I actually typed this out for you all when I was 41 weeks pregnant! As it turned out it was the day before I gave birth. I’d noted that our little one was rather cosy in my womb and that I’d pretty much run out of “things to do” in terms of being organised for the birth in a practical sense. There are only so many cups of tea one can drink or so many books one can read. As such, I thought I’d knock out a blog post or two while I had the time.
So far in this pregnancy I’ve shared the trials and tribulations of the first trimester, my thoughts on women’s health, written an overview of the options for pregnancy and birth caregivers in Melbourne and provided a little insight into my own process in choosing a pregnancy care provider. You can also read about my conception journey here.
SELF CARE in PREGNANCY
Today I thought I’d run through all the things I’ve done in terms of self-care throughout the pregnancy from a holistic approach. I initially found the mountain of information and various options for self-care in pregnancy quite overwhelming.
There are SO many changes happening on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level when you become pregnant and this transition takes time, patience and CARE.
I’ve been very fortunate in that I fell pregnant in the year I took off from full time work. I had a reasonable study load in the first half of the year for my Nutrition course but just fifteen contact hours a week in the second semester. In the second half of my pregnancy I did a handful of casual teaching days and tutored a year 1 student for one hour per week. I also didn’t need to worry about caring for any other children whilst pregnant as we were expecting our first child. Even with this comparatively lighter load I still found that paying attention to my self-care required thought, discipline and a whole lot of SELF-LOVE.
Pregnancy is absolutely not the time to get the guilts about looking after yourself. You are housing an entire other soul and growing a human! That’s damn huge so make sure you and the people around you acknowledge and respect that.
I’ve again broken this post up into two parts as there is a great deal of information to take in here!
The following will give you an overview of the different ways I cared for myself and our baby throughout the pregnancy.
Medical Care, Scans, Tests and Screening
It will probably come as no surprise to you all that I was super keen on facilitating a natural birth and hence my approach to medical care in pregnancy was to only do what I (and my partner) felt was truly necessary and right for us. If you imagine a spectrum when it comes to medical screening in pregnancy you might have the woman on the very left end of the line who doesn’t believe in any medical screening or scans in her pregnancy, preferring to rely on her own intuition and/or more natural approaches. To the far right you may have the woman who prefers to take on every test and scan both offered and available to her and to follow the advice of her care-giver without question or hesitation. I believe I sit somewhere in the middle, probably leaning to the left!
So here’s what we did and didn’t do:
- I declined any early dating scans at 6 or 7 weeks. Personally, I don’t see the point in these and feel this is such a delicate time in the pregnancy that I’d rather just let things be.
- A basic ultrasound scan with the Doppler in our Obstetrician’s office at 11 weeks. I read and researched the use of ultrasound scanning and felt the less scans the better in my opinion. See Dr. Sarah Buckley for more information on this.
- We declined the down syndrome test and all other genetic testing. It goes without saying that genetic testing is a very personal decision. I really tuned in to my intuition on this one and felt it would create unnecessary fear and apprehension.
- We declined the official 13 week ultrasound scan with the sonographer mainly because we weren’t interested in the Down Syndrome screening and we had just had the basic ultrasound at 11 weeks anyway.
- We did the 20 week ultrasound scan with the sonographer. This was an important one for checking measurements and overall progress of the baby. Overall I found it to be reaffirming rather than fear inducing. I also think it’s a great opportunity for your partner to “see” the baby and connect with the pregnancy.
- We declined finding out the gender of our baby at the 20 week scan. Tempting as it was we just felt that we can find out so much in today’s world, it’s a bit special to make yourself wait for information! I also didn’t want our baby to be defined by gender before it was even born. E.g. ‘You’re having a girl so here’s a pile of pink clothes and princess toys!’
- I did the basic screening test for Gestational Diabetes. I didn’t have to fast and no the drink did not make me sick. It was a complete non-event for me.
- I decided to have the Flu vaccine. This is not something I’d normally do but my intuition was pulling me towards it. I was pregnant over the typical flu season and we had flights to Brisbane, Newcastle and Proserpine all within a few weeks of each other. I figured that was a high level of exposure to potential viruses. I elected to have the trivalent vaccine as opposed to the quadrivalent vaccine that was released this year. I felt more comfortable using the vaccine that had been around for longer! I had no ill side effects from the vaccine whatsoever and didn’t even catch a cold throughout the pregnancy.
- I had the Whooping Cough vaccine at 34 weeks.
- I am RH-negative blood type and my partner is a RH-positive blood type. Therefore I had the anti-D antibody injections to prevent haemolytic disease in our baby in case he/she had RH-positive blood. I felt no ill effects from these injections.
- I had full iron and vitamin D testing done via blood tests with my GP.
- I had regular check-ups with our Obstetrician about once every 6 weeks. This usually involved a brief chat, BP check, fundus measurements and that was it. No internals or anything invasive.
- I agreed to the GBS swab test at 36 weeks. This is protocol in some hospitals and not in others. I’m glad I didn’t test positive as then I wasn’t faced with having to make decisions about antibiotics in labour!
