Pregnancy: What Helps?

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Believe me….it’s TOTALLY worth it!

 

So in my last post on Pregnancy I took a realistic view at my personal journeys through pregnancy. Now, I want to share what has helped me to cope with the different symptoms one may face during this multi-faceted season of life. In other words, what helps?

Morning Sickness:

  1. Protein- Sandwich it -My sister calls it “Protein packing”, meaning that you begin and end with eating a high-protein food whenever you’re eating a meal or snack. At the very least end with the protein but when my sickness level is at its highest I have to begin AND end with protein to lessen the stomach upset.
  2. Frequent eating- Every 2-3 hours -Though I try to do this anyway so I don’t eat like a pig every meal 😉 but sometimes it’s hard to do! During pregnancy this is an absolute must for me if I want to lesson vomiting, faintness and extreme fatigue.
  3. Small amounts- When in doubt start with half -My stomach is extra sensitive so giving it less to process at a time just makes sense. Also, when my stomach is too full it’s that much closer to being able to leave my stomach;)
  4. Lots of liquid-Water is best, sugar is not -Honestly, I am a water person. I don’t normally drink milk, juice, nor carbonated/other beverages….However, when I am pregnant even my own saliva makes me gag (yes, I’m a camel, I spit!) so water, I’m thinking from the lack of flavor (?), is very hard to ingest and then keep down. My first couple pregnancies I could do Gatorade, now it seems to have too much sugar. It seems that the happiest medium for me is Coconut water, all-natural, best directly from the coconut (Yay for Mexico!:)
  5. Low Glycemic Index-Blood sugar rules -Sugar is my nemesis. I like it, don’t get me wrong…too much actually. In the first two trimesters of pregnancy, for me, sugar in any form, even fruits cause more indigestion and vomiting. During my last pregnancy I couldn’t even tolerate things like oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. There are a wealth of sites anymore that will tell you about the sugar levels/glycemic index of foods and for me the lower the better.
  6. Chlorophyll-Indigestion -Even when you’re being careful you’re bound to have days when you’re stomach just isn’t doing its job. For these times I use a concentrated chlorophyll that has mint extract to calm the acid. I can dilute it to my tolerance level and it’s been more effective than tums or milk of magnesia. I didn’t tolerate it well though in my first trimester.
  7. Laying on your left side- Aids digestion and blood circulation -Your stomach opening is on the left side and the main nerve and blood vessel that get “messed up” in pregnancy are on your right. So if you’re laying on the side that will aid your stomach and not smash one of your main nerves then it makes sense that it would help.
  8. No less than 8 hours of sleep- No, I’m not joking -Honestly, I do best with between 10-12 hours of sleep during the first trimester, but less than 8 is a recipe for vomiting. I’m assuming less sleep means more stomach acid, probably will have to look that up;)
  9. Avoiding “harsh foods” –spices, acidic, oily, chocolate, high-allergen, harder to digest (nuts, red meat, dark greens, refined foods/breads)-Welcome to Blah Land  -“Harsh foods” will probably mean different things to different people. Most people would probably say that spicy, oily and acidic foods make sense that they would cause more stomach upset. For me I’ve noticed that it’s those foods plus others. When pregnant my stomach does better if I avoid high-allergy foods (milk, nuts, eggs, seafood, chocolate, etc.) as well as refined foods and red meat. The last couple I have also had a hard time with harder to digest vegetables, mostly the dark green ones.
  10. Low impact/low stress- Just say “no” -If you’re not good at saying “No” or “Not now”, pregnancy is the perfect time to practice;) This is of course different for everyone due to personality and pre-pregnancy fitness levels but generally speaking high physical activity, at least during the first trimester, makes it harder to balance electrolytes and blood sugar. Also, I’m sure everyone has experienced biological issues to an extent, due to stress. Keep your stresses to a minimum, both physically and mentally/emotionally, doing only the highest priorities and your body (and babyJ) will thank you!

 

Energy:

