25 May 2010

Mama Comforts

Becoming a mother is full of wonders and wonderful experiences, and I am very happy to know (at least) 5 women who are currently pregnant.  What is really, incredibly wonderful is that I am not one of them!  I have met women who handled pregnancy beautifully and loved the whole experience.  I know others who had first trimester nausea bad enough to need prescription anti-nausea medications.  I fell somewhere in between, and I would like to share the comfort measures that helped me through two pregnancies.

First Trimester
Whoever coined the term 'morning sickness' did everyone a disservice:  nausea can happen at any time of day, and can be light discomfort to dry heaves or daily vomiting.  My experience was generally moderate nausea, similar to spending too much time on amusement park rides, and I never actually vomited apart from the stomach virus I had late in my first pregnancy.  Ginger tea and Mint tea were both vital to keeping my stomach in check. When in the car, I would keep a travel mug of hot water and tea bags ready for any in-transit upset tummy.

Eating during the first trimester can be a tricky affair.  It is just as normal to loose weight during this period as it is to gain weight.  While most people avoid fatty foods at this point, I ate more fried food than I had in the 5 years prior to my pregnancies.  The best tip I heard for making it easier to eat when scents and nausea were a problem was to imagine the smell, taste, and texture of food before eating.  That made it much easier to decide what I could eat, and it reduced the number of times I sat down to eat and then couldn't touch the food I spent so much time cooking.

Throughout pregnancy, prenatal yoga can help you stay awake during the day and help you to sleep at night.  I felt much better after a prenatal yoga class, and I wish I had gone more often.  For those in the Albuquerque area, I highly recommend the prenatal yoga classes at High Desert Yoga.  I attended both classes at different times, and the instructors and other women were wonderful.

Second Trimester
Most women have the least amount of discomfort during the second trimester.  This is the time to travel the world and to enjoy having pants which haven't lost their elasticity.  Tiring easily is certainly part of pregnancy, but if you find yourself frustratingly tired, unable to do things you enjoy, consider having your iron levels checked.  I was only very slightly anemic during my second pregnancy, but the iron supplements I took made me feel like I had 'woken up' for the first time in months.  It is also useful to consider food based prenatal vitamins.  I used standard walgreens stocked prenatal vitamins, and if I get pregnant again, I will spend some time researching food based vitamins.

Third Trimester
My biggest third trimester issue was getting enough sleep.  I was uncomfortable no matter how I positioned myself.  During my first pregnancy, I wanted to get a pregnancy pillow, but I didn't want to spend money on something that I would only need for a few months.  I now realize how important sleep is during the last couple of months before baby arrives, because once the baby is born, there is no 'pause' on baby's development or needs.  For my second pregnancy, my wonderful husband got me this body pillow.  By the final trimester, I would use the body pillow for one week, and then trade it for two regular pillows for a week or so, as I needed different support.

The third trimester is also a great time to begin a regular meditation practice.  I found a prenatal 'hypnosis' track on iTunes that I used for a guided meditation, and it helped me relax even though I thought it was a bit silly.  I have read that meditation is really helpful for parents to learn to center themselves and remain calm when the trials of childhood overwhelm our children.

Labor and Delivery
The best things I can recommend for comfort during labor and delivery, hands down, is a Doula and/or laboring in water.  We hired a doula, Kim Burks, for our hospital birth when Jason was born.  I don't think I would have had an intervention free birth at the hospital without her help.  When Jackson was born at home, getting into the water lowered the intensity of the contractions- it was an incredible relief to get in the water.  Water during labor and delivery has an amazing, comforting effect, and I would like to dedicate an entire post to it when I can.

A Doula is a professionally trained labor support person.  She does not replace your partner during labor; she relieves your partner of having to 'know what to do' during what is a completely new experience for most new parents.  She has seen many, possibly hundreds, of labors, and she can provide positioning advice, massage, emotional support, encouragement, and much more.

Doulas can also provide information during the prenatal period.  If you are looking for a hospital in your area that supports evidence based maternity care, an experienced Doula is likely to know local hospital polices and can suggest midwives or doctors that may fit your needs.

The DONA website has lots of general Doula information.  For those in Albuquerque, Doulas of the Southwest have a monthly tea where you can meet many of the local Doulas.

I spent my first pregnancy so concerned about the birth that I gave little thought to postpartum recovery.  I gladly took the enormous ibuprofen the nurse offered, and I still had trouble sitting up for a couple of days while my bottom was sore.  It was certainly easier the second time around, but still not fun.  The best relief I found after the first birth was witch hazel pads placed on the maxi pads.

My home birth midwives recommended having sitz bath herbs on hand, and the mix I got from The Herb Store was amazing.  An ounce of the herbs is boiled for 30-60 minutes, and then it is poured through a strainer into a warm or hot bath.  If your bottom is sore, you will want to place a rolled up towel underneath you in the bath.  I would never have guessed that an herbal bath could have such a wonderful effect!

The 'tea' made from sitz bath herbs can also be used to soak cloth or disposable menstrual pads.  The soaked pads can be frozen on an upside down bowl (to give it the right curve), and the frozen pads are great for healing stitches.  You might want to wear them with absorbent underwear (like Depends) to avoid leaks as the pad thaws.

A few months postpartum, ask your midwife or doctor about a copper IUD.  It is a hormone free contraceptive that can last for 10 years or more, and your fertility resumes immediately upon removal.  Having an IUD inserted is not painless, but 10 minutes of discomfort can help you avoid the experience of labor after an unexpected pregnancy.  I am thankful that I will have to plan a visit to my midwife before another pregnancy- it doesn't take long for my baby to be sleeping well before I might decide we're ready for another one!

What comforts have you found for pregnancy woes?  Is there anything that did or didn't work for you?  Is there a pregnancy symptom you are experiencing that you'd like to alleviate?


  1. just happened to check here today - great post!


    advantages/disadvantages of using a sitz bath insert on top of the toilet?

    what thickness of maxipads?

    presoaked witch hazel pads?


  2. I never tried the toilet-top bowl because I found that sitting on a towel in a regular bath was comfortable for me. The toilet top bowl would make it easier to get up and down (I needed help the first day or two), and you could bring it to the hospital. However, I love soaking in a hot bath, and having the postpartum 'sitz' bath herbs was a wonderful excuse to take my first super-hot baths since the pregnancy began.

    Regarding soaking the maxipads, I never tried that method because, while I was sore, I didn't tear much or have stitches. It was more of an idea I liked for longer-term recovery from tearing. Any thickness of pad would work to sooth a healing bottom, but overnight ones would stay cold longer.

    The witch hazel pads were Tucks brand that were given to me at the hospital. I think you can get them from Walgreens, though. In the future, I think making my own might be nice.