"Rules" of Pregnancy



  • Foods that pose an infectious risk:
    • Raw meat, shellfish, sushi (risk of toxoplasmosis, salmonella) or raw seafood (risk of listeria)
    • Deli meat (some people say it's ok to microwave prior to eating)
    • Raw eggs and recipes that may use them (homemade Caesar dressing, Hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, custards)
    • Soft cheese that are UNPASTEURIZED (many commercial soft cheeses are labeled "pasteurized" and are safe)
  • Foods that pose a toxic risk:
    • Fish containing high levels of mercury (shark, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish)
    • Alcoholic beverages
  • Inhalants or personal treatments
    • Firsthand and secondhand smoke (tobacco, marijuana, etc)
    • Paint and certain cleaning agents
    • Certain facial, hair, and nail treatments
    • Massages, accupressure, chiropractics, etc, that are NOT designed for pregnancy
  • Cat litter
  • Recreational drugs
  • Medications - assume any medication is off-limits until you've checked with your medical provider or LactMed (they also have an app!). One of the medications believed to be safe for pregnant women is acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever.
  • Potential occupational hazards - for instance, I worked in orthopedic surgery and had to take precautions around radiation and cement


  • Temperature and duration of baths, hot tubs, saunas
  • Heart rate during exercise (ask your OB/GYN for limit)
  • Caffeine
  • Travel
    • To places without significant infectious risk (e.g. Zika virus)
    • To places at altitudes lower than 6000 feet
    • To first and second trimesters only, or during third trimester only with your OB/GYN's approval


  • Take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid
  • Exercise - it is generally considered safe to perform most activities you're accustomed to, with the following adjustments:
    • Limit exercise intensity according to your OB/GYN's recommendations (some use a particular heart rate or ability to speak comfortably as a guide)
    • Avoid activities that risk falling or direct impact to the abdomen
    • Avoid activities that require you to be flat on your back after your first trimester (e.g. crunches)
    • Participate in aerobic exercises (walking, cycling, jogging, etc) and strength training using light resistance (less than 10 lbs)
  • Drink a lot of water to maintain hydration and prevent stretch marks
  • Take extra good care of your teeth and gums, as pregnancy increases risk of gingivitis
  • Wear a seatbelt properly - the lap belt goes BELOW your abdomen and the shoulder belt goes above the abdomen and between the breasts. Improper placement of the straps can be devastating should you get into a car accident.
  • Sleep on your SIDE - NOT your back, which can decrease blood flow to your baby.
  • Get vaccinated as per your OB/GYN's recommendations (typically, vaccines against influenza and tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis should be up to date)
  • Maintain a healthy weight - you need approximately 300 extra calories per day in the second and third trimesters past your baseline and first-trimester metabolic caloric requirements. That's the equivalent of one bagel or slice of pizza.

Preparing for Birth

Entire Pregnancy

Last 6 Weeks

  • Raspberry leaf tea - 1-3 cups daily. I truly think this and dates (see below) played a huge role in how quickly and easily both of my labors went, although certainly not with helping my labor start sooner (I was a week late with both!)
  • Dates - 6 per day; they get expensive quickly so makes the most sense to buy a big bag like these by Terrasoul
    • Eat plain - if you can tolerate the sweetness!
    • Paired with chocolate or nut butter
    • Chopped and sprinkled onto oatmeal
    • Bacon-wrapped like in this Food Network recipe
    • Blended in a smoothie, such as Peanut Butter Banana Date Smoothie and Morning Date Smoothie
    • "Date balls" like Date Energy Balls
    • Date fudge such as Healthy Date Fudge
    • Date caramel like this one by Minimalist Baker
    • Granola bars that contain dates in the ingredients list
      • RxBar - almost all of their bars have 2 dates each!
      • Larabar - I'm not sure every flavor uses dates, but I know the Banana Bread, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cashew Cookie, and Pecan Pie do! Unlike RxBars, they don't say how many dates are in each bar on the wrapping.
  • Perineal stretching - 5 minutes once daily
    • No one WANTS to do this. But if done right, it may very well prevent perineal tearing.
    • "What Is Perineal Massage?" is a great explanatory video on how to do it!
  • Identify/optimize fetal position - most people agree the "Occiput Anterior" (OA) is the ideal fetal position for birth. However, my OB/GYN swore it wouldn't actually make a difference in pain levels so I didn't attempt to "spin" my daughters, who were both "Occiput Posterior" (OP), and it didn't seem to be a problem at all. That being said, if you are curious about identifying your baby's position and learning safe ways of getting your baby to be OA, check out Spinning Babies!
  • Get a few apps ahead of time:
    • Contraction timer - there are SO many out there and I think they're all pretty much the same, so I won't even bother recommending one (the one I used wasn't notable enough for me to remember which one it was). BUT I definitely suggest using one unless you are being induced or having a C-section so that you can know when you meet your medical provider's criteria for going to the hospital.
    • Kick counter app - for panicked moments when you suddenly can't remember the last time baby moved
  • Pack your hospital bag (see "Hospital Bag" below!)

