20 Pregnancy Essentials (Updated!)

by Dr. Punita Rice Life

Pregnancy Essentials 2018

ICYMI, we’re expecting our second baby this summer! I’m in my second trimester (about 4.5 months pregnant) now, and there are definitely some pregnancy essentials must-haves that I’ve needed the past few months that I’d like to share here in case it benefits anyone else. In this post, I’m also including links to some of the aforementioned essentials (they’re affiliate links, which means if you find something useful here and end up buying it, the website will get a kickback; you wouldn’t pay anything more, but you would be supporting the maintenance of  this website — so thank you so much if you use any of these links! You can read more about that here if you’d like.). BUT, to make life easier, I’m including a QUICK LIST right here at the beginning of this post, if you don’t have the time (or the patience, sigh) to read through this full post. So, here are my top 10 recommended pregnancy essentials:

  1. A good quality Pregnancy Body Pillow
  2. A good quality Noise Machine (ideally, a physical one, though an app is sufficient when traveling)
  3. Multiple Water Bottles everywhere
  4. Comfortable Maternity Bras (which you can wear through pregnancy and while nursing)
  5. Intensely hydrating Moisturizing Creams to prevent itching (and maybe stretch marks)
  6. Soft and stretchy Maternity Leggings
  7. Comfortable shoes (like sneakers or sandals)
  8. “Emergency snacks” like granola bars to take with you everywhere
  9. Prenatal vitamins with DHA and Folic Acid
  10. And finally, prioritizing your mental healthy and well-being by doing things like getting out of the house every day, and making it a point to talk to your friends regularly

Update – After I shared this post, some of my mom friends shared some of their essentials with me — and I realized there were a lot of great products and things out there that I didn’t know about, or just didn’t think about. So, for your convenience, I’m sharing even more pregnancy essentials in this post. So in addition to the 10 I came up with, there are 10 more pregnancy must-haves in this post.

Here are the next 10 pregnancy must-have items:

  1. Hydrating drinks (like Gatorade or coconut water)
  2. Something to hydrate your lips, like a good Lip Balm
  3. Compression Socks to prevent swelling
  4. Maxi Dresses for comfort
  5. Belly Band for support
  6. Things that calm you down
  7. Things for dealing with pregnancy stuffiness
  8. Things for heartburn
  9. A relaxed mindset
  10. Adequate rest

For a full breakdown of each of my top 10 pregnancy essentials, plus 10 more bonus essentials shared by others, read on!

Pregnancy Essentials

First up are pregnancy essentials 1 through 10 — these are my personal top 10 pregnancy essentials, based on my own personal preferences and experience with being pregnant the last time around (and with this current pregnancy). After this list of 10, there are 10 more items my mama friends recommend. If you want to skip past my top 10 recommended essentials and go straight to their recommendations, just scroll down.

#1 The Best Pregnancy Body Pillow!

First up: a good pregnancy pillow. This is one of the things I used during my first pregnancy and therefore knew I’d want this time around. Sleeping while pregnant is awful (it doesn’t compare to trying to sleep when you have a newborn, but it’s pretty close). You get up to pee about a hundred times, you might be waking up with weird leg cramps, and when you do get back in bed, getting back to sleep can be hard, AND you’re not allowed to sleep on your back once you’re past the first trimester (and you can’t really sleep on your stomach, and you’re also discouraged from sleeping on your right side). So whether you like it or not, you have to attempt to get adequate rest, while confined to your left side. The very best thing for helping my now-miserable sleep has been a pregnancy pillow.

Normally I love my super dense foam pillow (with a nice satiny pillowcase to keep my skin and hair looking good), but nowadays, I shove that one out of the way and just tuck the top part of the pregnancy-pillow under my head instead, and basically wrap the rest of my body around the length of the pillow.

There are a LOT of pregnancy body pillows on the market in all different price ranges (including this one which is close to $200) but I’ve been happy using a basic “Snoogle” type pillow, which you can usually find for between $25 and $75 (I believe I use this one). I’ve included some links to similar type of pillows below.

