What To Do When You’re Overdue

So here I am, 12 days overdue with baby #5, and of course I’m feeling a crazy mixture of emotions that range everywhere from excitement to fear.

I’m full of anticipation and wonder as I think about meeting my sweet little boy, but I’m also very thankful for every day that he decides to stay put because I know that he’s active, growing, and doing well while I’m busy taking care of a sick household.

When I was ten days overdue with Elliot (our second), we were living in Colorado, and they had a law about not being able to have a home birth when you were past two weeks overdue. That (in addition to the fact that I was working full time and had limited maternity leave that I was using up with the end of my pregnancy) motivated me to try everything under the sun to get him out (including castor oil…do not do this ever!!!).

Now with this pregnancy, I am a stay at home mom with no agenda or timeline and no laws about timing out of a home birth. The midwives and I continuously monitor things to make sure he is still growing, active, and that I continue to remain healthy, but now as I approach the two week mark of being overdue, I want to be prepared if I DO need to “encourage” him to come out and know with certainty what my risks and options are.

How is a Due Date Calculated?

Before I get into induction methods and such, I wanted to reflect on the accuracy of a “due date” and take a minute to look at where it came from.

A woman’s due date is calculated by Naegele’s rule, which states that the due date should be approximately 280 days (40 weeks) from the start of the last menstrual period. The median found by Naegele’s rule merely shows that half of all births occur before 280 days and half occur after with birth data typically clustering around the “due date”.

A standard deviation diagram of human gestation showing the curve's center is at 280 days (40 weeks) past the last menstrual period.

A standard deviation diagram of human gestation showing the curve’s center is at 280 days (40 weeks) past the last menstrual period. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, 2009, Nasha)

Naegele’s rule doesn’t take into consideration that women don’t always have menstrual cycles lasting 28 days with ovulation occurring precisely on day 14, so those with a shorter cycle could have a shorter pregnancy and those with a longer cycle could have a longer pregnancy. In addition, studies show that first time mothers are more likely to be overdue and that women of African and Asian descent tend to deliver about a week before Caucasian mothers (Source).

Ultrasounds used to measure the size of the developing embryo before the 12th week of pregnancy are 95% accurate within an error margin of six days and those in the second trimester have an an error margin of 8 days.

When I was in my tenth week of pregnancy, we had an ultrasound (basically because I was wondering if we were having twins…like I do!) and they gave us a due date of Feb. 18th. So if you add six days to that and then two weeks, that would make March 10th as my latest date of arrival. Being that it’s only March 2nd right now, I’ve still got plenty of time!

Risks of Being Overdue

No one really expects to give birth ON their due date (only 5% are in fact), but with most births being clustered around that time, when you reach one week overdue, it becomes common practice for strangers to start telling the mother that she should eat spicy food/go for walks/have sex, and at two weeks overdue, an induction is absolutely expected. Am I right?

So why do we expect induction at two weeks past the due date anyways? Well, in one case, researchers looked at ten studies involving 6,000 women, and they found that when labor was not induced after a certain time, about 9 out of 3,000 babies died and when labor was induced after 41 completed weeks of pregnancy, 1 out of 3,000 babies died. So basically, without knowing any other factors in these individual cases, we could say that inducing labor after 41 weeks of labor reduces the chances of infant death by 8.

When looking at the risks to the baby when the mother is overdue, these are the main concerns (Source):

  • Aging Placenta – The main risk with being overdue is that the placenta might stop providing the baby with the nutrients or oxygen that he or she needs.
  • Infections – The risk of infections in the womb and unexpected complications during childbirth increases too.
  • Meconium Aspiration – The risk of breathing in meconium is decreased with induction (from 11 out of 1,000 to 7 out of 1,000). When the baby’s bowl contents are released into the amniotic fluid during labor and the baby becomes distressed, he or she may breathe in the meconium and it can cause breathing problems.
  • Stillbirth – The risk of stillbirth between 37 and 42 weeks is 2 to 3 per 1,000 deliveries and increases slightly to 4 to 7 per 1,000 past 42 weeks (Source).
  • Health Problems with the Mother – If the mother is overdue and at risk for preeclempsia, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or any other health complications, it could lead to an emergency Cesarean section.
  • Baby is Too Big – Macrosomia is the medical term for a big baby and some researchers consider babies over 8 lbs. 13 oz. to be big while others say anything over 9 lbs. 15 oz. is big. Trying to predict whether or not a baby will be “big” can be difficult and researchers have found that ultrasounds are only accurate at predicting “big babies” 50% of the time and that women suspected of having “big babies” have higher inductions, Cesarean sections, and maternal complications. If you don’t have type 1, 2, or gestational diabetes, then the risks of vaginally delivering a “big baby” (such as perineal tears and shoulder dystocia) are not statistically significant to warrant any intervention (Source…this is a good one!).

I have heard many stories of women who have had “ten month pregnancies” and they feel like their babies just needed to “cook” longer. Many practitioners feel that we should actually be advocating for 43 weeks to be considered the definition of late. Basically, reaching your due date (or getting close to it) is not reason enough to force an induction.

Making Sure Everything is Safe

Although some sources say that medical examinations are not typically able to detect problems when women go past their due date (and use this as justification for inducing ALL women who go past their due date), there are several things that my midwives check for to ensure the safety of both myself and my overdue baby.

  • Fetal Kick Count – This is the most effective assurance that the baby is doing fine. Every baby will have his or her own patterns of movement, and if a mother is in tune with the times, duration, and frequency that her baby moves, that is the best way to ensure that everything is fine. Basically, when your baby is active, you should feel at least ten movements in two hours (Source).
  • Fundal Height – The measurement from the top of the pubic bone to the top of the uterus is the fundal height. After 16 weeks of pregnancy, your fundal height measurement (in centimeters) should match the number of weeks you’ve been pregnant. So if you’re 40 weeks, you should measure 40 cm. Just keep in mind that you will lose some ground when the baby drops!
  • Low Amniotic Fluid Levels – This is known as oligohydramnios and affects about 12% of pregnancies that go past 41 weeks. Low levels of amniotic fluid could be an indication of declining placental function and lead to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) where the baby doesn’t grow as it should (Source). Trained midwives are able to use abdominal palpation (feeling with their hands) in order to detect the amount of amniotic fluid. Basically, the baby would be very easy to feel and in some cases you could see limbs, the uterus would be smaller than expected, and there may be fewer movements (Source).
  • Fetal Non-Stress Test (NST) – The goal of this test is to measure the heart rate of the fetus in response to its own movements. Healthy babies will respond with an increased heart rate during times of movement and the heart rate will decrease when the baby is at rest. This test is an indicator that the baby is receiving enough oxygen and uses electronic fetal monitoring (Source).
  • Auscultated Acceleration Test (AAT)– This is an alternative to the fetal non-stress test that doesn’t involve any electronic fetal monitoring. Basically, you’re listening to the baby’s heart rate for 6 minutes and looking for at least one acceleration (Source).
  • Swelling – Some swelling is to be expected during pregnancy, but excessive swelling could be a sign of preeclempsia, and if a woman were to show signs of preeclempsia (high blood pressure, protein in the urine, retaining water) after she reached her due date, she would definitely want to deliver very soon. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications for the mother including liver or renal failure and future cardiovascular issues. It can also prevent the placenta from getting enough blood which will deprive the baby of oxygen and food (Source).

Baby’s Growth Towards the End of Pregnancy

I am thankful for every day that my baby is growing inside of me. During the final days and weeks of pregnancy, some amazing growth and development is taking place (Source). If you were to rush into an early induction, your baby could be missing out on some of the following.

  • Passage of Antibodies: During the last weeks of pregnancy, maternal antibodies that will help fight infections in the first days and weeks of pregnancy are passed on to the baby.
  • Putting on Weight: Starting at about 35 weeks, your baby will start to gain weight rapidly at the rate of about half a pound per week.
  • Growing Brown Fat: Brown fat is found in hibernating animals and newborn babies and develops in the final weeks of gestation to help regulate the newborn baby’s body temperature.
  • Building Iron Stores: In the final weeks in the womb, babies build up a reserve of iron stores.
  • Developing Sucking and Swallowing Abilities: Oral feeding that requires coordination of sucking, swallowing and breathing is the most complex sensorimotor process for newborns sensorimotor process for newborns and develops in the later part of pregnancy.
  • Lung Development: The final phase of lung development occurs during the final weeks of pregnancy. If a baby is suspected to be premature at the time of delivery, the mother can be given a steroid injection to speed along the lung development process (Source).
  • Brain Development: The last three months of pregnancy provide your child with the basic brain structure that he or she will have for the rest of his or her life. The brain grows rapidly during this phase and roughly triples during the last 13 months of gestation (Source). Every day in the womb allows the brain to grow and develop even more.

Risks of Inducing Too Early

Many women breathe a sigh of relief at 37 weeks because that has typically been considered “full term”, but now the true definition of full term is considered 39 weeks for the best chance of optimal development. Not only that, but you may think that you’re 37 weeks based on inaccurate measurements and really only be 33 or 34 weeks along. Yes, the later part of pregnancy is uncomfortable, but inducing a baby to be born before she is ready can bring about way more problems. If a baby is born premature, there are several risks involved (Source):

  • More Interventions: Interventions tend to lead to more interventions. If you are induced before your body is ready and labor doesn’t begin, it can lead to a Cesarean section and other interventions that might not have been necessary.
  • Stay in the NICU: Babies born too early can have problems breathing, staying warm, dealing with jaundice, sucking and swallowing, and may require a stay in the NICU.
  • Long Term Health Problems: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and as adults, they are more likely to get diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

Medical Methods of Induction

According to birth certificate data in the US, 23% of labors (in 2012) were medically induced, but this is not something that is always reported on a birth certificate. Survey data shows that number to be more like 41%. Here are the possible medical methods of induction (Source).

