Although it wouldn’t be wrong to describe me as hippie-dippie due to my love of natural and alternative health practices (I can feel my husband rolling his eyes from here when I suggest earthing), I still often give thanks for being pregnant in current times.
Compared to my mum being pregnant with me in the 80s, I’m amazed at what’s available now that can relieve nausea, prevent stretch marks and allow you to get a decent night’s sleep.
This list started as my top 3 items during pregnancy, but once I started solidly thinking about everything that made my life easier and healthier, it grew exponentially. I capped it at 20 but I’m sure I could add to it – hence feeling very grateful for modern life. I used most of these daily and can’t shout about them enough.
[Edit: I put this list into a handy 1-page downloadable PDF! Get it instantly here.]
1. Sickness bands. Although I still felt nauseous all day, I felt less nauseous when I wore these. They’re small fabric bands worn on each wrist that apply pressure to a certain point between two central tendons. They’re available at most pharmacies (sometimes in the travel section) but I bought these Mama Sea-Bands online.
2. Magnesium oil. Some research suggests morning sickness symptoms are related to a magnesium deficiency. (Magnesium is also good for help aches and pains, sleep and constipation… so many fun pregnancy symptoms, eh!) But depending on how well your body absorbs vitamins and minerals, supplements in tablet form may not be effective. During my first trimester I used a magnesium oil spray. In all honesty, it was hard to see if this helped me or not. But I thought it couldn’t make things worse, so I applied it to my legs each night during my first trimester. (But a word of warning: it can be iiiiiiitchy!)
3. Ginger tea. Ginger is proven to help morning sickness. You can have it fresh (grated in hot water with some honey to sweeten it), dried as tea bags (my fave brand has always been Pukka) or as ginger tablets (up to 1mg once or twice a day).
4. B6 supplements. Another science-backed method for morning sickness relief. I took 50mg of this brand twice a day.
Some people will swear they’re genetic, others say they’re caused by your body growing faster than your skin can keep up with which is (somewhat) within our control. My mum didn’t get them during pregnancy but I did (lucky me!), although who’s to say they wouldn’t have been worse without everything I tried.
5. Burt’s Bees Belly Butter. This is pretty popular and for good reason! Its mild smell isn’t unpleasant, it goes on evenly, one pot lasts a long time (about a month for me using a lot) and it’s well priced. I used it once or twice a day on all areas prone to stretching, e.g. breasts, belly, hips, thighs, butt and lower back.
6. Gelatin powder. Gelatin is powdered collagen, the stuff that increases the elasticity in your skin. You can get more in your diet by drinking homemade bone broth, but let’s be honest, bone broth can be gag-inducing at the best of times, let alone when you’re in the throes of morning sickness. As easier option is buying it in powdered form (which doesn’t smell and has no taste or texture), or capsules for even easier consumption.
7. Dry body brushing set. As your largest organ, your skin detoxifies and eliminates waste and impurities. Dry body brushing, which is safe for pregnancy, helps by its long, sweeping brushing movements that stimulate your lymphatic (drainage) system. I learnt of it years ago but couldn’t be bothered doing it, but pregnancy gave me new motivation to take care of myself. So I bought a dry body brushing set and used it once a day, which genuinely made my skin silky-smooth.
8. Pre-natal vitamins. During my morning sickness when I could barely look at a vegetable and was living on peanut butter on toast, I felt much better that at least I took my prenatals every night. They can never replace a good diet, but they’re a solid recommendation from all health authorities. Look for one with at least 400mcg methylated folate (which is better than folic acid), and if you live in a colder climate one with at least 10mcg of vitamin D as well.
9. Greens powder. Another useful way to add more vitamins and minerals to your diet when stomaching fresh fruit and veg is hard. You can drink it with water but it can be a bit… pond-scum-like… so for a safer bet, add it to smoothies.
10. Healthy snack bars. I love snack bars – they’re portable, fill you up and are perfect during morning sickness when you need to eat every few hours. But most are overflowing with nasty unpronounceable preservatives, additives and sweeteners. Luckily the supermarket opposite my house stocked these caramel almond KIND bars, which are a much healthier option.
11. Essential oils. I love diffusing lavender to help me sleep and wild orange to give me a lift in the afternoons. I also apply oils topically by mixing them with a carrier oil – I use geranium to moisturise my belly and legs, peppermint on my temples for headaches, and Doterra’s DigestZen blend on my lower abdomen to help bloating and digestion. (Please note I’ve chosen to use essential oils topically to my skin during pregnancy based on my research based on what’s safe for me, but I’m not advocating others should do the same. Please consult your health practitioner on what’s right for you and your circumstances. Another note: I don’t sell them!)
12. Epsom salts. Another way to get more magnesium (and for total relaxation) is having Epsom salt baths. I buy in bulk and take a long soak 3-4 times a week. (I may or may not use this time to catch up on Real Housewives…)
13. Pre-natal yoga or pilates classes. Depending on what suits you, you can buy a DVD, watch a YouTube video or go to a studio. Personally I’m better with external accountability, so I book into weekly classes at my local gym. They help me relax, clear my mind, get me out of the house and keep my fitness up. Plus, staying active during pregnancy is proven to help you during birth.
14. Flat shoes. I was always a heels girl, until pregnancy! I resisted flats for a long time, but as soon as I made the switch I thought ‘bugger, I really should have done this sooner’. I’m a fan of simple, classic black points like this.
15. Maternity tights. If you haven’t bought yourself any of these yet, girl, do yourself a favour and buy some ASAP! (In lots of colours.) Hello comfort.
16. Support pillow. The Boppy is popular, but personally I like something made of bamboo with a washable pillow case. (Who needs a husband?!)
17. A good eye mask. I went through periods of pregnancy insomnia, where every night at 2am on the dot I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep for 2-3 hours. I finally invested in a good sleep mask, which significantly helped. This one is pricey but seriously worth every dollar.
18. Maternity support belt. Weight gain and changes to our centre of gravity mean that pregnancy often causes back pain, which maternity support belts can help with. (Especially when we gain 10-20% of our pre-pregnancy weight!)
When I found out I was out pregnant, I wanted to start exploring how I could make giving birth the most positive experience possible, and even look forward to it rather than dread it. Part of this meant choosing an unmedicated birth, which I’m committed to with the help of these two things:
19. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. The first half of this book is positive birth stories based on the author’s experience setting up a remote community in the 1970s where women still travel now to give birth naturally with a team of experienced midwives. The second half is a guide to labour, how to create a safe and comfortable birth environment, and tips for having the most loving, gentle experience possible. Highly recommended.
20. Hypnobirthing classes. This isn’t a physical item but it’s definitely worth adding to the list. Hypnobirthing sounds a bit woo-woo, but essentially it’s just reprogramming yourself to not be scared of birth and to see it as an empowering, connected experience that our bodies were designed to do. There are books on the subject but I think classes are better, which teach you calming breathing and visualisation techniques, how to use self-hypnosis to put yourself into a deep state of relaxation, positions and massage techniques to help the birth process, and how to have a positive mindset leading up to and during the experience. During my first pregnancy I did a 4-week course at my locla community centre and loved it. (Even husband tagged along and said it helped him!)
P.S. If you know of any pregnant mums to be, help them out by sending them this post! And let me know any of your must-have items in the comments below.