I have always been aware that every pregnancy is different, but I never thought mine would differ so radically. I have been pregnant twice – the first time with a boy and the second time with a girl. When I was expecting my boy, my skin had a beautiful glow, I never felt sick, and I only started feeling uncomfortable in the last month of gestation. My first pregnancy was a breeze and I enjoyed every single second of it. When I became pregnant with our baby girl, I knew right away that the next nine months were going to be a completely different experience.
I had morning sickness for the first 3 months, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that caused dizziness and fainting spells, constant heartburn, and horrible indigestion every time I ate a big meal. My skin broke out constantly to the point that I started naming and talking to my pimples. My hair was so frizzy and coarse that styling became a one-hour job that would only happen for special occasions. I also developed hives on my legs that itched like crazy. Another memorable pregnancy occurrence was the painful hemorrhoids (sorry, this is as far as I’ll go with the hemorrhoids, but I had to mention them as they are common problems for pregnant women). Oh and let’s not forget the hormones. I used to cry probably 10 times a day. I had to explain to my 2-year old that mommy cried also when she was happy, because sometimes even a kiss from him would trigger tears. My husband probably stepped on eggshells for 9 months (more like 18 months, until all the hormones completely left my body – finally!).
After an aggregate 18 months of gestation with so many distinct experiences, I learned what helped me stay healthy and somewhat comfortable.
Pregnancy Tip #1: Drink plenty of fluids
I have friends that ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration during their pregnancies. Water helps prevent common pregnancy problems such as dehydration, constipation, hemorrhoids, and bladder infections. I tried to have approximately 8 glasses of fluid a day. For those of you that have low blood sugar and low blood pressure like me, Gatorade is a life saver. It helped me with my hypoglycemia and the electrolytes helped me stay hydrated. My doctor recommended it and I thanked him every visit for that recommendation.
Pregnancy Tip #2: Take care of your skin
Common skin issues related to pregnancy include stretch marks, pregnancy masks (increased pigmentation that causes dark spots to appear on your face), acne, spider veins (due to increase in blood circulation – they fade away after delivery), dry and itchy belly, darkening of moles and freckles, etc. According to my doctor, the appearance of stretch marks is genetic. If your mom got them when she was pregnant, most likely you will get them in your pregnancy. I decided not to take my chances and applied Mustela’s stretch mark cream twice a day until one month after labor. I did not get any stretch marks. The cream also hydrated my belly and helped me with dryness and itchiness. To avoid dark spots from appearing on my face, I wore sunscreen daily and stayed away from the sun, which was hard to accomplish in Florida. Finally, I replaced my facial creams with argon oil. My doctor told me to avoid products with salicylic acid and I realized most of the skin products I used had salicylic acid. Argon oil is all natural and is a great moisturizer. I am still using it.
Pregnancy Tip #3: Take prenatal vitamins
If you are planning to get pregnant, start taking prenatal vitamins even before you get pregnant, or start taking them as soon as you learn you are pregnant. Folic acid (a type of B vitamin) may help reduce the baby’s risk for neural tube defects, but it works only if taken before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. My doctor also recommended DHA supplements (an Omega-3 fatty acid) during gestation and lactation. DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system and may help boost the baby’s brain and visual development. Also, according to a recent study, getting enough fatty acid during pregnancy may help prevent colds in newborns.
Pregnancy Tip #4: Focus on your nutrition
I tried to eat nutritious meals and excluded from my diet most of the food to avoid during pregnancy. I constantly craved carbs and ate a lot of pizza and pasta. Pizza and Mexican food were definitely my weaknesses in both pregnancies. I had to watch my portions because large portions would cause horrible indigestion. So instead of having 3 large meals, I had smaller portion meals and lots of healthy snacks throughout the day. It is a common misconception that pregnant women need to eat for two. Most of the additional nutrients needed during pregnancy can be obtained by eating a high quality nutritious diet. I was surprised when I learned about the actual “extra” calories that I needed during each trimester.
Pregnancy Tip #5: Don’t neglect dental hygiene during pregnancy
The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy may cause the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food, potentially causing irritation and infection. My gums were extremely sensitive when I was pregnant. Make sure you go to your dental cleanings before and during pregnancy. The last thing you want is to have to go through dental treatments or have infections that could pass to your bloodstream when you are pregnant. I’ve also read that pregnant women experiencing nausea should rinse their mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water after vomiting to neutralize the acid and avoid enamel erosion.
Pregnancy Tip #6: Get the Flu Shot
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when you get your flu shot, your body starts to make antibodies that help protect you against the flu. These antibodies can be passed on to your unborn baby, and may help protect the baby for up to 6 months after he or she is born.
Pregnancy Tip #7: Strengthen your pelvic muscles
Pregnant women are encouraged to do kegels because strong pelvic floor muscles help make childbirth easier and can lower your chances of tears/episiotomy during labor. During the postpartum period, doing kegels may help heal an episiotomy, prevent urinary incontinence, and tone your stretched out vaginal muscles (which will make sex better).
Pregnancy Tip #8: Don’t wait too long to wear maternity clothes
Invest in comfortable and beautiful maternity clothes. Comfort is everything when you are pregnant and tight jeans is not the way to go. I recommend buying a belly band for your first months when your pre-pregnancy clothes still fit and maternity clothes are a little too big. These elastic waistbands allow you to unbutton your pants and cover gaps between tops and bottoms. You can also wear them postpartum when you are trying to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
Pregnancy Tip #9: Buy a maternity support back belt if you experience back pain
I experienced severe lower back pain in both pregnancies. Wearing a support belt was very helpful. I also made my work chair more comfortable by tucking a small pillow behind my lower back for extra support. If you work in an office environment, “pimp” your chair for comfort! I also put a small stool under my desk to elevate my feet and help circulation.
Pregnancy Tip #10: Sleep and rest as much as you can
You may be experiencing difficulties to sleep during your pregnancy (frequent visits to the bathroom, back pain, heartburn, anxiety), but sleeping is extremely important during pregnancy. I avoided late dinners and food that would give me heartburn. I also bought one of those huge pregnancy pillows that was bigger than me (my husband used to joke that we had the “Berlin Wall” in the middle of us). And try to relax. Your life is about change in a few months and the one thing you will miss from your “kidless” days is sleep!
You may be feeling fat and uncomfortable right now, but you will forever cherish the 9 months of your life that you created and carried life.
This article was written by Fernanda Haido, the founder of FefisBaby. It is based on her personal experiences and opinion. It should not be a substitute for medical/professional consultation.
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