  • Prostaglandins: You can be given a medication containing synthetic prostoglandins inserted into the vagina to thin and dilate the cervix or an oral dose of misoprostol that will do the same thing. *Note: there are MANY natural ways to do this, see next section.
  • Foley Catheter or Cervical Ripening Balloon: By inserting a thin tube into the cervix with one or two tiny uninflated balloons on the end and then filling these balloons with water, the pressure on the cervix stimulates the body to release prostoglandins which can ripen the cervix. Then when the cervix opens, the balloons fall out and the tube is removed.
  • Strip or Sweep the Membranes: If the cervix is already somewhat dilated, a finger can be inserted and manually separate the amniotic sac from the lower part of the uterus. This will cause the release of prostoglandins as well. This can be a bit painful and uncomfortable, but can stimulate contractions. *This is something a midwife can do or you can do if you are familiar with your body.
  • Rupture Membranes: This is otherwise known as “breaking the water” and involves inserting a small hooked instrument through the cervix to break the amniotic sac. There’s a small chance that this will stimulate contractions, but if it doesn’t, then pitocin will be given.
  • Pitocin: The synthetic version of oxytocin (the hormone released that naturally stimulates labor) is called pitocin and can be given through and IV pump to stimulate contractions.
    • Oxytocin versus Pitocin: During natural labor, oxytocin is released into the mother’s body in a pulsing action that provides for breaks during labor, but pitocin is given in a steady stream through an IV so it causes contractions that are longer and stronger than your baby or placenta can handle which can deprive him/her of oxygen. It also prevents the mother’s body from releasing endorphins (that will prevent and counteract pain), is not as effective at dilating the cervix as oxytocin so more is required, lacks the peak that oxytocin provides allowing for a faster easier birth, and interferes with the release of oxytocin…otherwise known as the love hormone that helps promote bonding after birth.

Natural Ways to Induce Labor

If your body is ready to go into labor and just needs a helping hand, then there are many natural methods that can help to spur things along. Some are very gentle and safe while others carry a certain risk and must only be used with extreme caution (Source).

  • Get the Baby into Optimal Position: Ideally, a baby will be LOA (left occiput anterior) when engaged for labor, meaning that if the mother looks down at her belly, the baby’s head will be down and the back can be felt on the mother’s left. If the baby is in an OP (occiput posterior) position with its back lined up with the mother’s spine, it can prevent a mother from going into labor or make labor start and stop. Spinning Babies is a wonderful website and goes into great detail about baby positions, when it’s recommended to turn them, and how to go about doing this.
    1. Bouncing on a Birthing Ball – This can help tremendously to get the baby into an optimal position. I must have a uterus perfectly designed for posterior babies because they have all started out this way and then turned during labor. But I have always relied heavily on my birthing ball to help me bounce and swivel my hips at the same time. My husband has also been a great help by pushing on my hips or on my lower back…it really helps to be very vocal about what feels good and you want your partner to do!
    2. Kneeling on all Fours  – I love getting on my hands and knees to release the pressure of the baby. It also helps to stick my butt up in the air to let the baby move more freely into an optimal position.
    3. The Miles Circuit – This is a series of positions and movements involving lunges, walking on an uneven curb, and side stepping up stairs to open your pelvis and get the baby into an optimal position. (Read more here.)
    4. Chiropractor Visiting a chiropractor trained in working with pregnant women can help to align the spine and joints to help the baby be able to get into optimal position for birth.
    5. What About Deep Squats? The idea that squatting with your knees higher than your hips may seem like a good idea to get the baby further into the pelvis, but really should be avoided in later pregnancy because it can cause the baby to get settled into an unfavorable position. (Read more here.)
  • Walking – With every baby, we always talk about “walking it out”. The bumping up and down can help to move the baby into the birth canal. Walking up and down stairs, especially two at a time while lifting your legs up really high can also help to move the baby downward. Swimming can also be a nice low impact way to help move things along.
  • Sex – What you did to make the baby can help the baby come out too! As long as your waters haven’t broken, it is still generally safe. Also, have fun talking to all of your coworkers and friends about all of the raunchy details of your sex life when they suggest this method of induction. 🙂
    1. Sperm – Sperm contains prostoglandins that can soften the cervix. May be taken orally or vaginally. 🙂
    2. Female Orgasm – The uterus contracts during orgasm and this can help to stimulate labor.
  • Nipple Stimulation – You can gently rub or roll the nipple in order to release oxytocin to help stimulate contractions. But it can make contractions very strong, so use with caution! (Read more here.)
  • Stretch or Sweep the Membranes – By inserting a finger into the cervix and doing a gentle sweep between the uterus wall and amniotic sac, it can help to stimulate labor within hours or days. (I’m not sure how many women would feel comfortable doing this to themselves, but I did this to get Elliot’s birth going. Here’s some more info on how to do it.)
  • Oils to Ripen the Cervix – Instead of synthetic methods or sperm, there are other ways to soften the cervix. Borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, and black current oil are natural sources of prostoglandins which are fatty acids that can soften the cervix and increase the flexibility of the pelvic ligaments that will help with effacement and dilation. You can take them orally starting at about 35 weeks and with the evening primrose oil, you can insert it vaginally (just do it at night and use a panty liner).
  • Meditation, Visualization, and Yoga – I recently wrote another blog about this because I think that having a peaceful mindset is very crucial before giving birth. Recently, everyone in my family has been sick and needing me, and I have certainly felt the signs of labor stop when I am needed or stressed out.
  • Acupressure – There are accupressure points in the ankles and webbing between the thumb and forefinger that can cause muscle contractions in the uterus and help to stimulate labor. (Read more here.)
  • Herbs to Take Towards the End of Pregnancy
    1. Motherwort – This herb makes contractions more effective, regulates Braxton Hicks contractions, and stops false labor. If taken before birth, it can calm nerves and potentially help to prevent postpartum depression. (Read more here.) *Get the herb here and the tincture here.
    2. Red Raspberrry Leaf – Starting at about 34 weeks, this herb can be taken as a tea or a pill to strengthen the uterus and potentially lead to a shorter labor, especially the pushing stage (Additional source). *Get some in bulk here or in tea bags here.
  • Foods to Help Stimulate Labor
    1. Bananas – Bananas have a lot of potassium which is crucial for muscle contractions, so being low in potassium could potentially delay labor. *Don’t overdue the potassium or take supplements as they can be poisonous when taken incorrectly.
    2. Basil and Oregano – These herbs are emmenagogue that can help to bring on a late period and in higher doses can cause uterine contractions. You can make food with these herbs or steep them in a tea to get things going. (Read more here.)
    3. Dates – Six dates a day leading up to your delivery date can make labor start sooner, make it shorter, and help with dilation (Additional source).
    4. Pineapple – Fresh raw pineapple contains a small amount of an enzyme called bromelian which can soften the cervix and get labor going.

Natural Methods That Might Do More Harm Than Good

  • Castor Oil – Because castor oil causes severe diarrhea, the theory is that these bowel movements will stimulate contractions. I actually got desperate enough with Elliot and tried this method, and let me tell you IT WAS NOT WORTH IT! Yes, my body was ready to go into labor and it probably did help to kick things off, but my butt hurt worse than my vagina after labor, plus I ran the risk of dehydration. No thanks.
  • Licorice rootLicorice root and licorice extract contain an ingredient called glycyrrhizin, which can cause uterine contractions but also have some negative side effects, so beware.
  • Spicy food – Even though there is no scientific evidence that spicy food can bring on labor, many women swear by it. The theory is kind of the same as castor oil in that it can upset your digestive system enough to cause cramps that may lead to contractions. Personally, I’d like to avoid the discomfort, but if you’re really desperate, it can’t hurt too bad!
  • Black/Blue Cohosh – If you’re past 40 weeks and already experiencing contractions, these herbs can help to strengthen and regulate uterine contractions. While generally regarded as safe, there was an isolated incident of it causing heart trouble in a new baby, so use with caution. (Read more here.)
  • Clary Sage Oil – By mixing with a carrier oil and rubbing on your belly, it can help to promote labor and relieve pain, but it should only be used under the guidance of a trained professional as there can be other complications if not used correctly.
  • Golden Seal – Golden seal can be taken orally in tablet form and has hydrastatine and berberine that have been known to induce labor. Because of complications, however, it is recommended that you only take it with professional guidance.

What Causes Labor to Start

Labor will typically begin when the maturing baby and aging placenta trigger an increase in prostoglandins that will soften the cervix and get it ready for effacement and dilation. Estrogen will rise and progesterone will increase which will make the uterus more sensitive to oxytocin. The baby will move down into the pelvis and contractions in the last weeks of pregnancy may start the effacement and dilation of the cervix. Women will typically feel a burst of energy to help them make the final preparations before labor begins (Source).

In addition, the uterus has an increased number of immune cells (macrophages) there to help to fight lung infection that begin to migrate to the wall of the uterus during late pregnancy (called surfactant protein, aka SP-A). Once there, a chemical reaction takes place stimulating an inflammatory response in the uterus that starts the process of labor. So basically, when the baby’s lungs are developed, labor will begin (Source).

In Conclusion

Even though I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of our precious little guy, I am in no hurry to “make him” come before he is ready. I have viewed each additional day as a gift where I get to accomplish one more task or cuddle with one more child before my little guy enters this world and demands my full attention. I have also enjoyed eating special meals, treating myself to organizational tools for my home, doing yoga daily, nesting in every possible way, getting caught up on things I would have never dreamed I would get caught up on, reading, journaling, spending time with my husband, and taking lots of time to reflect and enjoy every aspect of life.

