How to thrive — or help your partner thrive — while pregnant during the holidays

Preparing your mind and body before the season allows you to fully enjoy the holidays with the people you love most.

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Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful times in a woman’s life. Within a few weeks, the body — and often one’s outlook on life — changes as the body becomes a vessel creating new life. 

The holidays are a time to share your excitement with friends and family, who will undoubtedly shower you with advice, guidance, questions and concerns. Not surprisingly, the flood of emotions from loved ones and loads of holiday treats can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Preparing your mind and body before the season allows you to fully enjoy the holidays with the people you love most. But knowing the steps to do so is the trick.

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If you are a mom-to-be, here are some tips to help you get through the holidays happy and healthy:

Eat Mindfully

The holidays are not a reason to lose sight of your nutrition goals. The skewed perceptions of overeating during the holidays and pregnancy, in general, can normalize the myth of “eating for two.” You don’t have to limit yourself to the point of not enjoying the holidays, but being mindful of certain foods can prevent serious health complications. For example, you may want to avoid raw oysters or tuna (and really any raw or undercooked fish or meat) so you don’t develop food poisoning or put your baby at risk of ingesting toxins that could affect their development. 

Even more, studies show that you don’t need to increase your normal calorie intake until the third trimester. Limiting the extra calories, especially the salt and sugar in your diet, can help stave off gestational diabetes and high blood pressure and make it easier to lose those extra pounds after delivery. 

Limit Stress, Ask for Help

The holidays can be stressful, especially if you are hosting. Avoiding stress decreases your risk of heart disease, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and your chances of having a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a low-birthweight baby (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Relinquishing responsibility for holiday prep to family, friends, and your partner can ease your stress and allow you to enjoy the festivities without having to bear the brunt of the work.

Prioritize Sleep

Infancy aside, there may be no more important time for a person to get regular sleep than during pregnancy. Not only does lack of sleep make you feel crabby, but it also increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and an emergency cesarean section.

Wear Comfy Clothes

One of the best things about pregnancy is all the comfy clothes you get to wear (or so I’ve heard!). Ditch the high heels and tight jeans for soft fabric tops (like your favorite ugly Christmas sweater) and pants or leggings with an elastic waistband. During pregnancy, comfort is king (or queen), helping to alleviate common aches and pains like sore muscles, joint inflammation, and back pain. Avoiding restrictive clothing may also improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of developing a yeast infection.

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Slow Down

Many moms-to-be are still working, going to school, and taking care of their families well into pregnancy. The world doesn’t stop because you’re pregnant. Take advantage of the extra hands during the holidays — take a load off, put your feet up, and enjoy being pampered for a change!

Set Boundaries

It’s hard for the people in your life not to be excited for you during pregnancy, but your comfort with being the center of attention may vary — for some people, it’s stressful, while others may enjoy basking in the attention. No matter where you fall, it’s important for you to set boundaries, specifically outlining your comfort or discomfort with people touching you.

How Your Partner Can Be Your Biggest Ally During the Holiday Season

A supportive partner is worth their weight in gold, especially during pregnancy. This statement rings most true during the holidays when temptations are high, and willpower is low. A good partner is a source of checks and balances and holds you accountable, in a kind, patient and empathetic way. 

Are you the partner of an expectant mother? Here are some tips to help your partner manage the holiday season:

  • Join the health journey. Eating a healthy diet and exercising alongside your partner can keep her motivated and make lifestyle changes feel less daunting, especially during the holiday season when delectable dishes and your favorite desserts are front and center.
  • Talk before the holidays. The holidays bring joy, stress, and other unexpected thoughts and feelings. If you know you will encounter toxic family members or if this is your first holiday without a loved one, set aside some time to talk about your concerns and your plan to approach these situations together. 
  • Ask her what she needs. With pregnancy comes the occasional ache, pain and cramp, making constant movement problematic. Be thoughtful, understanding, empathetic, and offer a helping hand during these times. If you’re grabbing a plate of food for yourself, grab a second one for her; and check in from time to time to see how your partner is feeling.
  • Make your partner feel beautiful. Your partner will be around friends and family, some that she may not have seen since before her pregnancy, in her new body. Reassure her that she is beautiful. Not only will she enjoy your kind words, but focusing on your partner’s beauty while their body changes reinforces body positivity.
  • Monitor alcohol and foods on the “not-during-pregnancy” list. You can help your partner immensely by keeping the alcohol, processed foods, and raw meats and fish away from your partner, especially if there is an insatiable appetite for those products. You won’t miss what you don’t see.  
  • Communicate expectations. Pregnancy is not an exercise in mind-reading. Clear communication makes dealing with the stress of the holidays much easier, and it may even strengthen the connection between you and your partner.
  • Check in. The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. A supportive partner can sense when it’s time to slow down and communicate the need to take a step back in a kind and thoughtful way.
  • Plan ahead. Part of the stress of holiday planning is figuring out where and when everyone is meeting. If your partner usually plans or hosts the holiday festivities, try taking the lead for a change, so it’s one less thing she needs to worry about.

Everyone has a unique pregnancy journey, so the way your partner approaches the holidays may be different from other people. Similarly, family dynamics differ from household to household, adding another layer of complexity during the holiday season. Be aware of your partner’s role in the family and the different ways families handle their issues. Don’t assume what your partner might want from you during a holiday; instead allow them the space and opportunity to deal with the holidays on their own, and let them know that you are there for them whenever they need. Remember that half the battle is simply being there and supporting your partner through the ebbs and flows of the holiday season. Your presence is a present — happy holidays!

Dr. Shamard Charles is the executive director of graduate studies in public health at St. Francis College and sits on the Medical Advisory Board of Verywell Health (Dot Dash-Meredith). He is also host of the health podcast, Heart Over Hype. He received his medical degree from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and his Masters of Public Health from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Previously, he spent three years as a senior health journalist for NBC News and served as a Global Press Fellow for the United Nations Foundation. You can follow him on Instagram @askdrcharles or Twitter @DrCharles_NBC.

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