Saturday, 18 July 2015

Surviving The First Trimester, Naturally

I've been planning this post for a while! You'll probably hear me say repeatedly over the next 6 months how much of a drag pregnancy is. That's not to say that I'm ungrateful, or even having a rough time of it particularly, but I'm just not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. I like the bump, once I get one, and I LOVE when the baby moves, but I don't like feeling sub-par (at best) for 9 months. For me it's the classic, minor symptoms: nausea and fatigue, which gives way to dizziness (I have low blood pressure) and ligament pain, which gives way to indigestion, rib pain, and fatigue again. I'm basing that off of last time, maybe I'll get lucky and the rest of this one will be a delight, but I'm not holding my breath.

However icky I'm feeling though, I still treat this time as the ultimate health kick - which is at least a little bit fun. Before I ever got pregnant, I think I was imagining it to be a little bit like the lead-up to your wedding, but with virgin cocktails: planning, pampering, dreaming - basically luxuriating in being a girl. But no, obviously those fancy vitamins made me sick, I nearly fainted on the tube, and Boots wouldn't sell me Breathe-Right strips (which is a whole other thing - don't get me started). Glamour, it ain't. This time, I definitely coped better, despite finding harder to look after a toddler than go to work when I'm not feeling great (yes, really). Here are my thoughts!

Ditch the sugar.
Wait! Don't go yet! Hear me out. A few months ago I entered a cake in our street party cake competition. I tend to take this sort of thing rather seriously, because mine will be the only vegan cake that many people will have tried and I want to represent. So I made a huge, pink, sugar-laden, strawberry and buttercream layer cake from the excellent Ms. Cupcake cookbook. It came second! But there was a ton leftover, and I, well, ate it. And I swear to you, I was hungover for two days. So I did a little research, and apparently there's some evidence that 'morning' sickness is linked to blood sugar levels, which makes sense! That's why it helps to eat a little something, often. Immediately I cut out all refined sugar, fruit juice, and limited alternative sweeteners (but not whole fruit, I need my fruit), and felt better! My goal since then has been to keep my blood sugar on a fairly even keel, so low-GI-ish whole foods, and it helps so much. Interestingly, with my first pregancy, I felt so ill that I comepletely went off most food - a plate of greens would have made my stomach turn (a nutritional low point was having a vegan sausage roll with raspberry jam). Since cutting out the sugar, I've been able to eat more or less normally, so I'm much happier with my first trimester diet this time around as well. It wasn't my main concern, but I haven't gained much weight yet either, which is appropriate at this stage, and I'm glad of it. I'll gain plenty in the months to come - no need to get a head start.

The cake, probaby 80% sugar. 
Sleep, sleep, and more sleep.
I truly believe that the best and only way to deal with that fatigue is to sleep every chance you get. I mean every chance. When F sleeps, I sleep. On the weekends, I try to get at least one little lie-in. If my guy takes the F to Mudchute Farm, I'm going back to bed. It's harder when you have a little one to look after, and when you're working full time the only option may be to go to bed at 8 - but do it, and don't feel bad or lazy. Which leads me to...

Ask for the support you need.
Pregnancy seems to hit men a little differently than women. My guy is quite cautious with his enthusiasm - he doesn't want to get too excited early on in case it doesn't work out. So for him, the pregnancy isn't really real until much later on. But for me, it's super real. Like, I'm up to my eyeballs in pregnancy realness. So I have to very seriously explain that this is the worst part, when I'll need the most support, even though I look totally normal. It's counterintuitive from the outside, so you've got to spell it out. Martyrs get no prizes; ask for a nap, ask for a snack, ask for sympathy. I also chose to tell a very small handful of people early this time around, and it helped me to feel loved and cared for, and gave me someone to complain to! I don't see any shame in miscarriage, so while I didn't want to 'untell' everyone I've ever met, I would have been able to tell this little support network - in fact, I'd end up telling them anyway.