#2 A Good Noise Machine

A good noise machine is one of the most important pregnancy essentials. In the same vein and in the spirit of trying to maximize and improve sleep, I really recommend a good noise machine. This wasn’t something I knew during my last pregnancy since I had never slept with a noise machine on before having a baby — but after having a baby, and getting used to hearing a noise machine all night, I’ve realized that they really improve my own sleep as well (and while pregnant, I’ll take all the help I can get). We’ve been using the Dohm Noise Machine (available from Target for about $50) since my older son was born (we got it as a gift from my sister-in-law while I was pregnant last time), and I swear it makes a big difference in the quality of my sleep. There are also apps you can download to use your phone as a noise machine (I use the app “Relaxio” when we travel so we don’t have to take our noise machine with us).

#3 The Perfect Water Bottle!

Pregnancy thirst is no joke.

First of all, my beautiful Camelbak bottle (which is so cute with its double walled pink and blue, but only holds 20oz) doesn’t cut it for all-day sipping. I thought I’d stepped it up when I then got a 32oz Nalgene, but it really felt like I filled it up and then suddenly it was empty again. So now, I drink out of a 64oz water bottle from Amazon, which I keep on me all day (unless we’re leaving the house. It’s not like it’s very portable, and obviously doesn’t fit in any cupholder). I mean… it has a straw that sticks out. It’s huge. It’s a dream come true. (This is the exact water bottle that keeps me alive all day — I use it without the ice pack; you can just pull that out. (If you want a slightly cuter one that has a ton of capacity, this one is nice and is all black).

When I was pregnant with my older son, one thing I wish I’d had, but didn’t have, was an amazing and humongous water bottle, so I’m really glad I have this giant one to help me out all day. I still love that pretty Camelbak, and usually take that with me when I leave the house — it fits perfectly into the pocket of our diaper backpack (I use the Ju-Ju-Be “Be Right Back” backpack), and into the cupholder in my car. I also use a cute sippy-cup from Ban.do at night (this exact one in White and Gold). Reading that back to myself, it sounds like I’m obsessed with water bottles. Like I said, pregnancy thirst (and then later, nursing thirst) is real. Below I have some linked water bottles in case you’re in the market for one (or like a hundred, like I have for some reason).

#4 Comfortable Maternity Bras

Last time around, I wore my regular bras. I wasn’t even trying to suck it up and avoid buying new ones — I knew that nursing bras / maternity bras were meant to be more supportive, and generally more comfortable, and I suppose I did realize that I’d eventually have to purchase them anyway once I started breastfeeding, but it didn’t really occur to me that wearing a more supportive maternity bra while pregnant would make such a big difference; I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. Wearing something that specifically designed for breasts that are simultaneously larger, heavier, more sensitive, and less comfortable is a no-brainer when nursing, but it just didn’t occur to me that the same thing would be true during pregnancy. Well, it definitely, 100% makes a difference to wear more comfortable maternity bras while pregnant.

This time around, I already had nursing bras that I’d been using since my older son was born, and so I tried those on once I got into the second trimester… and discovered firsthand how worth it it is to wear bras that are specifically made for pregnant or nursing moms. If you’re in the market for comfortable maternity bras, I’d recommend looking for some that are convenient for nursing, so you don’t have to buy double the bras (this is one of my favorite nursing bras, and this is another one of my favorite styles).

One caveat though — the rule of thumb for buying nursing bras is to wait until you’re in your third trimester (actually, as late in the game as you can) so you have a better sense of how big you need to size up. But I feel like you can get around this by just buying one cup size bigger, and making sure the bra you buy has a lot of extra length on the back strap (most maternity bras do anyway). Below is a roundup of some more good, comfortable, and reasonably priced maternity / nursing bra options in case you’re interested…

#5 Deeply Moisturizing Cream (Anti-Itch Cream / “Stretch Mark Cream”)

Whether or not you buy into the idea that deeply moisturizing your skin can help prevent stretch marks (there’s evidence that whether or not you’ll get stretch marks is genetically predetermined), there’s no denying that deeply moisturizing growing, stretching, expanding skin feels good. If you’re prone to dry skin at all (or really, even if you’re not), you’ll likely experience some itching or other discomfort as your belly (and often other areas like the skin on your breasts, hips, thighs) expands. So to help mitigate some of that discomfort, it can be really really helpful — it has been for me — to use a super hydrating cream.

