The day I discovered I was pregnant with my first child, one wonderful fall morning, I remember sitting back in my rocking chair on the front porch with my husband. The strip on the pregnancy test was still damp and I declared to my husband that I was going to be "the most chill and relaxed pregnant woman ever..." and vowed not to stress about anything "enjoying" every precious moment. After all, I am birth doula, I thought. I know everything there is to know about pregnancy and birth! Right!? While I might have known a great many things, experience is a better but less forgiving teacher. A week later, I began a seven-month morning sickness saga and couldn't keep any nourishment down other than the occasional bowl of Cheerios. I also started having debilitating lower back pain. These were only the first of many discomforts and complications with my pregnancy. Despite the difficulties, however, there were several things that not only made my pregnancy more bearable...but more enjoyable. Hence, I devised this pregnancy survival guide in hopes of helping other mamas benefit from a thing or two that I learned from my own experience.
1. Buy a Pregnancy Pillow
Don't cheat yourself into thinking that just shoving those various decorative pillows (you know which ones I'm talking about...the ones on your bed that your significant other always threatens to throw out) in various places will do the trick. No ma'am! Buy yourself a big, wrap around pregnancy pillow, then shove those various decorative pillows in various places to make yourself comfortable. Emphasis on between the thighs just above the knees and between the ankles and calves.
2. Make Regular Visits to Your Local Chiropractor
No, I don't mean just sneaking through the front door of the chiropractic office and leaving for fear of hearing (or even worse) feeling your bones pop and crack. What I actually mean is when you walk through that door you're going to have a bonafide appointment and experience a spinal adjustment on a somewhat regular basis. I could write a whole separate blog post on the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy. In short, many physiological changes accompany pregnancy including but not limited to; increased spinal curve, pelvic changes, posture changes (due to weight re-distribution), and increased stress on the spine and joints (due, again, to weight re-distribution). Not only does regular chiropractic care greatly alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with these changes but it can prevent pelvic misalignment and help baby assume optimal positioning for birth, according to the American Pregnancy Association (1). This is especially critical for those mothers planning a natural, vaginal birth. During my own pregnancy, I felt like a new woman after I had my weekly adjustment. It greatly alleviated the discomfort associated with my changing body and helped my baby maintain optimal positioning throughout the last trimester. Before seeking care, however, consult your healthcare provider and ensure that you do research to select a chiropractor that is Webster Certified to care for pregnant patients.
3. Get Yourself a Big H20 Bottle
Forget about accessorizing with 6-inch designer heels or a new purse (just for a moment). The only accessory you need right now is a big ole water bottle to meet your increased hydration needs. Most care providers recommend drinking anywhere up to 100 fluid ounces of water a day and the Office on Women's Health recommends pregnant women drink approximately 81 ounces or 2.4 liters of water a day (2). For a woman like me, who met my own hydration needs pre-pregnancy with coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, meeting these hydration goals was particularly difficult and life changing. Purchasing a big water bottle with ounce measurement marks on the side (and a cute design) made all the difference and made tracking my hydration intake for the day much simpler.
4. Discover the Miracle of Magnesium
Magnesium supplements and baths during my own pregnancy were critical to managing insomnia, restless leg syndrome, leg cramps, and achy joints and muscles. For some of my clients, as a doula, topical magnesium was also key in managing first trimester nausea. I highly encourage any pregnant mama to research the many benefits of magnesium supplementation and magnesium baths. Of course, I recommend discussing the safety and dosage of magnesium supplementation with your careprovider before taking any yourself.
5. Educate Yourself
I have always encouraged my mamas and couples to read and do research on pregnancy, labor, and postpartum related issues. Knowledge is power and I firmly believe that it yields better, happier pregnancies and better birth outcomes. In my own pregnancy experience, despite all the knowledge I had from my occupation as a doula, I still found myself slightly paranoid about over the counter drugs, alcohol, sandwich meat, vaccines, tap water, sushi, pollutants...you name it. What made me even more paranoid and frustrated was the conflicting literature and recommendations from my care providers on these things. Reading Emily Oster's book Expecting Better provided an unbiased, research-based approach for these pregnancy concerns. I highly recommend reading this book for piece of mind, educating yourself on pregnancy and birth related issues, and engaging your careprovider with questions and concerns. If necessary keep a running list of questions to bring to your prenatal appointments so you don’t forget anything.
6. Indulge in Pregnancy Oil Massage
While indulging in a professional massage is always wonderful, the type of massage I’m talking about is self-administered using various kinds of pregnancy oils. The specific brand or type of oil used is of no consequence. There are an array of oils available for purchase at local retailers, Amazon, or in your own kitchen. The key here is to consistently massage and show a little tender love and care to your expanding and stretching body throughout the course of your pregnancy, paying particular attention to the belly, hips, buttocks, breasts, and thighs. Doing so can help minimize and treat stretch marks that appear during pregnancy and improve your skin’s elasticity.
7. Splurge and Buy Yourself Maternity Clothes
I remember being in my first trimester perusing the internet for maternity clothes and being shocked at the prices. As a result, I kept putting off the inevitable…buying that pair of maternity jeans until I was well into my second trimester and quite frankly miserable, embarrassed, and uncomfortable squeezing into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. The first time I slipped on maternity jeans, I realized they were worth their weight in gold and made all the difference in my maternal comfort. So go ahead- buy yourself those maternity clothes! And, if you’re on a budget like I was, call around to local thrift stores, Goodwills, and consignment shops to see if they carry maternity clothes. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
8. Subscribe to the ‘Due Month’ Philosophy
Giving your pregnancy a specific deadline can prove psychologically and emotionally taxing, especially if you end up going past your specific due date. Also, given the vast array of medical assumptions that are used to calculate your due date, the date itself could be as much as week or more off. One thing that I wish I had done during my own pregnancy that would have spared me much frustration and disappointment was subscribing to the ‘due month’ philosophy. In this way, I would have mentally prepared myself to give birth somewhere between the 38thand 42ndweeks of pregnancy vice exactly on week 40. I also wished I had disclosed to friends and family that my baby was due, for example, “sometime in August,” instead of “August 15th,” or “in late August - early September timeframe” instead of “September 1st.” Doing so would have prevented the mass parade of texts on my due date from individuals wondering why my baby hadn’t come yet and why we had gone past our ‘deadline.’ Doing so would have also mentally spared me much frustration in the last month of pregnancy when life is hard enough as it is.
9. Be Kind to Yourself
Remember- just as every woman is unique, so too is every pregnancy. Try not to compare yourself to others. Don’t worry about how big your expanding belly is or how small, or how much weight you’ve gained or how little, or how you glow or not glow, or how easy your sister’s pregnancy is compared to yours as you vomit crouched over the toilet. As long as you and baby are well and progressing that’s all that matters. And remind yourself that despite how you may feel, you are undeniably beautiful and that what you are doing something wonderful, beautiful, and worthwhile.