Tips for Common Pregnancy Challenges


Pregnancy usually brings an entirely new perspective on life. For me, it came with its share of challenges, emotions and worries. For someone who works with pregnant women all the time, it was even more frustrating to feel totally clueless on how to handle the ups and downs that come during the 9 months. How could I feel so lost?

Below, I have put together a combination of tips that I personally used and found helpful within each of the three trimester along with suggestions from two very trusted sources in my opinion. Orchid Acupuncture is an acupuncture clinic located in Bayview, WI that specializes in fertility, prenatal and women’s health. The other is from Dr. Aviva Romm’s Natural Pregnancy book which I consider a must-read for any women planning on getting pregnant, currently pregnant and even seasoned mamas.

Prenatal Vitamins & Supplements I took throughout my pregnancy:

Thorne Basic Prenatal: The reason I like this one is that it has iodine in it which is a vital nutrient that most prenatal do not include. It is key for optimal thyroid health. It also has the methylated form of folic acid and B12 which is extremely important for anyone who may have (or not sure if they do have) the MTHFR genetic expression. It makes it much easier for the body to absorb these nutrients.

 

Omega Plus: This is a fish oil with combined DHA and EPA which are essential for brain development and is anti-inflammatory. I took one a day throughout my pregnancy.

 

Vitamin D3: 2000IUs is the suggested amount during pregnancy. D3 is the sunshine drug and helps nourish the adrenals. It also is great for immune support.

 

Probiotic: I took a probiotic every day during my pregnancy. It helped with constipation, bloating and is shown to help decrease chances of Strep B (something you are tested for towards the end of the pregnancy). ProFlora Probiotics from Integrative Therapies has the two strains of healthy bacteria that are known to help prevent Strep B. 

I have added links to my dispensaries that you can get 15% off these products and in some cases, free shipping.

First Trimester

This is probably one of the more challenging three months in your pregnancy as the increase of hormones can make you feel less than normal. Some women experience morning sickness or even all-day nausea that doesn’t seem to subside. Others may experience breast tenderness or feel as though their nipples are raw and burning. Most women will experience an increase in fatigue and may even notice needing to go to bed earlier, sleep later and possibly take a nap when able to. All of this is normal and will vary in degrees from each woman as well as within each pregnancy.

Making sure you are getting adequate rest is very important as your body is making a baby from scratch! It requires proper sleep and nourishment. Don’t fight the fatigue at night and even if you are finding yourself going to bed much earlier than normal, the best suggestion is to listen to your body rather than push against it.

In regards to food, the first trimester can be quite challenging to eat anything remotely healthy, as your nausea and aversions to food may be quite strong. Rather than stress about if you are getting enough of nutrients, try to make food choices that are palatable to you in that moment that you know won’t cause an upset or possible vomiting.

When making food choices, try to just think of nutrient dense options versus empty calories. Your baby will take what it needs so don’t worry if you find yourself eating less during the first trimester or even loosing weight. This is very normal and things will begin to shift in your second trimester.

 

Here are some general tips for nausea:

  • Low blood sugar or too full of a stomach are contributors to pregnancy related nausea.
  • Eat meals and snacks slowly every 1-2 hours.  
  • Pre-plan for transitions and have snacks at the ready: before getting out of bed in the morning (have crackers next to bed or have partner make you a smoothie before you get out of bed) / as you leave work and commute home / mid-morning and mid-afternoon lulls / before going to bed.
  • Try to eat protein with each meal/snack to help balance blood sugar levels. If you eat fruit, eat it with protein!  Fruit can be a contributor to nausea because it quickly elevates blood sugar, but then blood sugar rapidly declines without protein to stabilize it.  
  • Eggs (boiled, scrambled, whatever) are a perfectly balanced protein and can sometimes quickly calm the nausea.  Other good protein snacks can include: nuts, nut butters, meats, cheeses, yogurt, tempeh, lentils, Rx or Lara bars.
  • Don’t lie down right after eating or lay on your left side – either of these actions may delay your stomach emptying and trigger nausea or reflux.
  • Don’t take supplements on an empty stomach and avoid iron-containing supplements completely until nausea resolves.  Prenatal vitamins that may be easier to tolerate: New Chapter Perfect Prenatal / Rainbow Light Organic/Thorne.
  • Sparkling water mixed with some organic ginger ale can help an upset tummy. For those who have drank it before pregnancy without trouble, ginger kombucha can also be relieving.Consider Temperature:With a little trial and error you may find that your stomach either needs to be “warmed” or “cooled” to help reduce symptoms.Warming – strong fresh ginger tea + brown sugar to taste / ginger or cinnamon gum and hard candies / chew on fennel or anise seeds / avoid raw foods (too “cold” for the tummy)Cooling – strong brewed peppermint tea / Chicklets or Altoids (NOT sugarless as this can irritate a tender tummy) / avoid spicy foods.

