Being pregnant for the first time can sometimes feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole - you don't know what to expect, you don't know who to talk too about it (at least initially when it's usually kept under wraps), you're not sure what happens now that the box test says 'positive', what testing needs to be done (if any), or how to navigate so many emotions and physical sensations all at once.
And then when you do decide to tell people the exciting news, it doesn't necessarily make all this unchartered territory seem any easier to navigate. So I wanted to share a few things I learnt along the way early on that may help and support you as well, if you happen to be pregnant (or feel free to share this with anyone who is). 👶
- Accept that you may not get much done. Like really. I remember one morning I went out with my sister, only to have to come home a couple of hours later as I literally could not stand on my two feet any longer. I needed the couch pronto. And sleep. Expect things to get pushed aside as right now, you need all the rest you can get.
- Be prepared to throw your exercise routine out the window. For the same reason as above. You'll likely be knackered a lot. You may also get morning sickness or feel off some of the time. I never got nausea but I was stupidly tired so my daily exercise turned into twice a week if that. If you thrive off movement, try and do easy gentle yoga and stretches. Walk if you can muster the energy. And enjoy the days when you do feel good enough to do something a bit more vigorous. But also know, this won't last for 9 months so try and rest as much as you feel you need too, and you'll have energy again before you know it.
- Know that right now your first and foremost priority is YOU. This may be hard for some women who already have kids, work long corporate hours, or have self esteem issues. I had people tell me time and time again, "you're growing a baby" which I knew, but you almost need to hear it again and again as without a belly bump, it sometimes feels as if you're not. So you also expect to feel good and energetic and like your usual self. But you might not. So focus on YOU more and really try to implement self care here - it will do you well alter down the track. Ask friends, family and your partner for help when you need it.
- SLEEP. And then sleep some more. It's seriously the best thing you can do as nothing else will make you feel like the perkier you that you know you are. Another trick I use is putting on a visualisation, meditation or yoga nidra on my ipod. It blocks out more noise and allows me to really sink and rest, more so than if I just lay down to try and sleep (especially on those days where you are exhausted, but have trouble actually falling asleep).
- Don't worry too too much about what you are eating. Sure, I'm a nutritionist and I love supporting and educating women around food choices, but this is one time when you gotta be a bit lax. And I don't mean you can start eating Maccas every other day. I mean if you're someone who doesn't usually eat refined carbs but you feel like all you can stomach right now is plain rice crackers, then eat the rice crackers! So many women who are conscious of their food choices can beat themselves up in their first trimester of pregnancy as we all envisage eating the best diet ever loaded with fresh produce, but then get morning sickness and toast and rice crackers is all we can put to our lips. So I want you to know that's it's totally ok.
Bub's isn't needing a 3hr slow cooked lamb shank with moroccan spices, bone-broth-cooked quinoa and roast veggies on the side. They have no clue what you are consuming right now (and can't decipher different tastes til about 14 weeks - likely a first trimester blessing as most women can't stomach many different foods) so just stick to eating what you can stomach. You need energy and if it's only from vegemite toast, ginger cookies and rice cakes for now, so be it. This too will likely change so focus on eating something to fuel you, and know it will pass.
- Begin seeing a nutritionist or naturopath if you don't already. The reason I say this is because your GP doesn't cover everything, and it's likely they will most certainly not cover diet and nutrition - which is, um, probably the most important thing to know and focus on when pregnant!
Not once has anyone I've seen asked me about my diet. Not once did anyone suggest supplements or nutrients I should ensure I am getting in my diet at the different stages of pregnancy. The only thing touched on was a small section on a lengthy form that had me list what I was taking (if anything); yet it's only there for reference as no-one mentioned it.
A girlfriend of mine is also pregnant and when I saw what multi vitamin she had in her fridge (ahem, not one I would ever recommend) I asked her why she was taking that one, and the reason was simply because "the chemist suggested it". Cue red flags here - do chemists study anything about nutrition? No.
Another thing is that even great pregnancy multi vitamins do not take into consideration the biochemical individuality of each woman so it really does pay to see a practitioner who can navigate this with you.
Many cheap ones have so little in them it's not worth taking. Or they have forms of nutrients that are not useful - magnesium oxide for example (in my pregnant friends multi) is the form recommended when you need to empty your bowels... Kinda useless when you're wanting your body to use it for smoother muscle contractions to avoid cramping bellies and aching legs right?
In the practitioner multi I take, the daily magnesium dose is only a mere 30mg, and I recommend most people take 350mg daily. In pregnancy, your needs for magnesium are increased, and further down the track you are going to want to be swallowing it like it's going out of fashion to avoid horrible leg cramps and back aches that may arise. Again, knowing YOU and YOUR BODY is imperative to get the most out of what you are buying.
Using myself as an example here, I take a practitioner brand pregnancy multi. I also take additional magnesium, additional iron, and a lot of additional zinc (because I know I need extra doses of these from having regular blood work done), as well as additional vitamin C and fermented cod liver oil (high in vitamins A and D and omega 3 essential fatty acids). No doctor could tell me this. In fact, I was told my iron was "normal", until I saw the results for myself, showed my naturopath, and then realised I'm in fact iron deficient. If I had followed what the doctor said (nothing), I likely wouldn't be taking additional iron right now, and would be bedridden with exhaustion due to the severe lack of it in my system. Not fun at all for a pregnant woman!
So working with a qualified nutritionist who understands nutrient quantities and ratios for pregnant women will ensure you are getting exactly what you need, what bubs needs, and have you feeling much closer to the glowing, healthy, vibrant picture of pregnancy than the tired, dishevelled, nauseous woman on the couch all day.
I hope these helpful hints are of use to you or can be passed on to someone you know so they can feel supported by them.
Do you have anything you could add to the list above? I'd love to know!
Please share in the comments below and get the ball rolling!