Pregnancy Products


Try to get as few "maternity" clothes as possible! Regular clothing can often function for both pregnancy and nursing, with or without a few tweaks.

  • Tops
    • Non-maternity/non-nursing tops that are loose/"flowy" can accommodate a growing belly and be pulled up easily for nursing; a stretchy V-neck neck line could also be pulled down for nursing, which is better when wearing low-rise pants.
      • Old Navy - generally has many loose tops
      • Express One Eleven V-Neck London Tea is one of my favorite shirts. Lasts me the majority of my pregnancies, are SUPER easy to nurse in (pull up or down), and are very comfortable.
    • Maternity tops that can be used after childbearing years are over
    • Nursing tanks that accommodate pregnancy - another cheap yet high-yield item for every season. I love Daisity's and iLoveSia's, which have a built-in bra.
    • Nursing cardigans - specifically designed with large "flaps" to flatter a pregnant figure or cover a nursing baby, these can easily be thrown on top of a tank top and spare you from buying long-sleeved nursing/maternity clothes.
  • Bottoms
    • Belly Bands can turn any pair of button-closure pants into maternity pants. Wear all of your regular jeans using the hair-tie trick, and then put these on over your pants but underneath your top to hide the gap and smooth things out. I barely wore any maternity pants throughout my pregnancies this way.
      • Hair Tie Trick - check out DIY Maternity's post on this! Super simple and works with any pair of pants that has a button closure
    • Non-maternity stretchy leggings (such as LuLaRoe or these Ultra Soft High Waist leggings by Aenlley) can easily accomodate a growing belly comfortably
    • Non-maternity maxi skirts with fold-over waist bands - I've used Free to Live, which are fine, but these ones by Isaac Liev look great.
    • Kindred Bravely Leggings - If there is ONE MATERNITY ITEM I would buy again, it would be this. They are high-waisted and offer slight compressive support while pregnant and then allow for a nursing mom to lift up her shirt to nurse without exposing her abdomen. They ARE expensive, but I wore these almost every day of my maternity leave and plan on wearing them long after I'm done nursing my daughter. FYI, there is another great "high waisted nursing legging" by BLANQI that I love, but cannot be used during pregnancy (they do make a pregnancy version, which I haven't tried)
  • Miscellaneous Clothing
    • Dresses - many loose, flowy dresses can be used for maternity, and just like tops, can be pulled down for nursing if the neckline is low and stretchy.
      • GRECERELLE makes great sleeveless and short-sleeved maxi dresses that can accommodate pregnancy and even nursing
      • BeachCoCo Maternity Maxi Tank Dress - one of the few maternity options I love, mainly because it is SO flattering but also because it can be used when not pregnant (although isn't good for nursing). I bought one for my baby shower and another for a maternity photo shoot.
    • Pajamas - again, if you're going to buy anything, buy ones that can also work for nursing and could even be used after nursing. I loved the following:
    • Bras - if you need to size up, don't get regular or maternity bras that you may never wear again after delivery. Instead, get nursing bras that are cheap, comfortable, and can accommodate breastfeeding.

