Gardening during pregnancy can be a great way to stay active whilst getting some of that much needed fresh air and sunshine. Oh, and of course, a colourful garden is a sure-fire way to cheer you up each day!
But there are often concerns about gardening during pregnancy, stemming from stories about toxoplasmosis, harmful insecticides and the dangers of exercise whilst pregnant.
A lot of what you read about the dangers of gardening during pregnancy is untrue, but there are definitely a few things to watch out for so you and baby can stay safe.
With a little extra care and attention though, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be out enjoying your garden this summer. And what better time to get out there than this Bank Holiday weekend -which just so happens to coincide with the UK’s National Gardening Week!
The joys of gardening during pregnancy
Gardening whilst pregnant is a really enjoyable way to get in that all-important exercise. In fact, working in a garden can get all your major muscle groups working in an efficient and safe way.
Keeping fit will help you manage extra weight gain, provide you with additional strength during labour and make it easier to get back into shape after your baby is born. For some top tips on keeping fit safely in pregnancy, why not check out our blog about pregnancy fitness.
And gardening doesn’t just help you to keep physically fit – any form of exercise improves the cognitive function in your brain, so guess what, gardening your way through pregnancy could help your brain function too.
Why else is gardening outdoors so good for you during pregnancy?
Well for a start the sun gives us the vital nutrient Vitamin D, which is essential for strengthening your bones and your immune system. Vitamin D is also key for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system and whilst the NHS suggests you take vitamin D supplements in pregnancy (especially now, after so many of us have been locked up for months on end) there’s nothing like the real thing!
Gardening during pregnancy can also be an amazing mood booster, so if you’re feeling a bit run down, stressed or struggling with mood swings, getting out amongst your favourite flowers and plants can really help.
Taking a quiet moment in the garden, to work peacefully with nature can be a total mood booster, and it can be a very calming therapeutic experience too. Even just pottering around to water the garden every other day gives you a vital 5 minutes of peace, dedicating your time to something meaningful and relaxing.
Not to mention the amazing boost and sense of accomplishment you will feel as you watch your plant babies grow and bloom!
And if you’re a mum already, why not try gardening with your kids. It provides a great opportunity to spend some quality time with them and you might just introduce them to a passion they carry on with for the rest of their lives.
Curating and caring for your own garden can give you a sense of empowerment and control.
Even if you live in a big city, a little green space to relax in (a corner full of plants and window boxes if you don’t have a garden) can really make all the difference to your day.
If you have a community garden or allotment taking up more gardening is also an amazing opportunity to network with your neighbours, have some conversations with locals and just get out of the house. You never know your future babysitter might be amongst them!
What are the dangers of gardening and pregnancy?
So, let’s move onto the potential risks of gardening during pregnancy.
Often the biggest concern for mothers-to-be when they want to get out in the garden is the fear of Toxoplasmosis, or exposure to chemicals. Toxoplasmosis is a serious disease organism that causes flu-like symptoms and can cause mental disabilities or blindness in unborn babies.
The issue arises around gardening because toxoplasmosis is often spread in cat faeces, particularly that of outdoor cats that catch and eat rodents, and cat faeces is often in the soil in our gardens. This is obviously a serious fear, but there are precautions you can take to avoid the risk.
(note: if you have contracted toxoplasmosis in the past, you will have immunity now so do not need to worry about this, but you really don’t want to contract it for the first-time during pregnancy!)
As for concerns about chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides, these can also pose a risk in pregnancy as significant exposure can impact your baby’s development or cause miscarriage.
This is more dangerous if you work in garden centres, farms, or for landscapers or lawn/pest service providers – but it’s worth avoiding them in your garden right now.
How to keep safe whilst gardening during pregnancy?
You definitely don’t need to stop gardening during pregnancy. Here are some tips to avoid any risk.
- stay indoors if chemicals are being sprayed, wait for them to dry before coming out, and try to avoid the use of chemicals as much as possible.
- wear long gloves, long sleeves, closed -toe shoes and long trousers to avoid exposure to chemicals or contaminated soil.
- wash any garden produce before eating it, and rinse off flowers you cut from your garden before bringing indoors.
- leave heavy work like lifting or digging to someone else.
- Be sure to wear your SPF and a sun hat in the heat and drink plenty of water during the day. (sun damage should always be avoided, but especially during pregnancy when melasma can strike).
- try to avoid direct contact with the soil and wash your hands and arms well after gardening.
- avoid touching your face – especially with dirty gloves.
- keep cats away from your garden as much as possible. There are a few ways to try to deter local cats – one odd way is to plant chopsticks into the soil every 8 inches or so – they aren’t sharp enough to hurt a cat but can keep them from lounging about. There are also some plants that cats apparently don’t like the smell of: Lavender, Absinthe, Geranium and Lemon Thyme to name a few. Cats also do not like the smell of citrus so you could try scattering some citrus peels in the garden too.
- finally remember to take it easy! You are pregnant after all! Look after your posture by using long handled tools, switch up the tasks you do to avoid overuse of the same muscles, avoid heavy work and be sure to do some gentle stretches to warm up and cool down.
What can I plant at the moment?
To make the most of your gardening during pregnancy we’ve assembled a few of the best plants to be growing right now.
Spring can be a difficult season in the garden with April showers, sunny spells and our unpredictable British temperatures.
It’s a good idea to give new plants some protective shade for any rough winds or blazing sun during this season and make sure they’re well-watered too.
If you have an allotment or vegetable patch full of edible crops, now is the time to harvest your sprouting broccoli, cabbage, spinach, rhubarb, spring onions and any early sown lettuce.
And you can now start to plant French beans, runner beans, sweet corn, courgette or squashes to be planted out in about a month’s time.
If your space is limited to a window box you can still grow some tasty crops, such as strawberries or chilli’s, this season. Just be sure to mix some slow-release fertilizer into your compost, as plants in a small space are likely to use up the limited nutrients in there very quickly.
Now is also a great time to pot your herb garden. Herbs that grow happily indoors include thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, parsley and basil.
They all grow best with full sunlight and well-drained, moisture-retentive soil.
If your garden space is very shady try ivy, hart’s tongue ferns or cyclamens.
If you’re just not in the mood, or don’t have time, to work out which plants you want in your garden – why not try a plant subscription company – that way you’ll get regular surprises, and your garden will always be colourful and fresh.
There are loads to choose from, but we like Lazy Flora – whose founder Claire is all about making beauty and nature more accessible. We’re offering a free Outdoor Plant Box, worth £80, from Lazy Flora in our giveaway this week. Why not enter here
Gardening and Pregnancy
Now that you know the dangers of gardening during pregnancy you can take all the necessary precautions to feel totally confident when you are out in the garden.
Enjoy every precious moment out there and remember it’s not just you who will benefit from gardening – baby will too!