Sunday, July 19, 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months


After reflecting on my pregnancy, I’ve compiled 9 tips to help you get through your 9 months of pregnancy as happy and healthy as possible. My suggestions come from my personal experience as a first time mom and my doctorate in child development.

In general, you’ll notice that my recommendations are based on a foundation of evolutionary theory, which guides the field of child development. Basically, I tried to avoid anything that wasn’t around during our development into Homo sapiens. My remedies were also chosen based on how long humans have been using them during pregnancy without incidence. Thus, you’ll notice lots of natural, homeopathic, and Eastern medicine advice.

When the natural, time and evolution tested treatments didn’t work, my Western medicine choices were ones that had been used the longest by preggos without incidence. My Western medicine choices, however, were kept to a minimum in terms of frequency and dosage (again, because of evolution and lack of experimental research due to ethics). I also avoided modern medical interventions as much as humanly possible during the first trimester because of the bajillion prenatal sensitive/critical periods. You'll find this advice timely given the mixed evidence surrounding using Zofran off-label for pregnancy sickness combined with the fact that pregnancy sickness is usually worst during the most vulnerable period for prenatal development.

Prenatal sensitive/critical periods.
1. Nausea: I was nauseated constantly from weeks 5 through 14 of my pregnancy. Despite the nausea, I expertly handled the situation and NEVER threw up.  My expertise was gained in college and graduate school via extensive experience with hangovers. Given that the first trimester of pregnancy basically felt like a 14-week hangover, I had that situation on lock-down. Here’s what worked for me:  
-Try to keep a little food in your tummy at all times. Protein (although probably absolutely disgusting to you early in pregnancy) helped knock my nausea level down a few notches. It didn’t make the nausea disappear, but it made it so I could at least shower and get some work done. I basically ate only eggs, mangos, and watermelon for the first three months.
-Get some food in your belly before you even get out of bed. My husband, God bless him, made me a plate of eggs and mangos and put them next to my pillow every day. I simply opened my swollen pregnant eyelids, ate, and waddled out of bed. 
-As long as I had a ginger candy or gum in my mouth, I didn’t feel like I was going to upchuck.

2. Get a Recliner: A comfortable recliner (preferably in front of a TV) will alleviate heartburn, leg swelling, crazy pregnancy snoring, and the discomfort associated with carrying a watermelon on your bladder. You will sleep here, nurse here, and hold fussy baby who won’t go the eff to sleep here. Thus, invest in a good one that will hold up through marathon breastfeeding sessions, rocking your newborn to sleep five times a day, and sick babies who will sleep only if snuggled on your neck. I particularly urge you to get a recliner that is free of stain-repellants and flame-retardants. Neither of these chemicals has received the amount or type of research that make me able to say whether they are safe for humans, let alone pregnant women and fetuses. More importantly, there’s a growing body of solidly conducted research that shows flame-retardants are detrimental for human development and human health. I had a hard time finding a company that made recliners without flame-retardants. You should have an easier time now that IKEA, Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, Pottery Barn, West Elm, La-Z-Boy, and Wal-Mart have stopped adding flame-retardants to their furniture. Make sure you check the label, which should indicate whether flame-retardants were added. If the tag doesn’t indicate as such, it’s from 2014 or earlier and likely has flame-retardants.

3. Supplements: You already know to take prenatal vitamins. You should also take fish oil that is certified free of toxins and contains as much DHA and EPA as you can find. If your vitamin D levels haven’t been checked, do it. You are probably low and should supplement.

4. Maternity Clothes: Only God knows why, but those who make maternity clothes have not sized the clothes so you can say to yourself, “I’m a medium not pregnant, so I should buy medium-sized maternity clothes.” I’m 100% positive that maternity clothes manufacturers take non-pregnant, regularly shaped mannequins and simply make the tummy of the garment more forgiving.  This means that your fat ass, thunder thighs, trunk legs, sausage arms, and porn star boobs will not fit into maternity clothes that the same “size” as your non-pregnant clothes. I got so frustrated that I decided not to buy maternity clothes. I simply bought XL winter leggings from American Apparel and wore my wrap dresses like blouses and my husband’s shirts. Eventually, however, I did find a maternity clothing company I liked. Pink Blush Maternity makes adorable pregnancy and nursing clothes that are affordable and mostly made in the USA. They also do a much better job of sizing clothes to accommodate your expanding overall size without making you feel like a walrus. The clothes also don’t really look very “maternity” and I still sometimes wear them because they are cute.