Now that I am knowledgeable in all of the risks of being overdue and aware of a variety of methods of induction, I am ready to turn this part of my brain off as I listen to my body, become aware of my baby, and prepare for this miraculous journey that will bring a new life into the world.

The Importance of Visualizing and Meditating Before Giving Birth

The Importance of Visualizing and Meditating Before Giving Birth

Visualizing and meditating before birth has helped me to have three peaceful home births (Ruby, our first born, was a slightly different story…read her birth story here and my afterward thoughts here), and as I prepare for the birth of baby #5, the reality of being 8 months pregnant has finally hit me, and I know that I need to make a conscious effort to get in tune with my baby and my body before the birth happens.

Using Yoga to Meditate

I absolutely LOVE the way my body feels when I regularly move through yoga. After several weeks of a new routine, the awkward and stiff feelings are replaced with strength and confidence and the world melts away as I focus and concentrate on my movements.

Yoga is as much about freeing your mind as it is about freeing your body from tension and pain. With four young children to take care of and so many things to constantly make, prepare, and do, it’s really hard for me to find time to clear my mind and really concentrate on the present moment.

But when I do find the time to move through a yoga video, the calm music and gentle guidance of the instructor allow me to let go of the world and to be fully present in the movements of my body. I can let go of my to do list, my worries, and my fears…everything else simply melts away as I focus on my breathing, my baby, the position of my limbs, and the intricate placements of each of my ligaments, muscles, and bones.

Sometimes it’s hard to justify setting aside a full hour for myself to do yoga, but when I make it a priority, I feel stronger, calmer, and more at peace. Some other amazing perks are that it makes my leg cramps go away (I also have found GREAT relief using this magnesium spray), helps with my lower back pain, and helps me to sleep better at night.

My Favorite Yoga Vidoes

When I first started doing yoga, I went to the local library and checked out everything they had. I also looked for YouTube videos for “prenatal yoga” and found two videos that have stood the test of time throughout all five pregnancies.

My ultimate favorite is Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga by Gaiam. This workout is put together sooooooo well and incorporates every single little movement that a pregnant woman should go through to release tension and strengthen her body. I also love the modifications for each trimester, the soft background music, the serene setting, and Shiva’s gentle guidance.

Another top favorite video is ZenMama Rainbeau Mars: Prenatal Workout. This video is a bit easier than Shiva Rea’s and because Rainbeau talks during her movements (rather than having the sound dubbed over later), there are little mistakes and such, but I actually really enjoy this video more because of these foibles. I also LOVE her guided relaxation piece at the end.

I encourage you to explore several videos as well and find something that works for you. When you do the same video/videos over and over, it can help you to memorize the routines so that when you need a quick little “pick me up” you will have some go to moves.

Visualizing Life with a New Baby

The reason why I usually start “nesting” so early is that I spend a lot of time visualizing what our lives will be like with a new baby. My husband and I will talk late into the nights about what our new bedtime routine will look like, how he will take care of me and support me during the important recovery stage of postpartum care, what our new morning routine will look like, where the baby will sleep, how we will regulate the temperature of our bedroom, what nursing stations I will require throughout the house, and every other possible little detail that we can think of.

I find times when I can let my mind go (usually before I go to bed or when I’m cuddled up with a little one during the day) and totally visualize what it will be like to cradle a sweet little babe in my arms. I think about being tied to a bed or chair for long periods of time as we establish breastfeeding and I recover, and I try to see what I will see then…which inevitably leads to lots and lots of organizing and cleaning because I just KNOW that the dust on the ceiling fans, the organization of our book baskets, and interior cleanliness of our refrigerator is going to gnaw at my mind!

Visualizing the Birth

Whenever I get into the final weeks of pregnancy, the fullness of what I will be going through hits me, and my first instinct is to panic. I start worrying about how I will get through the pain of transition, how I will manage pushing out an entire body through my lady parts, and how a potentially long labor may drain me of every speck of energy until the point of collapse.

My second instinct is one of excitement as I visualize meeting this tiny being that has been nestled in my womb for so long. Seeing his little face, knowing that he will grow up like all of my other children with a unique and definitive personality all his own, feeling the soft touch of his skin and the elation that my husband and I will feel when we actually get to hold him and gaze into his precious little face…all of these things lift me to a tremendous emotional high.

But then back to the birth…I reflect on my past births, but know that this one will be its own story. I picture myself feeling the first acknowledgement of labor, the recognition that these contractions aren’t Braxtons anymore…they are real, and this baby is coming. I know that the excitement of that moment will trump any notions of sleep, and it makes me treasure those moments of rest that I have now.

I visualize myself keeping it a secret as long as I can letting my husband rest or work…finishing whatever he needs to do so that he will have the energy to support me in my final moments when I know that I will need him the most. I see myself putzing around the house in the beginning stages of labor as I prepare food, tidy up the house, and pull out my birthing kit. (Ummm, I still need to order this…) I also know that I will need to rest during this beginning stage and save my strength for the more difficult parts.

I see my body starting to take things seriously as I’m no longer able to move during contractions, and I wonder, “Where will I want to be when this happens?” For Julian’s birth, I liked being in our living room, far away from the children’s bedrooms with the soft glow of the fireplace and the large windows in the doors that give me a view to the backyard. I think about lighting candles (Oops, I forgot to add some to my last Melaleuca order…), turning on my Pandora Enya mix, and preparing a stack of pillows and my exercise ball (I need to clean this off and pump it up…) for what will probably result in back labor once again (I have a body that cradles posterior babies it seems.).

I think about where I will want to be when I push (probably on my hands and knees like the last three births), where I will rest afterwards, and how we will sneak past Elliot (if he’s sleeping) to get to the large sit and stand jaccuzi tub in our bathroom for an herbal bath afterwards.

I also think about where the midwives will be while they are here and how they may need a place to rest if labor is long and food to eat to help everyone keep up their strength. I wonder when I’ll call my mom to let her know labor has begun and think about whether or not the other children will need to be entertained so Scott can support me or whether it will all happen in the dark hours of the night.

As I think about all of these things, and continuously prepare for this upcoming journey, it puts my mind at ease. I can “see” what is going to happen, and it’s takes away my initial feelings of panic, anxiety, and self doubt. When I think about the birth after visualizing and meditating, I feel tranquil and excited for what is soon to happen.

Helpful Resources

As I embark upon my fifth birth, I have plenty of my own stories to reflect on and think about, but when I was preparing for my first and second birth, these are the resources that helped me to learn more about what would happen to my body before, during, and after labor. This knowledge helped to alleviate my fears about the unknown and put my mind at ease during the process of birth.

*Note: I am a person who likes to know EVERYTHING inside and out, I LOVE research, and I strongly believe that knowledge is power. Some people, however, will say that the best advice is to not listen to too much advice because everyone has so many different opinions. When it comes to childbirth, you might feel more comfortable in a hospital, at a birthing center, at home with a midwife, or completely unassisted, but the bottom line is that some crazy stuff is about to happen to your body, and I truly believe that the more you learn about the process, the less you will succumb to fear of the unknown and therefore pain.

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – Ina May is a very knowledgeable midwife, and I love the way she explains exactly what happens to a woman’s body during birth with special attention to information that supports a natural birth. I also loved reading all of the birth stories. *I also really like Birthing from Within by Pam England. 
  • The Business of Being Born – I can’t even fully explain how this opened my mind up to the world of birth, but when everything was so foreign and so new during my first and even second pregnancies, this documentary was nothing short of a miracle for my mind, and something that I watched several times. It was really good for my husband to watch as well. There is also an additional four part series called More Business of Being Born that is in some ways even more amazing.
  • Hypnobirthing Resources – I’m trying to find exactly what I used for this, and I think it was the cds from the Hypnobirthing Home Study Course ($170), but this Birth Hypnosis cd by Gabrielle Targett ($1.99) sounds very soothing as well. I remember taking a bath when I was very much pregnant for Ruby (our first) and falling into a deep state of meditation as I prepared for my birth. I never really entered a state of hypnosis, but listening to these cds during labor really helped me to connect with a very peaceful center (that along with my Enya and Sigur Ros mix), especially when I started to feel like I was going to panic from the pain.
  • Orgasmic Birth – Personally, the idea of having an orgasm during birth seems quite strange to me, but I was very fascinated to learn about the close connection between pleasure and pain. This documentary helped me to open up to the idea that birth isn’t just a painful experience to endure, but a beautiful and amazing experience to take part in. *It also makes me chuckle when I prepare my “birthing area” with dim lights, flickering candles,  and soft music because the ideal environment for having a baby is truly best when it’s the same environment used to make a baby. Speaking of which, this video hilariously makes this point quite well…seriously, you have to watch it! 

