What I Learned During Pregnancy

My journey to motherhood has not been straightforward nor expected. Years of unexplained infertility, a simultaneous path down adoption, and then in 2021, after four years of no success with conception and adoption, I was pregnant. I also felt like I was entering a stage of my life that was uncharted territory and consequently filled my mind with anxiety. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. However, after years of struggling with chronic inflammation and illnesses, I remembered how much I have learned about my body and listening to its cues. My body has always told me what it needs, when something is wrong, and when I’m thriving. Continuing to be mindful of my body’s cues (and now my baby’s cues!) has been the greatest thing I could have done for myself.

This, of course, did not always give me the answers every step of the way. Each trimester came with its own host of challenges and issues, as well as bright spots and successes. I’m writing this at 36 weeks pregnant (feeling pretty miserable), but figure it’s a good time to reflect and share! So, I want to share as much as I can with any mamas out there who are embarking on their own journeys to motherhood via conception. This is definitely a brain dump, and may not be the most organized, but these are the things that stand out to me the most. I am going to organize it by trimester, and will share tips and tricks that helped me, both mind and body.*

*Please note that most of the brand recommendations in this post are NOT sponsored. I have some affiliate links for a couple of food products which I will link to, but overall, these are just brands that I use, love and trust, and want to share them with you. I am also only an affiliate for companies that I truly love and use all the time!

First Trimester: Fatigue, Nausea & Anxiety

How I felt: I felt terrible my first trimester. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my body felt like it had no energy. It was depleted. The nausea came on quickly, too. Luckily, I never actually threw up, but I felt nauseous most of the day, and it was the worst at night. The fatigue was real. I would take 3-4 naps a day in between meetings and after work. I also experienced intense anxiety given it was first trimester, and our little miracle was not yet at a point in development where we felt confident to share this news widely with family and friends (aside from our parents and siblings). I had to remind myself that I was growing a human. And mamas, that takes a LOT of work! Our bodies are incredible. Finally, I was already showing at week 8. I naturally hold weight in my mid-section, and was already the heaviest I’ve been in years due to successful treatment of SIBO the year before (allowed me to finally retain the food I was eating, hooray!). I’m assuming because of the added weight pre-pregnancy, plus tendency to hold weight in my mid section, it may have contributed to me showing so soon. I received so many comments on how “big” I was already, and it was really hard to hear it at times. More on this later when I talk about mental health, but just be kind to yourself. Everyone shows at different points and that’s completely fine. You’re on your own unique journey, don’t ever forget that. Here are some things that helped me throughout this trimester:

Exercise: I took gentle walks as much as I could during first trimester, and did some yoga stretching. I completely stopped intense cardio. My body seriously rejected it. I listened to my body and did what I could handle. Gentle movement made me feel good and allowed me to get some fresh air and sunshine from walking. Listen to your body and do what you can! Do not push yourself. Any movement is a plus.

Food: Omelettes/scrambles. Smoothies. Citrus. And… that’s about all I could stomach. I had aversions to everything. My once neatly followed Paleo diet was not possible. Seriously. I tried. But my body rejected the idea of protein/meat. Luckily, this did not include eggs. My nausea got worse as the day progressed, so I ate my largest meal every morning. I would have a pasture-raised egg omelettes or scrambles (2-3 eggs including yolks for maximum nutrition) with lots of veggies packed in, especially leafy greens. I would cook it in lots of ghee for healthy fats (so important throughout pregnancy for baby’s development, especially brain development). Cannot stress the importance of healthy fats enough during pregnancy. Do not be scared of it! I also tried to incorporate grass-fed butter, and high quality oils for all other cooking (e.g., EVOO, avocado oil, etc.). Finally, I drank goat’s milk kefir on its own or incorporated it into simple smoothies to provide me with naturally occurring probiotics and healthy gut bacteria given my history of gut imbalances and SIBO. My smoothies included full fat kefir or full fat yogurt, berries, spinach, ginger, honey and vital proteins collagen for gut health. Finally, I would eat 2-3 clementines or oranges a day, simply because I craved it so much. Perhaps it was just hydrating, and your body needs a LOT of water during pregnancy. Plus it’s filled with vitamin C, folic acid and other nutrients that are so helpful for baby development.

