Scrolling through social media might make pregnancy look like a breeze – glowing skin, cute little bumps with matching clever announcements, and stylish preggo looks complete with 4 inch stilettos. While I’m completely in awe of the human body’s capabilities, the truth is that the day-to-day realities of pregnancy can be quite taxing and are definitely not as glamorous as those highly curated feeds. From morning sickness to utter exhaustion, growing a baby takes a toll on your body and mind. For the real scoop, I’m sharing a few tips that have made my pregnancies a little more healthy and comfortable.
If you haven’t already started taking a prenatal vitamin during the conception phase, it’s essential that you and your growing baby have the right nutrients. In addition to a healthy diet, you’ll want to start taking a daily prenatal vitamin and calcium supplement (or extra dairy intake – I seriously lived on greek yogurt while pregnant with Bash). While you should consult your doctor, look for brands that contain at least 800 micrograms of folic acid and DHA. I went through a few different brands as some were like swallowing ginormous horse pills, others tasted like fish oil, and then I thought my “natural coated” vitamins were contributing to my first trimester nausea. I finally settled on the One A Day Prenatal Vitamin.
Ok, this one is a little strange and may be just a coincidence, but for anyone dealing with pregnancy-related thyroid issues, you may be interested. While pregnant with Bash, I developed hypothyroidism and I had to take a prescription medication to help remedy this rather common condition (often only developed during pregnancy). This time around, I haven’t had any thyroid issues. While every pregnancy is different, I wonder if some of it is attributable substituting some of my kosher / sea salt with iodized salt. To clarify, I’m not adding more sodium (not good for edema and swelling). Rather, I replaced some of the kosher / sea salt (doesn’t contain iodine) with regular table salt (contains iodine, which helps regulate the thyroid). For example, when I boil water for pasta or rice, I use regular table salt instead of artisan / kosher salt. I’ll still use the artisan varieties for better flavoring, #saltbae style of course . While the body doesn’t make iodine, many of our foods contain iodine, so it’s highly likely that I’m already getting enough. But just some food for thought.
While staying well hydrated is super obvious, I have to admit that I was much better about this during my first pregnancy. Now that I’m running around the city with Bash instead of sitting at a desk close to the water fountain, the thought of scrambling to find a public restroom in NYC every 15 minutes just doesn’t have the same appeal. At home, I keep the Brita filter stocked and to satisfy soda / Orangina (aka: faux-mimosas) cravings, I grab a Spindrift (so much better than LaCroix!, but when are they going to bring back Clearly Canadian?) or use my SodaStream with a twist of lime. One maternity must-have is a Swell bottle, which I pretty much carry with me everywhere. It keeps your beverage cold or hot for 24 hours (true story) and my former analysts swore that they even kept beer at the perfect temperature and consistency. Bonus: when not pregnant, the Swell makes for a great wine cooler for those mommy meet ups in the park!
To cope with the growing pains and maintain some emotional sanity around the extra 30+lbs, staying active during pregnancy is super important to me. While pregnant with Bash, I was traveling, so it was a lot of treadmills and weight lifting in hotel gyms, supplemented by weekend prenatal yoga. This time around, I’ve continued with barre classes, chasing after Bash, and lots and lots of city walking. While sometimes I’m utterly exhausted and it’s hard to get motivated, I always feel like I have more energy after workouts and I like feeling strong during pregnancy. If you’re in NYC, my favorite workout classes include Physique 57 and Pre/Post-Natal Yoga at the Prenatal Yoga Center. At home, work those pelvic floor muscles with thrice-daily kegels and swap a yoga ball to replace your desk chair to help keep the core strong (also great for the early stages of labor).
To recover from those sore muscles, back pain, and growing pains, indulge in some prenatal massages. While pregnant with Bash, Nick got me a membership to Yelo Spa for monthly prenatal massages (seriously, best gift ever!). Little did he know that I’d “forget” to cancel that membership and 3 years later…let’s be honest, carrying that baby / toddler can wreak havoc on your back and a little me-time never hurts. Alternatively, invest in some tennis balls! They are great for at-home back and foot massages (especially during the third trimester), come in handy during labor (yup, one is already in my hospital bag again), and they make great baby / toddler toys!
Sleep is critical, but between random bouts of insomnia, avoiding back sleeping, a waking toddler, and frequent bathroom trips, you might already be in training for those sleepless newborn nights. Trying to make sleep as comfortable as possible, invest in the Leachco Snoogle pregnancy pillow. Hands down, worth the money! Surrounding yourself and stuffing pillows in every crevice just doesn’t get the job done like Snoogle. I’m pretty sure Nick has his eye on my Snoogle once I can return to back / stomach sleeping!
While I’m usually a pajama fan, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, I love a comfy sleep shirt. My favorites are Gap’s modal collection: super soft, easy for late night bathroom breaks, and stretchy for pull down nursing sessions.
Finally, this one may seem a little random, but a long handled shoe horn definitely comes in handy during the third trimester! When bending over to slip on shoes becomes a new Olympic sport, I want to kiss this amazing invention on a daily basis. I seriously would’ve never have thought to buy a shoe horn, so thanks to my 6’5′ husband who uses this in his everyday life, hahah!