For Stretch Marks

  • DRINK WATER. I personally think you could use any oil/lotion (or maybe even none...) and not get stretch marks as long as you drink enough water (not to mention it helps maintain blood volume and prevent shortness of breath).
  • Topical Products: start using these right before you start showing (often between 3-5 months), then use them until you've lost the majority of your baby weight.
    • Bio-oil - I used this right after the shower. Oil locks in moisture when skin is wet better than lotion. Plus, it's multi-functional (can be used for scars, uneven skin tone, etc).
    • Palmer's - a classic, for a reason. As long as you like the smell of cocoa butter, this is a good one.
    • Consider making your own cream! I made my own several times whenever I had the time. Just Google "DIY stretch mark cream" and you'll come across many; this one by Momtastic looks easy. My "recipe" differed every time but I used a combination of the following ingredients.
      • Bases: shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, beeswax
      • Carrier oils: coconut oil, sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil, rosehip seed
      • Essential oils: lavender, frankincense, cypress, helichrysium, grapefruit, geranium,

For Nausea of Pregnancy

(not necessarily "morning sickness", because it can happen any time of day)

  • Eat small frequent meals (to avoid an empty stomach and becoming overfull)
  • Bread/crackers BEFORE you feel nauseous (for when your symptoms tend to occur at a predictable time of day)
  • Jolly ranchers (although not great for your teeth, so use sparingly and brush your teeth frequently)
  • Tea
  • Lozenges
  • Ginger essential oil in beverages
  • Ginger ale
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) - has a slew of benefits for EVERYONE (not just pregnant women), including nausea and heartburn relief. I used unpasteurized because it has the most benefit, but if the bacteria is concerning to you, just drink pasteurized while you're pregnant. This article on ACV by Healthline gives a good overview of this topic.
  • Seaband Mama - a wristband that uses pressure points to safely relieve nausea, helped me a bit
  • Emesis bags - keep one in your purse and your car for those "JIC" moments (see if your hospital will give you some, or grab some online)
  • Medication - there are a few Over-The-Counter medications that may help when all else fails.. Talk to your medical provider before starting ANY medication for nausea of pregnancy! I'll let your OB/GYN cover the prescription options.

For Pain

  • Pain relief - Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the safest pain reliever in pregnancy. No more ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, or Aleve for you!
  • Heat / cold packs for musculoskeletal pain

For Insomnia of Pregnancy

  • See my "Sleep Hygiene" page
  • Lavender essential oil (diffused, mixed with coconut oil and applied to wrists) was one of the most useful things for me!

For Heartburn

  • Avoid triggers (acidic food)
  • Avoid an empty stomach (another instance when small, frequent meals help)
  • Avoid laying flat
  • Tums if approved by your OB/GYN

Miscellanious Products

  • Body Pillows - this made a world of difference in nighttime sleep for me in the last trimester. I had this one by Snoogle, but honestly, it's huge, and if you're gonna go big, might as well get a full "circle" (instead of just half of one) like this one from PharMeDoc's OR get a smaller one like this one by Boppy.
  • Essential Oil Diffuser - if you don't have one yet but are suffering from "insomnia of pregnancy", think about getting an essential oil diffuser and then diffusing lavender and Roman chamomile. See my Essential Oils page for more details.
  • Bluetooth Water Bottles - yes, you read this right. Water is the key to everything, ESPECIALLY preventing shortness of breath and stretch marks in pregnancy. Oh, and for maintaining milk supply when nursing. SO, if you want to make sure you're taking in enough water, get a bluetooth water bottle. It sounds silly, but most people think they drink more than they do, or know they don't drink enough but can't remember to. The Hidrate Spark bottle not only keeps track of how much you're drinking, but prompts you to drink more, and also syncs with Apple iWatch so you can quickly see how much you've drank at a glance. It burns through batteries fairly quickly but they're not glitchy, are very accurate, have a slim profile, and are decently durable. Not to mention, you never thought you needed a loop on your water bottle till you've had this!
  • Duckymeter - I used this while I was pregnant to make sure my baths weren't too hot, and then for bathing baby
  • Fetal doppler - if you are reassured by hearing your baby's heartbeat, consider getting one of these. That being said, I recommend using these SPARINGLY, because while we think fetal ultrasound is safe, we really don't know for sure. But if you otherwise would be worried sick, it's good to have on hand. I used it maybe twice a month for my first and maybe twice total for my second. The one I have is no longer on sale, but this Pocket Fetal Doppler looks fine. They also make phone apps that do this. Keep in mind that you may not always be able to hear the heartbeat, even when baby is fine, due to positioning.

