Other Side Effects Of Pregnancy (Running List)

EDIT 3: December 12, 2016 12:32AM

  • Insomnia: I don’t think I have insomnia per se, but there have been many nights when I do not feel tired or feel too excited to sleep. Some of this is probably brought about by my constant need to use the bathroom, which leads to my next point…
  • Constant urge to pee: I am down to my last 3-4 weeks of pregnancy and am now needing to use the toilet around once every hour, depending on how hydrated I am. It is annoying. It also seems like a waste of water and toilet paper because my bladder can hold so little that it almost makes a trip to the bathroom not worth it. However, the pain (and potential damage) of holding it in scares me more than the utility bill and cost of TP.
  • Fetal movement: My baby moves a lot, and it is comforting and exciting, but it is also uncomfortable as the baby is growing larger and running out of room. Sometimes I feel out of breath from its stretches, mostly I feel the skin of my belly stretching, which can be uncomfortable. I can also coax my baby to move by scratching my belly, and I have noticed it moving/jolting when I first step into the shower and the stream of water hits my belly 🙂
  • Acid reflux: Worsening as the baby is growing, probably due to the increase in hormones as pregnancy is progressing. However, this does help curb my attraction to foods I’m not suppose to eat (e.g., processed foods like potato chips) during pregnancy anyway. Sometimes the acid reflux is strong enough to wake and keep me up at night, at which point I’d have to stumble out to the kitchen and make myself the ACV concoction (see below).
  • Sore/tired hips from sitting too long: As my joints are loosening to prep for childbirth, it becomes harder to rise from sitting in a chair for too long. I grunt and groan as I sit down and get up!
  • Fear of crowds: The Lion and I went to the mall the other day despite our distaste for visiting shopping centers during the holiday season, and my immediate instinct was to keep a wide berth from shoppers and children from fear of them bumping into me and my belly. Not sure if this was because I knew holiday shoppers can be merciless or if it was the mothering hormones kicking in.
  • Swollen ankles and feet: These have returned with a vengeance because I wore high heels yesterday and was probably dehydrated as well. Harmless for the most part but unattractive and slightly abnormal.
  • Posture restrictions: I have been trying to lay on my left side [when sleeping] or sit leaning forward in order to coax Baby over to the left side of my belly. Throughout pregnancy, B has enjoyed hanging out with its back to the front-right of my belly, but as we are nearing expected due date, the midwife recommended exercises and these positions to get B into a more ideal positioning for easier delivery. I am looking forward to being relieved of these positions because I miss sleeping on my back, and I miss reclining on the couch!

EDIT 2: September 22, 2016 11:47PM

  • Acid reflux: I had heard from girlfriends that despite not having acid reflux or heartburn ever in life before, they started experiencing it during pregnancy. My acid reflux has been relatively mild, and I wouldn’t consider it “heartburn,” usually just an acidic taste in the back of my throat. But it is annoying and uncomfortable enough to be noticed and sometimes keep me up at night. The nutritionist (who came and gave a talk one Saturday morning) had recommended taking some apple cider vinegar diluted in water, so I started drinking about 6oz of water with a splash of ACV (eyeballed because I was too lazy to get out the measuring spoon and then wash it after use) a little bit before bed. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me get up in the middle of the night to pee, and it did help to ease the acid reflux. Now, I drink that same amount whenever I feel the acid and/or before bed just in case.
  • Hemorrhoids: Prior to being pregnant, I would make dinners that consisted of a salad starter followed by a protein + veggie entree. When I had my decreased appetite a couple months ago, I stopped making the salads because I wasn’t hungry and because I physically felt I couldn’t eat that much (since I was feeling bloated anyway/because I feared acid reflux). The sudden decrease in veggies made my bowel movements much more difficult. I strained every time I had to go, and it was painful and resulted in bleeding. Fearing the descent into anal retentiveness, I began eating a small snack of raw veggies and dip because I remembered how this had eased my constipation earlier in pregnancy. Lo and behold, during the week that I made and ate this snack during the day, my trips to the bathroom were much more pleasant. This week, I ran out of sour cream and forgot to buy more, so I am suffering yet again. This is why it’s important to eat your veggies!!!
  • Bernhardt-Roth syndrome: This is a new one for me that just occurred in the last couple days. We recently relocated to a new house, and I have been on my feet many hours during the last few days watching the movers, unpacking, lining closets and shelves, laundering, washing, etc. etc., and it has taken a toll on my lower extremities. The bottom of my feet were very sore and hurt from standing so much, and yesterday evening, I noticed there was a patch of numb skin on the outer part of my right thigh. I didn’t think much of it, and it eventually faded away at bedtime, but when it resurfaced again this morning, I Googled it and called my midwife. Turns out, it is called meralgia paresthetica (or Bernhardt Roth syndrome), which is a condition that causes numbness, pain, tingly sensations, or burning in the outer thigh. It happens because there is too much pressure on the nerves of your leg. Right now, it feels like a cold burning sensation, like there’s an ice pack on my thigh (but not in a pleasant way…), and I can feel heavy pressure but not light touch. The nurse at my midwife’s office confirmed there has probably been too much pressure on the nerve 😦 I am trying to perform as much of my duties as I can while sitting, and I’m trying to prop my feet up as much as possible. Of course, the extra weight from the baby doesn’t help. I’m hoping as I adjust to our new place and things get finished up, this unpleasant side effect will dissipate…
  • Swollen ankles (edema): Relatively common side effect but it was still jarring to see it on my own ankles!! I have chubby ankles now, ew.