  • Birth Videos and Stories – In a birthing class Scott and I took before Ruby’s birth, we watched some videos of women in Africa giving birth outside with very little assistance. Even though we knew we would be more comfortable with having the assistance of a midwife present, I enjoyed watching numerous videos of unassisted births (like this one) because they helped to give me the confidence that my body was made to do this. I also liked reading stories about unassisted births (like these) as well.
  • Prenatal Massage – My husband is so sweet and loving to give me some amazing pregnancy massages throughout all of my pregnancies. At first, we enjoyed using the guided prenatal massage in Shiva Rae’s prenatal yoga video, but now he just massages me while we unwind and maybe watch a bit of TV at the end of the day. I’m having trouble tracking down a reliable copy of Shiva Rea’s yoga dvd that includes the massage other than this, but this article and video provide some nice tips as well. The bottom line is that if your partner is willing to massage you, there is really no “wrong” way to do it as long as you have open communication about what feels good and what doesn’t. I have also enjoyed getting a professional prenatal massage that really helped with some sciatic nerve pain.
  • Chiropractic Care – When I was pregnant for Ophelia, I had excruciating sciatic nerve pain. After several trips to a chiropractor who specialized in treating pregnant women, I was able to have the pain completely relieved. I highly recommend asking your doctor or midwife for a chiropractic recommendation, especially if you’re feeling any pain. There is a lot they can do when it comes to helping with the baby’s position as well. If you have a baby in a posterior position (which can lead to some pretty painful back labor), they can help with this as well. The Belly Mapping Workbook is also a good resource for “spinning babies”.
  • Birthing Classes – We were originally planning a hospital birth for Ruby, and so Scott and I took every single birthing, baby care, and breastfeeding class that we could. When I was about 31 weeks along, we made the decision to switch to a birth center and proceeded to take every class they had to offer as well. It was really fun to learn together!
  • Birthing Plan/Support Team – I highly recommend writing down a birth plan and discussing it thoroughly with your birth partner who will be an advocate for you while you concentrate on giving birth. You may also want to consider hiring a doula who can be your advocate, help guide you, and provide support to both you and your birth partner. Knowing that you have this plan and knowing that you will have proper support will help to put your mind at ease throughout your pregnancy.

In Conclusion

Being able to enter a meditative state during pregnancy is so helpful because it makes it that much easier to enter that same state during the process of labor and delivery. Visualizing the birth, anticipating what it will be like to go through each stage of labor, and making sure you are completely prepared will help to eliminate the fear, panic, and anxiety that can come with the unknown. As I sit here in my eighth month of pregnancy, I am grateful to have the time to write this all down and reflect on my own journey that will soon bring me face to face and skin to skin with baby #5.

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Embracing Motherhood 9 Tips for Getting Over First Trimester Morning Sickness and Tiredness

10 Tips for Getting Over First Trimester Morning Sickness and Fatigue

First trimester morning sickness (which doesn’t just hit in the morning, ahem) and the overwhelming tiredness that the first trimester brings can bring a rough start to the beginning of a pregnancy.

As I embark on this pregnancy with our fifth child, I’ve been overwhelmed with the tiredness and nausea, which maaaaay be a sign of twins, but since I won’t be able to rule that out for quite a few more weeks, I’ll settle for reflecting on my past experiences and a dabble of research to see what I should do to combat this nasty business. (*Update: It wasn’t twins!)

Why Women Get Tired During the First Trimester

During the first trimester, our bodies do something so amazing that it rivals the fact that we’re actually growing a living human being. Our bodies are making an organ…the placenta to be exact. This organ will nourish our baby (or babies) with both oxygen and food throughout the entire pregnancy, and so yes, we’re going to be a little extra tired during this process.

On top of this, our metabolism kicks into high gear, our hormones are increasing like crazy, and our blood sugar and blood pressure both tend to be lower. All of these things working together create the perfect storm for fatigue, but don’t worry, I have some ways to beat this! (Source)

Why Nausea Hits So Hard During the First Trimester

Now, this is a little more elusive than the fatigue question, and “no one really knows” why women get “morning sickness”. (Yes, morning sickness is a stupid name because it doesn’t just happen in the morning and the “no one really knows” things just always bother me…)

Almost 75% of all pregnant women will experience some sort of nausea or vomiting which can begin as early as 4 weeks, peak at about 8-10 weeks, and then taper off by about 14 weeks when the second trimester begins. Although, for some women it will last longer, and for a very small percentage, it could be hyperemesis gravidarum which is extreme vomiting that never lets you keep anything down.

One theory is that it is triggered by the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone that rises rapidly during pregnancy, which is why women pregnant with twins typically experience more nausea since they have higher levels of hCG. Estrogen also rises rapidly (along with progesterone) and could be another trigger. The heightened sense of smell, a sensitive stomach, and stress could also contribute to this “morning sickness”. (Source)

Tips and Tricks for Getting Over Morning Sickness and Fatigue

Even though nausea and fatigue are technically two different things, I have found their cures to be inextricably linked. For me, it’s like they work in tandem. By adhering to the following tips and tricks, I have been able to stave away extreme fatigue and nausea in my first four pregnancies, but now with our fifth baby, I’m wondering why I am feeling so particularly tired and nauseous. Could it be multiples or do I just need to take better care of myself? By adhering to the following tips and tricks for the last few days, I am already feeling a million times better.

1. Stay Away from Sugar

When you’re pregnant, your body is more sensitive to sugar. (Read more about why this causes women to experience more yeast infections and get gestational diabetes here.) This sensitivity peaks at about week 23, but it begins the moment you conceive.

Basically, you’ve learned that you’re pregnant, and so now that you’re “eating for two” you want to pig out on ice cream, doughnuts, and cake. But what happens when you do this is that your blood sugar spikes and then totally crashes leaving you feeling extremely tired afterwards. If you were already a “sugar burner” before pregnancy, it’s only going to get worse now.

I have always danced around hypoglycemia (pre-pre-gestational diabetes) with each pregnancy, and my sensitivity to sugar has continuously increased. Now, in my 5th pregnancy, I am going to do my best to avoid it on a regular basis. (But hey, there’s always special occasions, right?)

2. Stay Away from Processed Food

This kind of goes along with the sugar thing, but the reality is that you’re going to be hungry…A LOT…during this pregnancy, and it’s best to start some healthy habits so that whenever you do feel those hunger pains, you’re not stopping at McDonalds or grabbing a bag of Doritos.

Because most fast food and cheap processed food is void of nutrients, you’re just getting empty calories when you eat processed food. This is not going to energize you and make you feel alive and vibrant! It’s going to make you feel tired and sick. Now, for some people, a treat now and then is okay, and for other people, this is just a gateway for more and they must adhere to complete abstinence.

3. Eat Nutrient Dense Food

Finally, something you can do! If you only have 9 months to grow a human life including it’s brain, organs, tissues, and skin, you want it to be constructed out of the very best parts, and this is where nutrient dense foods come in. Grass-fed beef, pastured chickens and eggs, raw milk, butter, cheese, organic fruits and vegetables, organic and properly prepared grains and nuts are all foods FULL of nutrients. Basically, you want to eat food in as close to its original state as possible. (For more information about nutrient dense food, I highly recommend reading Nourishing Traditions or checking out the Weston Price website.)

Now, maybe you can’t always afford organic produce or pastured meats, and that’s okay. Just do the best you can with what you have.

4. Eat Small Meals

I feel like during pregnancy, I go through this viscous cycle where I’m STARVING, which makes me feel nauseous, and so I’ll eat a HUGE meal, which makes me feel extremely tired, and so I completely crash, and then the cycle threatens to continuously repeat itself.

Throughout my first four pregnancies and now this fifth pregnancy, I feel like most of my symptoms associated with nausea are usually because I’m hungry. But if instead of eating a large meal (especially one full of sugar and processed foods), I eat just a small one full of nutrient dense food, it usually gets rid of the nausea and leaves me feeling energized. Basically, I try to eat when I’m hungry and stop BEFORE I’m feeling totally full. And by having the house stocked with healthy, nutrient dense food, it makes it that much easier to grab something that’s good for me.

If I’m starving, I find it’s best to have something high in fat and protein. These are my go to snacks:

  • A handful of almonds or pecans
  • A glass of raw milk
  • Some crackers and cheese
  • A baked potato with butter, cheese, sour cream, and chives
  • Greek yogurt
  • boiled egg with salt
  • An apple with peanut butter

If I’m looking more for a meal, I’ll have:

If I’m looking for a lighter meal or snack, I’ll have:

  • Carrots, peas, cucumbers, etc. and ranch (or plain)
  • Popcorn with coconut oil
  • A big salad
  • Tomato salad with mozzarella balls, herbs, and italian dressing
  • Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.

If I have a sweet tooth:

5. Get More Sleep

I know this kind of sounds like a no-brainer…if you’re tired, get more sleep, duh! But easier said than done! We are such creatures of our routines, and it can be hard to change. When I’m not pregnant, I can survive easily on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. But when I’m pregnant, especially in the first trimester, I need MUCH more! Lately, I’ve been getting 9-10 hours of sleep a night, and I feel pretty darn good about it!

Basically, you’ll need to experiment with sleep to find your sweet spot where you feel well rested, but know that 9 hours of sleep are recommended per night for pregnant women in their first trimester.

6. Take Naps

I’m not one of those people who take long 2-3 hour naps and feel rested. Usually sleeping for that long actually makes me feel even more tired, but taking quick little 5-20 minute cat naps leave me feeling quite refreshed. When I’m feeling super duper tired (even when I still have a million things to do), I just plop down on my bed (light pouring through the windows and everything), close my eyes, and get up as soon as I feel my eyes flutter back awake.

Here’s some of the science behind why taking cat naps are so good for you, and how they will boost your energy, cognition, and health way more than a cup of coffee could. (I am not totally against coffee by the way, but on a side note, teeccino is a good coffee substitute.)

7. Cuddle More

I have four kids between the ages of 18 months and 6 years, and they ALL love to cuddle. I always have so much to cook, clean, and prepare, that it can be hard to find time to just plop down and cuddle, but when I do, it is something we all enjoy. Sometimes I’ll grab a book and read to any/all of them, other times I’ll just lay on the floor and watch them play, and occasionally I’ll wrap one or two up in my arms as they watch one of their favorite shows.

8. Get Moving

I know that when you’re tired and/or nauseous, the last thing you want to do is think about moving your body, but if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, a little cat nap, some cuddles, and some nutrient dense food and you’re still feeling tired and/or nauseous, get your butt off the couch and go for a walk or a bike ride! Put the kids in the stroller or in the bike cart and just move it! When I force myself to do this, even when I feel like I should just plaster myself to the couch, I always feel better afterwards. Getting some fresh air, sunshine, and the blood flowing fills me with endorphins, and I feel totally energized.