Hospital Bag

For Labor

  • Birth plan - by this, I mean more of a "pain relief plan". This can include hypnobirthing techniques, trigger point techniques, immersion in water, epidural, nitrous, medications, etc. I only recommend having this list to serve as a reminder rather than a strict plan
  • Ball
  • Diffuser and essential oils
  • Speaker
  • mp3 player
    • With downloaded/offline songs in case you don't have great service
    • On a device other than your phone so that if you end up needing your phone, music won't stop
  • Delivery gown - so much better than hospital gowns!
  • Slippers to throw away

For Baby

You probably don't NEED anything for baby. The hospital will likely provide you with diapers, diaper cream, shirts, hats, swaddles, and pacifiers. But they won't be cute, so you may want to bring a few things for the sake of capturing a few picture-perfect photos.

  • Swaddle blanket (again, see my Baby Registry page for recommendations)
  • Bow, headband, hat
  • "Going home outfit"
  • Honest diapers
  • 3-6 cute but functional outfits (you will be taking many pictures but also changing many diapers); I did long sleeve onesies with pants and socks;
    • Etsy

For Photo Ops

  • Announcement sign

For You

  • Clothes
    • Nursing pajamas (see above)
    • Pajama/gown set - not necessary at all, but it's a nice thing to pack to make you feel as cute as possible while being immediately post-partum, especially if there's a matching newborn outfit!
      • Angel Maternity 3-in-1 Birth Kit - I did not have this but it looks great; has a gown, robe, and matching swaddle
      • Everly Grey 5-Piece Set - I had this one, which included a tank top, pants, and robe; the material is soft and stretchy, if not the most durable quality. Made for cute pictures and easy overnight diaper changes/nursing sessions!
    • Leggings (such as the Blanqi or Kindred Bravely leggings
    • Comfortable, loose tops that are nursing friendly if you plan on nursing
    • Nursing or regular cardigan
    • Nursing cover, if you plan on nursing (as mentioned in my "Baby Registry" page, I recommend Udder Covers for nursing a newborn!)
  • Hygiene Products
    • Toiletries
    • Stretch mark cream - don't stop now! Keep applying as your abdomen shrinks
    • Make-up and/or hair styling products/tools? if you care about this for photos. I personally was bored for most of my hospital stay, plus otherwise felt not so attractive, so found it nice to spend a little time making myself look nice. I brought a curling iron and basic make-up.
    • PROBABLY DON'T need underwear, pads, diapers, towel, sheets, pacifier, tucks - check to see if your hospital provides this. Take advantage of what they give you for this stuff.
  • Food
    • Meals will be provided for you, but possibly not for your partner; I'd check this beforehand and bring some if necessary
    • Snacks - dry goods, assuming there is no fridge in your room (I'd be impressed if there was)
    • Coffee creamer (if you are specific about the kind you drink)
    • Champagne or a bottle of wine to celebrate!
  • Entertainment
    • Kindle - the only entertainment I needed for both of my deliveries
    • Tablet - for extra entertainment or potentially as a music or TV streaming device
    • Digital streaming device - if you think you'll want to watch TV during the 2-3 days you'll be in the hospital, I'd ask if the hospital's TVs have HDMI, and if so, consider bringing a Roku, Amazon Firestick, AppleTV, or Chromecast. I think we watched TV one night after my first delivery but otherwise didn't, so I didn't both bringing one of these for my second.
    • Headphones - in case you need a mental escape
    • And all chargers, of course!
  • Sleep
    • Eye mask - if you are sensitive to light (you may want a nap, or block out lights during the night especially with nurses coming in and out)
    • Sound machine (helps you and baby, who is used to the loud sound of the womb!). See my Baby Registry page on my recommendations on which one!
  • Bedding - they will provide bedding for you, but possibly not for your partner, and they won't be as comfortable as your own
    • Pillow(s)
    • Blanket(s)


  • Gift from/for older sibling "from" baby (baby doll, new stuffed animal, book about being a sibling)
  • Gift for nursing staff (coffee, donuts, snacks, cookies, candles, bath bombs, thank you card, etc)