  1. Sleep, Sleep and more Sleep -This cannot be emphasized enough! Have you ever heard the saying, “Your body HEALS when sleeping”? Well, it’s true in the sense that your body does more regeneration during sleep than any other time. So if you’re growing another HUMAN BEING inside of you, it only makes sense you’ll need some extra sleepJ!
  2. Exercise -The time and intensity of your exercise will vary according to your pre-pregnancy fitness and how your body reacts to pregnancy. However, even if you’re totally NOT an exerciser I would HIGHLY recommend SOME form of regular exercise. It makes such a HUGE difference, not only in your pregnancy overall health but in the ease of your delivery. For examples, during my first pregnancy I did some light aerobics but mostly speed walking and light weights. My second pregnancy I had a really hard time with my sciatic nerve so I switch to swimming. Third pregnancy was walking. Fourth pregnancy was swimming and walking. This pregnancy I’ve done mostly yoga, a bit of swimming and light aerobics and weights.
  3. Multi-vitamin -This is where I become a hypocrite. I KNOW by experience that multi-vitamins make a HUGE difference in my energy levels. However, I consistently throw them up if I try to take them before my second trimesterL Thus, I choose tiredness over staring into a porcelain bowl, until I’m between 5-6 months along.
  4. Blood Sugar Balance -If it’s too low I’m tired, if it’s too high I will be tired in about 10 minutes. Going back to the glycemic index thing, if my blood sugar isn’t staying at a good level I tend to crash. Actually, I can tell I’m getting hungry when I start to fall asleep and I know after I have something sugary I will start to fall asleep in about 20-30 minutes.

Body Changes:

  1. Expect and Accept -Everyone’s body will have different changes during pregnancy but the universal one is a big stomach. Be ready for it. Know that your body will change and accept it. Notice that I did not say you have to EMBRACE it. I really admire the pregnant women that I’ve seen who do truly embrace the changes and see it as a different kind of beauty. I am not one of those women though. But knowing that changes will come and also knowing they’re temporary helps be cope.
  2. Get Educated  -Whether you’re into doing everything from a medical stand-point or prefer a more natural approach to your health, education is the key. This will help you not only know what to expect, if it is “normal”, but also what you can do about it. I love this point because it makes me feel like I’m an agent and can make some improvements/changes, not a victim that just takes whatever comes along.

Emotions

  1. Be Gentle -I am not an advocate of sitting on your rear-end and allowing people to wait on you just because you’re pregnant. However, I do think one should set their level of personal expectations a bit lower or modify them at least to be realistic to needs. That means knowing your limits, and here comes the hypocrite in me again, not getting to the point where you break your limit before you relax or take breaks.
  2. Communicate -This is a hard one for me,  as I’ve mentioned in another post. Generally speaking I often ignore my own needs so getting to the point of communicating them to other people….well, let’s just say it’s not one of my strong points 😉 But then, my bad habits have helped me learn a lot about how important it is to communicate clearly what you really need from people! Especially in terms of your spouse and family, let them know what you need and expect. Of course you will first have to know your own needs first and then find/know the best way of communicating them with your closest associates. This is not being a baby, nor should you be manipulative or pull guilt-trips, this is clearly telling people what your limits are and where they can help you. If you do it in a respectful and clear way it will be one of your biggest ways to lesson stress.
  3. Step Back -Sometimes I’m just irrational. When I’m pregnant I think I’m that way more often. It has really helped me to realize this and when I feel that I’m going to explode in any emotional way I need to get away from people. For one, when I feel out of control emotionally anything I say will probably not be helpful, maybe not even coherent. Secondly, high emotions tend to breed high emotions so if I’m that way I will most likely influence others around me to be highly emotional and that’s just messy. It’s best to take a walk, say a prayer, take a nap, do whatever it takes to calm down a bit (chocolate, anyone?;) Then if I’m still feeling too emotional I journal my feelings so that I can sort them out and see what I need to do about it.

Spirituality

  1. Keep up your habits (or start new ones) -Keeping up your personal devotion habits are an absolute must during pregnancy. I would even go as far to say as double them up. If you usually do scripture reading in the morning, do it morning AND night. If you usually just pray when you wake up and at bedtime, pray three times a day. You are growing a body with a spirit inside your own body, it is essential to stay as spiritually strong as possible.
  2. Be Still -Whether you do full-out meditation or just take a daily walk in nature, learning to relax your body and concentrate your mind is very powerful. Sometimes all I seem to find time for are a few deep breaths and a prayer but it is AMAZING the difference one can feel when we stop all the activity and remember that we are spiritual beings.

So that about sums it up! These suggestions are of course taken from my personal experiences, and everyone is different, but I hope you can find something useful:)

 

Panpillas

ImageAnother one of my experiments in trying to stream-line my recipes. My family loves the East African flatbread called Chapati. I’ve messed with the original recipe a bit to make it a bit more healthy (ie: using whole wheat flour and not frying in oil) but the traditional hand-formed bread….sometimes I just don’t have the time, or two hands to work with! Now I’ve added another change which, although changing the original texture, my family still loved. We usually use these types of breads to accompany a legume-based main dish and lots of fresh veggies. So with dough like pancakes and a texture like a thick tortilla we’ve come up with the name “Panpillas”.

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4 cups flour ( I’ve used anywhere to 1/2 all purpose to all whole wheat)

1 ½ tsp salt

Blend together

Add:

4 Tbsp. oil (I use olive or canola)

Enough water to make a thick pancake-like batter

Mix well

Drop large spoonfuls into greased ( I use Pam canola oil spray) frying pan. Turn over when golden brown on under side and top is bubbly ( like pancakes).

