I’m nearing the end of my second trimester now, but during my first trimester, in a very unscientific survey (in which I googled “paleo” and “pregnancy”), I found two common themes. Number One, the paleo pregnancy panacea, in which said woman felt awesome all the way through her pregnancy via eating paleo, no morning sickness, no extra weight gain, and general awesomeness abounding. Number Two, the inability to follow anything close to paleo, this woman absolutely could keep nothing but regular old cereal and saltines down.
But these were not my experiences. I didn’t eat a saltine, but I also didn’t feel amazing. On the one hand, I am super grateful for how relatively easy I had first trimester discomfort—I never threw up, never ate any egregiously non-paleo foods, but then sometimes I felt guilty as well that I wasn’t “doing paleo” well enough (whatever that means) because I did have some serious fatigue and a fish aversion and near constant hunger.
So what’s the conclusion about eating paleo and pregnancy? Well, without a doubt, I think that eating paleo for 3 years before getting pregnant helped me be healthier going into the pregnancy. I even would go so far as to venture a guess that eating paleo while pregnant helped me feel better then as well. But morning sickness is a curious thing that we don’t seem to have a good grip on why it happens (theories abound: magnesium deficiency, excess of estrogen or other hormones, etc.). So my personal opinion is that paleo helped, but to expect paleo to help you completely skip first trimester discomforts might be setting yourself up for disappointment—pregnancy is, after all, a mysterious thing. Be gentle with yourself, and make the best decision you can one day at a time.
One exciting thing is that as the paleo way of eating continues to expand, more and more women will add their voices and expertise to the experience of the paleo pregnancy. Already there are starting be more resources (Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book, Baby Making & Beyond, The Better Baby Book, The Healthy Baby Code — check out this pintrest board for more paleo pregnancy books and blog posts).
My two cents: I am by no means an expert or representative of more than my single experience, but here is what I found helped:
1. Sleep More. Like a lot more. Like take the amount you sleep normally to feel good, and add an hour or two. Then if you can, make more room for a nap (or two) and then expect that you might still be tired. I knew that women were fatigued during pregnancy—but I thought that meant like if they didn’t get a full 8 hours of sleep they’d be extra tired. But at various times I was just amazed at how much I was sleeping (10 or 11 hours at night plus naps) and how tired I still was. Still, I found that pretty much sleeping as much as I possibly could was one of the best ways to feel half way decent (i.e. not crazy hungry or sick). Ironically, I sometimes woke up in the middle of night having to use the bathroom, and then would have a hard time going back to sleep. (Which meant I usually woke Evan up, and we’d listen to an audio book together. Also look at Dr. Rosenberg’s articles on pregnancy sleep for more ideas.) If I stayed awake for more than 25 minutes, I’d often need a snack before I could go back to sleep. Because other than sleep, snacks were key.
2. Snacks. My very favorite snack was the bacon-bison-cranberry epic bar. It has about equal fats, proteins, and carbs—so you get some instant blood sugar relief from the cranberries but it’s balanced out with enough fat and protein that you don’t crash on the other side. It’s also a solid source of B12. Sometimes I wish that it had a little bit of a veggie in it for some more fiber and vitamins…but then it probably wouldn’t be as delicious. A friend’s son at church called these my “meat granola bars.” My other go-to snacks were lära bars (or later I discovered Rx bars!) and plantain chips, but I tried to eat those just to tie me over until there was a meal since they are mostly carbs and the relief they provided wouldn’t last super long. I often kept a snack near the bed so if I woke up in the middle of the night or super early in the morning, I could keep from feeling terrible while trying to get more sleep. And for me, second trimester brought about both a return to fairly normal sleep patterns and energy levels, and pretty much regular hunger. Which was good because bison bars are amazing, but a little spendy…even if you get them on the awesome Thrive Market.
3. Ginger. I struggled most with brief moments of concentrated nausea right after I finished a meal, most often breakfast (especially if I stood up quickly and tried to start cleaning up) or riding in a stuffy car. So I started to carry Trader Joe’s Crystalized Ginger in my purse, and those spicy bits really helped. I also got some pregnancy tea: Organic Morning Wellness Tea, which was pretty good, but the crystalized ginger was so much easier to grab when it seemed like every second really counted. I think probably making some iced Morning Wellness Tea up in advance would be a good move next time.
