Pregnancy Survival Kit: 1st Trimester

Sure, you’re body is going through a beautiful, natural transformation as it prepares to create life… but while it does that, let’s be honest, you look and feel like s***t.

While you’re desperate to do everything as naturally as possible, you really just want to hang out in the McDonalds drive-through. Pregnancy is seriously hard in the 1st trimester and it’s compounded by not being able to tell anyone and receive the support you need.

I’m not here to hand out medical advice or to advise on the miracle that is childbirth, but guide you towards some of the stuff I used and loved. These products and tips will hopefully help you too cope with all those beautiful* hormonal changes. *Insert sarcasm here.

For that never ending hangover

If I can summarise trimester 1 for the childless out there, it’s like being hungover for a solid 12 weeks:

  • Permanent nausea
  • Cravings for junk food
  • Always friggin’ hungry; and likely hangry too
  • Being on the verge of throwing up/always throwing up
  • Tiredness like you hit the dancefloor till 3am and due at work at 9am. Except now it’s midday and you had 8+hours sleep.

Ginger has long been touted as a natural nausea reliever. I can’t say for sure if it’s true or just a spicy placebo. Having a pack of crystallized ginger on me though definitely helped keep things at bay between meals. Every time I felt a vom coming on, I nibbled on a little ginger. The feelings would pass for a little while (then I would restart the process). Note: By the end of that 12 weeks I couldn’t stand the sight or smell of the stuff and it now makes me gag as my body developed a Pavlovian response to it. It worked for the time I needed it though!

If you are vomiting you will be losing electrolytes & nutrients. While keeping food down might be hard, try sipping on smoothies or veggie juices to replace the food. Of course, for a very effective electrolyte replacement try coconut water. For some reason I always find it easier to get down than water, post vomit.

I did try some herbal anti-nausea products from my local health food store, but unfortunately they didn’t make any difference. If you’re seriously suffering, speak to your trusted health care professional.

PS: you can safely have up to 200mg of caffeine a day, which is about a standard size coffee. Coffee isn’t ideal to include in your diet, pregnant or not, but it’s also not bad enough that it’s worth stressing over. If you’re seriously tired and craving it, enjoy it guilt free.

For your insides

Your hormones are raging and probably having pretty unpleasant impact on your digestive system. For those who have never been pregnant before, it’s kind of like that day or two before your period is due and you notice *ahem* changes in your bathroom habit. Constipation, diarrhea and/or plenty of gas are just some of the delightful changes you can expect (sorry to say, they last well beyond trimester 1 for some/me).

As this is hormonal and your body is behaving in exactly the right way to grow your darling bub you kind of just need to accept this. But as we know, if your stool is moving too fast or too slowly through your body you may be missing out on valuable nutrition and throwing off your gut bacteria. You can balance this out and replace what your body might be loosing during this process by adding a little more of the good stuff.

Add a probiotic supplement to your daily vitamin dose. Inner Health Plus is great, but The Beauty Chef GLOW Powder is way more tasty and delicious mixed in with coconut yoghurt.

And if you’ve forgotten, probiotics and a healthy gut are essentials in keeping your skin clear — another delightful pregnancy symptom.

I also tried digestive enzymes before each meal, but didn’t find them making any difference.

For creating life

Every pregnant woman I’ve spoken to have all shared their cravings for carbs. Maybe we were all after quick energy boosts? After experiencing this never ending need for bread myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that those who stay super skinny throughout their pregnancy have either a) the will power of an ox or b) a lot of money riding on them regaining their figure (i.e. in the case of celebrities or personal trainers).

I did have a few sneaky treats and was busted buying myself a pack of GF ravioli from the supermarket on evening, so I completely understand how hard it is to stay paleo or low carb and eat well during this period. Yes, that is me below eating a crepe rolled up around banana, caramel sauce, cream ice-cream. I know firsthand how bad the carb cravings are!

So this happened, around 7 weeks pregnant. Yes, that is a crepe rolled up around banana, caramel sauce, cream  ice-cream. I know firsthand how bad the carb cravings are!

So this happened, around 7 weeks pregnant.

I also suddenly found myself repulsed at the site of salad, in particular, tomatoes. Despite chicken & salad being my daily lunch staple pre-pregnancy. I did feel pretty guilty about what I was (carbs) and what I wasn’t (raw veggies) eating.

According to the Wellness Mama (a source I trust) in her post on Nutrition for Pregnancy, there’s 4 main things you need to focus on when pregnant:

  • Protein: whether you’re paleo or vegan, protein is a building block for life – yours and your mini-me. Eggs are one of the best protein foods around for pregnancy as they also contain a tonne of vitamins & minerals that support life growth (go figure, they’re the complete food to support a chicken fetus).
  • Fats: load up on all the delicious good fats, like nuts and coconuts. They’re essential to growing your baby’s brain. And they’re delicious.
  • Fruit & veggies: So you can’t handle salad – can you face cooked vegetables? And if that doesn’t work, sneak them in ‘toddler style’ into other dishes. I finely chopped vegetables and added them to curries, shepherds pies, paleo lasagna’s etc. I could happily drink green powders, like spirulina & chlorella, and supplemented with them (you can also buy them in tablet form too).
  • Water: your blood volume is increasing so it’s important to keep well hydrated.   