My all-time favorite moisturizer (not just while pregnant) is Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark cream. I love the smell (it’s the smell of Cocoa Butter), the texture, the fact that it’s in a pump bottle, and most importantly, how hydrating it is. It also contains Vitamin E (which is supposed to help combat or lighten scarring or stretch marks, but IDK if it is really effective) and Shea Butter. It’s also available here from Amazon. My favorite tummy-specific moisturizer, which I love the ritual of putting on every night before bed is also by Palmer’s, and it’s the “Tummy Butter” jar. It has a slightly different scent than the pump bottle, and it’s a different formula, but it’s super hydrating, and I love the texture. (It’s also a good lip moisturizer, but that’s not its intended purpose). Below is a small roundup of some hydrating creams, some of which are marketed as stretch mark creams.

As previously mentioned, I really don’t know how effective these creams are at preventing stretch marks from forming, but since they’re all hydrating skin care creams, (a) they really shouldn’t hurt in preventing stretch marks (they can really only help!), and (b) they do help address the discomfort associated with rapidly stretching skin. I love using super hydrating creams while pregnant and definitely consider them a pregnancy essential, but your mileage may vary.

#6 Maternity Leggings

When pregnant, I pretty much live in maternity leggings.

Pregnancy Essential Maternity Leggings

Pregnancy Essential Maternity Leggings

Some women love the under-the-belly kind, but I prefer the kind that has a stretchy panel that you can pull up all the way over your belly, because I’m about high waisted pants for life. I’ve purchased the BLANQI leggings a lot of women recommend, but they started pilling pretty quickly, and I find myself gravitating back to my cheaper pairs that I’ve purchased for under $30 (I have some linked in the widget below) ones. The downside to the less expensive and thinner pairs is obviously that they do tend to get snags easily, and they also tend to be less ideal for winter due to being thinner. I’ve rounded up some maternity leggings below if you’re looking for some options.

I like pairing maternity leggings with just about everything from tanks, to tunic tops, to sweatshirts and sweaters, and oversized button-down tops, as in the picture below.
Pregnancy Essential - Leggings and Oversized Shirts

Pregnancy Essential – Leggings and Oversized Shirts

#7 Comfortable Shoes (Air Maxes and Birkenstocks)

It is entirely possible that your feet will expand during pregnancy, and fairly likely that at some point or another, they will swell. And it is very probably that they will be achy a lot of the time. So having comfortable and supportive footwear becomes more and more important the further along you get. Pregnant ladies in heels is a cute look when you’re a celebrity. When you’re a regular person, it’s not only impractical (and potentially dangerous), but so, so uncomfortable (the one exception in my opinion is wedge sneakers, which have a wide enough heel to be really supportive, and are typically very comfortable since they’re essentially still a sneaker. The Nike High Top wedge sneakers are my favorite). Therefore, sneakers and comfortable sandals are definitely both pregnancy essentials. For sandals, I love Birkenstocks — and  realize Birkenstocks aren’t everyone’s favorite look, but last pregnancy, I lived in them. This time around, it’s not yet warm enough for me to switch to wearing them, but rest assured that as soon as the temperature is over 65 I will be wearing my Birks every single day. So for now, I frequently wear sneakers (I love Air Maxes, but for quick errand running, I also like these Saucony comfortable sneakers). You’ll find roundups for my favorites from Nike and Birkenstock below.

