Did you get outside today?
Spending time in greenspace while pregnant may improve your mental health and attention-span and promote healthy fetal growth.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the benefits of nature on pregnancy and 10 ways you can get your dose of the outdoors.
5 Ways Nature Benefits Pregnancy
It might be surprising that nature can benefit pregnancy. But the idea isn’t new to those in Korea.
A Korean forest therapy program called Forest “TaeGyo” educates pregnant women. It’s believed that exposure to greenness provides physical and psychological benefits. The program includes a variety of outdoor activities like:
- Arts and crafts
- Forest concert
- Wind shower
- Childbirth education
Research suggests that the program positively impacts women’s emotional stability and maternal identity.
To learn more about the benefits of nature on pregnancy, keep reading.
May Improve Mental Health
Getting outdoors can improve your mental health, making you less likely to experience depression and anxiety. As you might know, pregnancy and anxiety can go hand-in-hand. With the stresses of pregnancy and motherhood piling up, you could use some stress relief.
It’s well-established that nature can improve mood, lower stress, and reduce the risk of psychiatric disorders.
In a UK study of over 7,500 pregnant women, those living in the greenest spaces were less likely to report depressive symptoms. Authors say that while the benefits of exercise help explain the mood-enhancing benefits, it’s only responsible for a small portion of the positive effects.
It’s not clear what about nature is specifically responsible for the benefits on depression. One study suggests that the fragrances from trees stimulate nerves that help reduce depression and anxiety.
May Improve Birth Outcomes
Spending time in greenspace promotes healthy fetal growth.
A European study of more than 69,000 newborns looked at the impacts of greenspace. Researchers found that babies who lived within 500m of a greenspace had increased birth weight and lower odds of being small for gestational age. Living further away from a greenspace was associated with adverse outcomes, like low birth weight and small for gestational age.
A 2020 review of 89 studies found that the greenness of an environment was associated with a significant decrease in poor pregnancy outcomes, including:
- Low birth weight
- Small for gestational age
- Preterm delivery
The results were impactful enough for authors to recommend more greenspaces in cities as a public health measure.
More recently, a 2022 study found that greenspace exposure while pregnant may have a positive effect on the baby’s fat levels in cord blood. High levels of some fats in cord blood have been associated with an increased risk of developing health problems later in life (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc.). High levels have also been associated with low birth weight, preterm birth, and small for gestational age. If getting outside helps regulate fat levels, it’s just another way nature may improve your baby’s health.
May Improve Attention
Struggling with pregnancy brain? You might have noticed it’s getting harder to focus and complete tasks. Not only does that make it harder to work, but it also makes it more difficult to prepare for a baby!
Pregnancy brain is real and nature can help you manage it, according to research. A 2003 study had women in their third trimester spend 120 minutes in nature weekly. Compared to the women who didn’t spend time in nature, those that did made significantly fewer errors on a test. The authors concluded that nature can improve concentration during a time where women have limited time and attention.
Extra Vitamin D
Although you’re probably taking Vitamin D in your prenatal vitamin, it doesn’t hurt to get a little extra by going outside. In fact, some research suggests extra vitamin D during pregnancy might increase your chances of having a vaginal birth. This might be helpful to those who are afraid or worried about having a caesarian operation.
While supplementation is best, most research suggests about 5-10 minutes of sun exposure 2-3 times a week can help improve vitamin D levels, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
May Lower Post-Partum Depression
Even after pregnancy, nature may still play a role in your mood.
A 2023 study found an association between greenspace and a lower risk of post-partum depression. How could being outside lower post-partum depression? Authors say one reason could be that women get exercise when they’re outside—and physical activity is known to have several mood-boosting benefits.
What About Air Pollution?
If being in nature is healthy for our pregnant bodies and minds, what about air pollution? Surprisingly, several studies have shown that air pollution doesn’t impact the benefits nature imparts.
10 Fun Ways to Get Out in Nature
Now that we’ve shown how nature can benefit your pregnancy, let’s dive into a few fun ways you can get outdoors!
The simplest way to get outdoors is to take a short walk. If you can, choose an area with a lot of greenspace and trees, like a local park or waterfront.
Visiting New Parks
Make it a habit to visit different parks in your area. For example, a short car drive to a different part of town can give you more options.
Get a dose of sunshine while eating a meal outdoors. Pack a lunch or dinner, lay out a blanket and enjoy the nature. Here’s a few other ideas:
- Some restaurants offer “picnic packages” that you can buy instead of preparing a meal. Check your local establishments.
- Consider having a picnic bunch. For ideas, read: 40 Recipes for a Perfect Brunch Picnic.
- Enjoy a sunset picnic. Make it a date night by choosing a location with beautiful views of the sunset.
Bring a novel to a park bench or beach and read a few chapters. To make it a habit, consider starting an outdoor book club with friends.
Find a spot under a tree and meditate. If the park is busy, consider putting in earphones and using a guided meditation. Consider using this First Trimester Guided Meditation on YouTube.
Listening to Nature
If you don’t like meditating, consider finding a spot outdoors and having a mindful moment. Simply turn your attention to the sounds of nature: The birds chirping, crickets, the wind blowing in the trees, etc. Every time your thoughts drift, bring your attention back to the sounds around you.
Bird watching is a popular hobby for nature lovers. Invest in a pair of binoculars and a field guide to help you identify the birds you see. To learn more, read this article on Birding for beginners: What you need and need to know.
Outdoor Arts and Crafts
Go to your local park and create or collect items for a craft. For example, you could create a twig picture frame for your sonogram photo. You could also create a nature mobile as wall décor for your nursery.
Use Your Baby Doppler Outdoors
Have a fetal doppler session in the park! A fetal doppler is a device that detects your baby’s heartbeat while she’s in the womb. The heartbeat is amplified through speakers, providing a bonding experience for you and your partner.
To use your fetal doppler, find a quiet park and lay out a blanket and some pillows. Get comfortable and pull out your device and ultrasound gel. Listen to your baby’s heartbeat while enjoying the outdoors.
P.S. Make sure to pack some paper towels for cleanup!
If you have a backyard, start a garden. Gardening is a hobby that requires you to get outdoors frequently so you’ll soak in all the benefits regularly.
Never gardened before? Start small with low-effort plants. Find ideas by reading 15 Easy Plants New Gardeners Should Grow.
Those without a backyard may be interested in joining a community garden, which allows you to garden with others in a shared space. To find one, do an online search for “community gardens + your city.”
Sun Safety Tips for Pregnancy
As the saying goes: Everything in moderation. Although nature has positive effects on pregnancy, there are some downsides, like sun damage and dehydration.
Here are a few tips to stay safe while outdoors:
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it frequently
- Wear a large, floppy hat and sunglasses
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Avoid going out when the sun is the hottest
- Wear loose, light fabric, preferably clothing that covers and protects the skin
Summary: Nature Benefits on Pregnancy
Getting outside may decrease stress and depression and improve your attention span. Perhaps most surprisingly, nature has also been linked to better birth outcomes, like higher birth weight and lower chances of preterm birth. While sunshine is good for pregnancy, too much will have negative effects, so keep sun safety tips in mind!
Do You Have a Fetal Doppler Yet?
Fetal dopplers are handheld devices that amplify your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still in the womb! Families say it provides another layer of reassurance and bonding.