Sunday, December 20, 2015

11 Things That Make Pregnancy More Comfortable

I try to avoid talking about babies/pregnancies too much because I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea (I'm not talking about updates on my own children, you can still expect those too often), but I have a few in the pipeline that I'm just going to bite the bullet on and post so they are out of the way and I can move on with my life. If you like them, cool, if not, cool. The blog won't be like this forever.

I'm actually not 100% sure why I'm bothering to write this post, since it's a little too late for it to be for my benefit for "next time," and the social reach of my blog is about nil. All the same, here we go:

A lot of people make their pregnancies all about the imminent baby. I mean that's kind of a "Duh" thing...except that neglecting yourself or just suffering through it can make you feel worse. And if you already feel the worst when that baby comes, well, you're already running on empty, son. Pregnancy should really be about making yourself comfortable and as healthy as possible.  So here is what I personally found that helped get me as comfortably as possible through pregnancy:

1. Ginger:
It's true, ginger helps with nausea. Granted, my nausea was manageable without drugs (although stomach drugs don't work on me anyway, so I didn't really give myself the option) for both pregnancies, and I know a lot of people aren't given that luxury. So, for what it's worth: I had a sample vial of ginger essential oil that I kept near my bedside and would sniff in the morning to calm my stomach. Sometimes I carried it around on really bad days. I also worked ginger into morning smoothies (and cooking wherever was reasonable), which also helped (until cold things started making me barf for a while, then forget it). Funny thing, both pregnancies I had ginger candy on hand but never ate any. I'm just not a fan of candy in general. But a lot of people swear by it, so there you go. There are two brands I've heard wonderful things about, which are The Ginger People chews and Reed's.

2. Nuts (aka a snack on hand):
Throughout pregnancy, you can stave off nausea by keeping your blood sugar up and avoiding hunger. Hunger ALWAYS makes it worse. My first pregnancy I kept a can of mixed nuts at my desk at work, and some days lived only off of trail mix (my favorite is the one shown below, from Trader Joe's). Nuts are a great snack because they have iron and protein. I also had to have chocolate in there because chocolate. The second time around, I still did nuts, but for some reason I really craved string cheese (at the yuck), so that's what I had on hand (calcium and protein too yay). Find something simple that will be good for you and keep it with you.

3. Magnesium:
Magnesium is a great help in pregnancy for some people. You can take it orally (which supposedly can help with stomach trubs, though my body is impervious to things for the stomach as I mentioned, so I wouldn't actually know), but it just so happens to be one of those things that's better absorbed through the skin. In early pregnancy it can help with morning sickness. Later on, it can help with restless legs or other aches and pains. I use this stuff, in the spray version, but I wish I'd gotten the lotion kind because this can be a little itchy so I have to apply lotion anyway. But this bottle will go a long, long way. I've barely made a dent in it. I also take baths with a crank load of Epsom salts in it (aka magnesium sulfate), which also helps with aches and pains.  Another good thing for achiness is arnica gel. It's like a very mild (but still very effective) version of Icy Hot or that sort of thing (and natural, so safe for pregnancy and little kids), though I've noticed it smells like old stage makeup, so there you go.

4. Supplements:
I know some people don't "believe" in supplements, calling "snake oil" and such, but I personally think that (especially with pregnancy) as long as it's properly sourced and presented in a bioavailable format, it won't hurt you (the studies showing vitamins might increase your risk of cancer were on chemically sourced vitamins, so....). With pregnancy, folic acid is the hero, but there's much more you shouldn't ignore. I balance quality with what I can afford and go for the Rainbow Light food-based multivitamin (another bonus of food-based vitamins is you can take them on an empty stomach no probalo). I like it the best of any vitamin I've ever taken in my life, so far. And bonus that it has enzymes and a couple simple probiotics in it to help with digestion and settling your stomach. Bonus bonus that Rainbow Light prenatal also has red raspberry leaf in it, which is great for prepping your uterus for battle.

Speaking of probiotics, that's another thing you should take on the reg. Contrary to popular belief, probiotics aren't just good for those with a constantly upset stomach. They have ones that are good for constipation too, and overall, it's good to take them for good gut health and immune health in general. I love probiotics. Again, I buy what works for my body that I can also afford, which, for me, happens to be available at Costco. In pregnancy, having a good balance of flora can help reduce your risk of testing positive for Group B Strep 'pon delivery, so that's a bonus (side note: I tested positive for GBS this time around, so I'm taking an additional probiotic specifically formulated for vaginal/urinary health. It's this one, if you're curious).

Another big one is fish oil. It's great for the baby's developing brain, and has good affects on your brain too. The only other thing for me is that I hate having fish burps, so I get it interically coated (that means it dissolves past the duodenum, not in your stomach)-- another thing I found at Costco. I realize I'm trading out some absorption there, but not having fish burps all day is really important to me, so there.

All in all, the best way to get vitamins and minerals is in your diet, but I really think when a fetus is at stake you shouldn't take any chances or leave any gaps (especially when you aren't eating properly because you don't feel good or are having bizarre cravings). I will say though that fortified foods are supposed to have a better absorption than any old chemical vitamin (again with the food sourcing), so if you're still morally opposed to a vitamin, at the very least, eat more Lucky Charms (ha)!

5. Belly lotion:
Ok, you must know that avoiding stretch marks has more to do with genetics than any oil or butter or lotion you could smear on yourself, but you should still invest in a good lotion or cream for your stomach because that skin can get ITCHY as it grows. I lotion up with my regular lotion all over after every shower, and right before I go to bed every night, I slather something thicker on growing spots (think stomach, thighs, breasts). That way it can soak in all night. I like this one because it's thick but not too sticky and it smells really nice (I'm sensitive to fragrance, but this doesn't bother my throat at all).