Pregnancy Essentials: Sneakers (like Nike Air Maxes)

Pregnancy Essentials: Comfortable Sandals (like Birkenstocks)

#8 Emergency Snacks

…really, this is self explanatory. Pregnancy means being hungry a lot. In addition to just wanting to eat all the time, not eating frequently enough can lead to nausea, dizziness, discomfort, and worse (and of course, crabbiness). I know for a fact that if I skip eating for over two hours at a time, I feel it — usually in the form of sudden fatigue, and dizziness that can lead to passing out, so I almost always carry an “emergency snack” with me. (There’s a deal on Amazon for “healthy snacks” which includes Clif bars, Nature Valley bars, and my personal go-to, Nutrigrain bars).

#9 Prenatal Vitamins with Folic Acid

This isn’t the most exciting of the pregnancy essentials, but it’s very important: A good prenatal vitamin is definitely one of my pregnancy essentials!

Different OB/GYNs probably make different recommendations around which prenatals to take while pregnant. But standard advice seems to be to look for a prenatal with folic acid. This pregnancy and last time around, I’ve taken One A Day with DHA and Folic Acid, and haven’t had any particular issues with nausea related to it. (Obviously you have to find what suits you.) I actually never stopped taking prenatals after I had my older son; I continued taking them while nursing him, and when we weaned, we were ready to try to have another baby, so I continued taking the same prenatals, and just bought more when I got pregnant again.

For what it’s worth, a lot of OBs, and lactation consultants as well, recommend continuing to take a prenatal while breastfeeding, and they also recommend starting on prenatals as soon as (or even a few months before) you start trying to get pregnant.

#10 Taking Steps to Prioritize your Mental Health and Well-Being

This time around, doing more to take care of my mental health / well-being is a lot more important, because there are new and different kinds of challenges. Specifically, parenting a toddler while being pregnant can be super hard, as any second-time Mom can tell you.

When I was pregnant with our older son, I was working full time in the classroom and also working on my doctorate, so I definitely had my hands full. BUT, since it was my first pregnancy, I was not already parenting a child. This time around, yeah I still have my hands full with work since I’m running an outreach organization, and writing a bookbut, what is really difficult is being pregnant while also taking care of my toddler full time. That last thing is very, very, very challenging when coupled with the ever-increasing discomforts and challenges of being pregnant. (I don’t at all want to sound like I’m complaining. To be clear, I wouldn’t trade any component of this for the world and I’m beyond grateful I get to pursue my professional dreams while also fulfilling one of the deepest desires of my heart, which is being a stay-at-home, full-time parent to my child. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t super hard at times!).

So, one of my pregnancy essentials this time is something I’ve been doing to support my mental health and well-being: Getting OUT OF THE HOUSE even if there’s nothing I need to do. It’s easy to just be inside all day, especially in the misery of winter, and since I can do so much of my work from home. But forcing myself to get myself and my son out of the house (every day if possible) for a short visit to the library, or Target, or wherever, or even just getting physically outside of the house (even when it’s freezing) really does a lot to help my mood, and it definitely, 100% makes my son happy. On the colder days, it’s really hard, but the benefits outweigh the struggle. 

Another pregnancy essential for my mental health is something  I’ve been making it a conscious point to do (even though it’s hard while parenting a toddler): Staying in touch with friends. (Last week I chatted with my friend Cherie, who is also a mom — and who has written guest posts here, including one about what it was like when she went from being a working mom to being a stay-at-home mom, and about changing her name after marriage — about exactly this: how it’s so great for mental health to be in touch with friends for our mental well being). When you already have one kid, it can become really difficult to catch up with people in real life, but phone calls, texts, and video chatting can be so helpful. So to keep myself happy and healthy this time around, I’m making it a point to connect with people I like a lot.

