Gardening while pregnant
It’s spring 2020. Unless you were living in a box or on another planet, then you’ll remember the spring for the pandemic, the closures and the craziness that happened.
We’ve always grown a garden, but this was the first year that I had considered not growing a garden. We were in the middle of adding onto our house and renovating the inside. Plus, I was pregnant and due in July. It just seemed like having a garden was at the bottom of the priority list.
Until you couldn’t find basic groceries anyways.
So, I needed to learn how to navigate growing one of the largest gardens we’ve grown, with minimal time and safely while I was pregnant.
This wasn’t my first pregnancy, but my third. While I had grown a garden while I was pregnant with my previous two children, I wasn’t nearly as far along. This pregnancy had also been tricky, so I really wanted to make sure that I was doing everything that I could to make sure that I was gardening safely.
One of the safest ways that you can still garden during pregnancy is to grow your plants in containers. You can eliminate many of the reasons you might struggle to get your garden going this year if you plant your plants in containers. Learn everything that you need to know about growing vegetables in containers in my eBook Think ‘Inside’ the Box. Grab a copy of yours now!
Gardening Safe While Pregnant
When you think about gardening and being pregnant, you might think that they don’t really go hand in hand. And to be honest, gardening while you’re pregnant can be downright tough or seem impossible.
And, if you don’t go about it the right way, gardening while you’re pregnant can actually be dangerous. I’m not just talking about the occasional sore back from planting rows while you’re heavily pregnant either. You can cause yourself some serious damage if you’re not careful.
Is it safe to garden when pregnant?
With all of that being said, it’s very possible to garden both safely and comfortably while you’re pregnant. Well, as comfortable as you can be while you’re toting around a growing human anyways.
In order to appreciate how you can garden safely, let’s look at the risks associated with gardening while you’re pregnant.
Risks of gardening while pregnant:
- Chemical exposure
- Sunlight and overheating
These are the three risks that you should be aware of if you plan on gardening while you’re expecting.
Chemical exposure is a common concern that gardeners have under normal circumstances. You probably heard about the huge lawsuit against the producers of Round-Up. The lawsuit claims that people exposed to the chemical were at risk for developing cancer.
This isn’t a new news story either. This is something that has happened numerous times in the past, which has led many people to wonder about the safety of using chemicals like Round-Up. And, if you’re pregnant, this worry is probably even more on your mind as you try to tackle garden weeds and pests.
It’s possible to garden without using harsh chemicals. You can practice gardening organically, which is much safer.
However, organic gardening is much more labor-intensive (why is part of why organic produce often comes with a higher price tag), so you may not be interested in organic gardening. In order to reduce your exposure to chemicals, wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and a mask if you can when you’re spraying. Or, get a family member to spray for you.
A pregnant body is a hot body under the best of circumstances. The increased metabolism and other processes will have your body working overtime. Your body will be easier to overheat because of it.
To avoid overheating, take a large water bottle out to the garden with you and drink, even if you don’t feel thirsty. You are actually already dehydrated when you start to feel thirsty, so stay ahead of dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
During pregnancy, your skin is also more sensitive to sunlight, which makes it easier for you to sunburn. I’ll be the first to admit to this! I don’t usually burn when I’m out in the sun for long periods of time and if I do, it’s only a slight pink for a day before tanning. I’ve always taken that for granted.
My skin during my last pregnancy was soooo sensitive to sunlight. I could be in the sun for half an hour and have pretty nasty sunburns. A couple of times I even got a touch of sun poisoning where the sunburn actually turned into a purplish bruise. Not fun.
So, be sure that you’re wearing sunscreen. You can also cover your skin up with long sleeves and long pants. If you choose to wear long sleeves and pants, look for cotton blends or materials that are designed to wick moisture away to help keep you from overheating.
Another good idea is to invest in a sturdy lawn chair and park it by your garden, preferably in the shade, while you’re pregnant. If you start to feel hot, sit down and take a break.
Can you get toxoplasmosis from gardening?
