Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

I originally had this titled “Staying Fit”. I realized later into this pregnancy it’s really about mindset, staying healthy, adjusting movements, the power of sleep, etc.

We won’t talk about muscle tone and abs. The weights are much lighter. There’s a ton of breathing. Everything you’ve worked so hard for previously is pretty much nonexistent.

So, please remember, everyone and every pregnancy is different. I’m no expert, a first time mama-to-be, but sharing a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1- Oral Health. Okay, I’m a Registered Dental Hygienist. This one, I cannot stress enough, how healthy it is to floss and brush for two. It is so important and good for you and baby to go get your teeth cleaned regularly as part of your routine preventive care. Why? Studies have shown pregnant women are more prone to pregnancy gingivitis due to heightened hormonal changes. Symptoms of this include swelling, tenderness, bleeding, and redness of the gum tissue. I know that routine preventive care may seem like the last thing on your mind. If you’re experiencing morning sickness, avoid brushing your teeth. Simply rinse with water. Give your enamel at least 30 mins to recover from the acid in the vomit. I even experienced sensitive gums (still do) even though I practice what I preach. And you know what I did? I got a waterpik and switched my toothpaste to a stannous fluoride ingredient such as Gum Detoxify, Paradontax or Crest Prohealth. Either will do the trick. My other tools I use to attack this issue are thread floss (Cocofloss is the best), Waterpik, and Philips Sonicare Diamondclean toothbrush. I cannot stress enough to go to your regular dental cleanings. Your baby will thank you later. Yes, fluoride is fine.

2-Exercise. I had been doing CrossFit as my workout regimen before I got pregnant and got the okay from my doctor to continue it with modifications. In fact, they WANT you to continue to workout. It’s so good for labor. Whether you’ve been doing CrossFit, marathon running or another workout regimen, please continue to do so. If you’re not a workout junkie like me, it’s okay. Daily 30 minute walks are great. Remember, there are definitely days where you may prioritize more sleep over exercise. Girl, please sleep if that’s what your body is telling you. Some of my modifications include: biking more often and has been comfortable so far, rowing has stopped after 18 weeks, running got harder after 25 weeks, step ups for box jumps, modified core work that help keep it strong and won’t cause as much abdominal separations, and lighter weights for lifts. As my belly grew, I’ve had to stop certain lifts such as snatching and cleans because of the direction of the bar path and that’s totally okay. I pretty much stopped these lifts around 8 weeks. My workout regimen is may not be for you. Factors that can affect yours is previous intensity level reached, cardio endurance, strengths, but really it’s highly dependent on the fitness level prior to becoming pregnant. I love the benefits of what it’s doing for my body during the pregnancy. It’s done a lot such as relieving pregnancy symptoms and discomfort, improve sleep, reduce swelling, reduce pregnancy complication risks, control weight and boost mood, but seriously the list could go on and on. Not to mention postpartum benefits such as speeding up recovery and what it can do for your child’s academic and athletic future and reduce her/his risks of chronic diseases later in life! As always, listen to your doctors regarding exercise, rest, when to get back to your workouts, and what you can do.

3-Nutrition. I’ll be extremely honest here. I have not been the best at nutrition and I decided very early on not to beat myself up for it. I was strictly primal/paleo before getting pregnant and noticed my body felt so deprived. When your blood sugar is low, you tend to get more nauseous. If you asked my husband about it, I probably scared him with the dark circles, looking like I never slept. Truth is, the baby was sucking everything out of me. I added oatmeal, rice and gluten-free staples to my diet and started feeling better. Early on, I even learned I craved beef, potatoes and could only handle smoothie bowls and drinks. I couldn’t stand smelling chicken or turkey. It was very odd. And now I hate Brussels sprouts, a previous staple. Even eggs made my skin so inflamed with cystic acne. I avoided it for so long and have now added it back towards then end of my 2nd trimester. Nowadays, I’m completely content with soup! My body went through different stages with food and continues to do so. All you can do is listen to your body, try your best, but don’t kill yourself over a candy bar, a donut, or ice cream. Enjoy the process while it lasts. As long as you’re gaining a healthy weight per your doctor, you’re doing great.

