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 the year 2018.
Of course, the year wouldn’t prevent the horrid morning sickness I went through (hello feeling of an all-day hangover for 8 weeks). But compared to my mum being pregnant with me in the 80s, I’m amazed at what’s available now that can reduce nausea (even somewhat), prevent stretch marks, ensure a decent night’s sleep and even get you excited about giving birth. (Hint: it’s not an epidural!)
This list started as my top 3 items during pregnancy, but once I started solidly thinking about everything that makes 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 use most of these daily and can’t shout about them enough.
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 chemists 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 for you. During my first trimester I used this BetterYou 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.
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. I choose to believe the latter and so I’m doing everything I can to keep my skin nourished and hydrated as possible. (Note: I got light stretch marks during puberty, but as I write this at nearly 25 weeks with quite a growing belly and having doubled in bra cup size, I have no new stretch marks yet.)
3. Burt’s Bees Belly Butter. This is pretty popular in all the pregnancy forums I’m part of, and for good reason! It only has a mild smell (which isn’t unpleasant), it goes on evenly, one pot lasts a long time (about a month for me – and I use a lot) and it’s not too pricey. I use it at least once (but usually twice) a day on all areas prone to stretching, i.e. breasts, belly, hips, thighs, butt and lower back.
4. 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 buying it in powdered form is a time-saver I love. I use the Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate powder. It doesn’t smell and has no taste or texture, so you can also add it to your cooking or any drink (like herbal tea) without any grittiness or nasty aftertaste.
5. Dry body brushing set. I learnt of dry body brushing – which is using a specific brush on your dry skin in long, sweeping strokes – years ago, but could never be bothered doing it. But being pregnant gave me new motivation to take care of myself, so I bought this Ineffable Care Dry Body Brush Set and started using it once a day. As your largest organ your skin detoxifies and eliminates waste and impurities, so the brushing stimulates your lymphatic (drainage) system and is said to help with stretch marks and cellulite. It’s safe for pregnancy, and I love how smooth it’s made my skin.
6. Pre-natal vitamins. During my morning sickness when I could barely look at a vegetable and was living on fruit and 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 folate or folic acid (the research I’ve done suggests folate is better), and if you live in a colder climate one with at least 10mcg of vitamin D as well.
7. 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 this 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.)
8. Epsom salts. Another way to get more magnesium (and for total relaxation) is having Epsom salt baths. I buy this brand in bulk and love taking a long soak 3-4 times a week. (I may or may not use this time to watch Real Housewives.)
9. A blender for smoothies. Smoothies are such a good way to get extra fruit, veg and good fats into your diet – perfect for your growing baby. The NutriBullet is awesome, but cheaper versions still do the job. My favourite smoothie recipe – which I call my ‘Blueberry & Avocado Power Smoothie’ – is ½ medium avocado, ½ cup blueberries, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon cacao powder and 1 cup liquid (e.g. water, coconut water or almond milk).
10. Chocolate greens powder. Also useful to add more vitamins and minerals into your diet. I love this one – you can drink it straight with water (it tastes delish because the chocolate flavour comes from the yummy addition of cacao) or add it to smoothies.
11. 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.
12. 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 dark chocolate and nut Kind bars, which are a much healthier option.
13. Flat shoes. I’ve always been a heels girl: I will wear them on grass, in the rain, to a casual lunch, even when having to stand for hours. I just love them. So I resisted flats for a long time, but approaching 25 weeks I knew it was time to make the change – at least most of the time – to flats instead. I’m rebelling slightly by wearing the smallest kitten heel at work, but for the most part I’ve taken to wearing no heels at all. I’m a fan of simple, classic style like this and this.
14. Maternity pants. If you haven’t bought yourself any of these yet, do yourself a favour and get some! Hello comfort. I started wearing maternity jeans from 12 weeks – not because I had a baby bump, but because #pregnancybloating. I picked up a couple of cheap pairs from H&M, along with some plain black leggings, and bought these awesome maternity tights (in black and camel) that have extra fabric at the front to accommodate your belly.
15. Support pillow. Admittedly I haven’t actually bought one of these yet, but ’m reaching the stage where sleeping is becoming uncomfortable so it’s next on my to-buy list. People have recommended this one to me, which has great reviews.
16. Eye mask. I went through a period 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 it.
17. 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. This is also something I haven’t bought yet, but is definitely a priority as I’ve gained about 10% of my pre-pregnancy weight already. (And by the end this is probably going to be about 20%… as long as I don’t tuck into too many chocolate digestives, which could put it to 30%…) Any recommendations very welcome!
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:
18. 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.
19. 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. I started classes last week when I was 24 weeks. It’s 3 hours each Saturday morning for 4 weeks at a sweet community centre near my house, and I’m loving it so far.
20. Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali. Even if you belong to another religion (or none at all) or have no experience with Buddhism, this is a great book about how to manage anxiety, increase calmness and feel a greater connection to yourself and your children. Although this is my first pregnancy and I don’t already have kids, much of the content is applicable to pregnancy and general life, not just motherhood, so I’ve already got tons of useful info from it.
Phew, that’s it! As I said before, this list could be 100 items long, but I had to cap it somewhere. If you have any essential to add to the list or you already use any of the above, I’d love to know – just share them in the comments below.
P.S. If you know of any pregnant mums to be, help them out by sending them this post!