In an effort to share as much information as possible, this post is about my experiences around food during the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I kept this post in drafts for my first trimester, with the intention of sharing my experiences, so it’s written a little differently than my other posts. It’s little more dear diary and a little less all the science!
Weeks 1 – 4
I took a pregnancy test on New Years Eve, day 27 of my normally 31 day cycle. I hadn’t been taking tests, because I found it was driving me crazing waiting to test. So instead I would wait for my period to come, and if it didn’t, then I would test. However, NYE was an exception. I tested early so I would know if I could enjoy a few drinks with my dear friends as we rang in the new year. And thank goodness I did, because the line was faint, but it definitely was there! (I tested again a week later and there was no doubt!)
Since weekly measurements make no sense (they start on the first day of your last period, so by the time you conceive, you’re already 2 weeks), when I tested I was just about 4 weeks pregnant.
So since we were trying to conceive, the previous 3 weeks had been about continuing following my Pregnancy & Fertility Foods protocol, aiming to hit as many of the super foods as possible over the holiday season. Christmas Eve oysters at my parents house helped 🙂 although limiting my champagne intake was tricky. Thanks to the hubby for finishing my glass for me! I avoided alcohol most days, and limited it to just under a glass a few days during the holidays. I took extra precaution not to get glutened or dairyed, since those are 2 big triggers for me, and if I was pregnant, I didn’t want to add a massive inflammatory hit to a precarious and new situation!
Once I got that BFP (“big fat positive” for all those not in the online pregnancy world…oh the acronyms) I continued to follow my pregnancy & fertility protocol with renewed vigour! At this point I’ve yet to experience any nausea, aversions or appetite restrictions, so I’m taking the opportunity to get in all the liver, seafood and ferments possible! The only time I experienced nausea was a few days after NYE, the first normal day post holidays (a Monday), where I brewed myself a cup of decaf coffee and added some full-fat coconut milk (ie. pure fat – or a pseudo bulletproof coffee. It works great for me). This is my standard pre-workout snack. After about 15 minutes, I got whacked with some nausea. Luckily I had a sweet potato flat bread in the fridge I could grab with me on my way out the door to Crossfit. That seemed to suppress the nausea. I instantly changed up my routine, cause that sucked, lol. I made a batch of pumpkin spice muffins, and am having one, slathered in coconut oil, and a cup of tea before the gym now. Seems to be working!
The beginning of this week brought appetite suppression. Which is surprising, because I’m usually able to eat ALL THE FOOD! Especially, after a workout. But this week I just have no desire. Luckily I know how important nutrients are, especially so early in development of fetus and placenta, so I’m pushing through. I’m also starting to get some minor food aversions. Nothing huge, but the weirdest thing happened. My husband asked me if I wanted some leftover Pizza Spaghetti Pie for lunch (which I had readily consumed the previous 3 days cause it’s delicious!) and I instantly shuddered and said “uggghh no” followed by a “holy $h!t that was weird!” I’m finding that if I think about it too much, I’ll be turned off by the food. So instead, I just grab something and eat! It’s helpful having lots of leftovers in the fridge. Case in point – this morning for breakfast I had leftover rice (that had been cooked in bone broth, of course, and slathered in ghee) and some reheated bacon & apple braised cabbage.
By the end of this week I started getting pretty strong morning sickness. I would wake up okay, but within 10 minutes the nausea would hit. I would spend about an hour or so curled up, in and out of sweaty sleep on the couch. But then it would pass. The third morning this happened I tried having breakfast immediately after I got up. It made for almost painful nausea, so that didn’t work. Gonna have to try something else…
That night (after my 3rd morning of painful nausea) I went out for a friends 30th birthday. I was up way later than I’ve been in a while, which meant it had been about 7 hours since I ate by the time I got home and ready for bed. Needless to stay, the nausea was starting because I let myself get hungry. So, in a desperate attempt to feel better I had a bowl of rice (always cooked in bone broth) slathered in ghee, right before I went to bed. I was so worried of how I would feel the next morning because even when I’m not pregnant, if I don’t get enough sleep I get nauseated. Oh dear. Turns out it was the best decision ever because I felt almost normal in the morning! I tried it the next few nights and it worked again! It is such a relief to find a trick that works (for now). That trick being, fill my stomach with carbs before going to sleep, so there’s no time to digest, so I wake up in the morning with a full stomach still…lol. My biggest worry was going to CrossFit. I go in the mornings because that’s the only time that works for me, and with the level of nausea I was experiencing, there was no way I’d be able to get through a WOD. I thought about rejigging my schedule to the afternoons, but that’s when I’m so tired I feel like I could fall asleep standing up, so that wasn’t going to work either.