9. Yoga

This is the one thing I try to start my mornings with, and it not only makes a tremendous difference with how I feel during pregnancy, it also strengthens me for labor. When I was pregnant for Ruby and on summer vacation, I had time for really long yoga sessions, but now as a busy mom of four, I’m lucky to get ten minutes a day for this! Here are the yoga videos I have enjoyed.

You could also just go to your local library and see what prenatal yoga videos they have or type in “prenatal yoga” into a YouTube search bar and find one that suits you.

10. Supplements

Eating well, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep can do wonders, but during pregnancy especially, I think it’s good to have some good supplements. Here are the things that I like to use.

 

The Basics:

For Nausea:

  • Ginger: Ginger is known for helping with a variety of digestion issues including nausea. You can get a good ginger tea like this, or you can make your own by grating up some ginger root and boiling it with lemon and raw honey.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. You can get a good peppermint tea like this that works great, or sometimes just the scent of peppermint oil on a cotton ball in an inhaler stick works too. I would not recommend ingesting any peppermint oil, however. Read more about safety with essentials oils here.

In Conclusion

I really needed to write this blog as reminder for myself that as I embark on yet another journey of pregnancy, that I have to take care of myself! When we really listen to our bodies and respond to their signals, we can overcome so much. As I have started to take my own advice (especially the parts about allowing myself to sleep, taking naps, and eating healthy snacks), I already feel tons better! So, if you’re in your first trimester and you’re feeling nauseous and/or tired, slow down, listen to your body, and take care of yourself. You will be so glad that you did!

Pregnant with Baby #5!

With four children between the ages of 18 months and 6 years…girl, boy, girl, boy…we were starting to feel like our family was complete, but nature had its own idea of what our family size should be!

Here’s the story of how we discovered we were pregnant…with baby #5. You’ll notice I’ve included the range of emotions which are truly the heart of this story.

June 8th, 2016

Every time I feel a bit fat, I take a pregnancy test thinking, “Of course that’s the reason why I can’t lose these few pounds!” So three days ago when my pants were feeling a little bit tight, I peed on a stick.

A little while later, Scott came home for lunch. After we had cuddled and talked a bit, I pulled out the pregnancy stick not yet having looked at it myself. “I’m sure it’s negative,” I explained, “I know we’ve been careful every single time.” It was the fancy kind of stick (with a cap for the pee end and everything), and neither of us were surprised to see that there was a big negative sign sticking out at us.

For some reason, I left the stick lying on our bathroom counter, and when I looked at it the next day with the sunlight pouring through the window, I noticed a faint hint of a line that would complete the plus sign. I was certain that it was just saturated or something since I had left it sitting out overnight, but nonetheless, I texted Scott saying,

“I have some crazy news!”

He called me right away, but thought that the fact that all of the kids were still sleeping at 8 a.m. to be more shocking than a faint line that probably didn’t mean anything anyways.  We talked instead about how he would help me load up the little ones in the van during his long lunch break as we went to pick up Ruby from her last day of 1st grade and celebrate with ice cream.

Before he got home, I peed on another stick…just because of mother’s intuition. This time, it was just one of the cheap pregnancy sticks that I buy in bulk and use every time I miss my period or if my pants are a little too tight. Within minutes, the second line (that indicates pregnancy) started to show up. This wasn’t a faint line that could be explained by faulty mechanisms. This was a real deal, in your face, pay attention to me, I am telling you something kind of line. I was shocked, I was giddy, and I stifled a giggle as my glee threatened to take over.

Just as Scott was trying to scarf down a few bites of lunch before we headed out the door, I told him about the second pregnancy test. His fork froze mid bite, the color drained out of his face, and he said,

“Well, I guess the next time we need to use protection, I’ll have to cut my balls off.”

So yes, definitely a strong first reaction, but wait for it…

When we got in the car, I was all ready to start talking about our birthing plan down to every last little detail, but he was still in shock, and I knew he needed some time to process this information before diving into the details. We talked nervously of other things but held hands and smiled sweetly at each other the entire drive.

We had a fine time greeting Ruby after her last day and enjoyed some cupcakes and ice cream to go since by the time we left Ruby’s school Ophelia started screaming, “I want to go to bed!” (Her modus operandi these days.) The rest of the afternoon was a blur as I stayed busy absent-mindedly putzing around.

When Scott came home from work, I could tell that the reality of the positive pregnancy test was hitting him because as soon as he saw me, he looked me in the eyes with excitement and glee and said,

“We’re going to have a baby!”

We hugged and giggled and talked about the absurdity of it all. I mean, we actually were thinking of trying in August so that the baby would be born at the end of the next school year, but as that date approached, we found ourselves talking more and more about how complete we felt with four and how full our lives were and so on.

It was like, even though we love our kids and love having kids, consciously choosing to have more felt like wielding too much power. The fact that it just happened without our planning truly makes this feel like a miracle baby because I don’t know if it would have happened otherwise.

Telling the Children

We waited until the next day to tell the children because there was just too much going on before that. We weren’t sure really how to do it, but I knew that I wanted to find just the right moment. So after dinner, we gathered Ruby (6) and Elliot (5) on a sheet outside while Ophelia (3) and Julian (1) played in the little swimming pool nearby. I told them that they would each get three guesses and that if anyone guessed right they would get ice cream.

“My guess is that we’re going to have another baby!” Ruby guessed first. (Wow! how perceptive!)

“Elliot, what do you think?” I asked.

“I think we’re going to have another baby,” he copied. (He knows when to listen to his sister!)

“Okay,” I said, trying not to give any indication that that was in fact the right answer, “Do you have any other guesses?”

Elliot proceed to guess that we would get a new towel or that he was going to grow another head. Ruby’s other two guesses were that something special was going to happen to either me or daddy.

“Well,” I said, “You guys were both right on your first guess; we’re going to have another baby!” Ruby squealed with delight, and Elliot followed suit. Everyone hugged and then Ruby started running around the yard chanting, “We’re going to have a baby! We’re going to have a baby!” Scott asked them each if they hoped it would be a boy or girl. Elliot expressed that he only wanted a boy, and Ruby said that she knew that it would be a girl because that was the pattern in our family.

When I tucked Ruby into bed tonight, we had the cutest conversation in the whole world which inspired me to write down this story in the first place. Usually, we read together while cuddled up in her bed, but tonight I said, “Let’s just talk.” As we chatted about the new baby, I was just blown away by her insight and by her desire to help. I told her how with four kids, I felt a little overwhelmed already, and that I would probably need a lot of help. She bolted up in bed, put her hands out in front of her for emphasis, and said,

“Don’t even worry about a thing mom, we’ve got you covered!”

She went on to explain how I needed to take advantage of her and Daddy over the summer to get everything prepared for the new baby and added (in all seriousness), “And I won’t even charge you any money!”

She absolutely beamed, and I saw a joy and pride sweep over her face like never before when I told her about all of her amazing qualities. “You are going to be such a big help to me,” I told her honestly, “You already help me out so much with the little ones. Why, just today, you made sure Julian didn’t go into the road while I got the mail, and you’ve taught Ophelia so much about reading. The little ones look up to everything that you and Elliot do. That’s why Julian is eating so good with a fork, I never taught him, he just watches you!”

We continued to chat, and Ruby, ever the planner (just like her mother), wanted to talk about all of the things we would need to do to get ready for the baby. We talked about baby clothes, bassinets, and how Ophelia would need to potty train so we wouldn’t have three in diapers and sleep in her Dora bed so we could use her crib. I felt like we could have chatted long in to the night, but my eyes were already starting to close, and I still wanted to write this…

“Do you want to leave your light on so you can read my dear?” I asked her. She thought about it for a moment and said,

“I’m going to turn it off because I think better in the dark, and right now, I have a lot to think about. There are so many things that we need to prepare. I am just so excited for this baby!”

When she said that, my heart melted into a gigantic puddle of goo. As I blew her a kiss, shut the door, and felt the butterflies dance in my stomach over the thought of this new little person growing in my belly, I knew that this was meant to be. It was all always meant to be Just. Like. This.

In Conclusion

Lately, with Julian weaning, and everyone needing me less and less, I’ve started to think about the future…what will I do with more free time, how can I start contributing more financially, and so on, but with the news of a new baby, it’s like I can breathe a great big sigh of relief and focus entirely on the one thing that I was meant to do, the one thing that I’m better at than anything else I’ve ever done, and the one thing that unites our marriage, causes us to fall even more in love with each other every day, and gives us a sense of peace and purpose more than any raise, promotion, or other accolade ever could…a baby…a tiny little baby to hold, to love, to nurture, and to complete us all.

I wanted to share this story first of all because it’s beautiful, but also to show our thought process and our range of emotions. At first, we thought we had our lives all planned and figured out. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. So many times I hear of families stopping at one or two, or not even trying at all, and while that is totally fine, and I completely understand that some people are very happy that way, I just want to say, don’t let fear be the reason to stop you from letting nature take its course.

Money has a way of being stretched, time has a way of making you let go of the little things to extend it, career goals shift and change when you put them on hold, siblings love having more siblings, you actually find MORE time to be intimate with your spouse, and there are no limits to how far your love can stretch.

Now, I’m not saying to go poke holes in your diaphragm or anything (and NO, I did NOT do that!), but sometimes men can be hard to convince when it comes to wanting any or more children. They don’t have the same hormones and yearnings that women do. Their love for children grows gradually and exponentially…more so with each child in fact. This is actually because of their hormones and how they change with each child. If you want more, don’t be afraid to speak up about it. Find a time when he’s happy, and if he says yes, even for a day…GO FOR IT!