Recap of my Top 10 Pregnancy Essentials

So to recap, my top 10 recommended pregnancy essentials or must-haves for pregnancy this time around are…

  1. A good quality Pregnancy Body Pillow
  2. A good quality Noise Machine (a physical one, though an app is good when traveling)
  3. Multiple Water Bottles everywhere
  4. Comfortable Maternity Bras (which you can wear through pregnancy and while nursing)
  5. Intensely hydrating Moisturizing Creams to prevent itching (and maybe stretch marks)
  6. Soft and stretchy Maternity Leggings
  7. Comfortable sneakers (like Nike Air Maxes, which I love, or Adidas Ultraboosts, which other moms recommended) and comfortable sandals (like Birkenstocks – other moms I chatted with also recommend Tevas)
  8. Emergency snacks” like granola bars to take with you everywhere (I love Nutrigrain bars)
  9. Prenatal vitamins with DHA and Folic Acid
  10. And finally, prioritizing your mental healthy and well-being by doing things like getting out of the house every day, and making it a point to talk to your friends regularly

And below is a quick roundup of all these items (below that roundup are 10 more pregnancy must-haves according to some of my mom friends!)…

10 More Pregnancy Essentials

Now I’m going to pick up where my last list left off, and offer the following bonus 10 pregnancy must-haves…

#11 Additional sources of hydration (besides water)

Says my friend Lindsey, who is the mom of a toddler, and is also expecting #2, “…I have a really hard time staying hydrated, so anything that sneaks in extra hydration is great – Gatorade and coconut water are my go-tos. And then food.”

And Sara, who is expecting #3, echoed the importance of being hydrated (beyond just water): “…Liquids- Vitamin water, water water, carbonated flavored water, diy spa water- all of it! I’ve even taking to drinking bone broth for nutrients & hydration. LonoLife Thai beef broth has become my go to.”

#12 Lip balms

Going along with the dry skin so many moms experience while pregnant, a pregnancy essential might also include good lip balm. And Sara recommends lip balm as a definite pregnancy must-have:

“Lip balm- I have one in every purse, bag, jacket, and nook in my life! Eos, supergoop, kiehls, korres, bite (agave), rosebud salve. Some are cheap, others not so much, but they are all great!”

During the day, my favorite lip balm is Korres Wild Rose (actually, my real favorite is the Korres Plum, which I used to also smear onto my cheeks because the color was so perfect for me, but they no longer sell that color). At night, my all-time favorite is good-old fashioned Vaseline. Below are some of my favorite lip balms.

#13 Compression socks

Says Allie, who is also the parent of a toddler and is also pregnant with #2, a pregnancy essential is: “Compression socks! On my feet all day usually and these keep my circulation up. #TeamNoCankles haha”

#14 Maxi dresses

Says my sister-in-law Kelli, a mom of twins and a toddler (my niece and nephews!): “Maxi dresses if weather appropriate to cover my veiny, swollen legs.”

Right now, it’s still too cold for me to wear maxi dresses (rather than my default maternity leggings), but thinking back to my last pregnancy, I definitely wore a lot of maxi dresses while pregnant. (The picture below is of a dress that, alas, I didn’t end up purchasing — it’s just a dressing room picture — but you can see that maxi dresses work well with a bump.)

Pregnancy Essential - Maxi Dresses

Pregnancy Essential – Maxi Dresses

Below are some options for maxi dresses I loved:

#15 A supportive pregnancy belt

Sara recommends a belly band (like the Upsie Belly support band from Belly Bandit):

“Belly band- I didn’t need this with either of my first two, but #3 is sooooo heavy! The Belly Bandit has a removable heating pad that is kinda awesome when you’ve reached the end of your day.”

Says Kelli:

“A back support belt helped back pain with the twin pregnancy. Family and a patient husband to help with the twins when I was too nauseous to function. A care-free attitude about weight gain”

#16 Things that calm you

I don’t know how I forgot to mention this in my initial list, but I’ve just discovered the joys of aromatherapy.

Also, Sara recommends magnesium powder:

“Natural Calm powder Magnesium- due to work stressors I’ve had a pregnancy FILLED with anxiety. My maternal fetal specialist recommended this, and it has somehow made me feel significantly more at ease- love it!!!”