Speaking of Crossfit – I had a lengthy discussion with my amazing chiropractors, one of whom specializes in peri-natal, infant and child chiropractic, about how to modify my current routine. There were a few key things that they recommended:
- No More Inversions – dammit! I just got handstand push ups last week. Alas, I’ll have to wait til post-baby to really get good at this move. The reasoning was redirecting blood and lymphatic flow away from the uterus which is in the delicate stage of creating a brand new placenta.
- No Twisting – interestingly Crossfit doesn’t include a lot of work in the twisting plane, other than sort of twisting/countering a twist in rope climbs. This one wasn’t too hard. I just started working on strict pull ups instead of rope climbs.
- No Explosive Jumping – step ups instead of box jumps
- Don’t Get Out of Breath – if you’re panting, baby’s not getting oxygen. This one was the hardest for me to swallow. I’ve always been intense when it comes to athletics, so I push myself hard at Crossfit. However, once I made the connection of the whole lack of oxygen to the baby situation, I started taking breaks during the WODs. In many cases I would go heavier with stricter movements. This has been especially good especially since I’m not fuelling my body the way it loves for Crossfit – carbs post-workout, only fat prior. That dietary approach went out the window as soon as I hit 4.5 weeks and could not tolerate coffee with coconut milk!
- I told my Crossfit coaches I was pregnant very early (like 4 weeks early), so they would understand and help me scale appropriately. They’ve been awesome.
So my husband said something very perceptive this week. The hubs has been awesome at trying to feed me 🙂 and just yesterday he said “It’s really hard because I’m used to you having such strong opinions about exactly what and how we’re going to eat for dinner. And now you’re all wishy-washy. I don’t know what to put on your plate!” LOL. I guess I do have strong ideas about food, but he’s bang on. I have lost my foodie-ness. I used to LIVE to eat. Now I need to eat otherwise I’ll get nauseated. But I don’t want anything. I don’t have any food aversions (except to tequila – which I just smelled at the birthday party on the weekend and almost vomited everywhere, lol) and I don’t have any cravings. I just am blah about food. It’s so sad! One thing I have noticed is if I all I do is graze on anti-nausea food like plantain chips, rice crackers, banana (i.e. carbs) I feel really crappy really fast. I need real food. Specifically vegetables. Even if I don’t think I want a real meal, I always feel better after I eat it.
I’m also not digesting food properly and everything seems to be sitting and fermenting (thank you progesterone). Gross. So I’ve been supplementing with digestive enzymes and betaine HCl – which seems to be helping immensely.
This week I noticed that I’m really into cold food. LOL. SO weird. I don’t have any aversions per se (except coffee and alcohol), but I’m struggling with eggs in the morning. I’d rather have a smoothie. This is blowing my husband’s mind because it’s winter and I normally hate cold food in the winter but all I want are salads and smoothies. Luckily the pate is sitting well – and that’s consumed with cold apples.
Speaking of fruit, cold fruit is my favourite thing on earth right now. I’m not really a huge orange fan, but we were at my uncles’ this week and I was jonesing for something. Saw an orange and thought that might hit the spot. Literally the best orange I’ve ever had in my life, and probably will ever have again.
This week was different as I realized that every day can throw something new at me. Last Sunday I had no nausea in the morning which freaked me out. However by mid-afternoon I was so exhausted I was literally in pain and felt epically hungover. Last time I ever stress about not feeling crappy 😉
So now it depends on the day – some days I’m amazing, others I experience waves of nausea on and off throughout the day and others I’m so tired I nap twice. Not getting hungry is still absolutely key to keeping the nausea at bay though.
