Written by contributor Emily McClements of Live Renewed.

Setting a strong foundation for natural parenting begins with a having a natural pregnancy. For many women, their journey toward more green and natural living begins when they find out they are pregnant for the first time. When you’re pregnant, you become suddenly aware of the kind of lifestyle you are living, and the way that the choices you’re making, and the things in your environment, will affect your baby, both in utero and once he or she is born.

You may be considering, for the first time, how to start making healthy and natural changes to your lifestyle, or being feeling overwhelmed with where to start. I know this was true for me, when I was pregnant with my first daughter five years ago, and I started down the path toward greener living that my family and I are on today. Pregnancy is a really great time to start making simple natural and green chances in your lifestyle and around your home.

4 Easy Steps to A More Natural Pregnancy

1. Homemade and Green Cleaning

This is the change I always recommend making first when beginning to move toward a greener lifestyle, because it was the very first change I personally made, that started me down this path. It’s also so simple and easy, and requires very little investment, either in time or money. And homemade and green cleaners work just well, if not better, than conventional cleaners.

Using non-toxic cleaners is really important because the air inside our homes, that we breathe in daily, can be filled with more toxins and chemicals then we realize, often as the result of the cleaning products we use. Obviously you don’t want to expose yourself to those fumes, but you definitely don’t want to expose your unborn baby to them.

Here are some great resources for getting started with green and natural cleaning:

Photo by Stacy @ Delighting in the Days

2. Safe and Non-toxic Personal Care Products

We’ve talked a lot about this here on Simple Organic before, but especially when you are pregnant, it is important to consider the products you use on your skin, your hair, your face, your whole body. The things that we put onto our skin get absorbed into our skin, and can easily pass across the placenta, affecting our unborn baby.

I think switching to safer personal care products is something that can seem overwhelming at first, but there are some simple ways to go about it.

First, consider cutting back on the amount of products that you use, simplify your routine to only those products that are absolutely necessary.

Secondly, once you’ve simplified your routine, find safer replacements for the products that you use on a daily, or very regular, basis. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, and lotion are probably on the top of everyone’s list. More and more grocery and mainstream retailers carry a selection of safe and organic products, for you to choose from.

Finally, consider making some of your personal care products at home. There are recipes all over the internet for making safe, natural and non-toxic personal care products, and making homemade products is really not as time-consuming or intimidating as you might think. Even making just one or two products at home can save you enough money to help you be able to afford the slightly higher cost of purchasing safer brand products.

Check out these resources for getting started on changing your personal care products and making homemade products:

3. Eating Healthy for Two

As important as it is, honestly, healthy eating can be hard when you’re pregnant, especially during the first trimester — at least it is for me. But making the healthiest food choices that you can is extremely important for both you and your baby.

If you haven’t already, make sure to cut out boxed and processed foods, junk foods, and soda. Cutting back on caffeine is important too. Cut out all those foods that are just empty calories because they aren’t nourishing to you or to your baby. You want to make all of the foods you eat count, packing the biggest nutritional punch for you and your baby that you can.

Switching to organic foods is also important, but you’ll probably have to set some priorities as far as what you choose to buy organic. Some of the foods that I think are the most important to prioritize are organic dairy, clean meat (free of hormones and antibiotics, and ideally pastured-raised), and using the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List to prioritize the produce that you buy organic.

Also remember to drink lots and lots of water when you’re pregnant. Water with lemon is an especially healthy choice.

More resources on healthy eating for two:

4. Exercise

Exercising during pregnancy may be the last thing on your mind when you’re tired and aching all over, but light to moderate exercise can actually help to ease some of the discomforts of pregnancy. I admit that I am not the best at this either, but when I do exercise I notice almost immediately how much better it makes me feel. Exercise helps to tone and strengthen your muscles to best support the added weight and strain on your body as your baby grows.

With your doctor’s or midwife’s permission, of course, try to include exercise in your daily routine at least three times a week. And when you’re pregnant this doesn’t have to mean serious exercise, or setting aside an hour of time. Some of my favorite forms of exercise when I’m pregnant are yoga and stretching, taking a walk with my kids, pregnancy exercise videos, and I even count heavy cleaning around the house, like vacuuming, as exercise because I’m usually breathing heavily while I do it!

Stephanie recently shared a great post on exercising during pregnancy over at Keeper of the Home.

These are just a few simple and easy changes you can make to have a greener and more natural pregnancy, to start off your baby’s life in the best way that you can. Since I’m expecting baby #3 in June, I’ve been featuring a Healthy Green Pregnancy series on Live Renewed for more information on having a natural pregnancy.

Did you find yourself more open to making healthy and natural changes when you were pregnant? What simple and easy changes would you recommend to someone who is pregnant and new to green living?