Because in the end, having children hasn’t been something that we do, it becomes who we are. And when we’re two old farts sitting on a porch swing, reminiscing about the “good ole days”, we won’t be alone. We will be surrounded by an entire future generation that will bring us joy until our dying breaths, and that is something I don’t think we will ever regret in the slightest.

4 kids

Elliot (5), Julian (1), Ophelia (3), Ruby (6)

How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant

10 Tips for Getting Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant

If you are pregnant and have a yeast infection, put down the cake! I repeat, PUT DOWN THE CAKE! If you want to learn how too much sugar (and a lack of probiotics) creates a breeding ground for yeast infections during pregnancy, check out my blog Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections. But if you’re just “itching” for a cure, read on.

After five pregnancies and plenty of yeast infections, I think I’ve finally figured out how to get rid of yeast infections while pregnant. Getting a yeast infection while pregnant is the worst because it can be painful, bothersome, and really hard to get rid of. In addition, it can lead to thrush in both you and your new baby after birth, and dealing with thrush makes having a yeast infection while pregnant seem like a walk in the park. So you really really really want to make sure your yeast infection is gone by the time you give birth.

28 weeks pregnant at a midwife appointment

28 Weeks Pregnant with Ophelia

How to Know if You Have a Yeast Infection

It’s recommended that the first time you have a yeast infection, you go to the doctor to have it properly diagnosed, but once you’ve gotten them a few times, you’ll just know. Here are the things to look for.

  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Pain or burning during urination or sex
  • Redness
  • Swollen
  • Possibly a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odor and looks like cottage cheese

Bacterial vaginosis (and some sexually transmitted diseases) can have many of the same symptoms, but the bacterial vaginosis discharge will have a “fishy” odor to it. They say you’ll need antibiotics to cure it, but if you take antibiotics, it will wipe out all of your bacteria (both good and bad), and it will make your chances of getting a yeast infection EVEN WORSE. I can only imagine that going from bacterial vaginosis to a yeast infection would be no fun!

When to Try Natural Remedies

Whenever I’m pregnant, I can feel my body changing in many ways, and with each subsequent pregnancy (currently rocking #5 as I update this blog), I can feel my candida issues flare up again. I know this is because of the way my body processes sugar and other things (read more about WHY pregnant women are more prone to yeast infections here), and it’s never any fun to deal with.

I always start with all of the natural remedies first when I feel the faintest itch of a yeast infection tingling, and by doing so, I am often able to keep things at bay…but once my symptoms turn into a full blown yeast infection, then the natural remedies actually seem to make things worse.

When you think about how candida albicans works, you have to understand that first of all it is a natural part of our digestive system living in our colon helping us ferment our undigested food (i.e. prebiotics…read more about the fascinating world of digestion here), and second of all, during pregnancy it can very easily grow out of control. It is a living organism and will fight to survive, hence the reason why it grows stronger and more resilient when you start to battle it. But stay strong sister, and you can win this war!

1. Over the Counter Anti-Fungal Medication

So, if I’ve tried all of the natural preventative measures and things still progress to a full blown yeast infection, I’ll run out to the drug store and shell out the $15 for the cheapest 3 or 7-day anti-fungal treatment. Now, don’t make the same mistake that I did with my first pregnancy and get the one day treatment. You are too sensitive while pregnant to handle such intensity, and it will burn like the dickens!

Most over the counter brands will list clotrimazole or miconazole as the active ingredient. The miconazole is more specifically designed to kill fungus in the vagina and the clotrimazole is typically used for skin fungus, so I would go with that miconazole first. (This is my favorite 3-day treatment.) Then, insert the capsules/cream every day for the full amount of recommended time. Even if your symptoms go away, keep going the full three or seven days or else the fungus will come back even stronger!

Now, it’s important to note that this remedy only treats the symptoms, not the cause. So, if you were to use ONLY this treatment, it is very likely that the underlying reasons that caused the yeast infection to appear in the first place will still be in place and cause yet another yeast infection.

2. Chamomile

I recently attended a nutrition class for pregnant women and learned that chamomile is actually very good at killing candida overgrowth! It is also super safe for pregnant women and has a calming effect as well. You can drink chamomile tea or even take chamomile supplements. You might want to start here before using the over the counter medication as well.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

This is what I did during my fourth pregnancy that helped me to FINALLY get rid of my chronic and ongoing yeast infection! All of the other tips certainly help as well, but this was truly the nail in the coffin. Apple cider vinegar is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral miracle worker. It acts like a sponge and draws out germs and toxins from the surrounding tissue. It also stimulates acetolysis in which toxic wastes (like candida) are broken down and rendered harmless.

To make an apple cider vinegar rinse, take a peri bottle and fill it with about 2 T. of apple cider vinegar and the rest filtered water (chlorine free), and put it near your toilet. After you wipe (always front to back), squirt the solution on the outside of your vagina and let it air dry. (Stand in front of a fan for extra relief!) I would also do this after getting out of the shower. I continued to do this for at least a week or two after my symptoms were gone to make sure the infection was really eliminated, and this was REALLY helpful!

You can actually squirt it inside the vagina or douche with it if you want, but I would wait until the irritation is gone, however, or else it will really burn. You can also make the solution a little stronger if you’re brave enough, but if it’s too strong, it will burn even if you’re not irritated at the time.

4. Garlic

Garlic is one of nature’s greatest infection fighters. Not only does it help to stimulate the immune system, but it destroys candida (among other pathogens) and inhibits its growth.

At the first signs of a yeast infection, you can take a peeled clove of garlic and insert it into your vagina, usually at night, and then take it out the next morning. If the yeast infection is in the early stages, you might be able to kill it off this way after one or two nights. I have heard stories of this working for others, but it has just never worked very well for me…plus I don’t like how it makes my entire body smell like garlic.

I prefer instead to take these garlic supplements instead. They provide all of the benefits of garlic without giving you garlic breath! Whenever you use any natural method, you want to mix things up a bit so that the yeast doesn’t become resistant to your treatments, so I’ll typically take these garlic supplements for a few days (in the morning, 20 minutes or so after eating some food), give it a break for a few more days while using something else, and then use them again until my symptoms are gone.

5. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as anything like sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, keifer, and sauerkraut are full of healthy probiotics (such as lactobacilli) that help to crowd out the yeast and keep it from growing out of control. I always try to eat as many of these foods as I can anyways, but especially so when I’m pregnant. I always have a jar of sourdough starter on my counter, and when I feel the mere tinglings of a yeast infection, or just as a preventative measure, I like to eat a small spoonful of the starter first thing in the morning (after a bit of food would probably be better, but I never remember that!). Recently, I had a friend make me some lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and I’ve really been enjoying that as well.

When you’re trying to get rid of a yeast infection, it’s really a balanced approach between killing the fungus and then crowding it out with good bacteria. Fermented foods are an excellent way to populate your vagina (along with your gastrointestinal tract) with good bacteria.

If you have good gut health, it’s also important to include plenty of prebiotic foods so that the probiotics will have something to feed on. Prebiotics are different kinds of fiber that we can’t digest, but that encourage beneficial species of gut flora to grow. They include dandelion greens, garlic and onions, asparagus, and chicory (found in teccino, a wonderful coffee substitute). If you have poor gut health, however, these prebiotic foods may cause stomach pains, gas, and bloating.

6. Probiotic Supplements

While fermented foods are great, sometimes you just need an extra boost, especially if you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics that have wiped out not only the bad bacteria, but the good as well, and you need to repopulate your gut.

I have taken many different types of probiotic treatments, and these two have been my favorite. Bio Kult Candea is specifically designed to deal with candida. It has a garlic component that makes it have a bit of an odor, but it really works. Custom Probiotics come very highly recommended and work very well for eliminating yeast infections. When I have felt a yeast infection coming on, I like to alternate between these two brands and take two every morning after eating a bit of food. I have tried other probiotic supplements (such as the ones you’ll find in the grocery store) in the past and didn’t really notice much of a difference, but with these brands (and by following these other steps), my yeast infection would go away and not keep reoccurring.

*Note: With my fifth pregnancy, I added a probiotic to daily vitamin routine, and it was really helpful with preventing yeast infections.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid that are all medium chain fatty acids that have great anti-fungal propertiesDr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic physician and certified nutritionist and president of the Coconut Research Center in Colorado Springs, CO, explains that,

“Medium chain fatty acids penetrate cell membranes….when they’re absorbed by an organism that is not beneficial, they penetrate the cell membrane and weaken the cell, so it just disintegrates. Then white blood cells go in and gobble up the waste material.”

I love using as much coconut oil in my cooking as possible to help prevent and treat yeast infections, but you could also put a spoonful in your tea every morning, just batten down the hatches and eat a spoonful straight up, or you can take a caprylic acid capsule. Whenever I feel a yeast infection starting, I pop a few of these every morning.

8. Eliminate Sugar

Ok, so I’m hiding this one towards the end, because it sucks, but it is really THE most important step. If you are pregnant, past your 23rd week, and battling a yeast infection, you absolutely have to give up sugar (which is basically in all processed foods) to help get rid of your yeast infection for good. You can read my blog: The Real Reason Why Pregnant Women Get Yeast Infections to learn more about the science of why this is, but basically, your hormones are causing your blood sugar to sky rocket which creates an optimal breeding ground for candida. In order to really get rid of the candida, you have to reduce its food source…sugar.

Now, I’m not talking about complex carbohydrates here…you need those to fuel your body and your growing baby. I’m talking about pure sugar…Little Debbies, Laffy Taffy, Oreos, white bread, etc.