I mentioned toxoplasmosis as a potential risk that you need to be aware of while gardening. Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is caused by a microscopic parasite. The culprit, Toxoplasma gondii, is usually found in cats. It can affect humans and can cause serious problems for pregnant women, including damage to the baby’s developing organs, miscarriage and stillbirth.
You may have heard that pregnant women shouldn’t clean litter boxes while they are pregnant. Toxoplasmosis is the reason behind that. The parasite can live in cat feces and can get into the dust in the cat litter. When you clean the litter box, some of the dust, and parasites, get into the air and you could breathe it in.
That’s all fine, but you’re probably wondering what this has to do with gardening. I mean, nobody keeps their cat’s litter box in the garden, so what gives?
Cats that are outside, including strays, may find your garden soil to be the perfect outdoor litter box. If you’ve ever had cats and potted plants in the same space, you may have experienced this as some point.
Cats love to use potting soil as litter boxes. Even if you don’t have cats, there’s a chance that stray cats may find your garden and use it. Always be careful when you’re working in the soil just in case there is toxoplasmosis present in the soil.
It’s a good idea to moisten your garden soil before planting or working it to help reduce the amount of dust that you can stir up. Wearing gloves and washing your hands after working in the garden will help prevent toxoplasmosis.
How to garden during pregnancy and not die in the process
Now that you know some of the major risks of gardening during pregnancy, let’s talk about how to garden while you’re pregnant and not want to die… or kill someone else… like your lovely spouse that isn’t dealing with all of the ‘comforts’ of pregnancy. 🙂
Planting while pregnant
Ok, I’m going to get real with you here. Planting a garden while you’re pregnant is not on my list of fun things to do. All of the kneeling, bending, twisting, crawling and other nonsense that you go through when you’re planting a large vegetable garden is either extremely uncomfortable or impossible when you’re pregnant.
Or at least it was for me. So, I had to get creative if I wanted to get my garden planted out while I was pregnant.
Ask for help
Usually I plant the majority of the garden myself. The kids will help some, but to be honest, they can get tired of it pretty quickly. The same thing goes for my husband. Especially when it comes to planting seeds. It seems like everyone hates planting seeds so that usually falls on me.
This is my third garden to plant out while I was pregnant. I learned quickly that if the garden was going to get planted at all, I’d need some serious help. I tried to scoot around on my butt and get stuff planted but that didn’t work well.
So, I enlisted the help of the whole family. We spent two whole days getting the garden bed ready, laying down our black plastic mulch, getting plants in the ground and then planting seeds. Considering that it took four of us two days to plant, I’d probably still be trying to plant our garden if it had just been me planting it out.
You need a seeder
For years I’ve avoided buying a garden seeder. I know they aren’t super expensive, but $100 (which is about how much they run) seemed like a lot to pay for something that would just drop the seeds into the soil for me. I mean, I could walk over the rows and drop seeds into them for free.
This last pregnancy forced my hand. I finally broke down and got a seeder.
I now know why so many older (and probably smarter!) gardeners already had one!
Now that I have one, I don’t know how I managed to plant our garden out for YEARS without one. I feel like I’ve wasted weeks of my life planting seeds by hand. Seriously. A seeder is a game-changer.
If your soil is soft, you simply fill the hopper up with the seeds you want to plant. The seeder cuts into the soft soil, puts your seeds into the row and then covers the row over with dirt behind it. It even makes sure that the seeds are spaced out properly for the type of crop you are planting.
And the best part is that you’re doing all of these steps at once without bending over. I was able to plant out two types of corn, spaghetti squash, radishes, parsnips, sunflowers and two types of pumpkins in less than an hour.
If you’re trying to garden and you’re pregnant, I’m telling you. Don’t plant seeds without a seeder. And probably don’t plant seeds without a seeder even if you’re not pregnant. Your back will thank me.
Things to Keep in Mind while Gardening during Pregnancy
There are some other small changes that you can make to how you normally garden in order to keep yourself safe and comfortable while you’re expecting and gardening. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks:
Integrated pest management
Integrated pest management, or IPM, is a method of controlling pests and reducing the amount of chemicals that you use to control the pests.
