When I started my midwifery training, I remember our tutor going around the class and having us introduce ourselves. Each person said a little about why they came into midwifery – and several of my colleagues (and later friends) talked passionately about their own birth experiences, good or bad, which led them to exploring midwifery as a career. I remember feeling that the mums in the group already had such a head start on the rest of us – and that I would always be a bit ‘lacking’ as a midwife until I had actually been through pregnancy and birthed a baby myself. As I progressed through my training and became a more confident student and then a qualified midwife, this feeling never entirely left me, and the question from pregnant and labouring women would often be asked: ‘do you have children yourself?’. So, when my husband and I found out that I was pregnant back in February this year I was very pleased to be finally adding the accolade of ‘mother’ to my CV!
In those very early weeks before any real pregnancy symptoms appeared, I honestly felt that as a midwife I was entirely prepared for the first trimester of pregnancy. I knew it was likely to be tough, and I had some trepidation about nausea and sickness (particularly as my sister had hyperemesis throughout both of her pregnancies) – but I assumed that my midwifery experience would at least mean that nothing the first trimester could throw at me would take me by surprise. And of course, as you’ve probably already guessed – it did! Completely! The nausea was constant and severe from 6 weeks of pregnancy, and I also started experiencing debilitating migraines which I had never had before being pregnant. There were many days when my husband came home from work to find me in the same position he had left me that morning. During this period, as I’m sure all pregnant women do, I tried absolutely EVERYTHING to try and find some relief (see photo above for just a small selection of my remedies!). Some things worked for me and some things didn’t, butÂ one thing that did work wonders for me was magnesium…
Angela and I have long known the benefits of supplementing with magnesium in pregnancy, and often recommend Epsom salts baths to our clients. The majority of the population (pregnant or not) are deficient in magnesium, and in pregnancy our bodies find it even more difficult to absorb this mineral. I had assumed that as I was taking a wholefood pregnancy vitamin containing magnesium that this couldn’t be my problem, but after speaking to a very knowledgable midwifery colleague I learnt that our bodies can’t absorb magnesium in tablet format. So, I purchased some dissolvable powdered magnesium (I used Mag365 and bought it from Amazon for speed of delivery – I was desperate!) and started taking it that evening after 3 days of severe headaches. Within 24 hours I was completely headache-free! Magnesium deficiency can cause all sorts of symptoms in pregnancy, including headaches, insomnia, cramp and oedema (swelling) and so taking a supplement such as this, massaging magnesium oil into the skin or soaking in regular Epsom salts baths can bring much relief to pregnant women.
Despite having a very good diet pre-pregnancy (little sugar, no wheat, lots of vegetables, no processed foods etc) I found that to get through the first trimester I was eating everything I knew to be terrible for me! White bread, sugar in all forms from jelly tots to snickers bars to ice cream, lots of cheese and dairy and very little else. Nutrition is something I am very interested in and which we spend a lot of time discussing with our clients, and I was quite ashamed of the contents of my food cupboard and fridge for many weeks. However – I truly believe that you do whatever you can to survive those first few weeks, and that feeling guilty about it isn’t helpful at all. I had said this to clients having rough first trimesters in the past, but it is only now that I truly understand the reality! Now that I am feeling less nauseous I will be taking some of my own advice and incorporating protein into all of my meals and snacks, and cutting back on the sugar. Interestingly I already feel less inclined towards sugary things, it is amazing how our bodies tell us what is best for them if we listen hard enough.
My final thought on the first trimester would be to apologise to any clients who I haven’t been as sympathetic to as I should have been! The terms ‘morning sickness’ and ‘tiredness’ are so common when discussing the first trimester that it is easy to underestimate the impact they have on your daily life. I am just now starting to feel a bit more like a normal human being and hoping that the blooming will happen very soon!