EDIT 1: August 26, 2016 1:40PM

  • Eczema/skin update: The eczema soap I linked to above has really helped me a lot. Some of it may be psychological, but my belly is finally smooth again and free of sandpaper-y skin. Some of that may be due to the weather finally cooling down too… I love this soap though!
  • Fibroids – This was a scary one for me when I first heard about it. I hadn’t come across this term in any of the books I’d read so far, so it was a shock. Fibroids are noncancerous (99% of the time) tumors that develop in/on the uterus. My four were discovered during my 18 week ultrasound. My midwife reassured me that fibroid development is pretty normal (about 80% of women develop them by age 30) and shouldn’t interfere with the pregnancy/baby as long as it doesn’t grow too large (only in about 20% of cases does it cause complications). Based on my own research on the internet, it seems like the worst fibroids could do to pregnancy/childbirth is block the cervix or prevent the baby from getting into a head-down position, which may mean that I’d need to have a c-section to have the baby. Apparently, until I develop further symptoms (extreme abdominal pain, heavy bleeding), it shouldn’t be a big worry for me.

Original post: August 10, 2016 3:35PM

There’s a lot more involved in pregnancy than just belly and boobs getting bigger, as I’ve learned. This is my list of some of the unexpected symptoms I’ve experienced. Thank goodness for Google!

