The word pampering gets used a lot when talking about pregnant people, especially in the lifestyle realm. And while part of the definition of the word is entirely apt—”to indulge with every attention, comfort, and kindness” —the word also implies an element of frivolity or luxury and so the notion that folks who are pregnant can use some attention and comfort and kindness, gets mixed up with the idea that pregnant people need (or want) spoiling. I’m here to say that being pregnant doesn’t make you a brat, but it does mean you might require a little extra care.
Many healthy pregnant people can continue along with their normal activities and responsibilities and do just fine thankyouverymuch. Indeed, in most cases, pregnant people need to do this; there’s not an option to call it quits or put up your feet and demand bonbons. (Is there?) But that doesn’t mean that we can’t all work on being gentle with ourselves, to carve out time and resources for our own care, to pay attention when our bodies tell us to rest. And if we’re not pregnant at all, that we can’t be sensitive to the notion that being pregnant is just not the same as not being pregnant and help a body out. (If you’re wondering how to go about helping folks who most need it, scroll to the bottom.)
For all of the magic and excitement associated with a pregnancy, it can also mean experiencing aches and pains that are new and sometimes alarming. Pregnancy might mean an unprecedented level of exhaustion. It might mean dietary needs that are more complex or demanding or just plain bizarre. It might mean itchy skin, or swollen feet, or acne, or water retention. It might mean –yes, I’m going here—an achy pelvic floor, or constipation, or gas, or bloody noses, or incontinence, or any other number of things that nobody really wants to talk about but that can crop up anyway. This isn’t meant to be scary, it’s just part of the course of things.
Now that I’m solidly into my third trimester, I’m reminded of the wild things that pregnancy does to my body. My belly’s increasingly feeling too small for the baby pushing against it. I sit at my desk with one hand poised over the computer and the other gently shoving the tiny foot out from beneath my ribcage (or trying to). I walk down the street and feel a twinge of pain shoot down my sciatic nerve. I want a heating pad pressed against my tailbone at most hours of the day. I have to pee, again, and I just went to the bathroom twenty minutes ago. I have tiny popped blood vessels all over my hands and cheeks and chest. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m gripped with sheer terror over the state of the world, I’d be passed out in bed by 8:00 pm every night.
QUICK, SOMEBODY PAMPER ME.
Here, a few obvious and less obvious ways that I take care of myself while pregnant:
Take a bath: Epsom salt baths forever and ever, amen. For me the quickest way to get my body to relax (physically and emotionally) is to get in the tub. These days I often take one right after we put Faye to sleep for the night. A hearty scoop of salts and some warm (but not too hot) water works wonders. If only getting out wasn’t so cruel…
Get a pedicure: As one of my sisters would say, this sounds like a tip you’d find in a lady mag for ladies, but seriously, getting my feet rubbed can make a whole host of other discomforts melt away. I’ve written before about Hortus Nailworks in Lower Manhattan. They’re committed to using safe products and their space is relaxing and verdant and just where you’d want to be to take a breather for a half-hour or so. Look for a similarly eco-friendly salon in your neck of the woods and see if they offer any special treatments. Hortus recently invited me in for their The Works pedicure and it was delightful. There was a nutrient rich salt soak, a sugar scrub, a detoxifying mask—all for my legs and feet. (If going to a salon for a treatment isn’t in the cards, plan a night with a friend or lover to help you out. No need to go whole hog—though damn if it isn’t hard to keep your toenails in order when you can’t reach them—just soak those feet in warm water and get someone to rub ’em for you.)
Book a massage: I haven’t had a prenatal massage yet this pregnancy, but one of my sisters treated me to one when I was pregnant with Faye and it was so, so wonderful that I think another one is in order. (If you’re local and looking for a place to head, I went to the Rhemedy by Rhed in the West Village and loved my time there. Wherever you head, make sure you go to a spot with a dedicated pre-natal service (and trained practitioners!) and explain that you’re pregnant when booking!)
Get acupuncture: I’ve never gotten acupuncture, but I know a lot of people who’ve found it to be tremendously helpful during pregnancy. My longtime internet-friend, Kristen Dilley of Nightingale Acupuncture in Portland, OR, explained to me why working with a licensed acupuncturist during pregnancy can be so helpful: “It works amazingly well to alleviate the less exciting symptoms of pregnancy from morning sickness and low back pain to water retention. Consistent visits to the acupuncturist in the last trimester, can help with an easier labor and birth, and even address complications like the baby being in the breech position. Acupuncture allows your body to remember the ‘rest and digest’ part of your nervous system, making it especially invaluable as a woman navigates the ups and downs of pregnancy.” Sign me up.
