Hi Ladies. If you are reading this, you might have just found out that you are pregnant.
Once the excitement has settled in, you have probably rushed to see the GP and received your flu jab, shopped for prenatal vitamins at Holland and Barrett, and planned your first scan which seems like an awfully long wait away. You are feeling assaulted by the classic first trimester symptoms: tingling boobs, a hound like sense of smell and morning sickness which, in truth, is an any-time-of-the-day sickness that no one cared to warn you about. Hauling yourself to work requires Herculean effort. Hormones have flooded every inch of you, reducing your capacity to live a normal life. With no bump to make a physical manifestation and the whole world going about its regular business as you harbour the biggest secret of your life, kudos to you for ploughing on like a valiant human being.
But don’t despair! A few lifestyle changes + adjustments can help you cope with this testing but temporary phase. Screaming at your colleague to take his smelly sandwich away is probably a bad (although tempting) idea but you can throw yourself at other, er, less violent methods to keep sane. Use this time to get ahead of the pregnancy game by tackling impending issues such as stretch marks and leaky bladders. After all, its only the beginning of this 9 month long whirlwind journey. Strap yourself in, take it easy and get ready to grow a baby. Here’s a few tips from a working woman’s perspective to help you along the ride.
Make your mornings count
My workday mornings are always a bit of a mess: teleconferences, coffee withdrawals, and a general cloud of disorientation. I often run out of the house on an empty stomach. But once I found out I was pregnant, this was no longer an option. I made time for breakfast at home/carrying something on the go. Nothing stokes nausea like an empty stomach. My favourites were low maintenance food: overnight oats, pre-boiled eggs, bananas etc. If I could afford some extra time I would fry an egg and eat it with an avocado toast or two.
Plan your journeys better.
The first trimester is the most crucial stage of pregnancy. The chances of miscarriage is the highest in this period and if this is your first baby, you will probably feel a lot of anxiety over little things. Running to catch my bus/train left me googling frantically for assurance: can running while pregnant hurt the baby? Give yourself peace of mind by starting the day early and pacing your movements. Try to protect yourself as best as you can against adverse weather conditions – many medications are not allowed in pregnancy. Carry an umbrella. Pack an extra sweater. Go that extra mile.
Keep snacks and water with you at all times. Especially if you travel for work and could end up in meetings/cars/trains for long hours without access to shops (happened to me many times). I admit I was poor in planning this but with time and some hard learnt lessons, I slowly improved. I invested in a water bottle and made a habit of buying little snacks from Tesco and throwing them in my bag. Favourites were almonds, Deliciously Ella energy balls, Kind chocolate and nut bars and yoghurt bars. I also made the effort to carry pre-washed fruits so that I could swap sugar cravings with a handful of blueberries. Oh there will be plenty of carb indulgence as you fight nausea with everything you can find along your hungry and tired way. Surrounding yourself with friendlier food items will hopefully reduce the cupcake-stuffing episodes and provide you the energy you so badly need.
Download Pregnancy Apps
Track the changes in your body with helpful pregnancy apps that will expertly navigate you through the endless maze of questions your mind has morphed into. What’s a millennial mum without her helpful iPhone anyway? Here’s three apps that I used throughout my pregnancy:
The Bump: Fun app to track your baby’s growth as a fruit/vegetable. I used to look forward to each week’s update and give cute nicknames to baby. Curates daily articles which can be read on the go, filled with advice from real mums with real experiences.
Baby Centre: Similar to the Bump with lots of expert content and videos.
Baby Buddy: Recommended by the midwife at our antenatal class. I downloaded this right at the end of my pregnancy and did not use it much but I reckon if it is good enough for the midwife, it is good enough for mums.
Carry a backpack.
I found this so so helpful! It makes life as a busybee a lot easier. I had terrible backache during my pregnancy and I believe avoiding handbags was a life saving move.
Invest in eye cream and concealer
Sleepless nights will soon start to show on your face. Dark circles will darken steadily over time. Some TLC at night and a bit of touch up in the morning will make you feel more confident and less zombyish. Fake it till you make it – for real.
Organise your wardrobe.
I gained a lot of weight in my first trimester because the mix of incessant work travel and nausea made me reach out for wrong types of food. And honestly, in the throes of my pregnancy woes, I cared for neither nutrition nor calorie counts. Wont lie, it hurt when I had to start discarding clothes from 5 week onwards. Cleansing my wardrobe was a great way of avoiding unwanted frustration in the morning and made room for the slew of maternity clothes that I would soon start to buy. Tip: Hang on to loose clothes, ditch the bodycons.
Reduce your caffeine intake.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if caffeine is your drug as it was mine, start thinking of cutting down as soon as possible. According to the NHS, “pregnant ladies should limit the amount of caffeine to 200 milligrams (mg) a day – the same as 2 mugs of instant coffee.” It might not sound like it but 200mg is actually quite generous: my Costa vanilla latte was comfortably under the limit. But my baby protecting body objected vehemently. Many days I had to throw away my £3.00 drink just after one sip. Even the mere thought of buying my beloved latte would make me puke. Dealing with mornings without my cuppa was hard but in retrospect it was perhaps the only way to keep my caffeine cravings in check. Body: 1. Me: 0.
While one latte a day is fine, bear in mind that caffeine exists in other food items such as chocolate and energy drinks. Excess amounts of caffeine consumption in pregnancy can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in the future. Later in pregnancy when constipation develops into a serious issue and in the fourth trimester when you grapple with breastfeeding, caffeine can make life all the more harder. Give yourself some time to adjust to this idea – it wont happen overnight. *sob*
Massage your lady bits.
Start applying oil to your tummy, breasts and bum: basically all the parts that will stretch as baby grows (I used Weleda). This helps to keep your skin supple and stops formation of stretch marks. Despite sticking to this ritual pretty seriously, I ended up with a tummy full of Harry Potter-esque scars, just a lot, er, redder in colour and a lot more crooked. I marvelled at perfectly unmarked tummies on instagram feeds but learnt to accept mine with grace. The scarring varies from woman to woman and it’s got something to do with genetics (thanks Momma). If nothing else, it helped with the itching!
Make Kegel Exercises a priority.
In a nutshell, this means tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles in repeated intervals. Get an early start to labour preparation by making your muscles stronger and more elastic with this easy exercise. It can be done discreetly from your work desk, in meetings, in the shower – just about anywhere, anytime. It also helps in improving your bladder tone and preventing those pesky leaks later in pregnancy.
Keep on top of the tiredness.
This was my first trimester mantra. It might not work for everyone but did wonders for me. I felt constantly tired throughout the day and had some acute periods around mid afternoon when pregnancy hit me like a brick wall. ALL I wanted to do was lie down and shut my eyes. But while resting helped, often I did not have the luxury of it amidst intercity commutes and all night long site work. It seemed like no amount of resting could make the tiredness stop anyway, it was a constant. I tried to stay on top of it by distracting myself and going about my business with my little baby.
Cut yourself some slack.
Eat junk and don’t sweat it. Go to bed super early, heck even make a habit of it. Remind yourself its the hormones making you feel so down and emotional. If it gets too much, allow yourself breaks even if it means hiding in the loo at work or taking a short walk. Be kind to your human growing self. You are awesome!
Good news is, once the first trimester ends, you will feel much better, the bump will start to show and the baby movements will kick in. So will some other new symptoms but you can worry about that once the vomiting stops.