Just Keep Eating
I know it's gross, and I know you don't want to. But you've got to eat something, and you'll feel better. There was a period where spelt crackers and popcorn were my best friend. Mild, carb-y foods seem to be most universally acceptable, and now isn't the time to worry about it. While you're at it, drink lots of water, especially if you're actually throwing up. I also found that the worst possible thing to do was to take my prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach - they are far too harsh on your stomach to take alone. Just. Keep. Eating. You might also go off the idea of cooking, because of both nausea and fatigue, so it's a good idea to keep easy or ready-made healthy food around. Frozen stuff, hummus and bread, smoothies, peanut butter, fruit - cut yourself some slack on making elaborate food, or everything from scratch. Cut yourself a lot of slack.

I know, me with the Kombucha AGAIN. It does wonders though! Think about it, it's probiotic, so it's going to be good for your tummy. My nausea improved dramatically from the DAY I started drinking it. Until my supply caught up with demand, I had my guy go to Whole Foods and stock up - it's been my one essential comfort. Also, it's caffeinated, which gave me a little boost through the fatigue. Now, I gave up most caffeine on a cleanse years ago, but I brew my Kombucha with green tea, and there's no reason to think that the caffeine content diminishes with fermentation. I know that the pregnancy recommendations are to limit caffeine, which some people take to mean 'IT'S POISON!!!!' But a glass of tea, green or black, is well within the recommended limits. (The limits are nonsense anyway, have you read Expecting Better? Fascinating stuff.) Kombucha is also very, very mildly alcoholic, but the levels are low enough to be sold as non-alcoholic, and again I feel strongly that it's nothing to worry about. Mouthwash is boozier. 
Strawberry Kombucha, fizzy and perfect!

Ginger and Lemon.
It's a classic for a reason. I mean whole ginger, fresh lemon - not some sugary concoction with a pinch of the real thing. If you are able to stomach hot drinks (I never can while pregnant, in fact, this time that's how I knew to take a test!), just put whole pieces in a big mug of hot water in the morning. It works. 

What DOESN'T work:

I bought some ginger sweets from a health food shop in the beginning, and I had some Preggie Pops, which are special morning sickness lollipops. Both actually work really well in the short term, so I would stash a few in my handbag in case of a sudden heave, but in an hour or so they make you feel worse than you did to begin with!!! Gave 'em up. Didn't miss 'em. Same goes for Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer, and other soda. I did get a mean craving for a Coke one day, and indulged in the stevia kind - felt fine afterward. Again, it's those blood sugar spikes and crashes that play havoc. In general, I've played the long game this pregnancy, and it's paid dividends. 

Sea Bands
I'm calling it, all Sea Bands do is announce you're pregnant. They didn't work for me at all. I think that acupressure MIGHT help, but I'm not convinced that the bands do a good job of applying that pressure. I don't know, maybe I'd have been better off giving the pressure point a little squeeze myself when I had a queasy wave.

So that's what worked for me, and what didn't! Just remember that it won't last forever, soon you'll feel better, then before you know it the whole pregnancy will be a memory and your little one will have been totally worth it (I promise). You'll enjoy food again someday. You'll have energy again. You'll get through it!  

What about you guys?? Any secret weapons?

***A Note on Homeopathy
I don't believe in homeopathy. Some people find that surprising (what can I say, I'm skeptical for a hippie). When you find out about how it's made, and what it is (um, water), it's clear that it can't be anything more than a placebo. That said, the placebo effect can be a strong mutha', so I do believe people who say that it worked for them. But I'd never buy it for myself, for my kid, or even my dog (maybe especially my dog - he doesn't know he's getting a placebo, how's that going to work??). So fair enough, I haven't tried it, and I feel like I would be remiss not to mention it, but it's a pet hate of mine!

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  1. The first trimester can be really rough, I did not enjoy being pregnant, the morning sickness/all day and night sickness lasted until 8 months. Eating small things frequently really did help.

    1. Yes! Eating frequently is a must - even when you don't want to!