Let’s start with the disclaimers. This isn’t a “Guide to Getting Pregnant,” or the recommendation of a doctor, nutritionist or even an experienced mama. (If you’re looking for that, head elsewhere.) This is simply an account someone who is going through the pregnancy process for the very first time and wanted to share her health journey with you, the fine readers of BHH. That said, I’m detailing what I’ve learned along the way in terms of health and wellness from the beginning stages of pregnancy to today, nearly 14 weeks in.
Take from it what you will, and be sure to share with us your own thoughts over on @busyhappyhealthy.
Eat well and take a prenatal. Then chill out.
Before you actually get pregnant, you can literally drive yourself crazy researching all the various “dos” and “don’ts” of prepping your body accordingly. There are countless websites and blog posts that tout fertility or hormone-balancing diets; some of them may be valid, but I wouldn’t blindly follow them just for the sake of getting pregnant. Rather, a healthy diet is a healthy pregnancy diet: Stick to the fundamentals like eating plenty of whole foods (with an emphasis on plants and low-glycemic fruits), noshing on healthy omega-3 fats, getting in some lean protein, avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates, drinking lots of water, keeping your alcohol and caffeine consumption to a minimum (but no need to eliminate entirely, people!).
Nevertheless, from all of the research I did and conversations I had, a consistent recommendation surfaced: Take a high quality prenatal. By “high quality,” I mean one that offers a comprehensive variety of vitamins and minerals, with a particular focus on delivering at least 600 mg of folate (not folic acid) per day, which is crucial for fetal neural tube development. Also, seek to avoid ones with cheap fillers or artificial colors; I love Garden of Life Vitamin Code® RAW Prenatal. And as with any supplement, the keyword here is supplement – popping three of these pills a day won’t compensate for a fast food diet.
Listen to your body.
Never have I understood the adage “listen to your body” better than during my first trimester. Holy cow. Your body is talkin’, and you better listen up.
What I mean by that is this: You can have the best-laid plans to follow a certain routine during your pregnancy, such as daily workouts or morning green juices. But, real talk; your body is going to make the final call here and it may not want to hit the elliptical or suck down a green juice. Personally, I found keeping to my normal workout schedule nearly impossible, mostly because I was so fatigued and often quite nauseous during the times when I would normally exercise. So, I just started walking more and doing lighter, shorter gym sessions.
Furthermore, my normally healthy diet devolved into craving simple, carby foods like bread with jam, Saltine crackers and pizza. The thought of eating a salad would make my stomach churn and the idea of meat literally repulsed me. I know, I know: Your baby is what you eat. But you need to eat something and something is better than nothing: So I did the best I could, trying to sneak in fruits and veggies whenever possible and not beating myself up if I ate a croissant every morning for ten days in a row. (Seriously... because I did. And still kind of do?) I intuitively knew that was what my body wanted and I didn’t fight it.
On the flip side, I didn't – and still don't – desire desserts or chocolate during my pregnancy, which is a completely bizarre occurrence for me. (I am a dark chocolate monster.) But I've been listening to my body and cutting out the sweets has definitely helped balance out other aspects of my "new" diet.
Rest and repeat.
Ladies, you need rest when you’re pregnant, especially during the rollercoaster that is the first trimester. Like, a lot of it. So, if you have the luxury of taking extra time to rest (read: this is your first pregnancy and you don’t have a little one at home already), then do it. Sleep in. Take naps. Block off whole chunks of your weekend where you do nothing but putter around, take baths and read the newspaper. Give your body – which is currently doing things like making organs, producing 40-45% more blood than usual and supporting a human life – a goddamn break and don’t feel bad about it.
Take care of yourself and take care of your relationships.
Your hormones are all over the place during your first trimester. I went through periods of feeling defeated, buoyant, overwhelmed, depressed, scared and blissful. Those highs and lows will not only leave you feeling confused, they don’t exactly make for smooth interpersonal relationships. So, take extra care to be gentle to yourself and to the people who are around you, as they don’t inhabit this crazy (!) body of yours. Learn to listen and wait before reacting; learn to apologize; learn to learn from each week that goes by. This is not only a great lesson for the first trimester, it’s an idea worth upholding every single day.