Supplements: Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (my fish oil of choice for baby’s brain development, bone structure, and more), 4000 IUs of Vitamin D3+K2 (daily maintenance dose for baby’s development), and Thorne prenatal vitamins (followed recommended dosage for all vitamins and nutrients you need like folic acid). Please do your own research and talk to your provider, as I am not a medical professional. This is what my functional nutritionist recommended for me. I know there is a lot of controversy on cod liver oil, but I believe in it. DHA is SO important for baby’s brain development. Extra virgin, raw cod liver oil is particularly high in omega-3’s and fatty acids (i.e., EPA and DHA). Most cod liver oils on the market use heat to remove contaminants and naturally occurring vitamins and synthetically add them back in, such as Vitamin A. High doses of Vitamin A have been linked to birth defects and this is exactly why most doctors will tell you to avoid cod liver oil. However, if you pick a high quality one like Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil* (this is NOT sponsored), it is very safe and very effective in my opinion. Again, please consult with your provider!

*Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil is real Norwegian cod liver oil that is fresh, raw & handcrafted from wild livers using a very rare ancient extraction technique which uses nature to separate the oil from its liver. No chemicals, solvents and mechanical devices are ever used during the extraction process. The oil is completely unrefined and produced under the total absence of heat, a process that protects its nutritional value.

Mental health: Meditation. This is something I did A LOT of to ease my anxiety. Because I’ve been meditating for awhile, I would just be mindful in moments of anxiety and stress and just breathe deeply and often had an image of a family Guru in my mind who also brings me a lot of peace. Feel free to download several free apps to help you (Calm is one that I love and used for a long time when I first was training myself how to meditate, and if you are a Peloton member, you can access tons of meditation classes. Aditi Shah is my favorite instructor). Finally, I really struggled with mental health as it related to my body and body image. I borrowed friends clothes that they wore in 2nd and 3rd trimesters and fit into them comfortably super early on in my pregnancy (starting at week 8). It made me feel so insecure, but daily meditation and gratitude journaling helped. Everyday, I would write down that I am thankful for my body and the work that she is doing to carry this beautiful miracle. It really helped shift my mindset.

Pre-natal appointments: The first prenatal appointment to confirm your pregnancy will usually be at 6-8 weeks from my personal experience. They do a vaginal ultrasound, so be prepared for that. It is just a little discomfort, nothing too bad. You will get to take home pictures of your ultrasound which is so exciting. They also listen to the baby’s heartbeat which was so precious. This gave me so much relief mentally to know that the pregnancy was real. It was a very exciting moment. Unfortunately, because of COVID, we had to FaceTime my husband in, but hopefully you can share this special moment with a partner or loved one! After that initial appointment, I had my 12-13 week appointment which is right at the end of your first trimester. Usually they just listen to the heartbeat (no ultrasound) but they happened to do an ultrasound for me because of a potential pregnancy complication. All was well though, thank God! Finally, I loved using the Ovia app to track my week to week progress and baby development. I loved sharing these updates with my family, too!

Second Trimester: Cravings & Rapid Weight Gain

How I felt: I felt SO MUCH BETTER my second trimester. It really kicked in around week 11. I went from being fatigued and nauseous to not having any nausea. To be honest, when the nausea went away, it was a little jarring and I was nervous something was wrong! But, all was well and it is common for nausea to disappear at the end of your first or beginning of your second trimes. Here are some things that helped me throughout the second trimester:

Exercise: I slowly (and I mean slowly) started reintroducing cardio at week 12. My first cardio workout was a 15 minute pre-natal ride on my Peloton bike (check Robin’s prenatal classes they’re amazing)! That small workout felt like I was biking up Mt. Everest. But I did what I could. I worked out every other day and by week 14 I felt myself getting into a rhythm. Towards the end of second trimester, I also incorporated Robin’s pelvic floor exercises, kegels, and strength training. It was nowhere near what I was capable of pre-pregnancy, but that is expected. Remember, you’re still growing a human!

Food: This was the most gluttonous trimester for me. After weeks of a nausea and food aversions, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING. Especially carbs and sugar. Really dangerous combination to crave during pregnancy because it’s really so hard to combat cravings. They’re like body over mind 100%. Needless to say, I gained 90% of my weight during this trimester. I tried to stick to complex carbs that I could digest like sweet potatoes, plantains, yams, even potatoes. But, I inevitably found myself reaching for simple carbs like white rice. And a lot of it. Between my successful treatment of SIBO the year before plus hormonal shifts during pregnnacy, my digestive system is the best its been in years. I found myself eating so many foods that convert to sugar and carbohydrates that I couldn’t have dreamed of eating previously (e.g., rice, gluten free bread which is usually rice based). I wish I had paced myself, and looking back, there are things I would’ve done differently. For example, I would’ve tried to do the 80-20 rule: try to follow a paleo diet during the weekdays and weekends allow myself to indulge my cravings. Easier said than done of course.