For me, I did not throw up but had some pretty exhausting nausea. The trick was to have something light but protein rich to help my stomach settle. Vital Proteins Collagen Greens were my life saver the first 3 months. I would have a scoop in water every morning when I first got out of bed. It bought me time to actually do a prenatal workout, yoga or go for a walk before eating a full meal versus finding myself curled up back in bed from the morning sickness.

My appetite was so strange this trimester and I found that toasted sourdough bread with Kerry Gold butter and eggs was a safe staple whenever I was feeling less than functional. I would make sure to have protein (when I could stomach it) at every meal knowing that low blood sugar was a big cause with morning sickness. I was disgusted by meat so I did more eggs, lentils, tempeh, nuts and a vegetarian protein powder to help supplement.

Second Trimester

Starting at 13 weeks, you may begin to notice your morning sickness, nausea or extreme fatigue starting to decrease. For some women, this continues on through their pregnancy at some level but most report a feeling of being “back to normal”.

The need for sleep remains so remember to listen to your body for cues of needing more sleep or going to bed earlier.

Appetite and aversion improve during this trimester as well, making it easier to eat more nutrient dense foods and more variety. The focus for nutrients is healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates. Empty calories from sugar or processed food won’t provide any nourishment for you nor your growing baby.

However, know that you may have an increased urge for sweets or snacks that you never really had before. It is ok to indulge in these foods from time to time.

Eating more frequently in smaller amounts may also feel better as your baby, uterus and belly start to grow. The upward pressure can make you feel fuller much quicker than before.

 

Digestion also begins to slow down causing an increase occurrence of acid reflux or heartburn. Making sure to drink lemon water before eating, chew your food slowly and not lying down after eating are all helpful suggestions to avoid this issue.

Constipation

This is a very common complaint during pregnancy that can really feel uncomfortable. Things to help avoid this:

 

  • Properly hydrate each day. Your bodily fluids have increased drastically during pregnancy and your water needs do as well. At least half of you body weight in fluid ounces per day is suggested.
  • Take a multi-strain probiotic or eat probiotic foods during your pregnancy.
  • 300-500mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate each day.
  • Eating 1-4 prunes each day.
  • Increasing daily fiber in the form of vegetables, leafy greens, beans, squash, legumes, lentils.

 

Discomfort sleeping is also very common during this trimester as you may feel low back aches, hip aches and even aches deep in your tailbone. These are all signs of your body expanding and making room for the baby. Laying your side as you sleep with a body pillow between your knees can be very helpful to reduce pressure and improve sleep comfort. I loved the Snoogle that we invested as it helped keep my hips from feeling sore while sleeping. It can be a bit cumbersome, especially in the third trimester but I slept with it every night. Any large pillow or body pillow will suffice.

Laying on your back may start to feel uncomfortable later in your second trimester as the weight of the baby puts pressure on your spine. Exercises on your hands and knees are key during pregnancy as it helps to release the pressure from your back and allows your baby to hang. It also helps strengthen your arms, which will be very beneficial during labor.

 

It is suggested to not try sucking in or tightening your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. We want to create space for the baby to grow rather than constrict the area. Standard ab exercises are also not recommended during your pregnancy. Rather, focus on full core work (butt to below your boobs) such as yoga, pilates.

