Postpartum and Breastfeeding pregnancy

A Midwife’s Guide: How To Cope With Discomforts of Pregnancy

Hayley Oakes

A Midwife’s Guide: How To Cope With Discomforts of Pregnancy

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Tips for Addressing the Physical Side Effects
  • The Bottom Line

0 min read

Intro

Pregnancy is a wild paradox. It’s both the most common, every-day occurrence and the most incredibly profound process of transformation. At the moment of conception, you are physically and mentally altered and will remain so for at least 1-2  years (or whenever lactation has come to an end). You leave behind the body an identity you once knew and become someone different and grow someone new. With that, there can be expected and appropriate growing pains.  

Typically, the common side effects of early pregnancy (nausea, headaches,  insomnia, constipation, fatigue, etc.) begin around 6-9 weeks gestation. All these  new sensations and hormones can very much affect your mental state and wreak  havoc on your emotions, if not properly supported. If this is your first pregnancy,  everything is new and feels different. With that, there can be some anxiety and fear  that comes up, along with many Google searches to find out: ‘is this normal?’. With  subsequent pregnancies, while there is less shock of what to expect, there’s the  added stressor of caring for older children and yourself that can pose new challenges.  

During these early days and weeks, it’s customary in our culture to not share your pregnancy news until the baby is outside the window of high-risk for miscarriage.  You are generally advised to wait until after you receive your baby’s genetic test  results or at least until the 12-week mark. While of course there is some sense in this  standardized approach, this is a long time from the moment you pee on a pregnancy  test strip to the beginning of the second trimester. It can feel like you're on a lonely  island with these new sensations and changes in your body all whilst pretending  amongst your family, friends, and co-workers to still be you. This can bring on such a  mixed bag of emotions. You can feel incredibly high at times and/or generally low. 

Tips for Addressing the Physical Side Effects

Here are some things I recommend to address the physical side effects alone, which  in turn can positively impact your mental health: 

Eat every 1-2 hours

Your metabolism is at an all-time high in the early weeks, so it’s  required to nourish yourself and your rapidly growing baby. This can help curb  nausea and insomnia from low blood sugar (babies grow at night) as well as process  all the increased hormones much more readily. Ideally this food content would be  high fat and high protein as they are the strongest building blocks for the development of cells, tissues and bones but they will also help stabilize your blood  sugar longer.  

Drink at least 60-90 oz of fluid/day

It’s best to take small sips of liquid as too  much at one time can trigger more nausea. Water doesn’t always sound appetizing  when your stomach feels like you’re on a rocky boat, so mix it up with drinking tea,  bone broth, coconut water, juice etc. Regardless of what it is, make sure you are  getting enough in the day as dehydration can increase nausea, fatigue and  constipation.  

Take supplements to help with the nausea

This includes 25-100 mg of B6, 300  mg-2 g of Ginger Root, and 1000 mcg of Folate (in addition to what’s in your  prenatal vitamin). A side note about supplements in general – sometimes the act of  swallowing a large pill can trigger a gag reflex or consuming so many extra nutrients  at once can make one feel more nauseous. My suggestion is to take your prenatal  vitamins in the evening after a whole day’s worth of food in your system and/or  switch to a gummy prenatal for the time being.  

Go for small, daily walks

Engaging in 20-30 minutes of cardio will help process the  pregnancy hormones while flooding your body with endorphins, giving you that extra  boost in energy. While it’s the last thing you may want to do, it may be the very  antidote that’s needed. 

Nap regularly

The fatigue, especially in the first and third trimesters, is real. Trying  to get through the day by not resting your body is not only going to exacerbate any  physical symptoms, but also make for a more fragile nervous system and state of  mind. We live in a productivity culture which creates a complex around feeling  anxious, fearful, and sadness when we are not able to tackle everything on our to-do  list as a reflection of our worth and value. But let this be your reminder that making a  brand-new human inside your body is maybe the most productive thing you can do.  So even when you’re laying on the couch sleeping, you’re winning!  

Receive regular acupuncture

This modality can be incredibly helpful for increasing  blood flow and processing hormones, which in turn helps address a handful of said side effects all at once. Ideally you receive weekly treatment for the first trimester (and again in the last month of pregnancy to prime your body for giving birth).  Furthermore, besides the physical benefits, scheduling this time for yourself to rest  and hopefully quiet the mind is self-care and can go a long way for your mental  health. 

Breathe

Especially when overwhelmed or frustrated. This has a direct impact of  lowering your pulse, blood pressure and stress hormones which can decrease the  sensation of discomfort in your body. 

Be kind and gracious to yourself

This is new territory – even if this pregnancy is not  your first, it’s the first time you are carrying this baby, at this point in your life. You  don't have to love every moment as it's a big transition. You are metaphorically  saying goodbye to an identity and role you once had in order to make space for the  person you are becoming and will be. With this change, naturally there is some grief.  

The Bottom Line

Some suggestions to take care of your mental health are to journal, talk it out with  friends, family or a therapist who specialize in pregnancy and parenthood. Allow the  emotions to come through as it can help you reach the gratitude piece in this  experience. Lastly, remember that with this little person growing rapidly in your  body, so is your capability. We are made for this. You are made for this.

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Hayley Oakes , LM, CPM

Hayley Oakes is a licensed midwife based in Los Angeles offering integrative prenatal and postpartum care. She has attended births since 2010 as a doula, midwife assistant, apprentice and midwife, witnessing and supporting birth in all settings: home, birth center and hospital. Hayley is the host and creator of Milk Trails, a podcast dedicated to the out-of-hospital birthing experience.