Pregnancy: The Good The Bad & The Ugly

Pregnancy is an amazing process, like no other, and I was lucky enough to feel pretty darn good for the majority of this time…with some definite exceptions. I realize that many women have it a lot worse (and a lot better) than me, this is just my own experience. At the end of the day, all of these pregnancy symptoms are nothing compared to the gift that we’re about to get as a result. With that said, let’s get real about growing a baby, shall we?

First trimester:

The GOOD: for whatever reason, I didn’t experience much nausea in the beginning. In fact, I’m happy to say that my entire pregnancy, I’ve probably been nauseous about ten times total. Sure, I experienced other “stuff,” (keep reading) but not so much of this classic symptom. The best part about the first trimester was the realization that I actually had a baby growing inside me! It wasn’t easy getting pregnant, (thanks to birth control throwing my hormones off) so we are that much more thankful that it did happen. Though it was still our little secret during the first trimester, I spent it on cloud nine just thinking about our baby-to-be!

The BAD: the first 13 weeks of pregnancy consisted of lots and lots and lots of naps. Everything made me exhausted, even sleeping. I didn’t stand a chance against this kind of tired – by early afternoon, my eyes were closing and my bed was calling…pretty much everyday. I guess growing a human is exhausting. Luckily, I was able to schedule nap time after getting everything done earlier in the day, so I often gave in, listened to my body, and napped like crazy.

The UGLY: instead of the typical nausea, my ‘ugly’ pregnancy symptom was much less common, but equally uncomfortable. Apparently, when baby starts to grow and push on internal organs, but still isn’t  large enough for everything to find its place in there, things can get a little ‘mixed up.’ Not once, but twice early on in pregnancy, I ended up in the ER with a distended bladder, meaning that my bladder had stretched out and was not able to contract to pee like normal. I had to get a catheter in order to drain my bladder. Twice. Told you it was ugly…

Second trimester:

The GOOD: sharing our baby news was definitely the highlight of the second trimester. At the 12/13 week marks, odds of miscarriage greatly reduce, so that is when people typically let the cat out of the bag. We shared the news with our families and close friends earlier on with much excitement. We even got all corny and put a ‘bun in the oven’ for our friends to find when we invited them over for drinks (seltzer for me…always seltzer for me.) After the three month mark, I shared on OHH and social media. At the beginning of the second trimester, I didn’t really look so pregnant yet, but soon after, strangers would start to comment, ask, or congratulate me. That made me realize that my body and my baby were really growing, that this process was really happening. Best of all, towards the end of the second trimester, I began to feel baby girl moving around inside me which is, by far, the coolest feeling in the whole wide world.

The BAD: the end of the first trimester and most of the second trimester was like one long aversion to meat. I typically get a good amount of protein from poultry, meat, and fish, so my diet was thrown off…not to mention my ability to cook dinner. The hubs definitely got the short end of the stick on that one…While we’re on the topic, I should mention that while I didn’t really experience abnormal cravings, my body definitely wanted more fresh fruit and refreshing smoothies. One thing that I’ve had every single day during my pregnancy is avocado and I’m pretty sure that habit will not stop with baby’s arrival 🙂

The UGLY: here’s another weird and ugly symptom for ya, as I seem to be the queen of them! After a perfect report at the dentist just a week prior, I started to notice that my bottom gum felt like it was splitting from my teeth and that there was some space there that wasn’t there before. Sure enough, it was the very start of pregnancy gingivitis. I was pretty shocked as I try to take really good care of my teeth, but apparently it’s not uncommon. Luckily, with daily flossing and mouthwash, this went away within a few weeks and hasn’t returned.

Third Trimester:

The GOOD: the best part about my pregnancy is that I’ve been able to continue to work out and stay active the whole time, which is pretty huge for my sanity and happiness! Fingers crossed that this continues these last few weeks leading up to the big day as I’ve heard that continued exercise can pay off during labor. Don’t get me wrong, I take things pretty easy, don’t let my heart-rate get very high, and rarely break a sweat, but the continued movement has been great for my well-being, mentally and physically.

While I don’t push myself the way that I used to, I have been able to continue jogging, spinning, yoga, light weight-lifting, and circuit training, while really listening to my body and taking it slow. If something hurts, or just doesn’t feel right, I stop. For the most part, working out always makes me feel much better, so I keep doing it. With additional size comes a bit more difficulty, so I imagine that things may slow down over these next few weeks and that’s o.k. too. At a minimum, daily walks and prenatal yoga help to get the blood pumping and are better than nothing!

