Pregnancy 101

New to childbearing? Here are some quick tips and advice to help guide you on your journey.

  • Breast pumps: invest in a good pump if you plan on doing this with any frequency. Older pumps can have a different “sucking” motion that isn’t as effective as newer ones. Lubricate the flanges with organic olive or coconut oil. You can buy larger or smaller flanges to suit your nipple size. Also, remember that the amount you pump does not necessarily reflect the amount your baby gets when directly on the breast. Our bodies are programmed to feed babies, not machines. For guidance on storing breastmilk, look here.
  • Bras: You may notice a change in breast size and tenderness during pregnancy as your body prepares to make milk for your baby. Try soft bras without underwire, especially postpartum. This is so much better for your body’s circulation of various fluids (blood, lymph, breastmilk) and has a strong association with rates of breast cancer. Two of my favorites are the Blue Canoe Jane’s Bra (which can also be used as a nursing bra) and the Coobie Seamless Bra. My favorite sports bra for the childbearing year is the Moving Comfort Fiona Bra, which makes a great nursing sports bra later thanks to front-adjustable velcro straps. You may also want to buy some nursing bras (Bravado is my favorite) as you get towards the last month or two. As size goes up, so it goes down; don’t worry if you buy a bra that ends up being a bit smaller than your ultimate milk-full breast size. That will change around 4-6 months postpartum anyway. Some breasts don’t change, and this is normal too. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to breastfeed. I’ve known many women with A cup breasts who produced copious milk for their babes.
  • Cat litter: May possibly contain an unfriendly critter to pregnancy causing toxoplasmosis. Avoid. If you absolutely must be exposed, wear gloves and a mask. Contamination is fecal-oral.
  • Hair: During pregnancy, many women’s hair becomes lush and abundant. Enjoy it while it lasts! About 4 months after your baby is born, it will suddenly seem like all of your hair is falling out. This is completely normal. Most women’s hair will cycle back around to its pre-pregnant state, though some women do experience a permanent change in texture or thickness. Some body changes will last until you finish nursing, depending on your individual health and random luck.
  • Massage: Yes! Go see someone who does prenatal massage or make sure to tell your regular practitioner that you’ve conceived. Once the baby has arrived, massage is still great. It can be hard to lay on your new-mom, milk-filled breasts. Roll a towel and place it above or below your breasts to take the pressure off of your chest.
  • Morning Sickness: click here for Artemesia’s advice and information.
  • Nutrition: To grow a healthy placenta, you need lots of protein, carbs, and vitamin C. Your body needs a daily serving of protein that is the size of the palm of your hand. Eat salt to taste as long as your blood pressure is normal. Drink water to thirst. If water makes you nauseous, you are not alone. Try drinking bubbly water instead or adding a splash of lemon juice. (be aware that some mineral waters have high sodium). A small amount of caffeine is ok, but avoid caffeinated carbonated beverages, which have been shown to leach calcium from your bones. Some foods are restricted in pregnancy due to the possible presence of dangerous bacteria, such as listeriosis, which can cause harmful infections specifically in pregnancy. These foods are: raw cheeses (soft, pasteurized cheese is fine) and unheated cold cuts (cold cuts heated to steaming are ok). Fish in general should be limited to 1-2 times a week, depending on its mercury level. Raw fish is forbidden, as are certain types of fish higher up the food chain. More fish details from the FDA are here.
  • Oxygen: Feeling short of breath? Women use up much more oxygen during pregnancy. Remember, you are growing a baby and an extra organ! Listen to your body and take it easy. It’s safe to keep up your pre-pregnant exercise routine as long as you modify things appropriately. Deep abdominal work can actually separate your abdominal muscles instead of strengthening them when done later in pregnancy.
  • Relaxin is a hormone produced by our bodies from conception through the postpartum period, peaking at the end of pregnancy. It makes your joints become more mobile, which is great when you are birthing a child vaginally. It allows the joints of your pelvis to open up a bit as your baby comes through. This hormone is not selective, unfortunately, and may lead to joint or muscle pain or even injury as things slacken.
  • Skin pigmentation: Thanks once again to pregnancy hormones, you may notice skin darkening in various areas: the line down the middle of your belly, your areolas, your labia, even your face. This is usually temporary.

Some books that might help with the journey:

  • Ina Mae’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina Mae Gaskin
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin et al
  • the Birth Partner by Penny Simkin