My husband and I are currently expecting our first child, and the past few months have been crazy! While planning our family, I had all of these romantic visions of the perfect pregnancy, being in love with my pregnant body, and nine months of generally smooth sailing. Now, about half way through, we have been blessed with good health, amazing midwives, and excited friends and family, but that flawless, amazing pregnancy I had dreamt about? Well, let’s just say some days are better than others. If I sit for too long, my back hurts. If I stand for too long, my back hurts. For the first three months, I was exhausted and all I did was sleep, and now, I pray every night that I won’t wake up five hundred times. When I have to pee, I have to pee. There is no holding it. And don’t even get me started on the nipple pain. TMI? It has had me in tears!
I think it is fair to say that a lot of expectant mothers like me spend a lot of time on blogs like Mom Fuse, looking for advice, recourses, and stories of what to expect. While not everyone experiences the same side effects of pregnancy, so you may not have the issues I do, here are five items that I can not imagine living without. Hopefully someone out there who just learned she is pregnant will find this useful!
Yantra Mat (or Acupuncturist, or Masseuse)
Okay, so that is three things. But everyone is different, so choose the one that best suits your needs. The Yantra Mat is an amazing way to receive at home acupressure therapy. Simply roll out the mat and gently position yourself atop the spiky, plastic flowers. Try to distribute your weight as evenly as possible to avoid a shocking poke or two. I know this sounds uncomfortable, but just breathe on through it. The manufacturer recommends about ten to twenty minutes sessions, but if you read the online reviews, you will see that many people find themselves so relaxed that they fall asleep on their mats. The prickly, plastic flowers work similarly to acupuncture, drawing blood and warmth to the pressure points, greatly relieving back pain. The prices range from $49 to $69, which you would pay for every single spa or acupuncture visit anyway. This way, you are only paying one time, and you can continue to use the mat after your pregnancy! The manufacturer’s website doesn’t say anything about safety during pregnancy, so I contacted them. They said they hadn’t done any studies, so I talked it over with my midwife who gave me the A-okay. Be sure not to use anything like this without consulting your midwife, OBGYN, or doctor!
Over the course of the last few months, I have been in excruciating pain. I have sensitive breasts to begin with, but this has been almost unbearable. I tried everything from creams and lotions to pads, but nothing really worked. My midwife recommended nipple shields, and by golly, they’re the most amazing invention on the planet! A hard plastic dome, the shield covers your nipple and prevents your bra or clothing from rubbing against them and irritating them. They do look a little funny and require some creative dressing (find yourself a nice cardigan or two!), but they help so much. Like the Yantra Mat, you can use your nipple shields after the baby is born, too. They come with two different bases, a wide open lip for irritated nipples, and narrow lip to help draw out inverted nipples for mums who may struggle with that while feeding. The dome has holes on top to allow your nipples to breathe, and the bottom part will collect any milk that happens to leak out.
Cloth or Disposable Panty Liners/Pads
I have been pretty lucky in this department, because I haven’t had much discharge, but some of my girlfriends have really struggled with this. So I made sure to get myself a box of disposable panty liners to use interchangeably with my reusable cloth liners, just in case. Sometimes your mucus plug will start to loosen before you go into labor, and you will be glad you were wearing one of these if that happens! Plus, they are a great thing to keep around during those first six postpartum weeks, when most women will be bleeding. There are a trillion online tutorials for those crafty ladies who want to make their own pads, but if you’re not a great seamstress, I recommend Luna Pads. They offer everything from thin liners to heavy flow pads in washable, organic cotton. They’re also home of the ever popular Diva Cup for those more comfortable with something like that.
If you are anything like me, you probably won’t be working out very much during your first trimester. I was so tired that being awake for even four hours felt like an eternity. I was essentially a zombie, and my poor husband had to pick up all my slack. As soon as we got home from work, I would go straight to bed while he cooked dinner, did the dishes, fed the cats, vacuumed the area rugs, and scooped the litter box. When it came to housework, I was useless. Making a baby is hard work! But once the second trimester rolls around, you will begin to feel much better. I am still tired, but I am Superman comparatively. It is important to stay active during a healthy pregnancy, so talk to your doctor and see what he or she has to say. Not all routines or machines are safe for everybody. As long as you are having a problem-free pregnancy, the exercise bike is a really great option. If you get short of breath, slow it down, and if you start overheating, stop what you are doing! It is important not to let yourself get too hot. If you don’t have a bike in your home and you cannot afford a gym membership, go for walks! Heck, you can even go for hikes with your doctor’s okay. Just do something to keep moving! You will feel much better, have a lot more energy, and it is good for baby!
Sleeping has become really uncomfortable now that I can no longer lay on my stomach. I was already chubby before I got pregnant, and though I haven’t grown too much, I feel very different. A life long insomniac, on my stomach is really the only way I have ever been able to rest. It is recommended that pregnant women sleep on their left side to stimulate blood flow, but, wah! It is so hard! Invest in a body pillow before you reach that point and your life will be so much easier. Not only can you lean into, which feels a little bit more like laying on your stomach, but you can bend and twist it in all sorts of ways. Fold part of it underneath your back for extra support, or give your hips a break by sleeping with a part of it between your thighs or knees when you start getting bigger.
Obviously, there are many other things that you will need or want. Comfortable, cotton bras, maternity panties, a waist extender for your jeans, supportive shoes, maternity clothing for when you outgrow your regular clothes, and so on and so on. But these are the five things that have really worked to ease my discomfort.
Leave a comment and let us know what your saving graces were during your pregnancy!
Melissa Rae Cohen is a first time expectant mother, doula, and travel writer for Excellent Hotels from Portland, Maine.