your garden, or wandering to your local park or discovering new green spots in your area that you never knew existed. Research shows that being outdoors boosts our well-being so what better time than during pregnancy to get outside into the fresh air.
So there you have it; my 10 simple tips on how to rest during pregnancy that I have found invaluable over the last 8 months. I cant reiterate enough how important it is to just take the time to actively relax.
Mamalina - Founder