Take a yoga class: Prenatal yoga classes are such a nice way to stay fit and relaxed during pregnancy. I admit, I kinda wish all yoga classes were as low-key and nurturing as the prenatal ones. Prenatal yoga can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and build strength to prepare the body for the marathon of childbirth. For me, one of the most useful things about taking a prenatal yoga class is being able to replicate the most helpful positions at any time of day and from the comfort of home. When my back gets pinchy and uncomfortable from sitting down for too long, a few gentle stretches can do wonders to loosen it up again. (I’m still working on normalizing getting into child’s pose in the middle of the coffee shop floor.) There are a few classes offered each week (free with membership!) at the YMCA that we belong to, and most yoga studios offer at least one prenatal class a week. Look up local classes in your area and give one a try.
Tone your muscles: Speaking of marathons: One of the midwives in the practice that I go to recently described not doing pelvic floor exercises before birth as being equivalent to deciding to run a marathon after only ever running mile. Point taken. So while this isn’t exactly like getting a massage or having your feet rubbed, pelvic floor strengthening is just as important for your pregnancy wellness. Most pregnant folks have heard of Kegels—the exercise where you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by mysteriously tightening them while sitting on the subway or at your desk—but the truth is that they can be hard to get right. And if you’re on your second or third pregnancy especially, you might need some additional help. So, vaginal weights! I know! They weren’t at all on my radar either and what kind of couth woman talks about weights she sticks up her vagina? This one! If your insurance doesn’t cover physical therapy or if you can’t afford it, using vaginal weights like these ones can be helpful to build strength before and after pregnancy. (As always, chat with your healthcare provider regarding your personal care!)
Gather your people: Especially around your table. I can’t say that I’m a fanatic when it comes to pregnancy nutrition. I’ve mostly stayed my typical course of eating whole foods, prepared relatively simply, while paying a little more attention than usual to incorporate plenty of iron-rich foods into my vegetarian diet. (Okay, I’ve also had a renewed interest in eating a handful of mint Newman O’s every night, but that’s neither here nor there.) Lately, part of my pregnancy nutrition wellness plan has also been mostly about inviting friends to join us around our table. It’s felt not only like the right thing to do for a growing baby, but the right thing to do for a world-weary mama. To make hosting while pregnant more manageable, James and I tag-team the effort (emphasis on James), we invite our guests over at an earlier-than-usual dinner hour, and serve simple foods (one-pot stews and chilis, sourdough pizzas and green salads) and we have everything cleaned up and ready to go long before Faye’s 8:00 pm bedtime. Soup for the soul, etc.
What about you guys? I’d love to start a discussion about what’s been helpful and comforting for other people who have been pregnant or are currently pregnant.
If you’re wondering how to help get wellness services to pregnant folks who might not be able to afford them themselves, here’s a list of organizations doing work to provide wellness services—as well as much more basic maternal care—to people in need. Please add any others you know to the comments below and consider helping them out:
Homeless Prenatal Program: A nonprofit in San Francisco that works with families to break the cycle of childhood poverty. Among many other things, services include pre- and postnatal care including yoga, massage, acupuncture and doula support for homeless families.
Healthy Babies Project, Inc.: A nonprofit offering a wide-range of services to as-risk families in Washington D.C.. Services include classes that teach pregnant folks the importance of nutrition, prenatal attachment, and physical and mental balance during pregnancy.
Y.O.G.A. for Youth: A nonprofit on a mission to provide urban youth with tools of self discovery that foster hope, discipline and respect for self, others and community. Their services include yoga classes for pregnant teenagers in Los Angeles.
Every Mother Counts: A global nonprofit dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. They work both internationally and domestically and right now their work in the US—one of only thirteen countries with a rising maternal mortality rate—feels especially urgent.
Sistersong: A nonprofit with a mission to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.
For the curious:
I’m wearing the Storq Nursing Caftan in this photo.
I love that you mention vaginal weights (Yoni eggs are great too). And mint Newman O’s are the best.
Dear Erin, great post! I wonder if I could ask you a personal question? I know from your book that you used to l ad a vegetarian lifestyle is it still the case for the pregnancy periods? I just found out I’m pregnant and wonder if I can keep with my vegan diet which so far brought some not amazing effects, glow and good health?
Yup: still vegetarian. I would definitely chat with your health care provider about your diet specifically, though I know lots of folks have healthy pregnancies while vegan or vegetarian!
