The doctor’s office was cold and stark, and the attending nurse was just about to deliver the results of my blood work, which would show that I was indeed, pregnant. The unexpected shock quickly turned into tears as I absorbed the news. I knew nothing about being pregnant, let alone actually raising a baby into a fully functional human being. Wait...did this mean I couldn’t work out anymore? Dammit, there goes wine, mimosas, and Captain Morgan for the next nine months…And FML, was I going to get stretch marks?
While this was not likely most people’s reaction nor experience, finding out you're pregnant can still be totally overwhelming. Sure, my initial thoughts may have been self-centered and vain, but my maternal instincts quickly took over and a love unlike any other soon took hold. And as a result, I only wanted the best for my growing baby (and belly).
[Fast forward six years and onto pregnancy number two]...
Today, finding essential product go-to’s for when you’re pregnant isn’t hard (in fact, do a Google image search on “pregnancy must haves” and prepare to be overwhelmed). But on the flip side, marketers have honed in their skills on how to effectively target new mommies with products ranging from the tried-and-true, to the ridiculously unnecessary. So while it shouldn't be so confusing... it is. And first time mommies are one of the easiest target groups to prey upon. After all, who doesn’t want “only the best” for their baby.
But don’t be so easily fooled. No one out there really needs a $100 delivering gown (you do know what happens during delivery… right?). Let’s cut through the fluff and talk about the products that you totally need to have to make your life a breeze during the most amazing (and uncomfortable) forty weeks of your life.
1. Tummy Butter
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in the spirit of keeping things real, no amount of cream or lotion will keep you from getting stretch marks if you’re predestined to have them. Want to know what your stretch mark chances are? It’s as simple as taking a look at your mom’s tummy. Stretch marks are largely genetic and have more to do with the elastic properties of your skin than the products you put on them. Chances are, if your mom is stretch mark free, you will be too (collective sigh of relief…or anguish). Stretch marks aside, tummy butter is a NEED-TO-HAVE to keep your growing bump nourished and flake free. An itchy belly is anything but comfortable, so be sure to keep your skin well moisturized.
Burt's Bees & Palmer's Tummy Butter: these are my two favorites. Not only are they affordable, but they keep scratching hands at bay.
2. Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology tape has been used by athletes for years to speed up recovery time. Taping during pregnancy can naturally alleviate common pregnancy symptoms, such as lower back and abdominal pain. How is this possible? The elasticity of the tape lifts skin, allowing excess fluid to drain, which relieves pressure (and hopefully those pesky cankles later on). Sports peeps have been doing this for years; don’t you think it’s about time that pregnant mommies caught on? Check out this nifty guide to get ideas on where to start with kinesio taping (Pinterest also has some great pics and tutorials). BONUS: Popular brands like Rock Tape come in variety of fun colors and patterns... and you thought tape was boring.
3. Body Pillow
Pregnant mommies are advised not to lay flat on their backs for long periods of time from their second trimester onward (I literally wake up on my back every morning and have a brief freak-out moment). And as if that isn’t hard enough, from the third trimester on, docs advise laying on your left side more heavily than your right side. Why? This position provides maximum oxygen and blood flow to your baby. Regardless, getting any amount of sleep while pregnant is a luxury. Body pillows offer some relief and an added level of comfort and support for your belly. And as an added bonus, it can keep you from constantly rolling onto your back mid-sleep (which will save you the morning spaz sessions).
4. Sized-up Bras
Not only is your belly growing, but your chest is likely starting to look a little more like Pamela Anderson’s. While there is no one-size-fits-all equation for how much your chest will grow, a safe bet is to assume you will go up at least one cup size. Yep, that means you will need to size up your regular bras to avoid cutting off circulation (and to avoid that weird four-boob phenomena that happens when your too-tight bra cuts your boobs in half). Don’t forget to size up your sports bras as well, and look for medium to maximum support if you do any soft of running or heavy cardio activities. Breathable and well supported boobs are happy boobs.
Lululemon sports bras are the bomb. Nike, or even Target, both offer more affordable options.
