I’m so excited to share the news that I’m pregnant!! I’m only halfway through but I’ve had quite a few questions about eating and exercise with a bub on board, so I thought I’d share my journey so far. I felt pretty good up until about the 7/8 week mark and then that dreaded morning/all day sickness struck. I learnt very quickly that I basically needed to snack all day long. I was very conscious that my poor work colleagues had to endure me eating almost every hour. By week 15, though, I started to feel more human and now, finally, I have my energy back! And, can I just ask, where is that pregnancy glow?!? My skin has been terrible – I react to almost every product and I can now only use coconut or bio oil!
But, to food! The list of things to avoid can be overwhelming, especially if you love food. I just tried to focus on eating lots of plant-based dishes with full fat dairy. I didn’t feel like eating much animal protein (for some reason, I’m completely off chicken!) but I did try to have red meat twice a week.
Eggs – the quality of the eggs is really important. I really wish I was back at my parent’s home in Walcha (Australia), eating the eggs from our chickens but, in lieu of that, I go for free-range and, most of the time, organic. Pregnant women need choline – it’s not only essential for brain development and general body processes but it’s low choline intake (during pregnancy) may increase the risk of neural tube defects and possibly lead to decreased brain function. A single whole egg contains roughly 113 mg of choline, which is about 25% of the recommended daily intake for pregnant women (450 mg).
Oranges – before I’d even found out I was pregnant, I was craving oranges and grapefruit and had at least 1-2 a day. Then, when I got the big fat positive and I started researching the types of food I should be eating, it turns out that citrus is one of the foods that a lot of women crave. Pregnant women need more protein and eating foods that are rich in vitamin C (like my oranges) aids the absorption of iron from meals.
Bone broth – between pit stops at the Hemsley café at Selfriges and deliveries of the most delicious broth from London’s Borough Broth Company, I made lots of soups using bone broth. I had morning (well, all-day) sickness from about weeks 8 – 15 and soup did the trick.
Turmeric latte – I love my coffee but I cut back to one a day to keep caffeine levels in check. Yet I missed my afternoon warm drink – so that’s when I subbed in the golden mylk. See my recipe here.
Full cream dairy – I’ve always been advocate of full cream dairy products but since being pregnant, I’ve upped the amount of yoghurt. Greek yoghurt contains more calcium than any other dairy product. Buy a brand that also contains a probiotic bacteria, which supports digestive health. Taking probiotics during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections and allergies. Folate is one of the B-vitamins (B9). It is very important for the health of the mother and fetus, especially during the first trimester
Peppermint tea – I’m a big water drinker but for some reason, I really struggled to keep hydrated in the first trimester because I felt so sick. Instead, I sipped a lot of organic peppermint and licorice tea (the brand is Pukka) which helped my nausea too.
Banana and egg pancakes – on days when I couldn’t stomach meat or fish, this would be my go to. Mash a banana, whisk in 2 eggs and add a spoonful of chia seeds. Pan fry in butter and oil and sprinkle with salt, to serve.
I cut back on tinned tuna – Before getting pregnant, a simple kale, avocado and tuna salad was my go-to lunch but, especially when I was not feeling 100%, salads were the last thing on my mind. Also, it’s important to not have too much tuna as it contains high levels of mercury, which can affect your baby’s developing nervous system. They also say to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin.
Red meat – Pregnant women need more iron, since their blood volume is increasing. (This is particularly important during the third trimester). Low levels of iron during early and mid-pregnancy may cause iron deficiency anemia, which doubles the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight.
Can we talk about baby brain?
This is actually real. I assumed that baby brain happened later in your pregnancy but I found it quite distressing, especially when I started spelling simple words incorrectly. I started a freelance contract role when I was about 6 weeks pregnant and I was so anxious that I would make inane mistakes so basic work took me three times as long. I found this a particularly difficult aspect of pregnancy and one which isn’t talked seriously about. Baby brain is more a joke between partners but on a professional level, it’s plain mortifying. How do you cope with it?
What about exercise?
Before I was pregnant, I used to run 5-6 days a week. I also did a pump class once a week and yoga (either at the studio or online). As soon as I became pregnant, running didn’t feel quite right. I worried about doing ANYTHING to hurt the baby. After reading heaps and triple checking with every doctor I’d ever met, I was reassured it was absolutely fine (if not beneficial) to keep running, so I basically just ran when I felt up to it (and, believe me, some days running was the LAST thing I wanted to do, so I didn’t’!). I also did lots of walking and I also kept up the yoga, which did feel strange at the start. If I ever felt dizzy, I’d stop the class and I always double checked if the teacher actually knew what was recommended for pregnancy. Tara Stiles has some great online pre-natal classes, too. As I’m getting bigger and there’s more pressure on my back, yoga is a god send.
Tips to curb nausea
- Sipping hydralite and orange/lemon infused water
- Cold watermelon, I think I ate ½ a watermelon a day in my first trimester.
- Crunchy roasted chickpeas
- Brown rice crackers dipped in vegemite
- Carrot sticks dipped in vegemite
- But, sometimes none of the ‘healthy’ options above hit the spot so, let’s be real for a second, anything salty and crunchy! (cue dorritos, salt and vinegar chips).
Your hormones do crazy things
The thing that nobody tells you about is that the first trimester can feel lonely at times, especially if you have morning sickness. It is the strangest feeling to sit with work friends at lunch and not be able to slip in, ‘guess what?’. I fluctuated from feeling completely lost and exhausted (did I actually send that email?) to walking around in an elated state so excited about the baby-to-be. It’s also really hard not to compare yourself to other mothers. I found it interesting that everyone liked to point out how much I’d popped – and early on. While others thought I was tiny – and, of course, none of this is particularly helpful. Every woman’s body is different and no woman’s experience is the same.
Give yourself a break
I’m generally an over-the-top motivated person but when I became pregnant, I found that it was the first time that I really gave myself permission to live in the moment. To really take care of myself. I’d skip exercise if I was too tired, I’d eat half a jar of crunchy peanut butter (one of my cravings) for dinner and I’d bunker down for a Netflix session instead of going out on the weekend. I’d love to hear about your pregnancy journey – what foods you craved and any tips/advice?
A quick disclaimer: I’m not an expert, this is just my experience. Every country has different food guidelines and advice and, of course, contact your midwife obstetrician for any questions relating to your own pregnancy.