I wish I was able to commiserate with you at this time. Sadly *secondary infertility* is plaguing our home. 🙁
Regardless! When I was pregnant with my daughter (almost 6), I took a bath almost every night. She also had the lovely habit of kicking my ribs out of joint (about as pleasant as it sounds) so, I went to the chiropractor a few times a week to have them put back into place. At the chiropractor’s, they also had massage services and their massage table had a hole in it!!! So glorious it was to be able to receive a massage face down and not just on my side (which hurt like h*ll due to the rib issue).
Towards the very end, I often slept on the couch with the cushions made into a square to mimic the massage table. It was delightful. 🙂
I’m not pregnant but it’s recently come to my attention that I may be iron deficient (I’m also a vegetarian and tend to eat mainly vegan during the week) so at some point would love to hear your iron-getting strategies. Supplements or just more foods?
Also it’s wonderful that you included links to help others at the bottom 🙂
I was seriously iron deficient during my pregnancies and for years afterward due to too heavy periods and I couldn’t get my levels to come up with supplements alone. So last year, my dr. and naturopath recommended iron infusions and they worked like a charm. I had to go in five times, each IV infusion lasting about a half an hour. And I felt so much better afterward and have been doing well since. If your iron deficiency is from periods, you’ll also want to look into ways to control those otherwise you might end up deficient again. For me, the mirena IUD worked like a charm. Best of luck!
Yeah I have super irregular long periods too, so currently getting my thyroid checked out as well. Thanks for the info! I am not a needle fan (I actually may be the only person on earth who did not like acupuncture at all!) but if needed I will suck it up and do what’s best for me.
I have been severely iron deficient since I was a kid and found Floradix liquid iron much more easy to digest than tablets. You can put it in juice if you don’t love the flavor. Currently, I’ve been taking Ritual vitamins for about a year and find them very palatable and they recently came out with a prenatal.
With my daughter I used a yoga ball throughout pregnancy and during labor in the hospital. I stayed on the ball all the way through transition with my husband rubbing my lower back during each contraction (every one!). Do you feel your hips spreading apart and it feels like your tailbone is splitting in half? I’ll be there soon!
Like Jennifer — a yoga ball has alleviated so many lower-body pains. I’m sitting here (at 40.0 weeks) on mine reading right now! Also, so, so simple, but bears repeating (especially, I think, for winter pregnancies) — even when I don’t feel like getting up and taking a walk, after I do, even just around the block, I feel so much better.
And coconut water.
With my first pregnancy, I had twins, and I had complications that most of my other mother-friends had never heard of. Now I’m expecting a singleton…hurrah! I thought! No more weird symptoms! I thought…..wrong. It turns out that my body seems just to do weird things when pregnant, the number of babies be damned. I need a village to get through it, in all seriousness (and guacamole and salty foods?). But I’m deeply curious about those vaginal weights, I must say, because three babies in two years is doing a number to my…well…muscles 😉
I absolutely loved prenatal massages. The best part was when they worked down one side and I got to turn to the other side and they started all over again-Ahhhh…… But I also recommend going to someone who actually caters to prenatal and postnatal mommas so you get the most benefit. Also, I was only able to go to prenatal yoga with my first pregnancy. It taught me how to breathe to actually relax my body, gave me stretches that help get to all the muscles in my hips, pelvis, and lower back that I could use almost anywhere-Ahhhh, again, and when my daughter actually went head up just a week before I was due to deliver-freak out moment!-my instructor coached me through some positions and she turned before class was over!
I used to teach birth education and work as a birth doula. All of your suggestions are wonderful. I would add, relaxation practice, every day, with a partner who will be with you during labor. It can be a progressive massage from head to toe, a hypnosis technique, listening to an audio track that talks you through relaxation, anything that allows you to truly quiet your mind and your partner some practice in helping you relax. No matter what kind of birth you are planning, this will help. These quiet times together help parents feel closer, help moms feel loved and safe, and your baby can grow in a nice calm place too.
I also highly recommend walking in nature every day. Good for your spirit and body. And surround yourself with positive people who will reassure you. Yoga is a great place to find that. Independent (not hospital run) birth classes are too.
Agreed! James and I took a really wonderful class here in New York City with Mary Esther Malloy before Faye was born. Highly, highly recommended!
I use an app called Mind the Bump that gas mindfulness tracks for east trimester and into the first year of bebe’s life. It was created by psychologists to assist women with the pre and post natal adjustment periods and it’s so great. Highly recommend.
*has not gas, pregnancy Freudian slip.
Funny Freudian slip!!
That app sounds perfect.
I always tell students and clients, there will never be a time when deep calm and relaxation, the ability to quiet one’s mind and let go of tension, will not be super useful in your life. It can get you through so so much.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing more attention to the wonderful and important work of Sister Song and reproductive justice.