5. Belly Sport Band
If a fit and active lifestyle is important to you (and it should be), you’ll want to invest in a belly sports bra for your growing bump somewhere around month five or six of your pregnancy (perhaps earlier if this isn’t your first time around the block). Why, exactly, do you need a belly band? Have you ever went for a jog without a sports bra? Same concept. These bands are designed to gently compress the entire abdominal area, while providing subtle cues to your body to maintain proper posture. This leads to decreased back pain and reduced discomfort. Some mommies even wear them for everyday chores around the house later in their pregnancies. Running mommies, especially, will love the extra support that a sports belly band gives. BaoBei offers a fabulous option.
6. Carb & Protein Filled Snacks
This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Who isn’t hungry during pregnancy? Contrary to popular belief, your growing body only needs about 300-450 extra calories a day to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Words of caution: If you plan on eating for two, you better plan on working out for two (and honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that). Hormones in early pregnancy may leave you feeling nauseous. A simple fix is to load up on carb filled snacks, like granola bars, a banana, or a bagel, soon after waking up. And be sure to pack snacks to have on-hand throughout the day.
Once you start feeling more like yourself (usually by the start of the second trimester), switch over to high protein snacks to keep you feeling fuller, longer (I have a love affair with Think Thin Brownie Crunch protein bars). And like you’ve heard a thousand times before, eat small meals throughout the day to stave off hunger pains that can lead to unnecessary overeating.
And yes… indulge in cravings from time to time. A little fro-yo with cookie dough topping never hurt anybody.
7. Maternity Pants + Leggings
Leggings; the mother of all maternity pants (pun intended). The thought of giving up your normal skinny jeans and cut-offs is a hard one to swallow, especially while pregnant with your first child, but that waistband can only stretch so far… and the hair-tie + button trick will only work for so long. But once you submit to the powers that be and buy your first pair of maternity jeans, you’ll never look back. Keep in mind that pregnancy isn’t forever, so don’t overdo it; a couple pairs of jeans will do. And maternity leggings are a lifesaver. Buy a pair (or three) that you can dress up or down, and they will effortlessly carry you from your first trimester, through 'til the end.
Helpful hint: When shopping for maternity clothes, shop according to your pre-pregnancy size.
(And because I’m 5’3, fellow shorties be advised: Gap Maternity makes short sizes in their jeans, and Jessica Simpson carries a line of petite jeans with a 28 inch inseam. If those are unavailable, you can still skip the hemming by looking for maternity pants in cropped or ankle styles.)
8. Baby Necessity Check-List
You don’t know what you don’t know until you realize you didn’t know it. Nothing can hold more true for first time moms. At a loss for what a new baby even requires? Check out this very comprehensive check-list (courtesy of The Mint Baby and Kids Clothing Boutique). One addition: pack a ‘coming home’ outfit for baby in your hospital bag so that your little one can arrive at his/her new house in style. And pssst…this checklist is also great for setting up your baby registry!
And speaking of baby registries… did you know you can now set them up and shop without ever leaving home? Get with the 21st century y’all! Check out Babylist Baby Registry and put anything onto your baby list from any store; no more being confined to just your local Target for pacifiers and onesies. Added bonus: you can add items from online retailers (like Amazon) that your long-distance friends and fam can ship directly to you in just a few easy steps. If you don't already have free shipping courtesy of Amazon Prime, now may be the time to sign up.
9. ‘What to Expect’ Book
This book has been around for like, ever, and is pretty much the Holy Grail for pregnant moms. It breaks down your pregnancy week-by-week, offers advice for how to cope with the physical and mental stresses of pregnancy, and even details the disgusting stuff you had no idea existed until now (errr… a mucus plug)?
Having twins? There’s a book for that. What happens during baby’s first year? There’s a book for that too. And as one would expect, digital and old-fashioned paper copies of the book are readily available.
Phew, we made it. Hopefully this guide provides the helpful pointers you were looking for. Pregnancy is vastly different for everybody, and even if you’re on baby #2, the experience is likely going to be different from baby to baby. I realize that gaining 30 pounds in a relatively short period of time can be traumatizing, and not being able to see your toes or bend over like a normal human can be awkward, but try to enjoy this time as best you can. And rest up; you’ll need it!