6. Water bottle:
You need lots of water. I've always been told that 3 liters per day is the golden standard for pregnancy. Do I ever reach it? Nah. I do have a 1 liter nalgene that I try to drink about twice, and then have at least one large glass of water at every meal. That works for me.  Why water? It's the stuff of life, friends. It can help regulate amniotic fluid levels, keep you from feeling fatigued, reduce swelling, help reduce Braxton Hicks contractions, and keep the dry throat at bay. I know it's hard to chug water when you feel sick, so do what you can, but aim high.

7. Prenatal massage:
Just do it, at least once. You'll feel better. But if you're going to pay for one (instead of manipulating your spouse into rubbing you down every night), find someone with legit credentials who actually understands pregnancy and has multiple options available for you to get comfortable on a massage table. Seriously, any old massage therapist will not necessarily be an expert. Here in Utah, I recommend Salt Lake Prenatal Massage. Those girls are beasts (in the best way).

8. Chiropractor:
Seeing a chiropractor at all is another one of those touchy subjects.  For some reason, people don't seem to like chiropractors for two popular reasons; A) they "make" you come back, and B) it's just going to pop out again anyway.

So be it. Be uncomfortable then.

But I believe in chiropractors (like fairies?). My first pregnancy, I went once near the beginning, and once a few months after the baby was born. I was in so much pain, especially in my hips and pelvis (and back, and neck, and...), and I think the only reason I didn't go was because I was worried it would hurt the baby somehow. So the second time around, I talked with my regular chiropractor (who is amazing, by the way, and has a fantastic personality and does the chiropractics for BYU sports teams) about it and discovered he's actually great with pregnant women and a lot of OBs in the area recommend him. So that sealed it. I've been going once a month this pregnancy and I feel so much better this time around (I still have SPD, but that isn't his fault, it's hormonal). As an added bonus, seeing a chiropractor can (statistically speaking) speed up your labor and reduce your risk of C-Section by helping the baby find an optimal birthing position. So there you are. He even told me the other day about a successful version he did on a breech baby recently. So cool, you guys.

9. Guide book:
I'm going to cut to the chase and say that I think the What to Expect When You're Expecting book is pretty dumb. I've read a ton of books on pregnancy and birth (including WTE), and the absolutely most helpful and legitimately informative one that I have found is "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn" by Penny Simkin, et al. It's a great book and actually helpful, but doesn't scare you with all the info on the things that there is like a 0.001% chance of happening to you.  Seriously, you don't need more worry on your brain. So head straight for this one and skip the more mainstream ones. You won't be sorry (even if you are that 0.001%, but then your OB or midwife is going to tell you that anyway, not a book).

10. FOOD:
When your appetite returns, don't be ashamed if you feel like eating a whole elephant. Eat, and eat lots. This is tricky, because a lot of practitioners worry about gaining too much weight too fast, but the main concern for that is because rapid weight gain is a sign of pre-eclampsia, and you don't mess around with that. So using your best judgement and after consulting with your OB/midwife, make sure you eat enough. One of the things I like about midwives is that nutrition is a huge focus. The whole first trimester is focused on eating plans and nutrients and such, and it's great.

A big thing in your diet (besides those leafy greens) is protein.  Protein is super important, because babies are made of protein, and studies have shown that enough dietary protein can actually help you avoid pre-eclampsia. I have a chart on the fridge with guidelines for the Brewer Diet, which focuses a lot on getting that protein. I will never in my wildest dreams eat everything in one day that they suggest, but I keep it there as a guideline for the kinds of things I should be aiming for in my diet. I also have found that using My Fitness Pal or a similar app for just a while can help you get a better idea what kinds of foods you're eating and how beneficial they actually are. I don't use it all the time though, just when I feel like I need a reminder.

11. Activity:
This is another big one, and you can tell I almost forgot it, that's why this list is 11 instead of 10.  BUT.  Staying active during pregnancy is muy importante, even if it's just little things.  For instance, all I ever did through both pregnancies was go for walks whenever I could (mostly in the first 2/3 partly because the SPD really kicked in around then and partly because both my due dates were in the middle of winter).  But almost every single day through both times, I tried to do a little light "yoga"-- really just holding some poses for a bit and moving on.  It usually just takes 5-10 minutes and then I'm on with my day.  But doing those two things (walking, yoga) has really helped keep me limber and less stiff and I ALWAYS feel better after moving around, no matter how pregnant I am (and you rest better too).  An added bonus this time is that with a toddler and all, I haven't had as much time for resting as I did the first time.  I've been much more active in total.  And a great side effect of that is that I have been significantly less swollen in my limbs this time around.  I'm really grateful for that, actually, because last time it was bad enough to cause carpal tunnel and that REALLY hurt and took a long time postpartum to go away.  Hidden blessing of being more tired from less rest woohoo!

There you go. Those are the basics. I know I'm forgetting something (oh, like a pillow to put between your legs when you sleep, how about?  Or comfortable pants?), so if anyone out there has two cents, feel free to share!


Kelly said...

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog! I k ow you've mentioned several times that no one every reads it, but I do! :)

Shannon said...

Thank you! I'm glad I'm not just talking to myself over here 😂

LP said...

Your regular chiropractor told me again that he thought you were awesome (he did that little worship bow when he mentioned it) to come in for an adjustment one week after giving birth. He admires your bravery and mentions it every time I see him.

This is chock full of good info. Wish you'd been around 25-30 years ago. Well, you were, but you know....