See Exercise Suggestions Below.

Your appetite will most likely grow and you may notice yourself eating more than you normally do. Remember, your baby needs the nutrients and so does your body. Try not to get overwhelmed or worried about this change. Staying mindful of how you feel including your appetite will provide a peace of mind as your body transitions.

 

There may also be an increased incentive to get things done! This is the classic nesting time of your pregnancy when preparing your home for the baby becomes top priority. Allow yourself the time and space to get things done, as well as time to rest and recover in between. This is a good time to do any travelling you and your partner may be considering. As always, consult with your doctor, midwife or nurse-midwife beforehand.

 

My second trimester was fairly symptom free minus the increase in appetite and a sudden obsession with soda bread and sharp cheddar cheese (I blame our trip to Ireland for that one). I tried to do a lot of walking and found myself feeling pretty normal minus the beginning signs of a bump which made getting dressed less than thrilling.

 

I did get one bought of the stomach flu which was scary but just focused on hydrating and getting my electrolytes via coconut water, broth and tea with honey/lemon. It took about 2 days to get my appetite back and a lot of rest but we survived:). 

 

Third Trimester

The next three months may begin to start feeling uncomfortable due to your growing baby and belly. It is important to keep trying to do some sort of movement or activity to keep your muscles and ligaments strong and fluid.

 

This time of the pregnancy has a more restful energy to it as the body prepares for labor. You may notice it more challenging to do certain things especially bending over. Don’t over exert yourself during this time and find positions that are comfortable to be in. Slouching or reclining backwards are not ideal for labor positioning.

This is when I started to feel much more winded from normal daily activities. I continued with my prenatal workouts but noticed that I would get tired a lot easier. I scheduled in times for rest and made bedtime a lot earlier, knowing that I would be up a lot at night to go to the bathroom. On days it wasn’t freezing or icy, I loved walking! It felt so good on my hips, back and legs.

Nighttime stretching became a routine as well and made a big difference in how comfortable I was sleeping. There are a ton of Youtube prenatal yoga videos out there that I would grab some postures from and used them especially in the third trimester.

 

Nutrient Dense Food Options Throughout Pregnancy

*Foods that are specifically beneficial for pregnancy/breastfeeding

Eggs

Organic Full Fat Dairy

*Oatmeal

Buckwheat

Nuts/Seeds (walnuts, almonds)

*Flaxseed

Nut Butters

Sprouted Grain or Sourdough Bread

Gluten-free Breads

Soups/Stews

Butter

Olive Oil

Avocado

Sweet Potato

Winter Squash

Root Vegetables

Coconut Oil

Coconut Shreds

*Seaweed/Vegetarian Sushi

Hummus

Dried Fruit

Turkey

Chicken

Lamb

Wild Caught Salmon (1 per week)

Beans

Organic Tempeh

*Lentils

Legumes

Wild/Brown Rice

Quinoa

Mary’s Crackers

Almond Crackers

Smoothies

Almond/Coconut/Hemp Milk

*All Fruit

*All Vegetables

 

Beneficial Herbal Teas

Nettle

Chamomile

Ginger

Blueberry Rooibos

 

Foods to Avoid

High sugary foods/candy

Soda/Diet Soda

Caffeine

Raw Fish

Raw Cheeses/Unpasteurized Dairy

Deli Meat

Raw or uncooked meat

Vegetable Oils

Processed Foods

Microwaved Food



Omega Smoothie for Pregnancy

1 banana

1 cup almond/hemp/coconut milk

2 tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seed

1 tbsp walnuts

Handful of spinach

 

*Blend on high until smooth. Can add ice if desired.

 

 

Recommended Reading

Natural Pregnancy by Aviva Romm M.D.

Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke CNM

 

 

Recommended Exercises

Pregnancy Project by Tracy Anderson

Prenatal Yoga Classes or YouTube Videos

Walking

Deep Squats

Arm Exercises

 

Recommended DVDs

Spinning Babies

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