Lessons Learned So Far
- Rice before bed.
- Don’t allow myself get starving. 3-4 meals/snacks throughout the day at 4ish hr intervals. (none of this snacking every 2 hours business to “maintain my blood sugar”. While that might be necessary when I have a small stomach due to a large baby, maintaining blood sugar through quality protein and fat is working way better than crazing on carbage like all the books recommend.)
- High fat doesn’t work anymore.
- If I eat dinner close enough to bed time, I don’t need to add that extra bowl of rice.
- Have a banana as soon as I wake up. This seems to manage the nausea.
So I feel very fortunate that most of my symptoms have disappeared. However, I also feel like I put in a ton of work prior to conception (we’re talking 2 years friends) and I worked hard at hacking my diet once the nausea did appear.
One thing I’ve learned from places like BabyCentre.ca message boards, is many people are required to eat every 90 minutes to keep the nausea at bay. They often describe a history of getting “hangry” if they didn’t eat every few hours prior to pregnancy, and now it’s majorly exacerbated.
It seems to me that maintaining blood sugar levels is critical to managing nausea. However, the conventional approach to doing that is to eat “complex carbs every 2-3 hours to balance your blood sugars”. This does not teach your body how to naturally balance blood sugars. It artificially controls it through food. The body will use fat and carbs as fuel, if you give it a chance. So with all of the carbage we’re encouraged to eat in North America, it’s setting us all up for epic blood sugar dysregulation during pregnancy. I used to be like that – having to eat every 3 hours or I’d get shaky, panicky, headaches, nauseous and become a jerk. But as I switched to a real food diet, I unchained myself from the kitchen and can now go anywhere from 4-8 hours between meals (most days it’s about 5 or 6). It was very freeing not having to worry about where my next hit of carbage was coming from, but little did I know how much it would prepare me for pregnancy.
Current Nutrition Habits
- Don’t get super hungry. If I eat a good sized meal, 5 hours is really starting to push it. I don’t get nauseated if I eat every 4-5 hours.
- Lower fat. I seem to be having a harder time digesting fat, so a meal that includes lots of bacon or avocado actually brings the nausea on a bit.
- Higher carb. I cannot have a low carb meal. Now, I’ve never been a carb-conscious person – I crossfit, have a history of adrenal fatigue and run pretty high energy all day. So I love me some (quality) carbs. But occasionally we’d have a low carb meal if it was Taco night, or if I made cauli-rice or a cauli-crust pizza. That does not fly right now. Even if I eat 2 meals worth of calories of low-carb pizza, I’ll still need to eat some carbs.
- Go with the cravings. I am super enjoying cold food right now. So while I can’t do cooked eggs for breakfast, hard boiled are working great! (Also, smoothies > bacon, salads > roasted veg, and sushi > cooked fish… now the safety of that is the topic for another post…)
- Know your limits, know where you can bend a bit. I can’t tell you how many people were almost excited for me to cave on something like bread. But I know it won’t ever happen because of (a) the massive inflammatory response is horrible for my body, not to mention painful and (b) um, I’m definitely not putting my unborn child through an unnecessary bout of inflammation. But, I did find that my typical carbs (sweet potato, plantain) weren’t sitting well in the morning. So I found a simple gluten-free white bread that I would load up with spinach, a bit of avocado and 2-3 hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I was happy with this GF bread because it was practically homemade (from Cup of Tea Bakery) and it was made out of white rice/potato/tapioca starches which I tolerate very well (as opposed to so many GF breads which are trying to be healthy so they use things like quinoa and brown rice flour – kills my gut). So while I normally don’t recommend relying on GF products most days, I had it every morning for 6 weeks because it got eggs, avocado and spinach in me!
That was my experience during my first trimester. Not rainbows and butterflies, but very manageable. However, I do not believe my experience was due to luck or being fortunate. Sure that might have played a bit of a part, but I strongly believe becoming very nutrient sufficient over the 6-12 months prior to conception; healing my gut issues and continuing to focus on a strong, healthy gut; and having good blood sugar regulation was critical in my success!