4. Sparkling Water with Lemon. Classic morning sickness advice: the fizziness and the lemon (or lime) was great. We love our soda siphon! Occasionally with dinner I might also have a Reed’s Ginger Beer when everyone else was having a Moscow Mule or a Margarita. I did have to be careful with the sugar though. I usually keep my sugar/carb consumption reasonably low, but I found that I craved a lot more fruit and juice during first trimester. But while it made me feel better fast, too much and without any fats or proteins led to a pretty quick crash. This seemed especially true about having more than 1/4 cup of coconut ice cream after dinner, or more than one square of chocolate at a time. (If only I had that kind of self-control with desserts all the time!)
5. Gentle Exercise. In the Fall of trying to get pregnant, I tried out a couple of prenatal yoga dvds. I love Shiva Rea’s other works, so I checked out her pre-natal yoga dvd from the library, and it was kind of disappointing. It seemed so slow and so easy…and kind of boring. And then I got pregnant and tired, and tried it again and it turned out to be great. Honestly most days I just focused on getting 5 miles of walking (albeit at a slower pace, sometimes with snacks and water) and the first trimester suggestions for my usual stretching/strength exercise (TTapp!), but my faith is fully restored in all things Shiva Rea. (I’m excited to try her post-partum dvd). One word about exercise and snacks, I had to eat after doing any sort of exercise, within 15 minutes of stopping, ideally a meal but at the very least a snack.
6. Journals. The first trimester crawled by. One thing that helped mark the time was to read about how each day there were such amazing things happening to my little microscopic baby. I felt more connected to this little one’s amazing life, and I felt like each day I was accomplishing something (while I napped and snacked). Most people who have more advanced smart phones than my ancient one would probably get an app to tell them the day to day developments, but my sister-in-law lent me the Daily Pregnancy Journal so I read that each day. (Warning, the nutrition advice is NOT anywhere close to paleo…but that is a common theme in a lot of pregnancy books, alas. Overall, the pregnancy book I liked most was Magical Beginnings, which although not paleo seemed the most balanced.) The other journal (like this one) I kept was just a simple one with letters to my baby. I started it back in October so there are some entries about longing for this little one, and Evan writes in it occasionally as well. I think we’ll find it a really special treasure in years to come.
7. Vitamins & Remedies: How everyone handles prenatal vitamins, managing colds during pregnancy, and the regular discomforts of heart burn, itchy skin, constipation, or inflamed sinuses is a pretty personal decision based on individual needs and budgets. If I had a bigger budget for prenatal I’d probably have gone with either this all-in-one or this list of individual supplements, and Meg@ the paleo midwife has a good article (one of many!) about how to choose a prenatal. But to keep costs low I went with this one along with some natural calm calcium-magnesium. I had grand plans of taking this cod liver oil…but that really only started to happen half way through 2nd trimester when I could tolerate fish again. For occasional heart burn I just took a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in warm water, for sinus congestion I like this tea tree oil chest rub, and for itchy skin I like to use just plain old shea butter, and constipation I just slightly increased the calcium-magnesium dose.
I think that paleo can be a great way to nurture yourself and your baby during pregnancy. But first trimester might still be a hard time—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So care for yourself, let yourself nap and snack when you can. I ate a lot of breakfasts for lunch and dinner because it seemed like a comfort food. I spent a lot of later afternoons in a reclining chair listening to Harry Potter, because that’s what I could manage, and it seemed like going to bed at 4:30 was pushing it even for me. I let Evan cook breakfast because the thought of having to cook breakfast on an empty stomach was not great. And it passed, really in only about 8 weeks, and some days or parts of those weeks were much easier than others. But somehow it did pass. So be kind to yourself and be patient with the miracle.
What were your tips and tricks for getting through first trimester or another tough season?
*Note* This post contains affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
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