I’ve been asked to participate in American Recall Center’s project, “9 tips for 9 months”; sharing some things from my experiences with pregnancy discomfort and how to deal with it.
-By the way, this is not a pregnancy announcement. Just lettin’ you know. :)
I’m going to try to address issues that are common in pregnancy, but of course I won’t be able to cover them all. We’ll look at natural ways to help your body do its best work of growing that sweet little baby inside of you! Of course I am not a doctor, this is just my opinion, knowledge and experience.
I believe that women were created to give birth, and that treating a pregnancy as an illness is not the way to go. There are plenty of ways to help with those discomforts without resorting to drugs, and you’ll feel so much better knowing there are no potentially harmful side-effects. Plus, your body will thank you!
So here we go! This is kind of a long post, but keep reading because there’s a wealth of information in here.
Issue #1: Fatigue
This is always my first indicator of being pregnant, especially with my second baby since I was chasing a toddler around. I was SO tired ALL the time and felt like I just needed to lay down and sleep….Then after the second baby came the third and I was chasing two kids around… oh the fatigue!
Tip #1: So lay down and sleep, Mama! The best way to deal with fatigue is to REST. Obviously if you have a toddler or other kids you are chasing around you can’t sleep the day away, but if your toddler naps, you can nap too! Or just lay on the couch and put a movie on for the kids. Or snuggle down in your bed all together and read stories with them- even if you can’t sleep at least you’re laying down, resting. Also have your hubby help out more with the housework and laundry, or hire someone to come clean the house or ask your mom or a friend to come over and watch baby/kiddos while you rest. Go to bed earlier. Don’t do as much. Your body is going through a lot of changes really quickly so it needs to be pampered and well taken care of to grow that tiny little baby. Also, make sure you have a good, food-based prenatal vitamin that you take every day. Getting enough B vitamins will help with energy levels and it is vital that you are taking at least 400-800 mcg of folic acid daily to help guard against birth defects. Rainbow Light is a good brand to use. I use it as a women’s daily vitamin even when I’m not pregnant.
Issue #2: Nausea
You know. If you’ve been pregnant before, you know. Women experience differing degrees of nausea during pregnancy, from a constant icky feeling for the first 12 weeks (my experience) to vomiting several times a day for the entire nine months. For those mamas, oh how I feel for you!
Tip #2: I am blessed in this area because while my stomach feels unsettled during the first trimester, I don’t ever really get sick. I figured out pretty quickly that if I ate some food every two hours- just a little bit of something with protein in it like some nuts or crackers and cheese or yogurt- that I’d feel pretty okay.
As far as constant vomiting goes, there are homeopathic remedies that you can take for morning sickness. Here is a good article on different symptoms and the corresponding tablets that may work for you. You can get “Preggo Pops” from stores like Walgreens to help with that icky feeling. Ginger in small doses can also help. (Tea is a good way to get it in your body.) Make sure you are getting enough fluids, even if you can’t hold down any food so that you don’t get dehydrated.
I strongly advise against taking the medication Zofran- it isn’t actually designed for pregnancy at all; its for cancer patients experiencing nausea from chemo, radiation or surgery. (source) Zofran can cause birth defects in babies if taken during pregnancy, especially heart defects. (source) The risk of the baby being born with a cleft palate also more than doubled after taking Zofran. (source)
I know it can be tempting to try anything that seems like it will work, but definitely try the natural route first. Essential oils are great- peppermint or lemon helps with nausea. Just inhale a bit, diffuse it into the air, rub a few drops mixed with coconut oil on your wrists or neck, or if you are comfortable with ingesting oils, one drop in a glass of water will help keep that tumultuous stomach under control. Just make sure you are using 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils.
Crackers help too- munch a few here and there and always have them with you in case you start feeling icky. Rice cakes work well for the gluten-intolerant.
Issue # 3: Back Pain
As your belly starts to grow, you more than likely will experience some kind of back pain because your center of gravity is changing and your muscles are stretching and rearranging to create room for the baby.
Sciatica, a shooting pain or achy feeling from the lower back down the leg; is common.
With my first pregnancy, I experienced a lot of back pain pretty much through all 9 months. I was working, and on my feet all day and my back was in terrible shape.
Tip # 3: Find a good chiropractor. I know there are some bad ones out there, and it’s hard to know the good from the bad, but a chiropractor can do wonders for those sore joints, not just in your back! Try to find a chiropractor who specializes in whole-body wellness, not just cracking your back. Throw away all the excuses you have and just try it. Chiropractic is THE BEST thing you can do for that back pain. If your spine is out of line, your body can’t function at its best and no matter what you do to alleviate the symptoms, if you don’t find the source it won’t get better.
You can also do stretches to help with pain, but like I said, a chiropractor is your best bet. Search for one in your area here.
Issue # 4: Moodiness
Ah, the hormones of a pregnant woman! They’re like PMS on crack. Laughing one moment, crying the next, you never know what is next. I tend to get angry really easily when I’m preggo, which is no fun for everyone around me!
Tip # 4:
Prenatal vitamins will help a lot with this- and if you still feel stressed out or angry, taking extra vitamin B will make you a bit less crazy.
I like drinking herbal teas- peppermint, lavender, red raspberry leaf, vanilla rooibos. The warmth of the tea helps me relax.
Essential oils also come in handy.
Citrus oils- grapefruit, sweet orange, lemon; all of them help with a feeling of well-being.
Lavender oil helps calm the body, as well as peppermint. Ylang-Ylang oil is great too. Diffuse it in your home for immediate mood-boosting and a wonderful scent.
