Monday, November 24, 2014

Not every pregnancy is nine months of nausea and discomfort

I don't mean this blog post as a boast. I only want to encourage any woman out there who are considering becoming pregnant, but have only ever heard horror stories of how their mother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, or whomever, spent their entire pregnancy feeling miserable.

I'm beginning my 39th week, and I've felt nothing but completely normal. I can only guess why I feel so well, and I prefer to think it's not because I'm lucky. I prefer to think it's because I'm doing something right. This is all anecdotal, of course, an N of 1 doesn't equal irrefutable proof, but I hope it might be inspiring to others.
Three months along and heading up Mount Monadnock one muddy, spring day.
First, let's talk a little about food. Andrew and I eat a fairly balanced and varied diet. Generally, we follow Michael Pollan's advice of: eat food, mostly vegetables, not too much. When we go grocery shopping, the contents our of cart tend to be at least 50% fruits and vegetables, and we stay out of the centre aisles were the highly proceeded foods are. We're not vegetarians, but we don't eat meat every day, and even when we do, we tend to limit our intake to the recommended serving sizes of 4 oz (or roughly the size of a deck of cards). Further, as much as I love to bake, we don't eat desert with every dinner, usually just on weekends.

So, how does this play into my pregnancy? Well, I haven't changed the way I eat since becoming pregnant. I still eat lots of veg, limit my meat intake, and since I don't ordinarily eat most of the things that were on the list of band foods (i.e. processed deli meats, sushi, etc.) I didn't have to worry about cutting things out of my diet. Although I used to claim that if I was ever pregnant I would eat ice cream everyday, I've done no such thing. The old adage of 'eating for two,' simply isn't true--or at least, you're not eating for two adult humans. You're eating for yourself and an unborn infant, which of the recommendations I've seen suggests around 300 calories more a day at most. That's eating an extra bagel (nothing on top), around 2-2.5 servings (2-2.5 ounces) of crackers or pretzels, 3-4 large apples, 2-2.5 bananas, or about 1/2 cup of most ice creams.

Between 4.5-5 months, at a beach near Gloucester, MA on a beautiful day in August.
Fortunately, I've experienced neither strange food cravings, nor morning sickness. The former, I again attribute to a varied diet. I assume because I regularly consume different foods, I should be getting all the different nutrients my body needs and so I'm not craving anything to make up for it.

As for morning sickness, truthfully, I threw up once, and I'm pretty sure it was because I had a smallish dinner the night before, then waited wait too long to eat breakfast the next morning. Also, I do occasionally experience mild nausea in the morning. In these cases I'll munch on a few crackers or half of a Clif bar while I prepare for my regular breakfast (oatmeal with Bran Buds mixed in) and I'm fine. The precise cause of morning sickness is unknown, but there is some suggestion that it might be linked with blood glucose levels, which tend to be lowest first thing in the morning. Of course, morning sickness is a misnomer, and can occur at any time of the day. As I said, the cause isn't fully understood.
Almost 6 months pregnant, hiking and camping at Pilsbury State park over Labour Day.
Now the other reason why I think I've fared so well during my pregnancy: exercise. I haven't stopped. I've had to modify things, especially during the last two months, but I haven't taken the attitude of, I'm pregnant, therefore I must sit still and let my baby gestate. Rather, I've remained as active as possible.

I'm still running, although again, I've had to make some modifications. First, my gear. I wear a belly support strap specifically made for pregnant women (the Fit Splint), then I wear snug fitting Lululemon shorts that I used to wear for aerials over top of that, then I wear leggings. It's a lot of layers, but it seems to keep my belly secure. I also don't run continuously over our 5 km (3 mile) route. We run 5 minutes, then walk for around 4 minutes, so that I can have time to recoup, sip some water, catch my breath, etc. The biggest thing with running (as it's actually my least favourite exercise) is that I'm keeping up my cardiovascular capacity for as long as possible.

Seven and half months pregnant and still in the air. My belly makes a funny conical shape when I tense my abs.
And I haven't stopped going to aerials. Granted, I haven't done a horizontally rotating drop (ones that tend to wrap around the stomach) for almost 5 months, and I haven't done a forward rotational drop for close to 3 months, but I've kept going. I've also seen my stamina tapper off over the last several weeks, but I try to remind myself that I am hauling an extra 20lbs or so around in the air with me. The most important part of keeping going with aerials is maintaining my strength in the hopes that once Root is born I'll be able to get back to where I was faster. I mean, I'm not going to be able to jump straight back into advanced classes, but it won't be like I took my entire pregnancy off and my muscles have gone completely flaccid either.

The last thing I think might have helped me to continue to feel so good is the high volume of water I drink. Water, in general, keeps the body hydrated, but in a pregnant woman there are even more demands as amniotic fluid develops and blood volume increases. My midwife told me right from the get-go that I should try to consume as much as 3 litres of water a day, and I think I'm pretty close to managing that most of the time. It likely helped that pre-pregnancy I probably drank between 1.5-2 litres of water daily, meaning I didn't have to make many modifications with my normal lifestyle to accomplish the desired water consumption.

So, in sum--and if I had to guess--I would surmise that my pregnancy has gone so well because I've continued to live as normal a life as possible by eating well and remaining active. I can't promise that this will work for everyone, or anyone who isn't me, but maybe it will give other women hope, that pregnancy isn't nine months of misery.



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