4-Sleep. I was napping a ton in my first trimester and have started to prioritize more sleep towards the end of my second. Working out came last. You may be different but as someone who is on her feet all day, seeing multiple patients, holding a demanding full time job, I’m worn out. Napping during lunch is also became my new normal towards the end of 2nd trimester. So I decided to do a quick workout after coming home, before making dinner, that way I can take my bath or shower before bed for better sleep. However, sleeping at night gets very uncomfortable towards your third trimester but more sleep is better than none.

5-Mental Health. Postpartum depression is probably not talked about enough. I know several women who have struggled with this and I know I’ll never be prepared for what’s about to come in the beginning of next year. No matter how much family support we will have, it won’t justify the feelings you can’t ignore. What I can do is talk to someone about it. Before pregnancy, during, and after. It’s totally okay to have empty feelings such as guilt or blame, anxiety of growing a life, the uncertainty of what’s to come, especially when you know your baby may be in the hospital for a long time. Take care of yourself mentally and know you’re not alone in this. Mamas, we’ve got this.

6-Chiropractic. This was probably one of the things I cannot thank myself enough for. The same week I found out I was pregnant, my back suffered so much. I was in agnozing pain. It hurt to sit any way shape or form. I was performing stand up dentistry most of my 1st trimister. Until I found a prenatal chiropractor, my back was saved. It’s actually common for your body to expand to make room for the baby. My body took a big beating from it. Getting regular care for your pelvis/back can help you recover from giving birth faster. Be sure to find a Webster Certified chiropractor. It’s non-invasive and safe throughout your pregnancy.

What are some tips you have?! Comment below.

My Pregnancy Journey

Let’s rip off the bandaid. When it comes to private matters, it’s not so easy for me to share. I want to be vulnerable and share because it’s so humbling that most of you take the time to care about what’s going on in my life. I really appreciate the patience and support.

We’ve been really quiet about this scare, not just because something is/was very wrong but also because there have been many positives and there was so much we had to learn before letting this out in the open. Yet, there are still a lot of questions we don’t have the answers to. As I’m writing this with events still fresh in my mind, the first thing I want is for those who had a loss, who have been struggling, who are still going through a dark time, to know that they’re not alone. I know how helpful it is to hear similar stories within your community and how you can be supported. I hope to shine light on what to expect. I know everyone has different pregnancies and hardships they’re dealing with. I also know every pregnancy is a huge blessing.

I’ll never forget the night my husband came home early from coaching. “You’re home so quick!”, I said. The look on his face gave me a lump in my throat. Then I remembered I recently had blood drawn just a week ago for a genetic screening of the baby.

“We need to talk.”

We sat down on the corner of the couch. He had gotten the call from our nurse practitioner about my test results from week 16. They had come back positive, showing a high risk for birth defect. It meant my child had a possibility of spina bifida or anacephaly. I had never been more shocked, felt betrayed in so many ways, heartbroken, and so fearful for this life I’m creating.

During the next agonizing two weeks until our “high risk” sonogram appointment, we sobbed for many hours and had sleepless nights. While we still to stay positive that it could’ve just been a false positive or we had the due date wrong. If the baby is further along than thought it can throw the tests out of whack.

We clutched hands watching the sonogram. Memories of my anatomy class comes to mind. The skull looks like it’s a full skull, the spine looks really good, the baby had legs for days and a hand that waved hello to us.

September 4th was a day I’ll never forget.