I was also very relieved when my doctor accommodated my request to avoid the glucose drink (full of sugar and genetically modified ingredients) to test for gestational diabetes; he did a simple blood test to evaluate my sugar levels and rule out GD. Thanks, doc!

The BAD: in addition to the exhaustion, extra weight, constant trips to the restroom, swelling, nerve pain, stretching skin, and all else that comes along with the third trimester, I also had quite the scare. At 37 weeks pregnant, I was going about my day, feeling absolutely fine when all of the sudden, I felt an intense pain in my back. I happened to be in the pharmacy when this came on and actually had to fall to the ground as the pain prevented me from standing or walking. After causing quite a commotion, (Sag Harbor Pharmacy’s staff is the best and took such good care of me!) my husband arrived and we went to the hospital…wondering…are these contractions? Is the baby coming?! Fast forward hours later and it turns out that the pain was the result of a kidney stone. Apparently, they can be common during pregnancy (although I’ve never heard anyone else I know getting so lucky!) So, that was a crazy day. Although the bad was not fun at all, it’s nothing compared to the ugly…

The UGLY: if you thought that the catheter, gingivitis, and kidney stone were ugly, just you wait! Trimester three kicked off with the start of an itchy rash on my growing belly. The rash soon got worse and spread. And then it got even worse and continued to spread. Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse and spread…until it was pretty much all over me, completely unbearable, and totally debilitating. At its worst, I couldn’t sleep, had no appetite, was an emotional mess, and struggled to focus on the baby…or anything but the rash. Known as “PUPPPS” (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) or “PEP,” (Polymorphic Eruption of Pregnancy) there is very little known about this horrible diagnosis.

I tried herbal treatments, topical steroids, antihistamines, biopsies, oatmeal baths, moisturizers, minimizing my wardrobe to a few select cotton shirts, and doing anything I could to get some rest and relief. Six or seven weeks of absolute misery finally lead to some relief in the dose of oral Prednisone. As someone who hates taking medication and prefers living life holistically, I was so torn about trying all of these drugs, but was too desperate not to. I trusted that my doctors would not put baby at risk and thankfully, the Prednisone helped to make life bearable again, so that I could return my attention to happily growing baby.

We still don’t know much more than the fact that pregnancy can cause the immune system to lash out (aka rash out) and the only known solution, along with some meds, is to hang in there until baby arrives, when things should clear up pretty quickly thereafter. So, that’s the plan…

My best efforts point to what I know: food. Desperate for some relief, I’ve minimized gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and caffeine in an attempt to tame this beast. Although my diet is pretty clean and healthy, I’m committed to doing my best to rule out anything that may be causing extra inflammation. I’ve definitely noticed that my symptoms worsen after consuming cheese, so I’ve broken up with cheese until further notice. While I’ve never really been a huge cheese lover, (I prefer peanut butter…by the spoonful) pregnancy has me craving fresh mozzarella and I’ve always been a fan of plain Greek yogurt. While they sure are tasty, it’s just not, at all, worth it.

PUPPPS affects one in every 200-300 pregnancies. When I was at my worst and I hadn’t slept well in weeks, I constantly wondered WHY ME?! But then I would remind myself that everyone is dealing with something, whatever it may be, and to keep my eye on the prize, a beautiful, healthy blessing <3 Fortunately, all of the wild and crazy symptoms I experienced affected me and not really the baby. Although times got tough, I wouldn’t change taking it for the team for anything. Some women love being pregnant, others hate it. My feelings on pregnancy are bitter sweet, as you can now imagine. That will never change the fact that I am 1,000% positive that it will all be worth it in the end when baby girl is here! The countdown is on!

One Healthy Breakdown: nothing good in life comes easy, right? Babies included.

PH 101: Alkaline Eating for Overall Wellness

While learning about pH in high school chemistry class may not have seemed like anything worth knowing back then, it’s actually vital in understanding our body’s reaction to certain foods and what will promote ultimate health. This is an area of health that is grossly overlooked! So many of our modern health problems can be linked back to an overly acidic diet. Let’s explore!

screen-shot-2015-05-25-at-6-41-03-pmWhat is pH?

pH value determines how many hydrogen ions are in a given solution (in this case your blood). It is measured on a scale of 0-14. Everything below 6.9 is more acidic, and everything above 7.1 is more alkaline, with increasing value the higher or lower it is on the scale, and 7.0 being neutral.

