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15 Ways to Have a Great Pregnancy

1. Edit your "to do" list.

The often overwhelming pressure to manage pregnancy and do it right  -- eat well, exercise, kick butt at work, be attentive to your family and friends  -- can wreak havoc on your emotions, says Diane Sanford, Ph.D., president of the Women's Healthcare Partnership in St. Louis. Sanford advises letting go of everything on your to-do list that isn't urgent: "Choose your top priority. Get that done, then put the list away for the day."

2. Spread the joy.

The more loved ones involved in your pregnancy, the more rewarding it will be, says Shari E. Brasner, M.D., the New York City author of Advice from a Pregnant Obstetrician: An Insider's Guide. "Have your partner, or someone else who's close to you, come to doctor visits with you. A lot of women now come in with their mothers." If your partner or mother is away, don't feel shy about bringing anyone else who helps you feel at ease, like a sister or an old friend. Creating a welcoming atmosphere now, and letting the important people in your life enjoy the anticipation too, will form the support structure that will get you through the rougher moments of parenting to come.

3. Take pictures.

Though your pregnancy may feel eternal, in the scheme of things, it lasts a relatively short time. Memories of it will fade fast, eclipsed by the drama of childbirth and intensity of motherhood. Even if you don't think you'll be interested in revisiting your pregnancy in photos, trust us, your kids will. Have your partner document each month's changes to your body with a photo, taken in the same location, wearing something that shows your shape, like a unitard. You'll delight your kids, their kids, and even yourself. And it's nice to have a friend snap a few candids of you and your partner together now and then so that your children can see how much you've always loved each other  -- and them  -- before they were even born. 

4. Wear a sexy bra...

Since you now have a dream bustline, have some fun, girl! Try something lacy, or if you want an underwire for an extra boost, lingerie shops like Victoria's Secret, and some department stores, now carry sexy push-up styles in sizes up to a DD cup.

5. ....and a soothing one.

During pregnancy, breasts can feel uncomfortable if unsupported, even while you sleep. Try a stretchy pull-on bra, or even a long tank with a built-in support shelf, for overnight relief.

6. Resist radical haircuts.

"I had my shoulder-length hair cut very short while pregnant and I looked like I'd gained fifteen pounds in five minutes," says Kathy Suder, a mother of three in Fort Worth, TX. "Nature is already doing this makeover on you  -- you don't need to add to the changes." Put the word out to your friends, husband, family, and hairstylist to talk you out of any over-the-top changes that you demand in a moment of hormonally induced dissatisfaction with your looks. (Small alterations, however, are great for a little lift.)

7. Watch your back.

It's time to gear up  -- and we're not talking about strollers and pacifiers. You need tools to reduce pregnancy's physical toll on your back:

A footstool, placed wherever you spend a lot of time sitting, to ease the stress on your hip joints and lower back. Choose one that's five to ten inches high (or whatever is comfortable, depending on the height of your chair).

A body pillow, to make side sleeping more comfortable. Experts advise sleeping on your left side while pregnant to increase blood flow to the baby (sooner or later, side sleeping becomes the only comfortable way to rest anyway). Once you've tried the pillow, you won't be able to live without it. You can order a variety of styles online, or a look for specially-designed maternity models.

A tennis ball or two for a do-it-yourself back massage, recommended by Nyack, NY-based naturopathic physician and massage therapist Isadora Guggenheim: Put two or three tennis balls in a long sock, then sit in a hard-backed chair. Place the sock comfortably (in a vertical or horizontal position) behind you, so that when you wiggle your back, the balls massage tense areas.

8. Exercise now.

"Pregnancy is a perfect time to work out," says Julie Tupler, R.N., founder of Maternal Fitness, a New York City-based company that teaches workshops on exercise to help your body through the trials of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. "Abdominals stretch out and weaken during pregnancy, so it's important to strengthen your abs to help push the baby out, prevent back problems, and aid in your body's recovery from childbirth. Also, exercising helps keep your energy up and stress down." Since boosting your fitness will help you bounce back into shape more quickly following delivery, don't be afraid to be active while pregnant, but do check with your doctor before embarking on a regular regimen.

