Setting boundaries in pregnancy
You may have found the moment you announced your pregnancy, people started offering advice and opinions or asking questions, things like:
“Have an epidural. Best decision I ever made.”
“Natural birth is the way to go. I can teach you to meditate.”
“You’ll definitely need me to move in once the baby is born.”
“How much weight have you gained?”
“Do you want this box of (my now-20-year-old son’s) baby clothes?”
“While you’re just lying around on bed-rest, can you review these documents?”
You may even have experienced your growing belly being touched by people you don’t know well.
Most people have good intentions, and genuinely feel they’re being helpful and supportive. And sometimes they are – but sometimes they’re not.
It’s a good idea to set some boundaries for yourself. If you’re not used to saying no, some of these new boundaries may feel uncomfortable and awkward, and you’ll probably feel some guilt and anxiety about expressing your new limits.
But if you’ll feel more anxiety if you don’t set new limits, it’s worth it. It’s okay to say no. No to taking on extra work. No to going out if you don’t feel like it. No to 20-year-old baby clothes. No to your in-laws joining you in the delivery suite. And no to strangers reaching out to touch your belly.
If you have real trouble saying no, think about asking others for help. Your partner, for example, could talk to their parents about boundaries.
Rest and relaxation in pregnancy
Pregnancy can be exhausting – you're growing a whole other person, after all! Your body (and mind) may be working overtime, and it’s a good idea to prioritise rest. Try to find some quiet time in your day to put your feet up, take a short nap, or practise mindfulness or meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation in pregnancy
Mindfulness is all about being present and in the moment, noticing what we’re experiencing without judgement.
Being mindful can happen when you’re just sitting still, observing what’s going on around you. It can happen when you quietly observe your breath, or consciously calm and quiet your breathing. It can happen when you’re walking, listening to the noise of the wind in your ears or the feel of it on your fingertips.
Meditation uses techniques like mindfulness, or focusing the mind on an action or object, to train attention and awareness. Meditation helps you achieve an emotionally calm, stable, and mentally clear state.
Deep breathing exercise
Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
Focus solely on breathing through your mouth, nose, or both – whatever is comfortable for you.
Imagine you’re breathing in relaxation and breathing out tension. You can even repeat it as a mantra in your mind.
Notice the sensation of your breath as you breathe in and out. It might help to notice the way it sounds and feels – does it sound like the wind, or gentle waves? Does the air feel cooler when you breathe it in than when you exhale?
Taking a few minutes before the start of your day to breathe deeply and release anxiety will energize you. In addition to feeling relaxed, you may also experience a more alert and focused state of mind as you accomplish your daily work and life tasks.
Progressive relaxation and body scanning
This is a great way to relax your mind and body, and is one of the most accessible ways to practise meditation.
Start by taking five to 10 deep breaths in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
Bring attention to your body. Unclench your jaw and your forehead, and release any tension in your eyes and face. Allow your shoulders to drop and relax, and release any tension in your arms and torso. Let your legs and feet relax.
Move your attention back to your head, and slowly do a mental scan of your body from head to toe, noticing different sensations in different parts of your body. If something feels tight, particular muscles a bit sore, or if something feels particularly relaxed, just notice it and keep scanning down.
This should allow you to completely release and relax.
How to meditate
Yoga and massage in pregnancy
Pregnancy yoga can:
- increase your strength and flexibility of your muscles, including the ones needed for birth
- help reduce stress and anxiety
- help improve sleep
- help decrease lower back pain.
You don’t have to pay for a pregnancy yoga class – there are plenty of free programmes online – but these classes can also help you meet and bond with other pregnant women and prepare for the stress of being a new parent.
If you can afford it, prenatal massage is a lovely treat, and if not, your partner may be willing to give it a go!
Early on in your pregnancy you may feel too tired and nauseous to go out, but in the second trimester you may have more energy. This can be a good time to spend time with your friends and make the most of your time before your baby arrives.
You may even still enjoy the odd night out at a bar with good music and atmosphere – many bars now have good options for mocktails and alcohol-free wine.
It’s safest not to drink any alcohol while you’re pregnant, because it could harm your unborn baby.
If you’re the first in your social circle to have a baby, you may notice a distance with your friends and might feel like you don’t fit quite as well as you used to. If you still want to spend time with them, talk to them about it – they might be assuming you don’t want to go out, or that don’t have time to. If they know you’re keen to hang out, they’re more likely to invite you along.
It’s nice to be able to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Friends or relatives who’ve been through pregnancy may offer a friendly ear. Antenatal classes or pregnancy exercise classes also provide an opportunity to connect.