The reason I am saying this is because I know my body, personally, thrives on a paleo diet. Everyone’s bodies are different, so do what works for you. Just try to add in lots of vegges, protein and healthy fats in between the carbs for balance. I leaned heavily on eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, shrimp for protein and luckily could stomach all of it. The days where I was not feeling animal protein, I ate sprouted lentils and beans (easier to digest). For fats, I continued to load up on grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil and grass-fed butter for cooking oils, as well as avocados, nuts, full fat dairy, etc. I course corrected during third trimester and will share more of what I ate and how I found balance.

Supplements: Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (my fish oil of choice for baby’s brain development, bone structure, and more), 4000 IUs of Vitamin D3+K2 (daily maintenance dose for baby’s development), and Thorne prenatal vitamins (followed recommended dosage for all vitamins and nutrients you need like folic acid). See first trimester section for more on these supplements.

Mental health: Continued with meditation. I felt the best mentally during this trimester, although still struggled with insecurity regarding my weight gain. See first trimester section for more on which apps and instructors I followed.

Pre-natal appointments: This trimester was the most stressful for appointments. First, though, there is the 16 week standard check up (heartbeat, etc., nothing crazy) and then the big 20 week anatomy scan which was AMAZING. This is a HUGE milestone and probably the most exciting appointment. It is a long ultrasound which my husband was also able to attend. They spend an hour just looking at every single part of the baby’s body, and talking you through what they’re seeing. The Technician we had was amazing and explained everything she was doing and seeing. If you have a technician who is not as vocal, please ask questions! It is better to ask and understand what they’re seeing than not. Anyway, we left that appointment feeling SO happy and really feeling like this baby was healthy and on track. We finally shared the news broadly after this appointment.

The tough part after your 20 week appointment is your 24-28 week appointment where they test for gestational diabetes. I failed the test and was so stressed about it. If you fail your test, they make you come in for a 3 hour screening. I had to do the screening and made sure I didn’t eat 12 hours before the test. Luckily, I passed. Advice from this experience is to not stress. It is very common for people to fail the initial screening and standard to be required to come in for the 3 hour screen to confirm if you have it or not. If you happen to be positive for it, please just work with your provider and reevaluate what you’re eating. From others, I’ve heard that tackling your diet and nutrition does wonders to help with gestational diabetes (aside from whatever other treatment your provider recommends). I would recommend trying to go mostly refined sugar free, low carb if your body can handle it (e.g., paleo). Increase your protein and veggies and healthy fats to keep you full. Needless to say, it was still very stressful going through it the first time around and not knowing what to expect!

Once I got past that, I thought I was good to go, but I ended up having a very stressful 28 week appointment. During that appointment my OB measured my abdomen to see how big the baby is, and as usual, recorded my weight. At that point, I had gained 40 pounds to date and most of it was in the second trimester alone. My OB definitely made me very aware of that fact and was concerned about the size of the baby based on my abdomen measurement. She did not have the best bedside manner, but I appreciated her transparency. I knew that I wasn’t eating right (for my body and what it is used to/thrives on), so I knew what I had to do. She made me come in for an emergency ultrasound to make sure the baby wasn’t too big, and luckily baby Rao was completely average. So, most of the weight gain was just me. Sharing this with you all to remind you that no matter how much weight you gain, everyone’s journey is different. Just work with you provider to make sure you’re healthy, and if you need to course correct, you definitely can. I wish I had been more balanced in my eating second trimester; however, it is easier said than done amidst intense cravings! I will share more on how I got everything under control during third trimester.

Third Trimester: Balance & Rest

How I felt: I felt great for the first couple weeks of third trimester, and then it hit me like a train. Intense fatigue came back, I started cramping quickly with cardio workouts (a sign to stop!), and the baby was growing rapidly. So many changes quickly, along with the anxiety of impending labor and delivery. Finally, at around 35 weeks, I all of a sudden experienced intense pelvic pressure (reason TBD) but assuming the baby has dropped. It has impacted my ability to walk and is really taking a toll on my physical health. I’ve heard this type of physical fatigue and challenge is common in the last 2-3 weeks so don’t be surprised in the way that I was. I am using a belly band, taking Tylenol as needed, and during gentle stretches. Here are some things that helped me throughout the last trimester:

Exercise: I dialed back on exercise really quickly during this trimester! I didn’t have a choice and tuned into what my body was telling me. After a final peloton ride in week 30 which caused some cramping during it, I had really light spotting which indicated my cervix was irritated. I stopped biking immediately. I went back to gentle walks, yoga stretching, and kept up with pelvic floor exercises as much as I could. By week 35, I had to stop pelvic floor exercises, too, and was left with walks and gentle stretches for my pelvic pressure issues. Listen to your body, and support it as much as you can! Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. The last few weeks of this trimester are TOUGH.