#17 Things for dealing with pregnancy rhinitis (stuffiness)

Pregnancy Rhinitis is an actual thing. So having saline nose spray on hand, and even tissues to deal with the perpetual pregnancy stuffiness, is probably wise. My friend Cindy, a mom of two boys, recommends always having tissues on hand. (“Is that weird? I always had a runny nose 😂,” says Cindy). <– No, it’s not weird!

#18 Things for dealing with pregnancy heartburn

I also can’t believe I forgot this, because I know the struggle of intense heartburn during pregnancy too well, but things to combat heartburn are definitely a pregnancy essential! I personally swear by Tums, but some of my mom friends had other things they preferred:

  • My friend PJ, a mom of three boys, recommends ginger drop candies.
  • Cindy recommends Zantac: “My heartburn was killer, no matter what I ate, and was worse with #2.” (But Zantac helped.)
  • Sara recommends Nexium (rather than Maalox, which she hadn’t had as much luck with): “Nexium- I was chugging maloxx by the container and this little purple pill has improved my quality of life ten fold! I can sleep laying down, eat things other than cracker, and not worry about being in constant pain.
  • (And I like Tums.)

#19 A relaxed mindset

Here’s one very important thing Kelli recommends as a pregnancy essential: “A care-free attitude about weight gain.”

#20 Adequate rest

From Lindsey:

“…I would also have to add that an essential for me especially with a toddler is rest. I have to take me time and really relax and let my body recharge. 😊”

Kelli also recommended having people in your life who could help facilitate your need for rest and breaks, and shared that a pregnancy must-have is:

“Family and a patient husband to help with the twins when I was too nauseous to function.”

Kelli also added:

“And avoid long periods of sitting In hard, upright chairs during your third trimester.”

From PJ:

“SLEEP!!!! Nap whenever u have help NAP!”

The Full List of 20 Pregnancy Essentials

So to recap, my recommended essentials for pregnancy this time around are…

  1. Pregnancy Body Pillow
  2. Noise Machine
  3. Water Bottle
  4. Maternity Bras
  5. Moisturizing Cream to prevent itching (and maybe stretch marks)
  6. Maternity Leggings
  7. Comfortable sneakers & comfortable sandals
  8. Emergency snacks
  9. Prenatal vitamins
  10. Prioritizing your mental healthy and well-being (getting out of the house, and talking to your friends!)
  11. Hydrating drinks (like Gatorade or coconut water)
  12. Lip Balm
  13. Compression Socks
  14. Maxi Dresses
  15. Belly Support Band
  16. Things that calm you – aromatherapy, massages, etc.
  17. Things for dealing with pregnancy stuffiness
  18. Things for heartburn
  19. A relaxed mindset!
  20. Adequate rest

And below is a quick roundup of all the buyable things from this list…

All the Pregnancy Essentials You Need

You can also pin the image below that features some of these Pregnancy Essentials below:

Pregnancy Essentials 2018

Pregnancy Essentials 2018 – What you really need during pregnancy

P.S. – Some time in the next few months, I’ll also be sharing a roundup post of the newborn essentials I feel like new parents actually need. By the way – if you don’t love my list of what to buy during pregnancy / Pregnancy Essentials, here’s a “readers’ choice list” of pregnancy must-haves or pregnancy essentials from BabyCenter. Also, here’s our pregnancy announcement, and here’s a post I wrote about pregnancy & the online doctorate program.

Bonus: Here are some amazing musical performances in case you just want something to entertain you you during pregnancy — it’s a link to 30 of the best performances from Coke Studio.

This post on pregnancy must-haves or pregnancy essentials was originally published on January 22, 2018, and was last updated on January 27, 2018.

About the Author

Dr. Punita Rice

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Dr. Punita Rice is a wife and mama, an education researcher, a writer, the founder and director of ISAASE, and an advisor with Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Doctor of Education program. Her work centers around multicultural education and equity, and South Asian American experiences in school. You can read more about Punita and her work here. Punita also writes about life, culture, education, and motherhood here on her blog. She works from home in Maryland, and drinks a great deal of coffee.