Enjoy!

A Healthy Pregnancy

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While I do realize that pregnancy is not the same for everyone and we all have genetics and many other circumstances to deal with that effect this time in our lives….I do think that for the majority of women there are a lot of things WE CAN DO to make this time more comfortable.

I know that with my first pregnancy I had a hard time just letting my body do its job and giving it what it needed (Yes, you may use the term Control Freak here). I read and researched and asked questions, and looking back now I wish I had just listened to my body!

Fortunately with my second child I had learned a bit more about myself by then and started realizing the cause and effect experiences I was having. Now every one of my pregnancies has been different and I can’t say that I’ve reached a “Zen” state of being with pregnancy, it has never been one of the easier moments in my life. BUT, I can say that I have (finally) started putting two things at the top of my priority list and that has made all the difference.

Firstly, I put my Heavenly Father first. Now, I strive to always do this but unfortunately when times of stress come into my life I tend to not FOCUS on Him but rather my problems. Of course, this is detrimental not only to my state of mind but also to my health. I have found when I put Him first, start my day with a conversation with Him and even talk to Him about issues I have not found solutions for…..then I start to find my health. This does not mean that everything is sweetness and light and clearly I am normal and have good days and bad days…..BUT overall things run smoother and I have more insights to what I CAN DO to improve the situation.

Secondly, I put myself next. This does not mean that I try to be selfish or self-centered, but as I think we moms have a tendency to do….our needs come last….and this is just not healthy. This is one I have a hard time with, I love my family, I want to help them, I want to serve them….but even if I think about it logically….if I’m taking care that my health is at its optimum (or what is the optimal level possible under the circumstances) than I am also doing them a service because they get the BEST of what I have to offer, not the leftovers. I seem to do this better when I’m pregnant because I can say “I’m taking care of the baby.” and then my inner guilt-struggle subsides a bit. I hope to one day not have to give an excuse to put my health first but this life is a process, isn’t it? May I share a few of the things I have found to be most important, in terms of health, in dealing with pregnancy?

1. Rest

Why do people find it so hard to allow ourselves time to rest?  We may never find the answer to this question, but I can tell you that rest is an absolutely essential part of a healthy pregnancy.  In general, the medical profession suggests that the average person get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. However, I feel that in times of stress and when your body is doing something as strenuous as growing a baby that we need to listen to our body. I find for myself that during the first trimester I generally need 10-12 hours of sleep and after that AT LEAST 8 hours to feel like I’m rested. When I do accomplish this I feel more alert and better able to deal with everyday stresses as well as having less discomfort and nausea. I have also found that aside from sleep,  my body works better and I have less discomfort when I sit down (and preferably raise my feet) at intervals during the day. Optimally if I can do this 3 times during the day for at least 15 minutes I have a much better day. I use these breaks to catch up on computer work or read to my children.

2. Water

It seems like a no-brainer that your body would need more water and I’m sure many of you are better at it than I, but I just plain forget to drink water throughout the day! The funny thing is that the last thing I want to do when I’m nauseous is to drink something but at the same time it is what helps with the nausea the most. I also have less acid and other unpleasant gaseous issues when I’m drinking enough water. We’ve heard the “8 glasses a day” suggestion but as with sleep, my needs are amplified during pregnancy to what I would estimate to be 10-12 glasses a day.

3. Exercise

I don’t know about you but this is the last thing I want to do when I’m pregnant. I generally enjoy exercise and strive to make it a daily part of my routine but I struggle with it during pregnancy, especially the first 20-25 weeks when my nausea is at its worst. However, I can also tell you the HUGE difference in daily discomfort levels as well as labor and delivery experiences with the pregnancies that I’ve had regular daily exercise for the majority of the time; as opposed to the pregnancies I’ve been more negligent. Our bodies just work better when we exercise daily.

4. Nutrition

Yes, it’s a broad subject and one that I could go into for hours but I’ll share the basics of what I’ve found to be the most helpful. Protein is always essential but I’ve found that it a huge ally in the battle against nausea as well as keeping energy levels up. Again, I augment my intake during pregnancy…I tend to not be a huge animal product consumer but during pregnancy I consume at least double the amount of protein and about 3 times more animal products than I would at other times. I have also found that simple carbs, high GI foods and especially processed foods and sugars increase nausea and overall feelings of UN-wellness so I try to avoid those as much as possible.

I hope that you can find some information that is helpful for you here. Most of all I hope that you will remember to listen to the guidance of the spirit and your body. They are truly the best sources of help in all circumstance, and most especially during this miraculous time of pregnancy.