Food: This was trimester where I course corrected quickly. My plate was classic paleo: half veggies, a quarter protein, a palm of healthy fats. My example meals below follow exactly that. As I had energy, I started meal prepping more which helped a lot. I leaned heavily on eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, shrimp for protein and luckily could stomach all of it. The days where I was not feeling animal protein, I ate sprouted lentils and beans (easier to digest). For fats, I continued to load up on grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil and grass-fed butter for cooking oils, as well as avocados, nuts, full fat dairy, etc. By simply going back to the diet that my body does best with, I gained less than 2 pounds in one month! My doctor was shocked, but I know my body and what it needs. Listen to your body and figure out what it does best with and follow that. And allow yourself to indulge in cravings a couple times a week! You don’t need to punish yourself. I wish I had followed this throughout my pregnancy but I let second trimester get the best of me!

I also started drinking red raspberry leaf tea and dates with ghee (both commonly followed in Ayurveda) for cervical health support. I will update this postpartum to share if it worked!

Finally, balanced example meals that you can eat throughout pregnancy (which I really focused on during third trimester) are below:

Example breakfast: Full fat grass-fed cottage cheese or grass-fed greek yogurt with chopped up banana or berries (or fruit of choice) and grain free/refined sugar free granola and/or nut butter for protein. OR pasture raised omelettes/scrambles (with yolks) with lots of veggies and a Siete Foods almond flour tortilla or piece of AWG Bakery grain free bread at the side. For weekend breakfasts as a treat, try these grain free pancakes or waffles! I also love using Birch Benders paleo pancake mix if I’m lazy.

Example lunches/dinners: Kheema bowls! Roasted sweet potatoes or plantains, kheema, veggies (Indian style or just simply roasted). All cooked in ghee or coconut oil for healthy fats. Sometimes I’d also add on mashed avocado on top or yogurt. If you can tolerate fish, please do eat a lot of wild caught fish during pregnancy! I can’t digest it well, otherwise I would have. I do tolerate sardines (SO good for you), so made my salmon cakes with sardines at times! Please note that I also included some simple carbs on weekends like rice or gluten free pasta/pizza to satisfy my cravings.

Example snacks: Apple with a few small slices of cheddar cheese or nut butter, grain free crackers or plantain chips with cheese or hummus if you can tolerate it, smoothies (see first trimester smoothie ingredients!). Balance low-glycemic carbs with protein for snacks.

Example dessert if you’re craving it: a piece of fruit, full fat yogurt with honey, refined sugar free chocolate, grain free / refined sugar free cookies, etc.

Supplements: Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (my fish oil of choice for baby’s brain development, bone structure, and more), 4000 IUs of Vitamin D3+K2 (daily maintenance dose for baby’s development), and Thorne prenatal vitamins (followed recommended dosage for all vitamins and nutrients you need like folic acid). See first trimester section for more on these supplements.

Mental health: Continued with meditation and deep breathing (see first trimester section for more on which apps and instructors I followed). The last few weeks of pregnancy are really tough, emotionally and physically, so do what you need to to support your body. Take a walk if you can outside. Get some fresh air. Call a friend. Watch your favorite tv show. And take lots of mental and physical rest! Also, get into nesting mode when it feels right. I have saved a ton of tips on registry items, nursery organization, what to pack for the hospital and more to my Instagram highlights.

I also leaned heavily on close family and friends to get through anxiety tied to labor and delivery. I am the type of person that needs to know things in order to quell anxiety. Do what works best for you, and if you need to tune everything out to remain calm, please do so.

Pre-natal appointments: This trimester is not yet done…I am at 35 weeks and have my 36 week appointment at the end of this week, during which they will do an ultrasound to check on the baby’s position (e.g., is the baby breech or not), and also will have me do a swab for Strep B. This is pretty standard. I have one more appointment at 38 weeks to do a pelvic exam to check to see how much I have dilated. I will update this post when I know more and share anything helpful!

In just 4 short weeks I’m getting ready to meet my little miracle, my baby girl. I am so excited for her to arrive and to the mama who is still reading this (congrats for making it this far into this post) I hope that all of these lessons learned will serve you well throughout your pregnancy. Wishing you a healthy and beautiful pregnancy ahead!


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