  • Pregnancy rhinitis – As estrogen and progesterone increases, so does the mucus in your nostrils. This was very noticeable in my first trimester, as I was going through a box of tissues a week. I need tissues for my runny nose constantly, and it was difficult to lay down and breathe comfortably to sleep. I ended up using more support under my pillow to help keep my head elevated at night, but I lost some valuable sleep. Eventually, the rhinitis just dissipated.
  • Sore and tender breasts/nipples – Definitely one of the first things I’d noticed. It was uncomfortable to dress/undress, and I had to take greater care in not accidentally hurting them (especially with sports bras and bralettes!). Again, E&P at work here! They aren’t as sore now during my second trimester, but I still prefer to sleep with a full coverage top or a cotton bralette because…
  • Protruding nipples – This is what makes avoiding them as you take off sports bras difficult and what is annoying about sleeping in a triangle-top nightie
  • Extreme fatigue – I knew that pregnant women needed more sleep, but I wasn’t expecting just how tired I would be! I was napping basically after every meal in addition to going to sleep earlier at night. I was also going to the bathroom throughout the night, which meant I needed daytime naps to fill in the nighttime gaps. I maintained light exercise (daily dog walking, aerial fitness a few times a week), but paced myself on daily chores and errands. Everything took a lot slower to complete…
  • Montgomery tubercles – These little pimple-like bumps on your nipples or areolas are the visual part of the areolar glands (which are glands that secrete oils to help keep your skin moisturized), which help to keep your nipple and areola lubricated and protected.
  • Itchy belly (eczema flare up) – As the pregnant woman’s belly is growing and stretching, the belly skin can dry up and become itchy. Similarly, the change in hormones can affect the severity of dermatitis. My eczema seems to be especially bad this summer, probably a combination of the heat, hormones, and not being able to use my steroid creams. I’ve avoided hot baths and heavy, scented lotions. My friend recently gave me some baby eczema soap, which has helped immensely. The soap is so amazing that sometimes I don’t even need to use lotion! Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I’ll also use a cold compress for 10-15 minutes, which helps a lot too.
  • Decrease in appetite – I’d always heard the phrase, “Eat for two, now that you’re pregnant!” but I just couldn’t! Interestingly enough, I seemed to have a decrease in appetite. Quite the surprise for The Lion because now there’s enough for him to eat until he’s full! 😉
  • Round ligament pain – Quite possibly my most unpleasant symptom right now. There are many thick ligaments that surround and support the uterus, one of them being the round ligament. As the womb grows, the ligaments need to stretch to accommodate the weight, thus causing you to feel some dull, ache-y, cramp-y pain. I notice this pain the most if I shift positions too quickly and also when I stand up from sitting for awhile. The discomfort is persistent, although not debilitating, and will apparently be around until after childbirth!! *cries
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Saturday Morning With A Nutritionist

One of the required classes at the birth center is Nutrition 101. Now, readers who are family/friends of ours know that we have some “particular” opinions on what is optimal nutrition! We tend to eat a more traditional diet, and we have been eating this way for about five or six years now. Nutrition (and being more strict about it) has only increased in significance for us as we’ve prepared for conception and pregnancy. I went to this class with pretty low expectations because I’ve heard and read the basic guidelines about what to/not to eat during pregnancy, and they often do not parallel the research I’ve done on optimal nutrition. I was pleasantly surprised!

The nutritionist who came to speak to us introduced her philosophy as primarily “paleo,” and she included references to Weston A Price throughout her talk. She said that she used to be a fitness coach but also suffered pretty severe cases of acne and poor health, despite following all the recommended regimens in the fitness world and experimenting with vegetarianism. Both unfortunately and fortunately, she got into a car accident and needed to see a chiropractor, who introduced to her a different way of eating. He asked for her for a food journal, to which she boasted that she was super healthy, eating microwavable meals, whole grain bagels with low fat cream cheese, Starbucks with coconut milk, etc. She credits him with changing her life because he was the one who showed her that not all fats are bad, but all processed foods are! Oh, bonus, she was a really good and interesting speaker who kept me engaged throughout her two hour talk 🙂

The key points that I thought was interesting and that reinforced my own nutrition principles:

  • Eat organic and locally grown — The chemicals that are used to treat the soil and plants are toxic, avoid as much as possible. Eating local means you’ll likely eat what is in season and optimally nutritious at that time. Eating ripe fruit/veggies versus eating produce that has been picked long before they’re ready, flash-frozen, and transported across the country means less interference and less “processed”! I am very thankful we live in California where fresh, clean produce is valued and available to us!
  • Eat cooked AND raw foods — Eating foods in its natural state helps preserve its nutritious potency! Furthermore, overcooked and burnt foods are actually toxic.
  • 80/20 rule — If you are able to follow a nutrient-dense diet 80% of the time, then it’s okay to indulge once in awhile. It’s not worth it to be stressed about what you eat, and it’s almost impossible to eat 100% clean anyway. The nutritionist did emphasize that even treats should be of high quality. For example, whole-fat, creamy ice cream versus fake, man-made “skinny cow” ice cream bars. I follow more of a 90/10 (or 95/5, on a good week…) rule because… Why not eat cleaner if you can?
  • Eat a variety — Nutrients are everywhere in fruits, veggies, dairy, meats, so to ensure that we get all the good vitamins our bodies need, we need to eat a variety of foods! Additionally, many vitamins and nutrients need each other to be better absorbed by our bodies (e.g., protein, Vitamin C, and zinc all work together to build collagen, helping our skin to bounce back from stretching during pregnancy 😉
  • Water — Drink approximately half your body weight in ounces. Just as how standardized tests are lame, standardized water recommendations are also lame!
  • From dietary habits to lifestyle — As your dietary habits change to be more traditional, optimal, and “primal,” you may find yourself making other lifestyle changes to become more like Grok! 😀

