I’m nearing the end of my first pregnancy and I’ve had my fair share of common pregnancy symptoms over the last several months
…actually I wrote this blog on the day I gave birth at 39 weeks and 1 day, but didn’t have time to finish it. Fast-forward 4 months postpartum and I’m finally getting around to posting it! I’ll write all about my birth story soon, but for now I wanted to get this post out before we ring in the New Year and another 4 months passes by in the blink of an eye!
When I first found out I was pregnant (over a year ago!) I knew that ‘morning sickness’ and fatigue could be possible symptoms of pregnancy, but I was not prepared for the intensity and unrelenting nausea and other unpleasant symptoms that would appear as the weeks went on.
This time last year, I rang in the New Year in bed, with a bucket close by.
Pregnancy taught me early on that despite my best efforts, I had very little control over what was going to actually happen each day. This lesson has been one that I continue to struggle with throughout the postpartum period.
All along the way, I searched for holistic options to deal with what I was experiencing. I found that most symptoms required a bit of trial-and-error to see what worked best for me.
Common pregnancy symptoms include:
- Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy (NVP)
- Yeast Infections
- Digestive issues (constipation, gas, bloating)
- Pelvic floor pain
I’ve experienced all of the above! Here is how I found holistic ways to manage, or at least decrease, the unpleasantness of it all! Although I’m so grateful for the experience, pregnancy definitely wasn’t all magic and rainbows…there was a lot of toilet-hugging and unexpected naps!
Nausea and Vomiting:
- There is a wide-range of variation when it comes to nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. I was in a constant state of nausea and daily vomiting from week six to 16! There was never an hour when I didn’t feel nauseous! Aside from heading out to teach when I needed to, I essentially hunkered down in bed for the majority of my days. There were some holistic solutions that provided a bit of relief:
- Eating small meals frequently – no matter what they look like, make sure to keep some food in your stomach throughout the day. This really helped to decrease the amount of time I spent hugging the toilet. Carbs were my best friend! White potatoes (in any format) and gluten-free/vegan bagels were on the top of my list! Fruit was also an easy option to get down.
- Drink water in whatever way you can – nausea and vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration, which can make symptoms worse. I could barely stomach water, so I diluted a little bit of organic apple juice into each litre of water to make it more palatable.
- Have snacks on hand when you leave the house and keep some by the bed for the middle of the night – I found that I was able to tolerate protein bars and they helped to keep me full with minimal effort throughout the night.
- Rest – As soon as I needed to venture out of the house, I would need to spend a lot of time recovering in bed. The more rest I got, the easier it was to function.
- Ginger and B6 – while these are often touted as the go-to for morning sickness, they did nothing for me. Everyone is different though, so they’re worth a shot!
- This is another symptom that hit me hard in the first trimester! This is what worked best for me:
- Adjusting expectations to the amount of movement/tasks I could do each day. This is hard when you’re used to being on the go! Creating a baby takes energy and the rush of hormones at the beginning required me to accept this reality and ask for help from those around me.
- I stopped exercising for the first trimester. Any amount of exercise would cause me to head to the toilet!
- I stayed hydrated despite not wanting to drink water! Diluted apple-juice became my go-to and I drank this whenever I had a brief break in nausea.
- This one hit me hard during the first trimester, but ended abruptly during the second trimester.
- I tried almost every protocol in Dr. Aviva Romm’s “The Natural Pregnancy Book”. This included everything from apple cider vinegar rinses to home-made herbal suppositories and yogurt. I highly recommend this book!
- Despite my best efforts, I was not able to reduce my symptoms and had to opt for over-the-counter options. Like a lot of experiences in pregnancy and motherhood, I had to adjust my expectations and release control when my holistic efforts didn’t work.
- Even though I couldn’t reduce symptoms from candida naturally, I was able to reverse my bacterial vaginosis with Dr. Romm’s guidelines and avoid antibiotics in the first trimester, which I considered a pretty big win!
- I developed headaches early in the second trimester. There were a few options that helped to curb them.
- Staying hydrated – I can’t really stress this one enough. Pregnancy requires extra hydration and at least 3 litres of water per day. When I skipped on this, the headaches came back!
- Rest – again this is the solution to a lot of symptoms!
- A note on Tylenol – although considered safe in pregnancy, Dr. Romm has recently posted research suggesting some precautions with this drug. I would check out her blog post for an up-to-date discussion on the research here.
Digestive issues (constipation, gas, bloating)
- The early rise in hormones during the first trimester can cause a lot of digestive distress. This can be exacerbated when you’re also dealing with 24/7 nausea and eating mostly carbs! These issues can persist throughout pregnancy when space becomes restricted in the digestive tract. Here are my tips for reducing symptoms:
- Hydration – getting 3 litres of water helps to keep food moving and reduce digestive upset.
- Adding in fibre when you can – I have to admit that any veggies I tried to eat in the first trimester just came back up! When the nausea sub-sided, I was able to get back on the fibre train and this helped to get things moving again!
- Magnesium – taking Epson salt baths and increasing my intake of magnesium through supplementation was important for tackling the constipation of pregnancy. Magnesium citrate seems to work best for constipation.
- Healthy fats – eating quality fats helps to support the digestive system and keep things moving. Avocado and first-cold-pressed flax and olive oil are great options.
- Probiotics – I had to increase my intake of probiotics during pregnancy because my gut health took a hit during the first trimester.
- Focus on whole, nutrient-rich, foods – when possible, aim to eat real food. “Real Food for Pregnancy” is an evidence-based book by dietitian Lily Nichols. She dives into the research and dispels age-old myths about healthy food for pregnancy.
Pelvic floor pain
- This is common in pregnancy for a variety of reasons, including hormone changes. Despite common belief, kegels are not always the solution to strengthen the pelvic floor for everyone!
- See a pelvic floor physio prior to pregnancy and also in the second trimester. My pelvic floor physio told me that kegels wouldn’t work for me because of how pregnancy hormones affected me.
- Getting exercises tailored to your individual circumstance is important for optimal pelvic floor health.
- Regular chiropractic adjustment was also beneficial for me during pregnancy for pelvic health and back pain in general.
- Visualization – I used hypnobirthing tracks to visualize optimal pelvic floor health. I attribute the lack of tearing during birth to my hypnobabies practice, which I started at 20 weeks pregnant…I’ll elaborate on this in my birth story.
- This usually creeps up in the third trimester.
- Eat frequently throughout the day – an empty stomach can make this symptom worse.
- Avoid crouching – I decided that it would be a great idea to move across the country and paint a new house during my third trimester…not something I would recommend! Every time I would crouch for long periods of time, heartburn would increase!
- Hydrate – consuming around 3 litres of water per day can help to reduce heartburn.
Now at four months postpartum, I look back on my pregnancy with fond memories and I’m slowly starting to forget all of the unpleasant symptoms that came along with it.
For me, the 10 months didn’t fly by and I didn’t love every second of it, but I am so grateful for my body and the amazing journey it has taken me on. In some ways, finding holistic solutions to the common (and sometimes not so common) symptoms in pregnancy helped me to prepare for the challenges that have come up in birth in motherhood – including a breech positioned babe at week 36…more on that later!
I am grateful to be spending this New Year’s nauseous-free with my little Élodie. We’ll be spending most of the evening in bed breastfeeding and sipping on green juice!