It's been exciting time for hubby and I as we recently announced we will be welcoming a precious baby into the world this winter.
Pregnancy is such a magical time, growing & nurturing a little human inside. It's a special time full of joy and excitement, where the mumma-to-be is glowing. Of course, supporting many patients through their personal pregnancies, I was not naive to the contrary. Nausea, exhaustion and cravings are among common symptoms of the first tri, which pose a challenge to keep the special news a secret during the early stages.
I'm 15 weeks tomorrow and it's the best I've felt in the past 9! I was no stranger to the dreaded morning sickness (who am I kidding, it's all day sickness), among other symptoms and here I wish to share with you my highs and lows throughout this time.
Let's start with the baby brain. It IS a thing... already! Hence why I took a journal each day with some notes, as I knew I'd forget my main points to share my experience here ;) Writing lists has assisted me with simple tasks in clinic, through to remembering my probiotics at night. Without them, I'd be lost.
One of the first symptoms I noticed among the heightened sense of smell (I could smell the meat on a butcher who was sitting in our clinic waiting room), was the shortness of breath. I'm sure many of my patients would have picked up on this one, as I would struggle to finish long sentences in consults. This one is a symptom of the heightened Progesterone levels that occurs soon after conception.
I've also been very tired. Despite ensuring my iron levels being tip top (prior to and during this first tri), most day's I've needed to take a rest. I've never been a napper, so it's taken some getting used to, especially the need to let things go (in order to rest) that I would otherwise spend time working on, accept that important jobs will actually just have to wait and lower my cleaning standards around the home. I have enjoyed seeing hubby pick up the cleaning chores...maybe this 'tiredness' will have to stay around for a bit longer ;)
Headaches are now something new for me. I have noticed them creeping in during the past few weeks, especially when I lapsed on my water intake throughout the day.
My hunger levels have gone through the roof... shortly followed by a feeling like I've just devoured christmas lunch (which didn't help the shortness of breath) ...but being hungry again 20 minutes later. Coming from a diet of longer fasting times between meals, it feels a bit naughty to be eating so frequently but it not only helped lower my nausea levels, frequent small meals have provided important nutrition for my growing bubs.
On the nausea front, I have been one of the lucky ones and never actually physically vomited, instead I would describe the feeling as being stuck in a state of motion sickness. The last thing I felt like doing was eating, but I was actually hungry and funnily enough when I did eat, I had a brief moment free from feeling unwell. Although it is called 'morning sickness', my nausea was worse in the afternoon and night and was regular, reoccuring most days from 6 to 14 weeks gestation.
There were a few things I noted that helped ease my first tri symptoms (and perhaps prevented vomiting) throughout this time.
Water was my bestie. As I previously mentioned, without enough fluids I would notice a developing headache. In the peak of my nausea, I was craving fizzy drinks (not the sugar, just the fizz) and along with my homemade coconut water kefir, I found Mojo Sparkling Probiotic Tonic's as well as a mix of Sparkling Mineral Water, 1 drop stevia and 1 drop Lemon or Wild Orange essential oil, a saviour.
When you're not feeling your best, the last thing you feel like doing is spending hours in the kitchen at the end of the day. I found having small snacks on hand helped lower my nausea, so I could then face creating larger meals for dinner and lunch leftovers. Boiled eggs as well as seed crackers with avo, baby spinach or lettuce, tomato and (hard) organic cheese...yes this has been my one of my few cravings, have been a handy snack to have both in the clinic between patients and at home between main meals. I have found I am now a grazer, eating smaller amounts even for main meals (otherwise I'd pay for that with extreme fullness shortly after), but going through more food overall. I've had to be much more planned with what foods I would keep myself full on the following day, otherwise I found I was eating my lunch by 10.30am...and freaked out a little with what I would have for the rest of the day to keep my nausea at bay. There were a couple of times I had to resort to Uber Eats (organic section) to get a fresh salad and protein dish delivered to Aloe Health between patients.
