The Sh*tty Side of Pregnancy (Literally)

On the other end...

My last post covers what you may be putting into your body, but there's also the topic of what comes out. Or doesn't.

Yep, I mean constipation, one of the most annoying side effects of pregnancy that hits you like a brick. A brick that won't move. Right in your colon.

Hit back with a full frontal (middle?) assault of tons of water and fiber. If you're having trouble drinking enough water, try adding fruit (citrus slices, strawberries), cucumber slices, or mint for a hint of flavor. Your goal should be around half your body weight in ounces of water per day (if you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces of water and see how you feel).

Drinking a large glass of water first thing in the morning can help ward off nausea and headaches, and it help get things moving in your GI tract as well. If you're up to it, physical activity also stimulates digestion, so a walk or other exercise is not only good for you, but good for your gut.

green smoothie ingredients

"Fiber" doesn't sound sexy, so think in terms of:

  • eating whole grains instead of refined ones
  • incorporating nuts and seeds
  • snacking on fresh and dried fruit
  • and adding dark leafy greens to your diet (try a smoothie, or sauteed with eggs)

It's not as hard as it sounds. Try brown rice or whole wheat pasta instead of white. Eat some trail mix. Have fruit available at all time. Opt for a side salad instead of fries when you eat out.

Have you ever eaten too many blueberries or prunes in one sitting? No such thing when you're baking a baby. And those micronutrients in leafy greens include the folate you need to help in the earliest days of your pregnancy.

What about supplements?

Normally I'm a whole food, plant-based kind of girl, but sometimes you need a little oomph. I pretty much ate cereal and yogurt my first trimester. Nothing with flavor sounded good and I was too tired to cook.

Some groups suggest eating tons of organ meats and a zillion fermented things. No thanks, guys. I barely have an appetite anyway, and my own organ meats are having a hard time. But if you need a little energy boost and are worried, these can help.

(This is not medical advice and should not be construed as such. This is what I have personally taken, however, and have recommended them to clients and friends. Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you purchase the items I suggested I get a few cents from it.)

Some supplements I actually do recommend

  • Floradix. This liquid iron supplement is non-constipating. It tastes like juice stirred with a rusty nail, but I felt less fatigued after only 2-3 days of taking it.
  • Your prenatals. A vitamin supplement doesn't cancel out a bad diet, but it can help smooth over rough patches. Also, your body is drawing on your nutrient stores to build your placenta and baby, so you need to replenish them for yourself!
  • Magnesium. There is a range of opinion on rates of magnesium deficiency, but taking a little too much isn't dangerous, it just can give you diarrhea. If that happens, back off! Magnesium is the active ingredient in milk of magnesia, a laxative. As a side bonus, magnesium can help those restless legs and cramps at night, too. Several friends swear by this calcium-magnesium combo (just don't take it with your iron supplement since calcium can inhibit absorption).
  • Vitamin D3. 95% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D. Most of us aren't out in the sun long enough with enough skin exposed to get enough naturally, and while foods are fortified with it, we're still not getting enough. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of other nutrients as well as sleep. (It's also important when you're breastfeeding.) I recommend at least 5000iu. You'd have to take about 40 bottles at once to overdose, and it doesn't store in your system, so you can't take too much without trying.

Is it nap time yet? I thought so.

Happy pooping!

Can I Eat That If I’m Pregnant?

Ok, let's talk happy hour.

By now the newness of pregnancy may be wearing off.

How much reading have you done so far? The self-declared "bible" is What to Expect When You're Expecting. The subtitle should be "Horror Stories to Keep You Up at Night Between Bathroom Trips for the Next Nine Months."

Instead they just call it "America's #1 pregnancy book." Weird choice, but whatever!

I dutifully checked a copy out from the library and started reading, but I didn't even make it through the first trimester. This from someone who sat through the entirety of Battlefield: Earth in the theater.

The conflicting information out there about what you can and can't eat during pregnancy is enough to drive someone to drink - except that's off limits, too!

...Isn't it?

DISCLAIMER! I'm not a medical professional and I'm not saying you SHOULD do anything I say, I'm just telling you what *I* did. Please do what feels comfortable for you based on your research and professional advice, and don't sue me. I'm going to have to feed a teenage boy in a decade or so and need to invest that ish. Thanks!

The most common questions I hear are about alcohol, sushi, and soft cheese.

BOOZE, yay or nay?

blanc de blanc at gloria ferrer
Women in Europe are advised to have only a few drinks a week. Our litigious society in the Land of Malpractice isn't willing to say you can drink, but there's a difference between having a glass of wine and tossing back a 40 of Mickey's in the parking lot.

My husband likes to point out that if drinking any alcohol during pregnancy was harmful, we wouldn't have the French, Italians, Irish, Austrians, Germans, Russians... You get the idea. He also took his duty of "drinking for two" very seriously during my pregnancy.

That said, alcohol smelled and tasted awful to me for most of my gestational tenure. While I wasn't opposed to drinking in principle, it didn't appeal to me in practice anyway. I'm not saying you should take it up, either, but a glass of wine your third trimester can actually help you relax according to some midwives I know.