Giving all of my pregnant friends gift certificates for pedicures and massages this holiday season! It’s the right thing to do.
Speaking of pampering, could you remind me where the dress in the photo is from?-Thanks!
It’s the caftan from Storq! http://storq.com/products/nursing-caftan
The Epi-no trainer for stretching…bits has been recommended to me although I have never tried it myself!
I’m using it, and used it for my last pregnancy as well – it was recommended by my best friend, who is a mother of 2 and an OBGYN, so I figured that she’d know what she was talking about.
It is… very uncomfortable to use. Seriously uncomfortable. Like, don’t expect fun. BUT: I have seriously dry and non-stretchy skin, and I pushed out a 9lb baby with very minimal tearing after using that.
I had terrible, SI joint pain, hip pain with my first two pregnancies. With my third pregnancy my midwife suggested a chiropractor when it started to flare up. It was transformative for me as all of that hip and SI pain disappeared. I was uncomfortable in many other ways, but at least that pain subsided. It was also a very easy and very quick birth, which may or may not be related. I always love your posts and your message. Thank you!
Interesting note: just doing yoga regularly will tone up those vaginal muscles. I don’t know how it works, and I don’t know if pregnancy yoga will do it, but I’ve been practicing regular yoga for two years now and the difference is amazing.
thanks for using inclusive language and saying pregnant people!
So intrigued by the vaginal weights! I’m pregnant with my third (the caboose) and I read quite a bit about therapy in other countries that works to tone vaginal muscles. My experience with postnatal care in the US is not very good. So the weights are worth $50? I’m hesitant but so curious!!
This is a wonderful list and I’m so glad to see Every Mother Counts mentioned. Erin, I look forward to and appreciate your posts now more than ever. I also appreciate the inclusive language you used!
Long time reader here! I was visiting a cousin in Brooklyn this weekend and saw on Instagram you went to the candlelight vigil as well. Thought it would be something you would attend but missed you somehow…beautiful night to see a strong community coming together!
I attended prenatal yoga classes when I was pregnant with my daughter and absolutely loved those two designated times a week to just slowly unfurl, stretch, and focus on my body (and the baby inside). One of the greatest things about the classes I found (aside from the obvious benefits) was how we began each class with everyone sharing how far along they were and what they were experiencing with their bodies that particular week…new aches, new sensations, and then inevitably questions and confirmations that it was all routine pregnancy-related stuff.
I would also highly recommend a facial as a lovely little pregnancy indulgence. I got one as a gift from my husband and it was the most relaxing and wonderful two hours I can recall. I keep *subtly* hinting for another one….no luck yet 😉
Our son is now 6 weeks old. My motto during pregnancy was- I’m not broken, I’m pregnant. I went hiking, swimming, walking, and stayed active at work (teacher). I had several professional massages (as well as those from my sweet husband) and went to the chiropractor twice. My pregnancy was relatively smooth and I think balancing pampering myself and regular low-key work outs helped keep me comfortable and relaxed. In hindsight, I would have gone to the chiropractor earlier and done more regular stretching.
I think of massage and chiropractic care (if you have a good one!) as important preventative measures. I have had one post-pregnancy massage to relax sore back muscles. My core is quite weak post delivery and I think my back hurts more lately from moving our rapidly growing baby around.
Such a wonderful post! Not pregnant nor have I been, but I’ve been a long time follower of your blog. So happy to see the Homeless Prenatal Program made it on your list, and I noticed that you had a link for a program catering to youth so here is another: Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPP) part of a larger non-profit organization Felton Institute. As the name gives away, TAPP offers support to pregnant and parenting teens who live/ are apart of the San Francisco Bay Area. The program links clients up with case managers and focuses on getting the young parents (both mom and dad) through school and linking them with necessary resources, often providing immediate resources such as diapers and such from donations received through the community at large. Hope this makes it on your list.
Congratulations on your second baby and keep the great posts coming! Best wishes!
I seriously don’t think you have to be pregnant to enjoy and benefit from these recommendations. Core strengthening included.
I wasn’t convinced it would work, but I visited an acupuncturist for the first time when my second baby was in breech position a week out from my due date. I was booked for a home birth, but it wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t turn. About two hours after the session, I felt a sensation as if I were a human washing machine… it was the baby upending himself in the right direction. Was it the acupuncture or just nature taking its course? I can’t say for sure; but if your baby is in breech I recommend giving acupuncture a try. I then gave birth at home in under an hour. I wasn’t expecting that either!