I think it’s best to eliminate sugar cold turkey. You might feel miserable at first because as the candida dies, it tries to fight it and you get these nasty die off symptoms (head aches, brain fog, fatigue), but they’ll go away after a short time, and then you will feel better than ever. When I’ve gone on a candida cleanse, this website has been really helpful in providing dietary guidelines.

Just beware that if you ever cut out ALL carbohydrates to try to completely starve the candida, it will turn into its most virulent form that can reek even more havoc on your body. You’re not trying to completely eliminate the yeast, just keep it under control. 

9. Take Care of Yourself

If you’re like me, the first trimester tiredness is just brutal, and as you enter the 2nd trimester, you might take for granted how good you feel and start to get a bit lax on the sleep. But by taking care of your body by first of all getting PLENTY of rest, your body’s immune system can work in its optimal state to help you fend off pathogens like candida. Next, it’s important to fill yourself with nutrient dense food and avoid commercial processed crap as much as you can. You are growing a human being and you need to eat…and eat well! Don’t wait until you’re starving and eat an entire box of Oreos! Plan out those meals in advance (check out my favorite recipes here), and feed yourself…and your growing baby some good food!

If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, these Pure Radiance 100% natural vitamin C capsules are AMAZING! I also like taking this Organic Liquid Prenatal Formula (I hate swallowing big bulky prenatal pills!) and this Fermented Cod Liver Oil (or this if our budget is a little tight). 

10. Let Your Vagina Breathe

Candida thrives in warm wet areas where there is no oxygen, and so in order to prevent candida from growing out of control, you want to let your vagina breathe. You can do this by wearing cotton panties like these, which are very comfortable while you’re pregnant anyways!

A big mistake I made while pregnant was wearing panty liners every day for any accidents (Watch yourself when you sneeze, you will pee a little bit!) and/or leakage, but I really think this contributed to my yeast infection problem. A better option would have been something like this or just changing my underwear more often. You’ll also want to avoid wearing super tight skinny jeans, and instead opt for something more comfortable like these. And of course, don’t sit around all day with a wet bathing suit on.

Other Remedies

  • Gentian Violet: When I was researching Gentian Violet for my oral thrush article, I came across a comment from a verified purchase on Amazon where the woman soaked tampons in Gentian Violet and inserted them for seven days and totally healed her chronic yeast infections. Gentian Violet worked wonders getting rid of my baby’s oral thrush, so I would have to say that this sounds like a pretty good idea if you’re desperate for a cure.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: I have heard a lot of positive information lately about using a hydrogen peroxide rinse to get rid of yeast infections. This makes sense since when the lactobacilli in a healthy vagina “feed” on glycogen, one of their byproducts is actually hydrogen peroxide. But when I’ve tried this remedy, I’ve found that it has no effect.

Remedies to Avoid While Pregnant

  • *Grapefruit Seed Extract: Grapefruit seed extract can be taken orally or applied topically, and in addition to killing yeast, it has vitamin A, E, and bioflavanoids. But it’s not technically recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it can be toxic if taken at 4,000 times the suggested dose (so I think it’s okay to use at the recommended dosage). I tried it when I was battling thrush with my little newborn baby, it only sort of worked, and it seemed to bother her, so I’m not sure about this one.
  • *Boric Acid: The link above also mentions putting some boric acid into a hydrogen peroxide douche, and while boric acid is good at treating persistent and recurring yeast infections where you may be battling a different strain of candida, it is not recommended for pregnant women.
  • *Oregano Capsules: Oregano oil is really great at preventing and treating yeast infections because it contains two very effective antimicrobial agents called carvacrol and thymol that react with the water in your bloodstream to dehydrate and kill the Candida yeast cells. Unfortunately, it increases the blood flow to the uterus which weakens the lining around the fetus, so you don’t want to take it while you’re pregnant.
  • *Oral Fluconazole: Fluconazole (or the brand name Diflucan) are both oral antifungal medications. They are processed by the liver and enter the bloodstream where they attack the fungus. but this is very hard on your liver, and if you’re pregnant, it can harm the fetus. Also, if you are taking oral birth control, it can make it less effective. (But geez louise, I hope you’re not taking birth control when you’re pregnant!) The oral medications are recommended for women that have been battling an ongoing yeast infection for a year or more.

In Conclusion

Treating any type of candida overgrowth is really a three step process.

  1. Kill the Fungus/Control the Overgrowth – You can never completely get rid of it because it’s a part of the digestive process, but you can control the overgrowth.
  2. Probiotics – Candida and probiotics both feed on the same thing…sugar, so make sure you have more probiotics in your gut rather than candida.
  3. Diet – Eliminate processed foods and sugar and instead opt for as much nutrient dense food as you can.

Treating a yeast infection while pregnant can be a very stressful and frustrating thing when you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t really get rid of it. It’s not something to be taken lightly, however, because if a baby is born vaginally when the mother has a yeast infection, it can pass the candida on to the baby, which may turn into thrush. Thrush can make breastfeeding both difficult and painful, and it is even harder to get rid of than a yeast infection during pregnancy. Read by blog: How to Identify and Deal with Oral Thrush in Babies for more information about this topic.

So, do whatever you can to completely eliminate your yeast infection during pregnancy by following the steps that make sense to you and your situation. Good Luck!

Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections

Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections and Gestational Diabetes

The real reason why pregnant women get yeast infections (or any woman for that matter) isn’t really talked about or widely known in laymen’s terms. The same reasons are what also contributes to pregnant women getting gestational diabetes. When I’ve asked the Internet to tell me about this topic, every single blog, website, and article seems to regurgitate the same simplistic information, but I am sick of treating the symptoms of yeast infections during pregnancy without really knowing WHY, and so I set out to find the root cause, and this is what I found.

Eating Ice Cream While Pregnant

Eating Ice Cream While Pregnant

The real reason why pregnant women get yeast infections has to do with these two main factors:

  1. The increase in estrogen while pregnant (which also occurs during menstruation, from oral contraceptives, and through hormone replacement therapy) leads to an increase in glycogen, which is supposed to “feed” the lactobacilli that reside in a healthy vagina, but if no lactobacilli are present (thanks to antibiotics for one or just poor gut flora for another) and candida is present, the candida will grow unchecked until there is an overgrowth, hence creating a yeast infection.
  2. Human Placental Lactogen hormone (hPL), which is produced by the placenta in increasing amounts until the 23rd week when it plateaus, shuttles incoming glucose to the baby, meanwhile leaving the mother hungry so she reaches for more and more “glucose” which creates higher and higher blood sugar that can lead to insulin resistance and gestational diabetes at an accelerated rate, and this high blood sugar paves the way for candida growth and yeast infections.

So basically, when pregnant women have poor gut flora and continue to eat large amounts of sugar, it sets up an environment that is the “perfect storm” for yeast infections. If you’d like to explore these concepts further, come and learn with me, but if you’re just “itchin'” for a cure, check out my blog: How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant.

The Role of Glycogen in the Vagina

The vaginal walls are made up of vaginal squamous epithelial cells that store glycogen. Glycogen is how the body stores small amounts of carbohydrates which are later broken down into glucose and used by the cells for energy.

Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cells (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cells (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

In the vagina, glycogen acts as a prebiotic that feeds lactobacilli bacteria (commonly known as a probiotic, or good bacteria). So basically, the lactobacilli bacteria feeds on the glycogen.

Lactobacillus Organisms and Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cell (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak, 2006)

Lactobacillus Organisms and Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cell (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak, 2006)

During this process of feeding on the glycogen, lactobacilli produce two byproducts. The first byproduct is lactic acid, which helps to further reduce the pH of the vagina. The second byproduct is hydrogen peroxide, which is also acidic and repels unfriendly vaginal flora, such as candida albicans, escherichia coli, and gardnerella vaginalis (this is why there are natural remedies to cure yeast infections that call for the use of hydrogen perioxide). So basically, the role of glycogen (how the body stores carbohydrates, i.e. sugar) is to feed lactobacilli bacteria, which helps to keep the vagina in its optimal acidic state.

How Estrogen Effects Glycogen

When estrogen levels are high (specifically estridol), it encourages more glycogen to be released. Estrogen levels are high during menstruation, from the use of oral contraceptives, through hormone replacement therapy, and they are especially through the roof high during pregnancy. So when estrogen levels are high, the lactobacilli bacteria should have more to feed on due to the increase in glycogen. This is the body’s way of ensuring extra protection against microbial pathogens during a special time when the body is preparing to grow life.

How Glycogen Feeds Candida

Now, let’s say that more glycogen is being released due to an increase in estrogen, but there aren’t enough lactobacilli bacteria (maybe because a dose of antibiotics wiped them all out or there were just never many to begin with due to poor gut flora) to consume them. What then? Well, what we would have then is a vagina ripe with glycogen, which will be released into the vagina as glucose. So there will be a nice sugary vagina. And let’s see, what likes sugar?

Candida!

Candida albicans is a fungus, or a yeast, that lives in everyone’s gastrointestinal tract as one of the microbes that aid in digestion.

Candida Albicans (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Y tambe, 2005)

Candida Albicans (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Y tambe, 2005)

It also makes it’s way into most women’s vaginas via the anus and lives there benignly until it’s given an opportunity to feed voraciously. (Don’t wipe back to front!) When someone takes antibiotics to wipe out a bacterial infection, it also wipes out all of the good bacteria (lactobacilli) too. Poor gut flora can also happen over time due to a diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates.

So without the competition of lactobacilli, candida can feed on the increased glycogen uninhibited, and it can lead to an overgrowth of candida. This overgrowth of candida is what is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. (If you want to learn more about how Candida transforms from a benign unicellular yeast to a destructive multicellular fungus, this is a great article.)