SAY CHEESE!

boucherondin cheese
Back away from the cheese plate of CERTAIN DEATH. Right?

Listeria bacteria are actually quite common, but pregnancy's immune suppressing qualities make moms-to-be 20 times more susceptible than average to falling ill from exposure. The concern is unpasteurized varieties of cheese, usually soft and blue ones. The irony is that the U.S. outlawed most unpasteurized cheeses that aren't aged for 60 days (figuring that soaking in salt for 2 months will kill off the bacteria) in 1949.

Heat kills the bacteria which is why cold cuts are also at risk, as are coleslaw, hot dogs, and chicken. Cold cuts aren't really doing you any nutritional favors, and listeria would just be the disgusting icing on the salty meat cake. Ewww.

The cheese probably won't hurt you, but there are a lot of alternatives since most cheese isn't a risk.

SUSHI

my favorite homemade sushi roll
Mmm, sushi. First off, "sushi" actually means "vinegar rice," so there are plenty of fish-free options no matter what you decide. The recommendation to avoid uncooked fish apparently stems from concern for a particular parasite found in fish. Specifically found in freshwater fish which aren't used for sushi. This parasite is killed by flash freezing, which is required for all fish (including sushi-grade) that's served in the U.S.

So don't eat sketchy back alley sushi, whether you're pregnant or not. My bigger concern would be avoiding fish with high mercury levels like tuna.

If you're afraid of food poisoning, it's anecdotal, but I know more people who have gotten food poisoning from fast food than from sushi, and no one is saying all pregnant women should avoid Wendy's. Well, that's not true, because I am. Consider yourself warned!

CLICK HERE for my favorite resource of "Things Pregnant Women Supposedly Shouldn't Do" over at Pregnant Chicken.

Wow, that was long.

You should go take a nap.

Congratulations, you’re growing a baby!

Isn't that crazy? And exhausting!

When you first get pregnant, your body kicks into baby-building mode by flooding your system with HCG. I like to think of it as a reverse hormone hangover (the higher your blood alcohol, the bigger the headache; the bigger the spike in hormones - twins, for example - the stronger symptoms you may have).

Did you know less than half of pregnant women experience morning sickness? If you were surprised that you weren't terribly sick, you're not alone. If you WERE terribly sick, you're a special snowflake and it sucks to be you. Sorry!

First up: growing a placenta.

Growing is HARD WORK you guys, that's why kids take naps. And so should you. Resistance is futile, so just cave in now -- you'll feel better, I promise. I was just lucky I work at home because I took 2 naps a day. I even turned down a job offer because it would interfere with my nap schedule. #naps4eva

So! There's a 50/50 chance you're nauseous, you're so tired you can barely sit upright, and now you have to feed yourself?

Well, crap.

A few thoughts on eating during early pregnancy

  1. A puppy dies every time someone says, "You're eating for two!" You are eating for 1, plus a clump of cells the size of a pea which requires no extra calories.
  2. Lightning should strike people who say, "The baby takes what it needs." The baby can't take what's not there, so if you are low on folic acid, so is the baby.
  3. There is no such thing as too much fiber during pregnancy. The same goes for water. True story: I once ate half a watermelon by myself one day when I was pregnant with no deleterious side effects. (Yes, then I took a nap.)

Do I really need to take prenatal vitamins?
As a health coach, I work with clients to get nutrients through whole foods. However, pregnancy is tough and exhaustion can take a toll on your desire and ability to cook. Taking vitamins isn't going to hurt you or the baby, and will probably help. Missing a dose will not cause your child to have webbed toes or something.

My first trimester diet staples were Greek yogurt and cereal because that's all I could tolerate or prepare. Taking a prenatal vitamin reduced my stress about trying to cook. There was also a major heat wave when I was pregnant and Ryan Gosling coming over for a home-cooked meal would not have enticed me to turn on any appliance.

Other ideas for easy, nutrient-rich foods:

  • Fresh fruit has fiber and water - double win! Dried fruit can be high in sugar, but is a great snack combined with nuts for slow-digesting fat and protein.
  • Green juice and green smoothies flood your system with nutrients but don't take much work. Especially if you just grab one at the juice bar. Make sure it's not too fruit-heavy.
  • If you normally cook a lot from scratch, don't feel guilty getting pre-cut fruit and veggies, or getting take out more often. Focus on getting enough protein and iron, then just try to eat as much fiber as possible.
  • Protein can help reduce nausea and fatigue, plus it keeps you full longer. I ate a lot of eggs. If you can only tolerate carbs, at least make them whole grain to prevent spiking your blood sugar.

Many pregnancy books suggest meal plans that are more food than many women want to eat. Your blood volume increases by 50% or more, and dehydration can masquerade as hunger. Drink a metric crap-ton of water (start with half your weight in ounces - so 140 pound woman should drink 70 ounces of water) every day, take your vitamins, and do your best.

Next time: What NOT to eat. ...Or can you?

Now go take a nap. You've earned it.