Seek out a specialized pregnancy-fitness class, book, or video; there are right and wrong ways to exercise during this time. Check out Tupler's book or video set, both under the title Maternal Fitness: Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy, an Easier Labor, and a Quick Recovery.

9. Inhale the relaxation.

Aromatherapy gets a bad rap, but experts know that aromas stimulate the olfactory nerves, which in turn activate the emotional center in the brain. Since soothing, relaxing scents are what you need right now, look for lavender or vanilla candles, available at almost any drug- or department store.

10. Keep your style.

If bootleg pants and body-skimming jackets are your signature look, pregnancy doesn’t have to change that, says Jody Kozlow Gardner, cofounder of the Belly Basics maternity line and coauthor of Pregnancy Chic. Number-one pregnancy-fashion advice: Don't try to hide the fact that you're pregnant. It's impossible. And  anyway, you can show off your new shape in style these days, since more and more retailers now ofer reasonably priced but fashion-forward maternity wear. Find great maternity style from online retailers like OldNavy.com and Gap.com, as well as at boutique-style stores like A Pea in the Pod.

11. Sip a soothing tea.

A tea ritual can be a great way to relax: Brew up a decaf version of your favorite, add a bit of honey and lemon, sit back, sip, and clear your mind.

Just remember that many herbs are not safe during pregnancy, so check with your doctor before trying any herbal teas. Sticking with a flavored black or green tea that's been decaffeinated is your best bet.

12. Fake a glow.

The fabled glow of pregnancy is sometimes just that, a myth. For some women, manufacturing a baby doesn’t exactly add up to a radiant look, thanks to breakouts and blotchiness, fatigue, nausea, and bloating. So go ahead and fake it with Physician’s Formula Glow-Boosting Loose Bronzing Veil or one of Revlon's Colorstay lotions, makeup sticks, or powders.

13. Baby your feet.

They'll probably be out of view before long, but your feet are rarely out of mind when you're pregnant. Prop ‘em up whenever possible and heed these tips:

Wear shoes with a low, chunky heel, between one and two inches high; they're more comfortable than flats.

Look for styles with thick soles (they keep you more stable and are more comfortable for walking) and straps or laces that you can loosen as your feet expand. Naturalizer, Aerosoles, and Easy Spirit carry a variety of comfortable, supportive, and stylish shoes.

Treat feet at the end of the day to a nice soak and a refreshing lotion. Fill up the tub or a basin with Earth Angel Mama Baby Happy Feet, made especially for pregnant peds, or slather on yummy-smelling Weleda Foot Balm.

Splurge on a salon pedicure. Your feet will thank you, and you'll revel in pure rest and relaxation.

14. Write to your baby.

Connect with your child before birth by writing her a letter. It can be long or short, goofy or profound, a poem, a drawing. Whatever form your communication takes, it will be a treasure for your child later in life. "I wrote to each of my three kids," says Suder. "I expressed how I felt as they were growing inside me and my dreams for them and myself as a mom. I'll give them each their letter when they turn sixteen."

15. Forget about it.

Besides eating right and getting proper prenatal care, one of the healthiest things you can do while pregnant is to forget that you're pregnant. Some tactics:

Escape to another time and place. A richly detailed novel set in another era  -- try Emma or Gone With the Wind  -- is what you're after here.

Float. Being in water is true liberation during pregnancy. You feel virtually weightless, your legs and feet free from their supporting role. Swim, play, give in. (But not in a hot tub; becoming overheated can be dangerous to your baby.)

Laugh. Rent Knocked Up. Go to a comedy club and live it up on laughs and soda. Watch Brady Bunch reruns on Nick at Nite. Take regular breaks from the intensity and swirl of emotions of pregnancy, and you'll feel the excitement and joy of it even more.

Kimberly Bonnell is a freelance writer.

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