- At 40 weeks and 5 days I had a CTG to monitor the baby’s heart rate and a quick ultrasound to check placenta fluid levels were all satisfactory. The CTG was a bit of a pain as it took an hour because the baby was asleep but other than that it was fine and all just reaffirmed my own belief that this baby was pretty happy to stay in my womb a little longer!
Naturopathic/ Nutritional Care:
- I saw Shalini from Melbourne Holistic Health Group in Clifton Hill about four or five times throughout the pregnancy. She was a great support for nutritional supplements, dietary needs and requirements and so forth.
- I took Bioseuticals Iron free InNatal multivitamin throughout the pregnancy, morning and night with meals. Not many people realise that iron competes with other minerals in your body for uptake. If you do need an iron supplement it is much better to take it half an hour away from food and separate to any other mineral supplements. As such, I am NOT a fan of Elevit; great marketing, poor supplement.
- I took 1000 iu of Vitamin D twice a day with meals.
- I took Orthoplex Fish oil tablets sporadically throughout the pregnancy. My naturopath was a great proponent of fish oil during pregnancy, my obstetrician was not. I sometimes felt I needed it so only took it then. If you do take it, please make sure it is high quality and stored in the fridge. Poor quality, oxidised fish oil can make you really sick!
- I took Eagle Haeme Iron supplements on and off throughout the pregnancy. It’s better to have your full iron levels tested, analysed by a naturopath or nutritionist and then supplement as needed. It is a misconception that the more iron you have in pregnancy the better. As I mentioned before, it competes for uptake with other minerals and if you have an excess it can be toxic to the liver. This brand is great and didn’t leave me feeling nauseas or constipated.
- From around 20 weeks onwards I took a supplement called CalMag each night before bed. This mainly contains calcium and magnesium.
- I began a Red Raspberry Leaf herbal tincture under my naturopath’s care sometime mid second trimester I think. She increased the dosage gradually as the pregnancy progressed. Red raspberry leaf has been used for a long time traditionally as a uterine tonic. One study found that it significantly reduced the length of second stage labour in women taking the herb but made no difference to first stage.
- I steered clear of most herbal teas in the first half of the pregnancy because I just didn’t feel like them. The only tea that made me feel better was this beautiful mix my friend Jade at Jade Walker teas made up for me in the first trimester. It was better than anything commercially marketed. Jade is in her final year of Naturopathy study and has an excellent, well researched knowledge of the safety of herbal teas. If you’re suffering from morning sickness, get in touch and ask her to make you a special blend!
- I visited the Student Clinic at Endeavour College where I study and saw an excellent student Homeopath late in the pregnancy. I wanted some homeopathic support for the birth and had seen some kits in health food shops for anything from $30-$100. The student I saw did an amazing and very thorough job in providing me with an incredible kit for birth and post-partum. She provided specific instructions for each remedy and other lists of support and resources I could access. The consultation and the kit cost me all of $10! As a non-student I’m pretty sure it would be no more than $20. Bargain.
Diet and Nutrition:
- First Trimester right up until 16-20 weeks was a whole new ball game for me which I explain here. Healthy, fresh foods were out, plain foods were in! Thank goodness this turned a corner for me at 20 weeks.
- Strangely, I wanted cheese, butter, eggs and ice-cream during that time and I ate a lot of them (this is after being vegan for the year prior to falling pregnant!). As the pregnancy progressed I wanted less and less of these foods. The only thing I still enjoyed dairy wise was good quality organic butter on bread and toast.
- Lots of protein packed smoothies (you can see plenty of examples of these on my Instagram account). I really like Raw Amazonia Protein powders.
- Stewed apples were my saviour when I felt sick. In fact, I think I ate an apple or two a day right up until about 36 weeks.
- Lots of big salads and vegies during the second half of the pregnancy. I hated steamed vegies for the first 20 weeks and had a few relapses where I only liked fresh, crunchy, raw vegetables over cooked.
- Heaps of Tahini and peanut butter (again, once I felt better).
- Fresh berries throughout, bananas once I felt better.
- Heaps more bread and pasta than I would normally ever eat. Early on, it was the evil white stuff but again, once the nausea eased I could eat good quality breads and pastas again.
- A few stages of craving chocolate or something sweet but nothing crazy. Again, this was earlier in the pregnancy.
In Part Two I’ll discuss ‘Physical Care & Exercise,’ ‘Spiritual Care,’ ‘Knowledge & Responsibilities,’ ‘Indulgences’ and ‘Personal Choices.’ In addition to this guide on holistic self care in pregnancy I’ll also soon be sharing everything I prepared for labour, birth and post partum. I put so much effort into these preparations so I look forward to sharing this with you all. Following that I’m excited to eventually share our birth story here where you’ll learn that birth and labour never go ‘to plan’ so to speak!
If you know anyone who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy in the future; especially those interested in a holistic approach, please pass this guide on to them! Any questions, feel free to comment below, email me or shoot me a DM on Instagram. I’ll happily respond as best I can.