Some other things I learned and found valuable from this Nutrition class:

  • Apple cider vinegar for acid reflux — 2 teaspoons of ACB with 1-2 cups of water to supplement the stomach acid in digestion. I also drink kombucha, which helps a lot too. The nutritionist recommends consuming ahead of time if you know you’re going to have a big indulgent meal.
  • Vitamin C binge before delivery — This helps strengthen veins and can be found in the white parts of citrus fruits.
  • Good sources of sulfuric veggies — …include broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.
  • RAW MILK — While she could not loudly proclaim her support for this (I’m assuming for legal/certification reasons…), she mentioned that if a woman is used to drinking raw milk and can find a reputable source, it is absolutely necessary and beneficial to consume for conception and during pregnancy (and for life, I imagine!).

EDIT:

Funny thing I noticed: The nutritionist had brought some snacks for us to munch on during the seminar because it was early in the morning, and I guess she figured pregnant women are always snacking. She brought in a box of Annie’s cheese crackers, a box of Cliff whole grain chocolate chip protein bars, and a container of pre-chopped veggies with a container of ranch dressing. And then later, she used her box of Annie’s crackers as an example of questionable organic choices (I guess not all ingredients in organic Annie’s cheese crackers are organic?), and she recommended against processed, whole grains (aka a box of granola bars…).  The nutritionist seemed have thought a lot of things through… But not everything yet, apparently! 😉

Why I Chose Midwifery Care

I am five months pregnant and have not seen a doctor.

The Lion and I enjoy a primal lifestyle. Of course, we also enjoy a lot of what modern technology has to offer (including running water, electricity, and the internet!), but we also appreciate the more primitive aspects of being human, like being outside and getting sun, avoiding processed foods, sweating, sleeping with the sun cycle, and generally being introspective and in-tune with our mental and emotional needs. Along those lines, a birth that is heavily medicated, in an unfamiliar setting, with hospital lighting bearing down and the smell of chemicals and sterility surrounded by strangers watching me pee/poop/fart does not sound like an experience that I would enjoy (I mean, if I’m going to pee/poop/fart with an audience then it might as well be with people I feel relatively more comfortable with, right? : )!

My first exposure to midwifery care was through a book called Baby Catcher, recommended to me by a friend who had a homebirth with their son a few years ago in LA. The book is a collection of stories and experiences by the author, Peggy Vincent, a California midwife. Baby Catcher made me laugh out loud and cry, and it really opened my eyes to the possibility of giving birth naturally, at home, with someone you trust, and with as little intervention as needed. Thus, when I became pregnant, I decided to research more about midwifery care and what it entails to determine if it really was the right path for me.

When I saw what the midwifery model of care entailed, I was hooked:

The midwifery model of care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life events. The midwifery model of care includes: monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle; providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support; minimizing technological interventions; and identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention. The application of this woman-centered model has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section. —The Midwifery Task Force

The first sentence in the midwifery model of care struck me as unusual because I had never heard or thought of birth and pregnancy as “normal life events,” but indeed, birth is a natural “instinctive act.” Our bodies have evolved through million of years to provide the best possible outcomes for mothers and babies, provided that we understand and care for our bodies the way that nature intended during this normal physiological process. As many of you probably know, women’s hormones are changing drastically during pregnancy, and that’s no different for during childbirth and afterwards too. The brain is producing hormones related to excitement (epinephrine/norepinehprine), love (oxytocin), mothering (prolactin), and pleasure (endorphins) during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth to elicit instinctive mothering behavior in humans. Oxytocin also causes the uterus to contract, adrenaline increases heart rate and makes us feel courageous, giving laboring women the “power” necessary for the final pushes, and endorphins rise and help block the reception of pain.Physically, the laboring mama is driven to move more, and sometimes, even to sing, grunt, groan, moan, or to shower/relax in a bath. Those options are not always available to women who choose to give birth in hospitals (as Vincent recalls in Baby Catcher). Women who are feeling afraid or self-conscious [in front of strangers] tend to secrete hormones that delay birth. In quiet, semidark, private conditions, the laboring mama can let down her guard and let her instincts take over. I knew that working with a midwife was a first step to accomplishing this, where I would be allowed to have the lights lowered, to stay in a comfortable place (my home), to move about freely as needed, and to be with loved and trusted ones as I begin one of the most challenging times of my life.

