All Natural Pregnancy Must Haves - My Secrets to Enjoying a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy
What a beautiful, delicate, fascinating, empowering, crazy season it is.
It can also be a frustrating, awkward, uncomfortable, and even painful time for a lot of women.
To be honest, before getting pregnant, I assumed that would be my experience. Everyone likes to share about all their aches and pains and morning sickness, so that is what I thought I was getting myself into. I expected to throw up every day for the first 12 weeks (at least). I expected to get very little sleep due to discomfort and insomnia. I expected to be generally uncomfortable, and even slightly miserable, for nine months and beyond. However, I am currently 37 weeks pregnant and I can honestly say that has not been my experience AT ALL. In fact, my body actually seems to love being pregnant!
Now, before I get too ahead of myself, I want to clarify a few things. Firstly, this pregnancy has not been without its challenges. While I hardly experienced any nausea at all, I was fearful and anxious much of the first trimester due to losing our first baby. And even though I haven’t suffered from pregnancy insomnia or restless leg syndrome, I have experienced a few bouts of back pain. Growing a baby is hard work! There certainly are steps you can take to enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy (which we will get to, promise!), but it is completely unrealistic to expect a perfect pregnancy.
Second, every woman, and every baby, is unique. Comparison has no place in the season of pregnancy, even though it slips in so easily. My hope is that by sharing what I’ve learned with you, you will be able to find things that fit well in your life and will enable you to enjoy your own pregnancy.
(Before we jump into all the goodies, a quick disclaimer. I’m not a doctor. All these things have been approved by my midwife, so do your own research and talk to your doctor/midwife to make sure they’re a good fit for you.)
Ok, let’s get started!
1. Belly Oil
First, let’s talk about skin. It’s no secret that pregnancy creates some major changes in us from head to toe, especially as everything grows bigger and heavier in the later months. My skin is sensitive and prone to stretch marks, so I knew that I wanted to begin protecting and moisturizing it early on. One of my all-time favorite products of this entire pregnancy has been this belly oil. I also used a lotion massage bar from Lush until about 25 weeks, but when my belly started to really grow, I found that oiling that baby up at least twice a day was the way to go. The oil comes unscented, but I added about 20 drops of lavender essential oil to the bottle and that has been HEAVENLY.
2. Lush Bath Bomb
There have been a few times in my second and third trimesters where my skin has felt more itchy and dry than usual. When that happens, a nice soak in the tub with one of these bath bombs made all the difference. If I don’t have a bath bomb on hand, I’ve added a teaspoon of coconut oil, a few drops of lavender essential oil, and about a cup of oats and epsom salts to the bathwater instead. It has the same soothing effect, though it does make for a bit more cleanup.
3. Massage & Chiropractic Adjustments
I can’t say enough good things about visiting the chiropractor on a regular basis, even when you’re not pregnant. However, when you are pregnant, getting regular adjustments (and massages too if your chiropractor has a massage therapist on staff) will keep your body feeling relaxed, balanced, and relatively, if not completely, pain free. As your pregnancy progresses, chiropractic adjustments will also help keep your pelvis aligned and baby in a good position for a smooth delivery. Who doesn’t want that?!
4. Massage Rollers/Tennis Balls
Let’s be real -- even if you are making it to the chiropractor on a regular basis, that growing belly can still cause some serious back aches. If you have a stubborn knot or kink, now is the time to invest in a massage roller (I love this one!), or, at the very least, a few tennis balls to help relieve the pain. As a bonus, these things can also be used during labor as you work through contractions.
5. Body Pillow
I know those giant pregnancy pillows are all the rage, but I found a simple body pillow to be the perfect (and more affordable) alternative. I sleep with it between my knees, supporting my belly, and underneath my arm. This keeps my hips and shoulders more open and relaxed as I sleep, which is very important if you want to avoid back pain. If I roll over to my other side while I’m sleeping, the body pillow also keeps me from laying flat on my back so blood flow to me and the baby is not restricted and I’m able to sleep uninterrupted (except for one or two trips to the bathroom, of course).
6. Lavender Essential Oil
I know I’ve mentioned lavender oil several times already, but this stuff really is a natural pregnancy must-have! If you’re having trouble sleeping, or even just winding down before bed, putting a drop or two on the soles of your feet or diffusing it in your bedroom will help immensely.
7. Sleep when you need it!
One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard as a pregnant mama is “rest when you need to”. To be completely honest, I didn’t take that to heart at the beginning, even when I could hardly keep my eyes open during the first trimester. Looking back, I wish someone had just snatched away whatever I was doing that I thought was more important, and tucked me into bed. Sleep is so, SO important, especially during pregnancy. If you’re tired, that is your body’s (and your baby’s!) way of telling you to rest. Listen to them! Never underestimate the magical, refreshing powers of a good old fashioned nap, or even just twenty minutes of putting your feet up. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
SUPPLEMENTS & DIET
8. Remedies for Morning Sickness
While I was fortunate enough to only feel queasy for about a week in my first trimester, I know many mamas get hit hard with morning sickness for much longer than that. Because I don’t have much experience in this department, I’ll only share a few quick things that helped me make it through.