TMI Bodily Discomforts
I swear that once you have a baby, all modesty goes out the window. You’ll be sharing your birth story with strangers at Starbucks, stressing over the color and timing of your kid’s poop, and shamelessly touting the benefits of public urination during the potty training stage. From top to bottom, here are a few essentials to help deal with all things TMI:
- Morning sickness: Luckily, I never got this with Bash, so I was in total shock when it struck me like a freight train. I even cold-turkey cut out my beloved coffee as I thought that was a contributor. I switched to tea (Paromi chamomile lavender caffeine-free and Kusmi St. Petersburg caffeinated tea being favorites), stuck with bland foods (though I seem to recall thinking that breakfast burritos helped), drank a big glass of water immediately upon waking (thanks to that Swell bottle I keep by my bed at night, I had a cold glass waiting for me), swigged Gatorade like a marathoner, and ate small meals / snacks throughout the day to prevent lightheadedness. Some people also swear by ginger and vitamin B6. Thankfully this passed around Week 13 / 14, but some of my friends had this consistently throughout their pregnancy, even during labor (I feel for you!).
- Heartburn / acid reflux: Thanks to all that progesterone and your growing uterus, heartburn is likely inevitable. Eliminating common food triggers (i.e., spicy / acidic foods) and eating small portions is recommended, but that’s easier said than done when you have an insatiable appetite and only the spiciest enchiladas and pickles will do. Prop yourself up with a good book / movie and bring on the Tums.
- Varicose veins: During my first pregnancy, I was traveling up until 32 weeks and never had a problem. This time around, my OB recommended I travel wearing compression socks in flight to help prevent varicose veins and DVT. While certainly not a fashion statement, they definitely help with swelling and provide relief if you are on your feet a lot. Also, did you know you can get varicose veins in your hoo-ha?! Obviously, check with your doctor if you have any pain down there, but if it feels like you’ve been riding a bike for just a wee bit too long, it could likely be varicose veins, in which case, there’s not much to do except sit on a bag of frozen peas.
- Bum issues: What can I say about constipation and / or hemorrhoids?…it’s pretty sh*y! Prevention is key through a balanced diet, hydration, and fiber. I’m also a huge fan of probiotics. Ever since a few rounds of antibiotics to combat mastitis knocked out my gut, I swear by the restorative power of live cultures for good gut bacteria. While I’ve usually relied on the cultures in kefir and yogurt, I started testing out Coconut Cult’s “Original” probiotic coconut yogurt, as I wanted to start Bash on a new probiotic and needed it to be dairy-free. The flavor is intensely tart and tangy, but combined with a little granola and fruit, and I’m hooked. Finally, you may want to keep a stash of Preparation H (if not for it’s undereye circle calming magic) and Tucks pads (a must have for postpartum care).
- Hoo-ha: While you might be 9+ months free of the monthly wave, don’t be so quick to put away those panty liners. Save a few liners for those errant sneezes or unexpected giggles (especially during that last trimester)…sorry for the TMI, just keepin’ it real.
Especially if this is your first pregnancy, you’ll likely have a million questions and be super interested in baby’s weekly developments. Plus, a few good reads will help keep you entertained during those bouts of insomnia while also preparing you for what’s to come.
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting (book and free app): This is the quintessential book for new moms and offers a lot more insight (without the ads) compared to the corresponding free app. The app is great companion on the go and will send you weekly updates and reminders. The weekly development videos in the app can also be really fun for grandparents to follow along!
- Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know (book): For an economist’s take on conventional pregnancy wisdom, check out this book written by one of my former University of Chicago Economics professors. She goes through all of the scientific research and studies and breaks down the information so its easy to digest, allowing you to make key decisions about how you prefer to control your pregnancy.
- Babycenter (app): Similar to the WTE app, the Babycenter app provides daily tips for your pregnancy and weekly overviews of baby’s development.
- Happiest Baby on the Block (book and video): Highly recommended by pretty much every single one of my friends and colleagues, this is a must buy! Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s techniques were a lifesaver with Bash and we watched the video at least 3 times, during pregnancy and as a reminder after Bash was born.
- Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: This one’s a little more “technical”, but an interesting read if you want to know exactly what your body is going through. My health insurance company actually sent me this book along with some additional pregnancy resources. Check with your insurance provider as many have “healthy pregnancy / maternity” programs that provide educational resources and access to nurses throughout your pregnancy.
- 16 and Pregnant – Okay, I binge watched every season of this show when I was pregnant with Bash. I figured it would help get me ready for those really tough moments and reminded me that I’m lucky to have such a strong support system in place. Definitely a guilty pleasure watch during those bouts of insomnia.
- Your Three Year Old: As Bash is about to turn 3, this is currently on my nightstand. The series (starting at 1 year old) was recommended by Bash’s school, so hopefully I will finally get a little bit of a headstart on what to expect with my threenager.
Hope these tips help bring some relief! What are your favorite remedies for those pesky pregnancy ailments?