When you overreact to something or someone, take a minute and recognize that this is not who you are- it is your hormones. This helps with not feeling so out of control and crazy. Acknowledge that the moment will pass and even though it FEELS like a HUGE deal at the time, in all likelihood it is not at all. Take a minute to breathe, apologize if needed and pray through it. It helps me a lot to get by myself for a few minutes and think through the issue and ask myself, “Would I react this way if I wasn’t pregnant?” This helps me separate hormone craziness from real issues.
Not that hormones can’t be issues, but you can’t let them rule your life.
Issue # 5: Heartburn
Ouch. I had the most terrible heartburn with my first pregnancy! It seemed like I couldn’t lie down without my chest becoming a reservoir of fiery indigestion. I wasn’t eating well and I sure paid for it!
Tip # 5:
Watch what you eat. If you eat hot dogs, pizza, chinese food and other junk foods, you will suffer from heartburn because these foods have more acidic properties in them. The reason heartburn occurs is that the esophageal sphincter actually relaxes during pregnancy and this lets stomach acid splash back up the esophagus. Also because your uterus is growing it just pushes everything upward which can contribute to heartburn.
Try not to eat super spicy foods, and don’t lie down directly after eating. If you have heartburn at night while you’re trying to sleep like I did with my first baby, use pillows to prop yourself up a little bit to help the acid stay down where it’s supposed to. Of course, if you’re near the end of your pregnancy this will cause your back to hurt, but at the end there is not really a lot you can do to be comfortable when sleeping anyway. Just do the best you can. Drinking milk helps sometimes as well.
Issue # 6: Swelling or Water Retention
Cankles. I swelled so much with my firstborn, I had cankles; that lovely phenomenon where you can’t really tell your calf from your ankle. It was summertime in the south, and 100+ degrees many days. I was still working 30 hours a week at Starbucks and I retained SO much water!
A sweet nurse told me that it’s good to retain a little water, especially at the end of pregnancy because when you lose all those fluids and the blood during birth, that extra water is sucked up to make more blood, pronto. Without having excess water reserves, you could die. I felt a little better after that, but I am sure I had way more water than my body needed for replenishing my blood supply!
Tip #6: I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but drinking a lot of water actually helps reduce swelling and water retention! Especially drinking lemon water, which is so refreshing to a big pregnant mama. I recommend about a gallon a day- which sounds like a LOT but I just keep a quart mason jar with me all day and make sure I drink about 4 jars full.
Limiting your salt intake also helps- when you eat a lot of salt, your body retains extra water to dissolve the salt, so if you eat less, you retain less water!
Also, not being on your feet all day and making sure you elevate those tired feet helps keep those cankles at bay.
Issue # 7: Cravings
Its 3 am and you wake up and you just have to have some fried chicken. Or chocolate. Or something really weird like peanut butter pickle sandwiches. Or huckleberry crisp.
Think about what might be the reason for your cravings. Sometimes it seems like there’s really no rhyme or reason, but in my experience most of the time there was a base need that my body had and that craving was trying to fill it.
If you crave chocolate, you’re probably low on magnesium. Try soaking in an epsom bath and eating lots of leafy green vegetables. Your body will thank you.
For me, I craved cheeseburgers and tacos with my first, grilled meat with my second and third. All of those things are made up of protein and iron, which are super important for creating that baby and having enough blood and strength during pregnancy. So think through your cravings and find out what your body really needs. And it is okay to go get that ice cream sundae- once in awhile. Just not every time. :)
Issue # 8: High Blood Pressure (aka Hypertension)
This can become a really serious condition if you let it get out of hand. Because your body has so much extra blood in it during pregnancy, your blood pressure is naturally going to rise but you don’t want it to get over 140/90 or dangerous complications can occur.
Tip #8: Thankfully, you can prevent or treat high blood pressure by adjusting your diet and exercise, as well as making sure you are not stressed out constantly.
A good diet to help keep your blood pressure within normal levels is high in vegetables, low in carbs (especially wheat and bread products) . A good checklist for keeping track of your nutrition is at Blue Ribbon Baby, as well as a wealth of other information about a healthy pregnancy. Nutrition is key! If you are working with a midwife, they are usually really good about focusing on nutrition to make sure you have the best pregnancy possible.
Also remove any extra stresses from your life. Sit down, have a cup of tea and do some knitting, or reading, or something that you enjoy.
Issue #9: Insomnia
This is a common issue in pregnancy, especially at the end when you’re so big and uncomfortable and can’t seem to find a way to get situated so that nothing hurts or is squished at bedtime. Or your body is dead tired, but your mind is racing with a thousand thoughts. I’ve been there.
Tip#9: There are several natural and herbal options out there to help with insomnia. First, limit your caffeine intake. If you’re pumped full of coffee or caffeinated drinks, of course you aren’t going to be sleeping! Same with sugar- it is a stimulant and can keep sleep from coming.
Once you have those things under control, you can try drinking a cup of chamomile tea at night to help your body and mind relax and get sleepy. A nice warm epsom salt bath can help- the magnesium in the salts helps with aches and pains too and is so relaxing.
If chamomile doesn’t help, an herbal tea with skullcap or valerian will. Just be careful because these herbs are stronger so use them with caution and in small doses to begin with or you might sleep the next day away! Earth Mama Angel Baby has a nice tea for relaxation, as well as Yogi teas that are safe and effective.
There are your nine tips for nine months!I had a lot of fun doing this. Writing about these things has made me want to write up a post on herbs for pregnancy and maybe a tips for post-partum series to help with issues that arise after baby comes. Stay tuned for that!