First, make sure you’re eating every two hours or so. I found that any time I got remotely hungry I started to feel really nauseous, which made me avoid eating, which, in turn, caused me to feel even worse. If you can eat a few crackers or take a bite or two of something (whatever you can stomach!) every few hours before you start feeling yucky, you just might avoid an unfortunate trip to the bathroom!
Second, ginger and peppermint essential oils were also very helpful when I was feeling sick to my stomach. Just put a little coconut oil in the palm of your hand, add a drop of each essential oil, and rub onto your stomach. You can also hold the bottle under your nose and sniff the scent like a dog several times (I know that sounds really weird, but that’s how you can use the oils to reset your brain in a way that will help suppress the nausea).
9. Remedies for Heartburn
I didn’t start experiencing much heartburn until later in pregnancy, but boy, does it get uncomfortable! Aside from eating smaller meals and staying upright for a while after eating, I’ve found that sipping on ginger tea is very soothing and helps promote digestion. (This is my favorite ginger tea.) You can also try peppermint tea, though I didn’t seem to have as good of luck with that.
Taking a few papaya enzymes can also encourage digestion and relieve heartburn, especially before bed!
10. What to Eat
I don’t know about you, but pregnancy makes me HUNGRY. Normally, I don’t have a very large appetite. I eat when I’m hungry, and I eat a well-balanced diet, but it doesn’t usually take much to satisfy my body. However, being pregnant changed that completely. With the exception of the one week I experienced mild morning sickness, I have practically been eating us out of house and home for nine months. This was such a surprise to me in the beginning that I didn’t plan well and ended up eating things like chips, crackers, chocolate, etc. that didn’t provide much nourishment and left me feeling gross or hungry again very quickly. Once I started keeping healthy, easy to grab and scarf down snacks on hand, all was right with the world again. (Being pregnant AND hangry is a very bad combination, my friends. Just ask my poor husband.) My favorite go-tos are a banana with almond butter, homemade protein bites (check Pinterest for some great recipes), and whole fat greek yogurt with fruit or homemade jam. Getting enough protein is very important while you’re pregnant, so make sure you are reaching for snack options that will provide that much-needed nourishment for you and baby instead of just empty calories. I promise you will feel so much better if you do!
11. My Essential Supplements
If you’re looking for a good time to invest in high-quality supplements, pregnancy is that time. Not only is it important to take good care of your own body, keep in mind that you are growing a little human being inside you too! Be mindful of what you put into your body, friend. That baby will thank you!
At the very least, you should be eating a well balanced diet and taking a good prenatal vitamin. My favorite prenatal is the MegaFood Baby & Me 2. I started taking it even before we got pregnant, and I believe it is one of the things that has kept me feeling so well throughout each trimester.
Probiotics have also been an essential for me, even before pregnancy. By taking a high quality probiotic supplement (15 - 100 billion CFU count) and incorporating fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha into your diet, you are supporting your gut, and, therefore, your entire body and you baby’s growing body. Having a healthy gut means better nutrient absorbtion, improved digestive health and immunity, decreased inflammation, glowing skin, and even decreased the likelihood of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and Group B Strep. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that your baby will inherit your microbiome as he passes through the birth canal on his way into the world. Whatever bacteria he picks up, good or bad, actually has the power to determine the quality of his health for the rest of his life. If mama has been making her own health a priority, baby will also enjoy those benefits. How amazing is that?!
Magnesium is another supplement I take daily, right before bed. It helps promote relaxation and sleep, as well as prevents muscle cramps, which can be more common during pregnancy. You should also be aware that magnesium is a laxative! This can be a great tool to have in your medicine cabinet if constipation hits during your pregnancy (and it probably will at some point), but I also say that as a word of caution. If you’ve never taken magnesium before, start off slow and gradually increase the dose until you find what works best for you.
Speaking of constipation, let’s talk about hemorrhoids real quick. (Yes, we’re going there. That’s is how much I care about you, friend.) If you’ve never experienced hemorrhoids, bless your heart. But if you have, you know what a literal pain in the you-know-what they are. Without going into too much detail, I was lucky enough to experience a bout with the dreaded hemorrhoids towards the end of my first trimester. It was not fun at all. When I talked with my midwife, she suggested that I start taking horse chestnut. This herb supports vein health, which means protection against hemorrhoids -- YAY! I’m happy to report that there have been no more hemorrhoids since that unfortunate incident, and I will be continuing to take horse chestnut until after I give birth for added protection. (Fun Fact: Hemorrhoids are closely related to varicose veins. If either run in your family, this supplement just might be for you!)
We women know that iron is very important for our bodies to function properly. This is especially true during pregnancy when we are creating a brand new organ (the placenta), growing a human being, and our blood volume nearly doubles! If your blood tests show that your iron levels are low, a simple spoonful of blackstrap molasses (by itself or dissolved into warm water or tea) once or twice a day can help. If you don’t care for the taste of it by itself, try it drizzled over gluten-free pancakes, or paired with a banana and almond butter.
