The garden is work in any season of life, but especially when you’re pregnant. As I’m going through my third pregnancy in my current garden, I’ve a decent amount of perspective on the subject. It can be tempting to just let things go for the growing year, but I’ve found that gardening can be a welcome distraction to all the changes pulling at you, even an indulgence. In quieter moments, observing the patterns of growth and the life cycles in the garden gives me a greater appreciation of the pregnancy process itself. For the most part, it keeps me on top of things and makes the time go by faster.
Granted, it’s hard to plan for what you will be able to do or not do in the garden as every pregnancy is different, but here’s some advice and tips to make gardening more manageable:
- Make sure you are updated on your tetanus and hepatitis shots. You should be doing this whether you are pregnant or not.
- Avoid all pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Science isn’t clear about what level of exposure to these chemicals can be detrimental to you or your fetus, so why risk it? If you really want something sprayed, ask someone else to do it for you.
- Always wear sunscreen and a hat outside. Hormonal changes can create dark patches on your face that are only made worse by the sun. Nothing makes you feel worse if you’re already struggling with your body image than having your face turn blotchy.
- Watch out for uneven ground, wobbly stepping stones, or other hazards in your garden. Your balance is off-kilter when you are expecting and you are more susceptible to falls. That being said, if you are pregnant during the winter months in a place where it freezes, never leave the house, even just to go to the mailbox, without good treads on your shoes. I’d go further and recommend that you forsake fashion altogether and always wear treads for ice like Yaktrax or some similar knock-off over your soles. (Sadly, a neighbor of mine lost a child at 38 weeks from slipping on a patch of ice in her driveway.)
- If you are feeling good and progressing well, there’s no reason to shy away from major landscaping projects. Hauling flagstone may not be a good idea, but I’ve torn out mature shrubs and hauled wheelbarrow loads of compost with no complications. It can be fantastic exercise and a good outlet for stress.Still, avoid pushing yourself too hard. You need to drink plenty of water, especially in summer. If you suddenly feel tired while working, take a break for an hour or so. Be careful when you are doing any lifting or pulling; your abdominal muscles are literally pulled apart by the growth of the baby and your back is also under a lot of strain. Simply, you don’t have the same core strength you used to. Doing something as innocuous as pulling a stubborn weed or lifting a shovelful of dirt can result in a serious muscle injury. If you are lifting or pulling something and feel sudden pain, stop. If you begin to experience abdominal cramping or dizziness, lay down. Your body is warning you that you are doing too much.
- Plan out how you are going to take care of the garden at least a season in advance. I’ve been cutting back my borders this fall when I would usually leave them standing over winter as I know I won’t have the time or energy to clean them up come spring. You should also consider asking for help or hiring someone, especially during spring and fall as you may not be up to all the work these seasons require. Don’t be afraid or feel too guilty to ask for help; people have a hard time saying no to a pregnant woman. Some are even eager to be involved, so take advantage of their willingness to help you.
- Grow your own! The nutrients in homegrown produce will never have a greater benefit.
Addendum: Find a good pair of pants to garden in. Not something with a skinny elastic panel, but something with coverage. When you are bending over and crouching so often, you will find that with no waist to keep them up, most pants slip down frequently, or dig into your belly and are very uncomfortable. Nothing slows down a day of work like having to pull your pants up every 2 minutes. I’ve found that pants that have “full panels” or an elastic portion that goes up above your navel work best. You could buy a pair of overalls, but personally I like to avoid the farmer analogy as much as possible.