I also knew that I wanted the individualized care of a midwife (or in the case of the birth center I’m working with, three midwives!), hands-on care, and postpartum support. I am a unique person who has had a unique health history and will have a unique pregnancy and birthing story, so why shouldn’t my care be tailored to me? My most recent experiences with doctors in the dental industry were not pleasant; my dentist told me that nutrition is unrelated to teeth health, that I shouldn’t believe everything on the internet (I read books, not webpages), and did not ask a single question about my dental history. The endodontists I visited seemed impatient with my questions and complimented me on being a “biochemical major” when I asked questions. One of the endodontists I visited had even started pulling out her tools, ready to perform the “routine root canal procedure” the day of my consultation! So, this was certainly not the type of experience and attitude I wanted throughout my pregnancy or at the birth of our first child. When I go to my prenatal appointments, I wait no more than 10 minutes in the waiting room. The staff at the birth center know me by name and face. They know The Lion by name and face. The midwives ask me how I’m feeling, they listen and commiserate, they host picnics and events for everyone to interact (the midwives, the parents, the doulas, the birth assistants, the staff), and they ask for my health and nutrition history. I get the feeling that they are mother- and baby-centric; I trust that when I go into labor, I can call them for help or advice, even if it isn’t during office hours. I trust that I have a choice and won’t be pressured to make a biased one. This is the kind of help and promise that I want and appreciate as a newbie mom. When I interviewed the head midwife of my birth center, I asked her what she expects of her clients. She responded, “I expect them to stay healthy, educated, and relaxed.” This is exactly the kind of pregnancy and childbirth that I want to have!!

As for minimizing technological intervention but also encouraging women who need obstetrical attention to seek it, this is a big point that I think many people have missed of midwifery. When I first told my family that I plan to birth with a midwife, they immediately became concerned of the risks of birthing out of hospital. Luckily, the midwives aren’t above asking for help when they (or the laboring mama) need it! The Lion and I live very close to a hospital, and we have discussed what will happen should I need to be transferred to the hospital. Furthermore, the midwives at my birth center are certified nurse midwives. In other words, they know and can perform the same duties as a doctor, except surgery. I hope to have an “undisturbed birth.” As described above with the hormonal processes, birth is a very complex physiological process, and it is extremely sensitive to outside influences. Many techniques that are used in hospitals to monitor a laboring woman is painful or uncomfortable and usually involve strangers overstepping personal/bodily boundaries. In addition to the distrust of a woman’s birthing ability and their body’s natural processes, these are ingredients for a difficult birth. This is not to say I will have a solitary or isolated birth. I believe that once I am in labor, I will need all the help and support (physical, mental, emotional) I can get to cope with the pain! But a midwife’s method to coping with pain is not to medicate, but rather to understand where the sensation originates from and whether a change of position, attitude, atmosphere in the birth room, or another factor can help mitigate this discomfort.

My main concern with this pregnancy and birth experience is NOT to avoid pain at all costs, but rather to have a healthy baby in the most natural, healthy, accepting way possible. I am so excited to have these midwives be my advocates and guardians during childbirth!!

(I don’t cover the risks of cesarean surgery, epidurals, opiate painkillers, synthetic oxytocin and other synthetic hormones, ultrasounds, early clamping, and inductions here because they require their own blog post and more astute meta-analysis. Buckley’s book (link below) provides a much more in-depth analysis of these and other common interventions of birth. I hope to write a review/summary of her book at a later date.)

Modern Feminists Can’t Think Straight About Pregnancy

From “Get the Epidural” at NYT.com:

No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” No one ever asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.”