We had the diagnosis we never expected to hear. Omphalocele. I had never heard of it. I couldn’t even pronounce it, let alone spell it properly at first. I listened to her diagnosis so carefully because I had remembered researching other possible birth defects and what their outcome was to be. Omphalocele was one I researched and I had the image of the defect planted in my head. It’s such a rare birth defect that happens 1 in 4,000 births. It was caused by errors in fetal development. The room caved in on me and got real dark. I sobbed hearing every possibility, the bad and the good. We had to weigh in on the bad first which means the baby had a higher probability of not surviving the first year if found to have certain chromosomal issues, along with other defects such as the heart. After many hard discussion and questions, I looked at my husband and asked the doctor to give us 5 minutes. We knew what I had to do for the sake of our family. As soon as she closed the door…I don’t think I’ve never seen my husband cry this hard, ever, in our entire 10 year relationship. My heart broke in a million pieces, not just for him but for our baby.

Right away, the room immediately flipped for an amniocentesis procedure and within five painful minutes which FELT LIKE HOURS, I had 4 large vials of goldish looking liquid carefully taken from the amniotic sac.

We were told to wait 72 hours for the preliminary results and 10-14 days for the rest of the chromosome results. We left feeling certainly uneasy. That very night, we contacted some of our close family members about the unexpected, the scary, the unknown, not having enough knowledge to leave their questions answered…

I took the whole day off from work for a 15 minute appointment that was at 8 am. Not knowing how I was going to be able to handle it mentally. As we went in that morning with tears in our eyes for our preliminary results, expecting the worst, not knowing what to do, we finally took a deep sigh of relief as the doctor read out the preliminary result. So far the test was showing negative, which is good. The worst was not over yet. We were still holding our breath for the rest of the chromosome tests to come back. With asked more questions. What did we do? What can we do? What can’t we do? The only restrictions I had was flying. That meant my poor dear mother couldn’t hold the baby shower of her dreams for her first grandchild and we couldn’t see our family for the holidays given the circumstances that could happen if I had gone into labor early.

September 17th, my birthday, I took an entire day off from work. Just as I was treating myself on a pedicure feeling great and super relaxed, I received a text from Justin to FaceTime him. Knowing what this was about, all the knots came back, tension was all time high again, I started to sweat but as soon as I saw his calm face. I had a feeling we were ok. The rest of the chromosome results came back. “It’s all clear, baby. Happy Birthday.” Tears of happiness streamed down my face as my toe nails were getting pretty and pink for date night. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

There was just one more defect they wanted to rule out and that was the heart. Most babies with omphalocele also have pulmonary issues and heart defects. Our doctor didn’t suspect a lung issue but rather her heart because of the way the sac was pulling it down. Our baby needed an echo and better diagnosis by a cardiologist.

Our appointment was yet again not for another few weeks. We were told they only do two 4 hour appointments a day, not realizing if something was wrong with the heart, they may need to send us to another office, in another building for more tests.

Many beautiful heartbeats, sonogram pictures and videos were taken, after two hours, we learned that the heart is tilted horizontally with the right ventricle slightly enlarge than normal for the size. The cardiologist did not suspect anything serious. The heart beat, the blood flow was fine. Did I mention she won’t sit still for the doctors?

We were pleased to hear really good news and the only recommendation is an echo after birth.

Since then every sonogram and tests we’ve done to date has shown high hopes for the future outcome. We can continue to check off the nightmares. I don’t like to talk about the birth plan I have to have. This will be a scheduled cesarean delivery having the baby under the care of a team of 7 doctors. She will be in NICU 6-8 weeks minimum at a children’s hospital. She will indeed have multiple surgeries to repair the defect but should go on and live a healthy life given that everything goes well.

Looking back on this, it was such a difficult journey to navigate but everything seemed to happen for a reason. I will forever be an advocate for genetic/AFP screening. If your doctor is recommending it, it doesn’t hurt to get tested. Please know if you do get a positive result, it just may mean you need more tests. In fact, it made this pregnancy scary and that much more precious and wonderful at the same time.

Her due date falls on International Omphalocele Awareness Day. While we were in such a dark place for some time, I count my blessings in every way.

We are so excited to meet our little one in the new decade.