My usual day on a plate (when not in Japan eating crepes):

  • Breakfast: Egg & banana protein pancakes, with CoCo2 & coconut yoghurt 
  • Morning tea: veggie sticks covered in some sort of nut butter; trail mix; or, if I got time I made bliss balls
  • Lunch: anything cooked! Usually leftovers from the night before dinner.
  • Afternoon tea: My after work snack was a bowl of coconut yoghurt, mixed berries and peanut butter (important to prevent peanut allergies in bub *cough*).
  • Dinner: I went through a bit of a curry stage. Maybe my body was craving all the goodness offered in spices? Whatever I ate it had to be hot, wet and full of flavour. Oh, and a side of carbs. When I was of a sound mind I embraced sweet potatoes (mashed, baked or sliced into chips). When I was weak it was white potatoes.

Side note: wtf is up with being constantly hungry in trimester 1? It’s insane.

The key is to listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re craving something fatty, avoid McDonalds and instead focus on all those really beneficial fats. Coconut and all coconut products really helped me through this period. The good thing about paleo is you can load up on fats & protein without getting fat (or at least not in the same way processed fats will make you). Also, your body is using a tonne of energy creating life and all, so you really will be using it rather than storing it.

When I did have the foresight to prepare in advance, I kept my sanity with these “treats”:

  • Super soft, Paleo, grain-free Seeded Rolls  – they’re soft, chewy and pair well with all your naughty sandwich fillings. I ate mine with butter alone :-) They fulfill that carb craving without the guilt.
  • Loving Earth Raw Chocolate – because it’s scientifically proven that chocolate always helps. Raw cacao contains B vitamins and minerals such as copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, potassium and iron – all the things that bub needs. Eat it for bub!
  • Sweet potatoe chips – slice sweet potatoes into chunky chips, drizzle with coconut oil & season with a preferred spice or S&P. Bake in a hot oven until soft in the centre and crispy on the outside. Feels/tastes naughty but wonderfully nutritious (I ate them with aoli).

For your skin

Your acne is flaring but salicylic acid and most other chemicals are out (unless you want birth defects). So what do you do?

You may remember my earlier acne post was written specifically with pregnant acne suffers (me) in mind. Take away points:

  • Don’t overstrip your skin with cleanser; opt for oil cleansing with a high linoelic acid oil.
  • Exfoliate well to keep away build-up, clogged pores and blackheads.
  • If it’s a blind pimple (as hormonal ones often are), try a clay mask overnight to help draw it out. If the fertility gods are looking down on you it’ll clear up, if not dab on EcoMinerals Concealer.

For your body

So your skin resembles a pizza and you find out everything else you love is also out – no dying hair, no spray tans, no nail polish, no fun. The hair dye I can’t help you with (wait till 2nd trimester or find an organic hairdresser), but I can help with the rest:

  • If you’re into spray tans Asyana is the bomb. If needing a quick fix or something so natural you can eat it, Eco Tan is the way to go. More info for them both here.
  • Lets be honest here ladies, if something gives you head spins from the fumes you can guarantee it’s no good for you (let alone bub). If you’re still using toxic nail care you should really consider switching. Natural stuff works just as well and you’re not gassing yourself each time. Steer clear of acetone-based nail polish remover – try Fresh Therapies Nail Polish Remover. It’s a little oily, but works a treat. As for nail polishes, Nourished Life have done the hard work for us and sourced all the best clean nail polishes – just check out the store. I love Butter London and Pacifica for seriously cool shades that last.

For helping keep your 12 week secret

I’m terrible enough at secrets and if questioned, I will cave. My colleague asked if I had gone home sick from work earlier due to morning sickness (he was being a smart arse; he actually had no idea), but the smirk on my face gave me away before my “no” could catch up. I then had to tell my boss way earlier than planned.

Likewise, my partner was getting paranoid his family would all figure it out early because of those delightful hormones (as mentioned earlier) had caused my belly to severely bloat up.

  • Embrace floaty tops, like this one from Asos. Pair with slim pants and no one will be any the wiser. I’ve always suffered a pop belly (thanks in part to undiagnosed gluten intolerance) so my wardrobe was well stocked.
  • If your pants are tight, get a Belly Belt. I’m still only 16 weeks but this was the best investment ever. When you’re feeling sick, any pressure on your tummy just makes it worse. Keep things comfortable with this very simple, yet effective, device.

Even if your belly is still super flat (you lucky devil), your sudden rejection of alcohol might make your friends instantly suspicious. One girl friend figured it out straight away after I knocked back a lunch time wine — which also made me question my drinking habits…

  • Headed to a party? Take your own wine, just choose one of these alcohol-free types. The bottle looks legit and your drink will look like everyone else’s. If anyone wants to try it, don’t say a word and just pour it for them (concealing the label). They’re not going to get plastered off one glass so they wont even notice the missing ingredient (or get a good giggle when they start acting like they are).
  • When drinking out, order a soda water with lime in a short glass. It looks identical to a vodka soda. Actually, order any drink in a short glass with a slice of lime and it instantly looks just like a mixed drink.

Final word: All pregnancies are different. You may find trimester 1 a breeze and all this is meaningless to you, others may think I had a really easy time! The one message or tip I really want to impart on you though, is to be kind to yourself and don’t judge yourself harshly. Pregnancy (especially your 1st) is stressful enough as it is, without getting paranoid about doing the right or wrong thing. Someone’s always going to criticize what you’re doing but the only person who you need to care about is you and the little life you’re creating. You intrinsically know how to do this pregnancy thing (it’s what all female animals are designed for) so just trust yourself. Take it from me, you can do more harm stressing yourself out about eating a sugary treat than that treat is actually causing you. Do the best you can, listen to what your body needs and trust yourself.

And that’s a message I have to remind myself every day too.

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