Quick disclaimer: if you’re not interested in pregnancy stuff, not to worry! I plan to keep to my regular recipe posting schedule, with a baby-related post sprinkled in here and there (like once a month, max). Feel free to come back next week for some awesome plant-based food. 🙂
Before I jump into today’s topics, I first want to say thank you for all the congratulations and well-wishes on our pregnancy announcement a few weeks back! So many of you asked how I was feeling (again, thank you!) and expressed an interest in everything from supplements, to what I’ve been eating (answer: all the food, my appetite is crankin’ these days), to baby things we’ve bought or plan to buy.
Now that I’m 24.5 weeks and well into my 2nd trimester/approaching my 3rd trimester (YIKES), I feel like I can pretty accurately reflect on those first few months of my pregnancy. And let me tell you, it was humbling. The nausea and fatigue everyone tells you about is no joke! I know some lucky women don’t experience this, but I expected that would not be the case for me given that my mom was also very sick up until week 12 when she was pregnant with both me and my brother.
Having now been through it myself, if I could give you one piece of advice it would be this: treat your body (and mind) exceptionally well in the months leading up to when you plan to start trying. And same goes for your partner—your partner is 50% of the equation after all!
Aaron and I knew we wanted to try to get pregnant in the fall, so during the late spring we committed to a few goals:
- Plant-based and whole foods (no processed junk, very limited eating out)
- Organic (and not just for the dirty dozen)
- No booze
- No coffee/very limited caffeine (matcha for me, 1 mug of black tea for Aaron each morning)
- No dairy
- No refined sugars or empty carbs
- Some form of exercise every day (walking, running, yoga, swimming, lifting, etc.)
- A daily prenatal for me (more on that below)
- Completely non-toxic skincare
To give you an idea of my meals, for breakfast I would eat sourdough toast with lots of avocado, sauerkraut, broccoli sprouts, cilantro, and hemp seeds, and drink a matcha latte made with coconut butter and homemade cashew milk. Lunch would often be a giant rainbow salad with lentils or beans for protein, and dinner would be similar (basically as many veggies as possible). Snacks were mostly fresh fruit and nuts/seeds, and dessert was either a piece of 85% dark chocolate, or a couple of dates stuffed with almond butter. I’m not perfect, so of course there were treats and “off plan” meals here and there, but knowing that I was eating and exercising for our future baby definitely motivated me to treat my body in the best way I knew how.*
We were extremely fortunate to get pregnant right away, and despite my early response pregnancy test telling me I wasn’t pregnant at first, I knew immediately that I was. My initial symptoms were insane bloating (like, my belly looked 5 months pregnant), cramping for a few days well before I was supposed to get my period, and very sore boobs that grew a cup size in a week (seriously).
My 1st Trimester Symptoms:
I started to feel low energy around week 4 and exactly at week 6 is when the fatigue and all day “morning” sickness hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed 9-11 hours of sleep every night, and even then I would crash by 3pm and need to work from the couch, and be asleep by 7:30-8:30pm.
I had food aversions to literally every food I enjoyed pre-pregnancy, with a few of the worst ones being avocado, chocolate, and brussels sprouts. Sometimes even looking in our fridge would make me want to vomit. I had to eat every 2 hours and before even getting out of bed in the morning to keep my nausea at bay, and while I tried very hard to choose the healthier alternatives to things like white flour crackers and bagels, it just wasn’t happening. Some meals I ate half a sleeve of saltines, and one week I ate Beyond Meat Beyond Burgers 3 days in a row (protein + iron!).
Aaron prepared almost all of our meals and lunch was often when I tried to eat something green, followed promptly by an aversion to it (I had to constantly change up what I was eating—leftovers were out of the question). The only foods that sounded good were white potatoes, baked french fries, lime popsicles, iceberg lettuce, and plain bagels with almond milk cream cheese. I went through phases with grapefruits, then oranges, then honeycrisp apples (and only honeycrisp!), and then lemons (lemonade never tasted so good). Sometimes icy, fruit-only smoothies were okay. (And yes, I tried ginger for nausea but I didn’t notice much of a difference.) It was brutal and got progressively worse in the afternoons and evenings, which made recipe development for my blog and clients challenging.
And then, like clockwork (and just like my mom!), I started to feel more myself again at 12 weeks. My energy was up, food started tasting really amazing…and then I got a flu shot. I felt terrible for 3 days and I realized that that’s how I’d been feeling for the past 6 weeks—like I had the flu, plus nausea. I knew that it would pass, but mentally I freaked out a little because I just didn’t have it in me to go back to feeling awful 24/7.
A lot of people say the 1st trimester is the worst (second only to the 4th trimester, ha!), and so far that’s been my experience as well. When Aaron and I met with our doulas, they kindly reminded me that “Your mind may not feel different right now, but your body is busy making all of your baby’s organs.” I quickly learned that the 1st trimester was not something I could “power through.” I had to rest when I was tired and eat whatever sounded the least offensive at the moment.
I’m of the opinion that you should get your nutrition from whole foods, not pills. Pregnancy, however, is a different ballgame. Folate, for instance, is critical in preventing spina bifida, and because your body has 50% more blood when you’re pregnant (crazy, right?!), you need considerably more iron. Even having taken a prenatal with 18mg (100%) of iron for 5 months before getting pregnant and every day since, my iron level still came back on the lowest range of “normal.” For the first time in at least a decade, I had relentless cravings for red meat around weeks 9-12. So, that all said, here are the supplements that I’ve been taking every day:
- Quality prenatal vitamin that doesn’t make me nauseated
- High potency Vitamin D3 drops (not vegan, as it’s lanolin-based)
- DHA supplement
- Probiotic (pregnancy constipation is real!)
- Non-constipating Iron supplement (because again, pregnancy constipation is real!), always with a vitamin c-rich fruit to maximize absorption
Supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA, so I recommend talking with your doctor/midwife about anything you’re currently taking or plan to take. Before I got pregnant, I swore by a combination of turmeric supplements and MSM for knee pain, and my doctor advised my to stop taking both (cooking with turmeric is fine though). This also goes for super-herbs (like reishi, maca, and ashwagandha) and kombucha, which can contain small amounts of alcohol and potentially harmful bacteria depending on the source. I personally still drink store-bought kombucha when I have a craving, but it’s not often and usually in very small amounts (Sprindrift lemon seltzer is more my jam these days).
This was a long post, but I hope sharing my experience has been helpful to you, or at least somewhat interesting? 🙂 If you have thoughts or follow-up questions for me, I’d love to hear them! xo Amanda
*Every body is different, so eating well for me may not be what works well for you—and that’s okay. Things like food and exercise are very personal. <3