As my nausea didn't kick in until early six weeks gestation, I made the most of this time to pre-prepare some simple pesto for mains sauces, roasts, slow cooked meats and bolognese dishes, which would help ease my cooking load in the weeks to come. This was great, but found my stash ran out way too quickly. In later weeks, for the times I had not been prepped for dinner (and had ran out of my homemade frozen meals), a quick grain free legume based pasta with my homemade pesto, spinach, avo with stirred through Good Fish Salmon was my lazy choice.
Taking a herbal formula (with Dandelion, Meadowsweet, Gentian, Lemon Balm & Ginger) which supports liver and general digestive function, helped lower nausea, as did an extra B6 supplement. Diffusing Ginger and Lemon essential oil has been helpful, as has putting around 3 drops of a diluted (in a carrier oil) blend of Ginger, Lemonand Peppermint essential oil on my ears, jaw bone and feet daily. A doTERRA blend called Citrus Bliss arrived at my 10 week mark and I fell in love with diffusing this mix, for its refreshing and uplifting properties.
As high caffeine intake prior to and after conception is associated with miscarriage rates (1), I have limited my regular bulletproof coffee consumption to a rare Almond Milk latte when out. I've also surprisingly been put off of dark chocolate (a square of 90% dark choc was a previous treat at the end of my day)...bonus!
Carbs on the other hand, have been my friend. Although I started hopping into some organic sourdough in the early days of pregnancy, I noticed it was not agreeing with me (giving me reflux), so I have since left it out (I rarely indulged in bread previously to avoid both yeast and high levels of gluten). To help support my thyroid gland which plays an important role for Mum and bubs throughout pregnancy, I have instead increased my previous small portion of daily carbs to include sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, organic white potato, rice, legumes, legume pasta, ororganic oats at each main meal, and snacked on fruit between main meals.
I have rested, and rested some more. Most days taking a small nap, otherwise heading to bed at a much earlier time than usual. My weekends and recent holidays have been very laid back, pottering around my garden, doing some light beach walks, short swims, followed by couch time with a good book. One of my highly recommended reads is Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, by Sarah J Buckley, MD.
Other than the above changes, I've been having regular chiropractic adjustments to support my nervous system and ease some niggling lower back pain. I've also made an effort to soak up regular sun-to-skin contact for critical Vitamin D exposure and of later weeks I've enjoyed getting back into a regular transcendental meditation practise.
I continued with practices such as my morning lemon / ACV water and had a fresh veggie juice or a protein based smoothie with hemp seeds, chia seeds and MCT oil most mornings. I've fed my gut with homemade coconut water kefir and coconut yoghurt daily as well as supporting my digestion with a multi-strain probiotic and digestive enzymes.
A prenatal multi including activated forms of B vitamins, along with a decent level of iodine for my thyroid and baby's brain and nervous system plus an array of other vitamins and minerals for a heathy pregnancy; high strength DHA and high quality (tested for mercury and other contaminants found in many cheaper fish oils) Fish Oil, Coenzyme Q10 (for energy production) and Iron were and still are part of my daily routine.
I have also been under the support of my Integrative GP to provide me with compounded natural Progesterone (and regular bloods to check levels), as my natural levels didn't spike to the desired levels throughout the early weeks of the first tri. I also took herbs such as Chaste Tree to support healthy hormones. Progesterone peaking is crucial to sustain a pregnancy and with 1 in 4 pregnancies miscarrying, I believe this should be checked routinely in the first trimester for all women.
Despite planning to do it in the first tri... rest seemed more important to me. So I have just started a prenatal yoga class and will be embracing pregnancy pilates and acupuncture for the remainder of my pregnancy.
I feel very blessed to now be embracing second trimester. As I start to feel more of my vibrant self, I look forward to supporting many more women with specific nutritional and lifestyle support through their pregnancy journey.
For a more informative look at holistic preconception and pregnancy care, see my latest book: Glowing Mumma, a Naturopaths Guide To Enhance Fertility & Support a Nourished Pregnancy.
Love health & happiness,
(1) Chen LW, et al. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of pregnancy loss: a categorical and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Public Health Nutr. 2016 May;19(7):1233-44. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015002463. Epub 2015 Sep 2.