What is that beautiful linen maternity dress situation?!
It’s a caftan from Storq! Link in a comment above!
Thanks so much for these links! I’m currently pregnant and wanting to direct some of my post-election donations to pregnant people in need. We’re still stronger together.
I am a big bath-taker, pregnant or not. Another thing that was great in my last pregnancy was Centered Pregnancy. My midwife group does it- it’s basically group appointments with other ladies who are due at roughly the same time. There was something really therapeutic about gathering with other pregnant women, and the midwife, and discussing our bodies and or babies. I know it’s not a physically pampering as other things you’ve mentioned, but it was mentally and emotionally therapeutic for me.
Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing!
I remember my Saturday mornings so fondly. I’d attend a prenatal yoga class in the morning, and then take myself on date to a nearby French bakery for a tea and the most delicious butter croissant. Those mornings felt so luxurious. And I agree – I wish all yoga was like prenatal yoga. I’ve even thought about sneaking My non-pregnant self into a class.
Oh, man, all of these suggestions.
Also, something I’m starting to get better at; recognizing my limits and asking for help. (you’d think I’d have learned that the first time around, but NOPE).
I’ve got the most ridiculous hip pain going, and I’m 28 weeks pregnant. I’ve called on my sister for childcare (because I hurt too much to run after a toddler, and it’s not particularly safe to take her for a walk if I can’t catch her), I’ve called on my brother for house-fixing and wood-stacking, I’ve called on my husband for ‘help me get up it hurts too much to do it myself’, and for a lot of chores that hurt too much to do… and so I lie on the couch with hot compresses and try to hurt less, and the people who care about me do things that need doing, and in the end we make it work. We need a village, and all that.
Pregnancy pampering: also known as finding your limits and calling on your village to help with them.
I’m not pregnant, and I want to do all of those things right this second! (It’s been a long couple of weeks.)
I have a friend who had to pee a lot at night due to a medical condition. It was suggested that she strengthen her pelvic muscles, and she found a gizmo that worked with an app….so it told her how hard she was squeezing, whether she was doing it properly, how long to hold, etc. She loved it, and it made a huge difference! (This would be far more helpful if I knew what it was….)
I’m a pelvic floor physical therapist and I was super delighted to see you mentioned pelvic floor health in your post! Good pelvic floor and abdominal (preferably your transverse abdominus) strength and coordination are so very important for a healthy and happy pelvic floor during and after pregnancy. However, I do urge caution to women who have a history of pelvic pain or discomfort (I.e. Pain with intercourse, pain with tampon use or painful gyno exams). In those individuals, pelvic floor strengthening can exacerbate the problem, and potentially lead to more issues during and after birth.
Thank you so much for this thoughtful post and your beautiful blog. You have provided much needed perspective, inspiration and comfort over the last two weeks.
I was pregnant with my first kiddo in NY and had a wonderful prenatal massage at Melt in Fort Greene. Plus one for acupuncture. I was feeling a lot of anxiety (long before our country fell apart) and she put a needle in my chest and I left feeling like I went on a 3 week vacation. I’m due with no. 2 in 6 weeks and this pregnancy I’ve been going to the chiropractor regularly which has made a huge difference for my SI joint pain. Look for practitioners who are skilled with expectant mamas. Xo
Thanks Erin !
Baby to come in a week now for me ! my routine is :
I ‘ve had acupuncture during all my pregnancy ( 4 or 5 times) for different kind of things (sleep , anxiety, etc…) and it really worked well. Also ostheopathie 3- 4 times, it helps the body evolution durings all the 9 months !
Right now I have a warm bath every evening with sea salt (just simple “gros sel” that ‘s so unexpensive and natural so it is perfect) can’t do without that because of the big contractions I have every evenings.
I walk about 30 minutes to 1 or 2 hours a day.
And the thing that’s the best to help : massages from my man (back, feet, legs…) it really heps me for this time where good sleep is pretty rare !
And last week I had a very cosy “future maman” care : face massage, epilation and manucure – pedicure, it really helped when you’re at the really end of pregnancy and your belly is soooooo enormous !
Also eating milk chocolate 😉 , drinking plantes tea and taking a good nap with my cat every day !
Have a great pregnancy !
Amélie from France
Great post! I was wondering were you got your dress that you’re wearing in the first picture?
Thank you! I’m wearing the caftan from Storq!
+ 1 on pelvic floor health and exercise! I was the extreme side of that story and ended up opting for surgery to correct severe post pregnancy incontinence. Love that you mention it here. A topic we that needs to be discussed more publicly, without shame or fear. Thank you 🙂
Comments are moderated.