Well, the title of this post pretty much takes away the element of surprise, but for posterity’s sake… We have a surprise! Yup, you guessed it…. we are adding another member to the Sweet Potatoes & Social Change family! Sometime in November or December the hubby and I will be welcoming our first little one!
The past few months have been a whirlwind of events and emotions all of which were a lot to handle, and lead to my very obvious and sudden blogging break after Easter. Within the first month of my pregnancy we told our families about the baby, experienced the unexpected passing of a beloved family member, had two miscarriage scares, had to travel a number of times and I started experiencing severe morning sickness. Thankfully, life is beginning to calm down slightly and I am finally starting to feel better physically and emotionally. I am really excited to share my AIP pregnancy journey with you all because it is a topic that I have gotten a lot of questions about in the past and it is certainly a different experience with different challenges than many women face during their pregnancies. So here are some of the highlights from my first trimester, as it pertains to health and diet:
My AIP/Paleo Pregnancy: The 1st Trimester:
I debated whether or not to include a note on this, but because I have written about fertility and birth control in the past I figured it would be beneficial to provide an update on that front. I worried a lot about infertility after my autoimmune diagnosis because I knew I was suffering from widespread inflammation and hormonal imbalances, plus I had spent many of my formative teenage years on the pill after being initially diagnosed with suspected endometriosis that turned out to, in fact, be the ulcerative colitis. Finally, in 2014 I decided to start being proactive about improving and protecting my fertility so I went off of hormonal birth control in favor of the copper IUD, I went on AIP which really helped reduce my PMS and hormonal imbalances and I started learning about my body. About a year before we planned to try and conceive I spent about three months charting my cycles to learn my body’s ovulation signs and to learn when I typically ovulated. Then, about 6 months prior to trying to conceive I paid extra close attention to my diet and increased the amount of healthy fats I was eating. I also went to the dentist for a cleaning and went to my midwife for my annual exam. Finally, about three months prior I started on a food based prenatal vitamin that included bio-available folate rather than folic acid and I again started using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to chart my cycles. I got my IUD removed during my period and we were able to conceive on that very first cycle. Obviously, a lot of this was out of our hands and was in God’s control but I do credit some of the speed with which we conceived to my preparation and primarily to using FAM ahead of time to learn about my cycle and my body and to be on the look out for any potential problems. Using FAM was also helpful because I was so aware of what was going on with my body that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was pregnant a full week before I was able to get a positive test.
For the first two weeks of my pregnancy I just went along with little change to me usual diet. I found that I needed a few more snacks here and there than I had before and I added in some more fruit and starchy carbs to keep my energy level up but overall I was fine. Around week 6 I developed severe morning sickness. Going into this pregnancy I will admit that I partially believed some of the theories about morning sickness that circulate around the natural health and paleo communities. For example, that morning sickness can be caused or made worse by having a poor diet prior to conception or that some nutrient deficiencies like a magnesium deficiency may play a role. Well, I was quickly humbled because I have been on strict paleo or AIP for over 4 years and I have been supplementing with every form of magnesium for just as long and I was in the bathroom throwing up about 4-5 times a day the minute I hit my sixth week of pregnancy. Related to this, was a huge increase in upper GI issues like acid reflux and GERD. I couldn’t keep down much of anything, including water no matter what remedy I tried. You name it, I tried it: sea bands, ginger everything, sour everything, vitamin B6, magnesium oil, exercise, rest, carrot juice, apple cider vinegar… So finally around week 8 I went into see my midwife who took one look at me and said I either needed to try some medicine or go to the hospital. I was still desperately trying to avoid anti-nausea medicine so I told her I would try some medicine for the acid reflux and see if that would help take the edge off. She agreed and I went on Zantac. Thankfully the Zantac did relieve the severity and I went down to throwing up about twice a day and was able to keep down some liquids. Over this period I really could only tolerate carbs and a very minimum amount of non-smelly protein. I had a lot of smoothies which I added collagen to, I ate a lot of plantain chips, I could eat some cold protein like chicken salad and I ate some Applegate brand frozen sausages. At one point I did have to add in a small amount of white rice just to have some more variety and keep my blood sugar up, but that was my only paleo/AIP cheat. I had a lot of cravings for the SAD comfort foods of my past but I muscled through them (admittedly grumpy about it at times). I did have to drink a lot more juice than I ever had before because it was much easier for me to keep down than plain water and I needed to stay hydrated.
I was very worried that this level of morning sickness was never going to pass, but thankfully around week 11 it started to ease up and by about week 13 it was mostly gone. In hindsight, 5 weeks of morning sickness was not too bad, but in the thick of it I was pretty sure I was going to die.
Natural Health and Pregnancy Issues:
Exercise- I started the first two weeks by walking at least 3 miles a day but when the morning sickness hit that all went out the window. After one attempt that ended with me throwing up in the woods I decided it was time for me to rest. I did try to remain as active as I could and I did a lot of stretching to help ease the muscle tightness that comes with a changing, growing body.
Chiropractic Care- I went to the chiropractor before getting pregnant so I have continued going about once a month since then. I believe that chiropractic care is vital to a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Vitamins- I plan to write a full post on the topic of AIP and Paleo friendly prenatal vitamins so I won’t go into too much detal here but for most of my first trimester I took the Optimal Brand Prenatal vitamin as well as THIS DHA supplement. I also continued taking probiotics and magnesium daily to help with my digestion and I will say that I have not experienced any constipation, unlike most pregnant women.
Prenatal care and testing- As a doula I already knew the importance of selecting a good prenatal provider, but as an AIP-er I knew that I also needed someone who was going to respect my lifestyle choices. As a result, I chose to be seen by a group of three Certified Nurse Midwives that work in a larger obstetrics practice with Obstetricians. All three of the midwives are aware of my lifestyle and diet considerations and are very respectful. At my first prenatal appointment I let them know that when it came time to get tested for gestational diabetes I would be declining the glucola drink and they said that was fine and they would have me test my blood sugar at home over a set time period instead. We also talked about reducing my chances of having group b strep so that I could avoid antibiotics if possible. Outside of that, I consented to all of the traditional first trimester blood work with the exception of any genetic testing (for personal reasons). I did wind up having an early ultrasound because I had two episodes of bleeding at week 6 and week 8. They never found any cause for the bleeding and the baby was healthy but it was good to check and make sure. Otherwise, my only ultrasound would have been at 18 weeks.
The first trimester was an insane whirlwind for me so I am beyond excited to welcome the second trimester and begin preparing for this little Sweet Potato’s arrival! Thank you all for your patience in my absence I am happy to be back and sharing this journey with you!