The festive period is an exciting time of year, but when you’re pregnant, Christmas can sometimes leave you feeling a little overwhelmed: whether it’s worrying about what foods to eat or avoid, dealing with digestive problems, a lack of sleep, or feeling run down.
Not only that, but Christmas is a time of reflection, so when you stop and think about the life-changing experience you are undertaking, it can often leave you feeling quite emotional.
No matter what stage of pregnancy you’re at, our In-House Nutritionist Melanie Brown has some top tips for every mama-to-be to help you hit the pause button and successfully navigate the Christmas period.
Foods to avoid: Cheeseboards and pâtés are a staple of the festive period, but remember pâtés are completely out, and you need to avoid unpasteurised and soft mould-ripened cheeses and blue cheeses due to their risk of listeria. Hard, pasteurised cheeses are fine though, so you can safely indulge in the Wensleydale with cranberries! If you’re attending any buffet-style parties, be mindful that all food is well cooked and how long it has been out for; you may want to give salads and coleslaws that have been sitting out for on the side for a while a miss to avoid risks of bacteria and food poisoning. Portion control is also something to be aware of, especially with much richer foods, so keep portions small to stave off any indigestion and heartburn, especially in the third trimester when your uterus puts more pressure on your stomach.
Share the load: You may be used to playing the hostess with the mostest at Christmas, but when you’re pregnant, it’s time to pull back a little; you’re growing a new human and that is a huge job in itself. Be sure to rest up, put your feet up and share the load. Call upon partners, friends and family members to help – allocate them tasks like cleaning, shopping, present wrapping and food preparation (especially important if you have nausea and even a whiff of sprouts is enough to send you running for the bathroom!).
Self-care and emotional support: Pregnancy hormones, a lack of good-quality sleep and the fact that your life is about to change completely can stir up a whole host of feelings. These, along with the emotions of the festive season, can sometimes leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. Remember that no matter how you are feeling, ups and downs are a totally normal part of pregnancy. Lean on your partner and loved ones for support, and try and have a go-to list of self-care strategies that you can call upon in those moments when it all feels too much – whether that’s yoga, meditation, reading a good book, or taking a winter walk – whatever works for you. If you feel unable to cope and completely overwhelmed, it’s also important to speak to your midwife or doctor.
Boost your immunity and nutrition: If you’re not already doing so, then supplementing vitamin D in the winter is a must – the body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D naturally, which is in short supply at this time of year. Vitamin D supports healthy bones, teeth, muscles and a strong immune system. Christmas can also be a great time to eat more of those seasonal veggies that are packed full of vital nutrients for you and baby – sprouts are full of minerals and antioxidants, sweet potatoes contain vitamin B6 (great for nausea) carrots are full of beta-carotene, and red cabbage provides a good source of folate, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Get some zzz’s: Pregnancy insomnia is common, and combined with the fact we don’t get enough daylight in winter can mean your sleep really suffers. We need natural light to kickstart our daily rhythms, so begin each day by getting up and going outside, which can make it more likely you’ll sleep that night. It may be tempting to have the heating on all night, but in pregnancy, you tend to feel warmer due to hormone changes, so make sure your bedroom is not too hot as this can hinder sleep. Try and ensure you have a wind-down routine before bed to relax your body and mind ready for rest, and stick to a set bedtime to make sure you get the sleep you need. If you’re in your first or third trimesters, you may also be feeling exhausted, so listen to your body and take naps if you need to – around 20 minutes is ideal as enough to re-energise you without leaving you feeling groggy when you wake.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mel holds a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Therapy, an MSc in Nutritional Medicine, and has been specialising in fertility and pregnancy nutrition for over 18 years. Her career includes time spent at the Zita West Fertility Clinic, The Healthy Holiday Company, and Dr Jane Benn & Associates. Mel set up Melanie Brown Nutrition 10 years ago and currently works with clients across the globe advising them on fertility-enhancing diet and lifestyle.