One more thing I’d like to mention for this category is the importance of getting your vitamin and hormone levels checked on a regular basis (at least once a trimester) throughout your pregnancy. Just because you’re pregnant does not mean you have to feel exhausted, out of sorts, or just plain crazy. Sure, a few mood swings and extra naps may occasionally happen, and that is completely normal! However, if you find yourself feeling unusually tired, depressed, anxious, unmotivated, grumpy, etc., don’t be afraid to ask your care provider to have your levels checked. You know your body better than anyone. If something feels “off”, the solution may be as simple as taking a little extra vitamin D every morning, or adding a small dose of progesterone to your nightly routine. If you ask me, that’s a very small price to pay to feel like yourself again!
If no one has told you yet, and if you’re not already dying of thirst (or is that just me?), DRINK MORE WATER. Again, this is an important habit to cultivate outside of pregnancy, but it’s all the more important during this special time. It’s best to drink at least half your weight in ounces every day, but if you’re extra thirsty it won’t hurt to drink more than that. Keep your favorite water bottle full and by your side throughout the day to help encourage you to drink enough. (Remember to taper off in the evening though, unless you want to make extra trips to the bathroom during the night!)
While I have certainly been drinking my fair share of water, sometimes I like to switch it up. I’ve really enjoyed carbonated drinks like sparkling water and kombucha for a refreshing treat, as well as fresh goat milk from my own goats.
A quick sidenote: Unpasteurized dairy products are not usually recommended for pregnant women. I chose to drink raw goat milk because I milk my own goats, I keep everything sanitized, and I believe the benefits of drinking raw goat milk far outweigh the risks. This isn’t usually an option for most people, but if it is for you and you are curious, I would recommend doing your research and talking with your care provider so that you can make an informed decision.
Something else I’ve been drinking, more for the benefits instead of the taste, is Red Raspberry Leaf tea (I like this loose leaf tea). This tea is great to start in the third trimester because it helps tone the uterus and prepare your body for labor. Again, it’s a good idea to speak to your care provider about this one, especially if you are high risk, so you can determine when and if it is a good option for you and your baby.
13. Stay Active!
Even though you may feel like it, pregnancy is NOT the time to lay on the couch all day! As long as everything is good with you and baby, keep moving. It doesn’t need to be anything too crazy or strenuous, so don’t put any pressure on yourself to hit the gym 5 days a week. My favorite ways to stay strong during my pregnancy have been going for walks, squats, and stretching. These things promote healthy circulation, digestion, better sleep, ideal positioning for baby, and improved flexibility, especially in that lower body/hip area, which is crucial for a smooth labor and delivery. I will say that things will slow down as you near the end of your pregnancy (I waddle a little more than I walk these days!), but that doesn’t have to stop you from staying active. Neither does morning sickness, fatigue, or whatever else you may be dealing with today. Be gentle on your body and take a little extra time to rest when you need it, but keep going, my friend. The more consistently you stay moving, the better you will feel and the stronger you will be.
14. Yoga Ball
I can’t say enough good things about my yoga ball. Starting at about 25 weeks, I’ve been sitting on it for at least twenty minutes a day. Not only does it help stabilize and strengthen my core and back muscles, it also helps relieve any pelvic discomfort I’m experiencing, and encourages baby to stay in an ideal position for birth. You don’t need a fancy prenatal/labor this or that. Those cost extra money anyway! The fit is what’s important. When you sit on the ball (fully inflated with your feet flat on the floor), you want your hips to be slightly higher than your knees to keep your pelvis in the correct position. You do not want your knees higher than your hips, or your hips significantly higher than your knees. Most people find that a 65 cm ball is right for them, but if you’re a little on the taller/shorter side, do a little research to find out what size ball would be the best fit for you. (I am 5’3” and a 55 cm ball fits me perfectly!)
Bonus Tip: You or your husband can also use the yoga ball after birth to soothe a cranky baby. Just sit and bounce!
15. Educate Yourself
Friend, I cannot possibly stress the importance of this last little tip. If you are nervous, confused, or unsure about ANY aspect of pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, parenting, or even just babies in general, EDUCATE YOURSELF. Read books. Take classes. Talk to a trusted friend or relative. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your research, and stick to your guns once you’ve made a decision. There’s a lot of wonderful information out there if you take the time to seek it out. There’s also a lot of bad information mixed with not-so-humble opinions. Just take what works for you and your family and forget about the rest! Remember, this is your body, your baby, and your family. If something doesn’t feel right for you, it’s always worth the time and effort spent on digging a little deeper to find a better solution that fits your family.
Here are some of my favorite books and other resources:
Mama Natural’s Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland
The Bump app
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League
Sweet Sleep by La Leche League
Babywise by Robert Bucknam MD
The Baby Book by William Sears MD, Martha Sears RN, Robert Sears MD, & James Sears MD
The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears MD
If you’re in the Treasure Valley Idaho area, I cannot recommend this birth class enough!
There you have it! A very long, and quite extensive, list of tips, secrets, and resources that have allowed me to thoroughly enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy. I hope it was helpful for you, friend!
As always, if you have any questions, comment below. And if there’s something you’d add to this list or a resource you would like to share, I’d love to hear about it!
Happy baby growing!