First, women get root canals done, too, so this is terrible gender-baiting. Second, a root canal is a medical procedure designed to treat a diseased tooth, while a vasectomy is an elective surgery designed to prevent a man from transmitting his sperm during intercourse.

Pregnancy isn’t a disease and neither is the process of giving birth. The attempt to analogize between disease treatment, elective surgery and the very natural process of experiencing a pregnancy and a birth after sexual intercourse fails miserably, in this case.

Now, two completely separate questions are: 1.) Is it “desirable” to experience the pain of child birth if you can avoid it by injecting drugs? and 2.) Does anything in the drugs administered during an epidural a.) represent some kind of toxic risk to mother or child b.) potentially inhibit hormone-release and other natural processes within the process of birth that might further complicate either the birth itself or the natural bonding of the mother with her newborn?

But to inquire about such issues thoughtfully, one wouldn’t be able to write an angry NYT op-ed. And one certainly couldn’t eat a sugary cookie with the resultant unnaturally stimulated mental state it might entail!

As such, our motto here will continue to be, “If you find it in the NYT, treat it to an extra dose of skepticism!”

Kombucha During Pregnancy

Kombucha is a very well-loved drink in our household; we drink a bottle almost daily, especially after we started brewing our own! When I became pregnant, I wanted to make sure kombucha was okay to continue drinking, especially since it usually contains trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process (by the action of yeasts on the sugar in kombucha).

A quick Google search proved fruitless, as only two websites discussed this issue in a more thoughtful manner. One website was from a fellow homebrewer who drank kombucha during her pregnancy and experienced no ill side-effects, although she cautioned pregnant women anyway. Another website was a mommy forum, where various women who were kombucha drinkers before pregnancy recommended against kombucha due to its mild alcoholic properties. These websites were a good start, but I knew there had to be more information out there, given that fermented drinks are common in traditional societies where pregnancy also occurs.

So far, I’ve found our homebrewed kombucha tastes better than ever during my pregnancy! Being pregnant during the summer is not for the weak, and a glass of chilled, bubbly kombucha has been a very refreshing pick-me-up (and also satisfies my need for something a little sweeter and more flavorful than water). And if you were like me, a pick-me-up was necessary quite often during my first trimester because I felt fatigued every single day for three months! Kombucha helped supply me with mineral ions that were depleted during perspiration, and I learned recently that kombucha is even better than plain water at quenching thirst because it contains dilute sugars and electrolyte of minerals, which are absorbed faster and retained longer than plain water (a fact used to encourage the drinking of commercial sports drinks, but if you read the ingredients on these labels, you’ll see that they contain A LOT of sugar and not many electrolytes).

Kombucha also aids in digestion because it contains lactobacilli, lactic-acid, and enzymes. I noticed my dietary habits changed as my pregnancy began: I ate less at mealtimes, but I wanted to eat throughout the day (many pregnancy advisors will suggest eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of big meals because progesterone slows your digestive system). I’ve been drinking kombucha almost consistently throughout my pregnancy so I don’t have a control to compare this experience to, but I know that I’ve experienced less constipation so far, and I believe it’s due to kombucha! Furthermore, the only time I ever experienced morning sickness (in the evening) was when I was not drinking kombucha and had not drunk any for a week or two (because our batch had spoiled from a gnat invasion when we were out of town). That evening, I felt extremely nauseous and vomited my lunch over multiple trips to the bathroom. The only thing I wanted at that time was something ginger-y, so my husband went and bought some of GT’s ginger-flavored kombucha. Since then, I have resumed drinking kombucha almost daily (approximately 6-8oz once or twice a day), and I have not experienced nausea again. A few weeks later, I was reading Sally Fallon’s cookbook and learned that kombucha, with its liver-supporting properties, can help prevent morning sickness!

If you’re pregnant and want to drink kombucha but are worried about the alcoholic fermentation, you can minimize it by adding whey or a little sea salt! If you’re new to drinking kombucha, try a little bit first to make sure you and your baby like it 🙂

I learned a lot about kombucha from Sally Fallon’s cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.