How does it affect my health?

Different parts of our bodies require different levels of acidity or alkalinity. Your stomach needs to be more acidic to break down food, but your blood needs to be slightly more alkaline. Without the correct pH, your cells won’t do their job which is to keep your body alive. Kinda important! Because your body wants to stay alive, healthy and in balance it will do everything possible to maintain the proper pH if it ever gets out of balance.

When we eat large amounts of acidic foods it causes inflammation in our bodies which is a gateway to all sorts of health problems (overgrowth of bad bacteria like yeast and fungus, heart disease, arthritis, allergies, skin problems etc.). In addition to being anti-inflammatory, alkaline foods are easier to digest which impacts our immune system, as well as reducing yucky bloat.

If your blood is overly acidic due to the food you eat or environmental conditions such as chemicals and toxins, your body needs to find reserves of more alkaline minerals (magnesium, potassium and calcium) from your bones, tissues and organs to get back to its happy place of balance. Which can be a bad thing if it happens all the time, because your bones and organs need those minerals too. And it’s just taxing on your system to constantly be fighting to maintain homeostasis.

Think about it this way: The body needs to remain at 98.6 degrees. Any higher or lower and your body goes into certain processes to get back to that temperature or else bad stuff happens. On a hot day you sweat to cool off, on a very cold day your blood will leave the extremities and go to the most vital internal organs to keep them warm.

Your body does the same thing to keep itself at that perfect pH which is around 7.35-7.45. If you eat too much acid forming foods, your body will pull vitamins and minerals out of your own tissues and send them to the blood to get that pH back down.

Fun fact: Everyone knows that dairy products contain calcium. So a direct line of thinking would assume that if I drink more milk I will be putting more calcium in my body and therefore have stronger bones. Not exactly. Once in our bodies dairy becomes an acidic food, so your bones will actually lose some calcium in your body’s effort to balance the pH after eating something as acidic as dairy. Scary right? You’re better off getting calcium from a plant-based source so you can utilize that calcium without losing any from your bones.

So which foods are acidic and which are alkaline?

I’m not going to list the pH value of every food here (trusty ol’ google will help with that if you really want to know). But it’s important to know which foods to eat more of, and which to eat less of.

More acidic foods:

alcohol
meat
dairy
coffee
eggs
sugar
wheat
processed foods

More alkaline foods:

fruits
veggies
nuts
beans
some grains are slightly alkaline like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, barley and spelt.

Since balance is key, it is not recommended to eat a 100% alkaline diet. Our bodies are slightly more alkaline, therefore respond best to a slightly more alkaline diet. My favorite book on alkaline eating (Honestly Healthy for Life) recommends 70% alkaline to 30% acid foods. So you don’t have to give up all acidic foods forever.

3 easy ways to begin to eat a more alkaline diet:

1. Make the veggie the main and the meat the side. You don’t have to change what you eat as much as the portion size. Instead of 8 oz of steak with a side of rice, carrots or broccoli, make a 3-4 oz portion of meat as your “side” then make a huge salad with lots of veggies in it as your main. No need to become a vegan if you don’t want to.

2. Warm Lemon Water. I know this is totally ubiquitous on the internet right now. I realize it’s beginning to sound like a broken record. Everywhere I turn there’s another site touting the benefits of drinking warm water with lemon in it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. But it’s only because it’s true! This is an easy habit to get into and you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything.

3. Ditch the sugar and processed shit. Pretty self-explanatory. Everyone knows sugar and processed foods are the devil. But let’s be real, I don’t expect myself to give it up for good, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make good choices and substitutions whenever possible.

My 2 cents: This is not an all or nothing strict diet. Just because a food is on the acidic list, doesn’t mean I have to give it up completely. While meat is on the acidic list, I personally don’t believe giving up meat entirely is healthy either. The amount and quality of the meat is most important. I try to get grass-fed beef whenever possible. It contains far more nutrients than conventional beef does. The best thing to do is just be aware and if you tend to experience inflammatory symptoms it may be worth switching up your diet to include more alkaline foods.

One Healthy Breakdown: awareness is key…in alkalinity!

 

*Caroline O’Neill is a year round Hamptons resident and passionate wellness warrior. By day she is a Speech-Language Pathologist and spends her free time learning everything she can about nutrition, yoga, food, spirituality and personal development along with creating her blog www.bloomandspark.com.