5. Massages: Get as many massages as you can afford. Not only do they alleviate swelling, pain, discomfort, and cortisol, they also have been shown to reduce the likelihood that your have a fussy, difficult, or irritable newborn.

6. Swelling: The recliner will help with swelling by elevating your feet. Exercise will help get fluids moving. Changing positions and moving around will also help. I highly recommend not taking long car trips (longer than 30 minutes). Every time I was in the car longer than 30 minutes, my ankles and feet had pitting edema (see picture). Most importantly, however, DRINK WATER! Drink at least a gallon a day.

Pitting edema resultant from a 1.5 hour car ride.
7. Weight Gain: I gained 60 pounds because I ate all the food and exercised 5(?) times. It was my first pregnancy and it took fertility treatments and 20 months to get me pregnant so I was going to enjoy it and do whatever I felt like. I also spent most of my free time justifying this behavior by finding people who assured me that they lost all 9,764 pounds of baby weight by breastfeeding. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN, PEOPLE. I lost 20 quick pounds after giving birth. Breastfeeding took off 15 pounds. The other 25 pounds I had to lose the hard way, which I called, “Don’t eat anything!” because that’s what it feels like and exercising more. Fifteen months after giving birth, I still have 10 pounds to lose. Looking back, I wish I’d stuffed myself with vegetables and treated myself with fruit instead of three pints of ice cream in one week and several instances of eating 6 donuts in one sitting. I wish I’d exercised more too. I share my regrets with you because I want to be perfectly honest, not because I’m trying to scare or shame you into eating better and exercising more. In the long term, however, eating better and exercising would have made my postpartum weight struggle and related body image issues a little easier.

8. People Are Rude: They will also annoy the shit out of you. They do not mean to annoy or offend you. They are trying to be nice, complimentary, or simply have an interaction with an adorably pregnant life-giving goddess. Except, sometimes people talk to you because they are unconsciously trying to make themselves feel better by judging you and your choices. These people need to be shut down. You need to come up with a way of handling them. My go-to way of getting people to leave me alone was to tell them with a super serious face and slight confusion: “I’m not pregnant.”

9. Opposite Reactions/Symptoms: Almost everything that happens to you during pregnancy could be the opposite of what people tell you to expect. For example, you could be STARVING the entire pregnancy or you could have no appetite at all. You could sleep all the time or you could have terrible insomnia. Your acne might disappear or it could become life threatening. You could be constipated or you could have the runs. This point also relates back to my 8th point that people are rude. You will inevitably say something that is happening to you, like you have already gained 35 pounds at 6 months, and someone will take the opportunity to tell you that she gained only 17 pounds while pregnant and left the hospital in jeans she wore before she was pregnant (SHUT UP, MOM!). People can be terrible at recognizing others’ needs for understanding and empathy, and what they do instead is use the opportunity to take the interaction over and make it all about them. These people were raised by parents who ignored their emotional needs and used leather belts to discipline them. Perhaps your pity for these people will keep you from slashing their tires.

Bonus Tip #10 (because by the time you are past your due date, you have entered your 10th month of pregnancy): When you are close to your due date, people will start asking you, “When are they going to induce you?” or “How long will they let you go?” These people should be murdered because they have forgotten that YOU are in charge of that decision. Just because your doctor keeps pressuring you to induce doesn’t mean you have to consent to it. You have the right to refuse medical interventions. These questions chip away at your autonomy and sense of agency. Feel free to tear into people who ask this question by telling them in no uncertain terms that this is your body and you will make that decision. Letting them know the error of their ways will make you feel better and more in charge. It will also serve as a PSA that will help change the culture of treating pregnant women like incompetent idiots. With regards to the fetus, the fetus is also yours and you are in charge of making decisions in his or her best interest. You are smart, capable, and the person who loves your fetus the most—remember this when you feel shamed, bullied, and ridiculed.

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