From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa, there are many reasons to celebrate at the end of the year. For many pregnant people, their growing baby is one of them. But it’s no secret that the holiday season isn’t always holly and jolly, even with an extra special gift.
Baby or no baby, the flurry of parties, shopping, and travel is no small task. Add pregnancy into the mix, and it’s no surprise that some mamas want to crawl into bed until the new year. (Some of them might already be in bed—pregnancy fatigue is no joke!)
Whether someone is newly pregnant, or about to give birth, doing or skipping certain things can help keep the holiday spirits high and the stress low. Throughout the pregnancy stages, these tips can make it easier for them to plan ahead.
Keep the Pregnancy Timeline in Mind Before Booking That Flight
This season, nearly half of Americans plan to hop on planes, trains, and automobiles to visit loved ones. For expecting mamas, though, holiday travel may be harder to swing. During the first trimester, those who get morning sickness may be wary of hitting the road (or the skies). Even shorter stints in a moving vehicle may cause discomfort, made all the worse by not having access to a restroom or bed.
Later pregnancy stages may present their own hurdles as well. By the last few months of pregnancy, comfort is a rare treat for many people, due to their growing bellies. The last thing they may want to do is spend hours crammed into cars, or exhaust themselves rushing through airports.
In addition, the chance that one goes into labor tends to go up after 37 weeks of pregnancy. If someone is carrying more than one baby, that number goes down to 32 weeks. For that reason alone, some people try to avoid traveling after those weeks, since they could go into labor far away from where they want to deliver.
Things to Note When Traveling Far
Long-distance travel, which is considered four hours or more, also presents a risk. Pregnant people are more at risk of getting blood clots, and that risk goes up when someone is not moving around for extended periods of time. It helps to drink lots of water and take breaks every 30 minutes or so to stretch and move, so those who travel will want to factor those stops into their schedule.
Despite these hurdles, a pregnant person may still want to travel. But if a flight’s involved, they may not have that option. Some airlines limit when expecting mothers can fly with them, which can throw a wrench into holiday plans. In some cases, they may request a letter from a person’s doctor or midwife.
However close to home one celebrates, it never hurts to be prepared. Keeping one’s prenatal records within reach can help guide care if a person goes into labor and can’t get to their planned birthing center. This is especially true if they go more than 100 miles away from their set location.
And for those who choose to stay local, there’s no shame in asking others to come visit instead. The best thing about the holidays is that one can celebrate them anywhere.
Hit Up the Buffet with Confidence
The list of foods that a pregnant person ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat is longer than Santa’s naughty and nice list. That’s because studies have shown that some foods come with a greater risk of illnesses for pregnant people and their babies. As a baby grows and changes, the mom’s immune system also changes.
On top of that, unborn babies don’t have a fully developed immune system. Since the immune system is made up of cells and proteins that defend the body from infection, this means that mothers and babies are not as protected.
For those reasons, knowing which foods to stay away from can help keep mother and baby nourished and healthy. Examples of foods to avoid include raw seafood, eggs that aren’t fully cooked, and soft cheeses. At end-of-year festivities, some of those foods may find their way to the table.
Meat and cheese boards, for example, are buffet staples. But expecting mothers may want to steer clear of brie, which is made with raw milk and often not pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill germs in foods, making them safer to eat. Similarly, they may want to skip the sliced salami and other cold, cured meats. Those are just cured and fermented, which means that they can carry parasites that cause food-borne illnesses.
Eggs can carry food-borne illnesses as well if they are not pasteurized or undercooked. That gives pregnant people a reason to turn down homemade eggnog—a drink that is often made with alcohol, too.
With so many things to consider, one may wonder what’s left to dish up. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make the holidays delicious. Hard cheeses, like Parmesan, are still ‘on the table.’ Meats that are cooked all the way through? Those should not raise concerns. And drinks like sparkling water, mocktails, and pasteurized drinks are options worth raising a glass to.
The Best Gift is a Stress-Free Holiday
No matter which of the stages of pregnancy someone falls into, they may deal with a range of changes and stressors. Physical symptoms, feelings that go up and down by the day, and unwanted advice are only a few of them. Added to the stress that can come with holiday to-dos, it all can be a recipe for disaster.
Rather than try to power through, though, expecting mothers may want to take extra steps to reduce their stress. On top of a few extra wrinkles and gray hairs, too much stress can affect more than the mother. It can also have a bad effect on a growing baby. Prenatal stress has been shown to cause early labor, a low birth weight, and other health issues.
That doesn’t mean forgoing the holidays altogether. There are small, easy ways to cut down on stress and still make spirits bright. Instead of going out to stores to look for gifts, online shopping is a quick option that can be done from the couch. Many stores can also wrap gifts for a small fee, which saves additional time.
If the kitchen poses the most problems, advance prep can go a long way. Instead of making every dish the day of, some dishes can be cooked days or weeks ahead, and reheated when guests arrive. The potluck approach also helps divide up dishes, so one person isn’t tasked with the whole feast. If all else fails, there’s always takeout! It’s okay to save the fine china for another year, too. Dishes and utensils that can go straight in the trash? Now that’s a gift for everyone.
Your Baby’s Health Begins with Your Own
Pregnancy questions may pop up any time of the year, not just when the holidays are around the corner. Luckily, there are many answers within reach, online and in person. There is much more to learn, though, and relevant data is still lacking.
Much of this valuable knowledge starts with research. That’s where you can help: by signing up for the free, home-based PowerMom study. From there, you’ll be able to share your pregnancy experience with a team of researchers. If you are approved to join, you may get a free Fitbit.
As a partner, you’ll be able to share data from your fitness devices (like sleep, activity, and heart rate). You’ll also be able to take 5-minute surveys about your pregnancy journey. What you provide may lead to learnings that benefit health outcomes for all moms. Your input could lend itself to articles like this one, and the answers they may offer for other mamas.
The power of a healthy pregnancy is in your hands. Learn more and get started on the PowerMom website today.