Human Placental Lactogen (hPL)

So estrogen is why menstruating women, women on birth control, and women on hormone replacement therapy are more prone to yeast infections, but human placental lactogen (hPL) is why pregnant women (who have more estrogen coursing through their veins than ever before) are even more prone to getting really serious yeast infections that are very hard to get rid of.

hPL is produced by the placenta in a greater amount than any other hormone during pregnancy. Its primary function is to prepare the breasts for lactation by stimulating breast growth and the secretion of colostrum, but it also affects the way that the mother uses food for energy. It does this by decreasing the mother’s use of amino acids (protein) and glucose (carbohydrates) so that it can instead shuttle them over to the growing fetus. It also stimulates the breakdown of maternal fats (lipolysis) which is usually done by Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) when the mother is not pregnant. The mother then uses these fatty acids for energy and saves the glucose for the baby.

hPL Leads to Insulin Resistance

Insulin is what allows the cells to use glucose for energy. I like to think of insulin like a parent and glucose as a lost child. Glucose enters the body, but can’t figure out where to go. Insulin comes along, holds glucose’s hand, and leads it into the cells where it can be converted into energy via cellular respiration or stored for later use as glycogen or in fat cells. When too much glucose is in the blood stream over a long period of time, however, cells can start to become resistant to it, and so the body releases more insulin to combat the increasing blood sugar, but over time, the insulin isn’t as effective, and this is what is known as insulin resistance.

hPL makes a pregnant women rapidly become insulin resistant, and the research that I’ve seen is a little foggy on why this occurs. But by the 23rd week of pregnancy, hPL has reached its peak with a 30-fold increase. This increase in hPL can cause an increasing resistance in the mother’s tissue to insulin that can make her blood sugar start to go through the roof.

I feel like the logical explanation is that diet is at least partially to blame for this insulin resistance. If a woman isn’t fat adapted leading up to pregnancy, meaning that she’s not able to easily use fat (including stored fat) for energy, and is instead a sugar burner who can only use the fleeting resources of glucose for energy, then when hPL shuttles the incoming glucose to the baby and induces lipolysis that breaks down fat to be used for energy that she’s not able to use, she feels absolutely STARVING. And then, rather than cook some wholesome bone broth soup, or make some grass fed beef burgers, or even take the time to cook an organic baked potato loaded with butter, cheese, and sour cream, she instead reaches for a bag of chips or treats herself to a milkshake because, “Hey, I’m eating for two, for once in my life I don’t have to worry about gaining weight, and back off because…I’M STARVING!”.

And THEN, the poor hPL surging, insulin resistant, and constantly hungry mother takes her glucose screening test between 24-28 weeks, and if she finds out that her blood sugar is too high, she will have to practically eliminate all sugar so that she won’t get gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

When the mother has high blood sugar that leads to gestational diabetes, her excess sugar enters the baby’s blood stream and forces its pancreas to make extra insulin. Because the baby is getting more energy than it needs, the extra energy is stored as fat, which is known scientifically as “fat” baby or macrosomia. This can cause damage to the babies’ shoulders at birth and lead to an increased risk of c-sections.

Because of the extra insulin produced, newborns may have low blood glucose levels at birth and are at higher risk for breathing problems. (Not to mention that they’ll want to give your baby formula or sugar water at birth which could affect your breastfeeding relationship.) It also makes them more at risk for insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes as adults. Gestational diabetes affects up to 9.2% of pregnancies

How hSL Contributes to Candida

Just as an increase in estrogen leads to the increased production of glycogen that leads to a more “sugary vagina”, the hormone hSL does the same thing by leading to insulin resistance which creates higher blood sugar, and once again, a more “sugary vagina” that gives the candida more to feed on. In a vagina that has been stripped of lactobacilli that typically feed on the increased sugar during pregnancy, the candida have no competition and can multiply unchecked until they create an overgrowth known as a yeast infection.

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection

When you get pregnant, just know that you are going to be super susceptible to getting yeast infections and take every precautionary measure that you can to prevent one from starting.

  • Don’t take antibiotics, and if you do, follow up with a good probiotic like this or this.
  • Don’t eat too much sugar (or foods that break down easily into sugar, i.e. all refined carbohydrates). Eat a balanced diet that includes lots of healthy saturated fats.
  • Eat lots of lacto-fermented foods (sourdough, kombucha, sauerkraut, keifer, yogurt) to help build a colony of lactobacilli.
  • Avoid douching and keep your vagina clean using mild, unscented soap and water.
  • Wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria and yeast from your anus to your vagina.
  • Wear good cotton underwear like these. And don’t wear pantyliners every day because of “leaking”. Just change your panties! Your vagina needs to breathe.
  • Avoid tight fitting pants. Instead, get comfortable in something like this.
  • Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. This just creates an optimal breeding ground for candida.

In Conclusion

In a nutshell, the real reason that we get more yeast infections while pregnant has to do with our changing hormones, namely the increase of estrogen and the presence and increase of hPL and how they both lead to a “sugary vagina” that becomes an optimal breeding ground for candida, especially when there aren’t any good lactobacilli bacteria to consume the extra sugar.

If you’re pregnant and not experiencing any signs of a yeast infection, just be careful and take preventative measures to assure that you don’t get one, but if it’s too late for prevention, and you already have a yeast infection while pregnant (or think you might), you’ll want to check out my blog: How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant. Having a yeast infection while pregnant can lead to both you and your baby dealing with thrush, and that is just nasty business. Read my blog: How to Identify and Deal with Oral Thrush in Babies to learn more about this topic.

Best Pregnancy Items

Best Pregnancy Item Must Haves

During my four pregnancies, these are the things that I loved the most (or would have loved to have had). Being pregnant is a great honor, a wonderful journey, and a very special time in a women’s life. It’s fun to be able to pamper yourself a little bit and take care of your needs during this special time as you take on the wonderful honor of growing a tiny human.

  1. Body Pillow – I usually just prop up about a thousand pillows all around my body, but I would LOVE to have something like this to snuggle up with.
  2. Belly Band – When I want to be able to wear my old jeans, but I just can’t button them anymore, I love wearing one of these. During my third trimester, I also love these high waisted jeans.
  3. Maternity Support Belt – Sometimes carrying around that extra weight can get a bit uncomfortable and a support belt like this can really help.
  4. Compression Socks – When I get varicose veins while pregnant, I’ll put these on before I get out of bed in the morning (or whenever) and they totally help.
  5. Maternity Tank – I love wearing this under my shirts to hide the lines of my belly band and to cover up my butt crack when I bend over. I also like wearing it to bed to support my growing breasts.
  6. Maternity Pants – I usually just go to the thrift store and see what they have in their maternity section, but basically, I just want something that feels comfortable. I like these pants because they can go over my belly (which is nice when I’m further along) or I can fold them down (for when my belly is smaller).
  7. Maternity Shirt – Once again, I usually buy my maternity shirts at the thrift store or get “hand-me-downs” from friends, but finding a shirt with some kind of scoop or v-neck makes me not feel like so much like a huge whale, and I like something that gives me lots of room to grow.
  8. Maternity Underwear – I find these “boy shorts” to be very comfortable when I’m pregnant. Who likes wedgies anyways?
  9. Stretch Mark Oil – They say that you’ll get stretch marks no matter what you do if you’re genetically predisposed to get them, but it couldn’t hurt to try a little oil! At least it will help with the itching. Here’s another brand I like. This is good too.
  10. Exercise Ball – I loved using this for working out while pregnant, and it was absolutely essential for getting through labor.
  11. Prenatal Workout – When I was pregnant for my first baby, I loved doing these workouts. After that, I just never had the time. 🙂
  12. Prenatal Yoga – I loved doing this prenatal yoga video with all of my pregnancies. I believe doing yoga helped me to have good labors. There’s a massage component that my husband followed and it was AMAZING. I also really liked this prenatal yoga video.
  13. Pregnancy Tea – When I had to give up coffee and so many other things during pregnancy, it was nice to drink something warm and yummy that was full of natural herbs that are good for me and my growing baby.
  14. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – I love buying this tea in bulk because it is so nourishing. I love using it to make my kombucha tea.
  15. Teeccino – This is a great caffeine-free coffee substitute and it is made with chicory which is a great prebiotic.
  16. Fermented Cod Liver Oil – We can’t afford to take this all the time, but when I’m pregnant, we fit it into the budget because it’s worth it. You can also get the Fermented Cod Liver and Butter Oil, which is more expensive, but even better. The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends that pregnant and nursing women take 20 fermented cod liver oil pills a day (or 4 teaspoons of the liquid), but I only took 4 per day (which is still 9 bottles of pills throughout the whole pregnancy).
  17. Trace Minerals – I like adding this to my daily water.
  18. Massaging Foot Spa – I never got one of these, but I sure would have loved one!
  19. Journal – I just wrote down my thoughts and ideas in a composition book (in addition to adding pictures and artifacts), but I think it’s so important to document this special time. You and your child will enjoy reflecting on it in the years to come.
  20. Oh Baby the Places You’ll Go! – I loved reading this to Ruby when she was in my belly baby in utero. I believe this helped her to love books from the very start. (Warning: It will probably make you cry.)
  21. The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care – The original Nourishing Traditions book is my food Bible, and this baby and child care book is an excellent source of information as well.

In Conclusion

When you’re pregnant for your first child, everything is new and kind of scary, and for you new moms, or for you veteran moms who still like to look at lists, I hope this has been helpful. I would love to hear what have been your favorite products during pregnancy too!

*These are all affiliate links, so if you purchase any of these products through my links, I’ll make a small portion that helps me to pay for the upkeep of this site. You will not pay any more than you would if you searched for these products on any other search engine. Thank you for your support!