Pregnancy is a perfect time to start trying to use IPM in your garden. It may sound like a complicated process, but it’s not. IPM aims to control pest populations naturally before you use chemicals as a last resort.
Physically removing pests, using planting techniques, like crop rotation and companion planting, along with other control methods like using predatory nematodes will help control problematic insects without chemicals
You’ll want to dress comfortably during pregnancy, more so than probably any other time. This goes for when you’re out in the garden also.
Wear light colored clothes that are either cotton or wicking materials. The lighter colors won’t absorb as much sunlight and heat as darker colors.
It may seem counter-productive to wear long sleeves while you’re trying to stay cool but they can help you to feel cooler. Thin cotton shirts will absorb your sweat and will help you to feel and enjoy the slightest breeze. There’s a reason you see people in the middle of the summer with long sleeves on!
Drinking plenty of water is one of the best things that you can do for your pregnant body, especially when you’re working outside in the garden.
Any time that you head out to the garden, be sure that you grab a water bottle and carry it with you. Drink water even when you don’t feel thirsty. Like I mentioned above, you’re already slightly dehydrated once you feel thirsty.
Good gardening tools can make gardening so much easier for you. I told you that a seeder was a life-changer for me. I was able to plant about half of my garden out in seeds, very comfortably and quickly, despite the fact that I was 7 months pregnant.
A seeder isn’t the only tool that will help make gardening easier though.
These tools can make a huge difference in how easy it is for you to get your gardening done:
yard cart or wagon– Perfect for toting your tools, plants and soil around without making a bunch of trips back and forth.
kneeling pad– It won’t help your achy back when you’re bending over in the garden, but it will make getting up much easier.
gardening kneeler– This small kneeling bench even has pouches on the sides to hold your tools right where you need them.
gardening belt– It’s hard enough to move around in the garden while you are pregnant, and it’s even harder to move around with a bunch of tools. A gardening belt will keep all of your tools right there on you so that all you have to worry about it moving yourself around.
It’s never a good idea to hunch over in the garden, but it’s definitely not a good idea to do while you’re pregnant. Your already sore back will get tired more quickly.
Make sure that when you’re bending and crouching in the garden that you’re bending with your knees and not your lower back. Try to keep your back straight and don’t crouch over.
Here are some basic tips for good posture in the garden.
This is key! Don’t push yourself past your limit in the garden. If you’re like me, I know you’ll feel like you just need to get done so that you can move on to the next task. Give yourself some grace here.
You’re already working hard making a new human! If it takes you a week to plant your garden instead of one day, who cares? Take breaks as you need them, and probably more often than you think you need them.
If you over work your body it will only become that much harder to get your garden planted the next day. Let your garden be your Rome while you’re pregnant and work on it brick by brick, taking plenty of breaks in between.
There is always the possibility of getting bacteria on your hands from the soil or even your plants. Toxoplasmosis is a major concern, especially if cats have been using your soft garden soil like a litter box.
Healthy soil has bacteria in it naturally. Gloves will help to keep that bacteria from getting into your body. This is especially true if you add manure to your garden.
You can avoid getting annoying splinters and thorns in your hands too with gloves. Because who needs another reason to be uncomfortable while they’re pregnant? No one!
Make sure that you wash all of your produce off before you eat it, especially if you’ve treated it with any kind of chemicals or pesticides. You don’t want these in your body anyways and you definitely don’t want your little peanut being exposed to them.
The video below has some great tips for gardening safety. It might be a little hard to understand the guy’s accent but he has some great gardening safety advice:
You might also be interested in:
Planting a Fall Garden
Growing Vegetables in Containers
How to Add Calcium to Your Garden Soil
What Kind of Garden Soil Do You Have?
Adding Manure to Your Soil
How do you handle gardening when you’re pregnant? Share your tips and tricks below to help a fellow mama out!
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