holistic pregnancy II
This blog post was published about 18 months ago, over at my old website. It was my way to share with you all the glorious news of our pregnancy with daughter Lou and my experience and tips during the second trimester. The post was taken off when my new website launched last June (2015) but since so many of you have asked for it, I have done a repost. Hope you’ll enjoy! Xoxo kyra.
Last week, smooth as cream, my babe and I flowed into the third trimester of pregnancy. This might be the perfect time for me to tell you a bit about my experiences during the second trimester. Its structure is very much like my ‘holistic pregnancy, first trimester’ post and full of nutrition, yoga and wellbeing info and tips. I have created a framework to talk about my experiences and knowledge. These three pillars mark the three most important aspects of my healthy happy holistic pregnancy. I hope my story inspires you to find your own way. I hope it will help you to support yourself optimally, whilst on this unique journey towards becoming a mama. I hope it inspires you to be the healthiest and happiest version of you whilst on this path and after. For your baby is part of you and his happiness and health are directly linked to yours. Now here we go!
I, all of a sudden, have it. A belly. It’s not just me knowing and feeling pregnant. Nope, people can actually SEE I am! It took a while: I think it was somewhere around the halfway point. But then it started growing like nothing else. Our babe is growing. It’s not just developing quietly, it’s actually growing strong bones, gaining weight and length. And, during the last weeks of the second trimester (but really all the way up until birth and the years following) is building a brain like crazy. Let’s talk how to aid growth. Let’s discuss body, brain and spirit.
'Remember that your body is wiser than your rational mind. Go with what feels ‘right’: safe, supportive and nourishing. This way you’ll be able to experience your most optimal self and assist your babe doing just that.'
Thank goodness the aversion I had for greens (salad, spinach, broccoli, avocado) during the first trimester has passed. I do no longer get nauseous from the smell of (my own) cooking so I have reinstalled myself behind the stove. My cooking has returned to its creative and pleasant self. Hoorah for that! This does not mean the nausea is fully gone, I still experience it, but it’s less intense and no longer ‘always there’. Hoorah for that too!
This nausea taught me an awesome lesson: after my gusto for food returned I have been even more appreciative of it. The fact I get to cook with this variety of amazing pure ingredients on a day-to-day basis and the chance to share it with loved ones. I have been feasting on homemade salads, my favourite grains: millet, wild rice and quinoa, tons of (roasted, water stir-fried and steamed) veggies, soups, smoothies, Mexican buckwheat wraps and brown rice pasta dishes with finger-licking good homemade sauces.
As I wrote in my previous post I eat mostly plant-based: raw honey and bee pollen being the exception. But to me this is not a dogmatic thing: I just listen to my body and my body happens to tell me pure and plant-based is what it needs to thrive. During this second trimester there have been a couple of times when my body has given the signal to enjoy ‘something else’. That something else being biodynamic goats quark and homemade ghee (clarified biodynamic grass-fed butter). So instead of going against my gut feeling and refusing these cravings for the sake of ‘being vegan’ I observed it, checked to see if it would pass and when it didn’t I simply enjoyed eating them. It was satisfying and the craving left. The body is wise and knows best. I guess it needed this on some level and I was there to support it not deprive it. Pregnancy gives you the opportunity to take well care of yourself and listen to all the amazing signals your body gives you. The body becomes much more ‘prominent’. We become much more in tune with our feelings. This in itself is a great experience and opportunity. So please always remember that your body is wiser than your rational mind. Go with what feels ‘right’: safe, supportive and nourishing. This way you’ll be able to experience your most optimal self and assist your babe doing just that.
Talking about your babe: to support his development during this second trimester (and of course your own health and happiness) you may find that you have an increased urge for calcium, protein and DHA rich foods. Calcium is needed for growth. DHA, a form of omega 3 fatty acids, is needed to nurture your little ones inner brainiac. And yes, yes, yes! You CAN get enough protein and calcium whilst on a plant-based or vegan diet. One portion of broccoli contains more calcium than a glass of milk and quinoa is a complete protein. This means it contains all of the amino acids (building blocks of protein) that your body needs to get from food. It will be just as protein rich as meat or fish. And it will take your body way less energy to digest! Other examples of complete plant-based protein sources are: hemp, seaweeds, sprouted lentils, buckwheat, amaranth and chia. And you know what? Your body is awesome! It will use ‘incomplete’ plant-based protein sources and gather them, so they can become complete. Just make sure you eat plenty of seeds*, nuts*, whole grains*, beans*, sprouts, greens, leafy vegetables, root veggies, veggies in general, avocados, fruits, seaweeds and fresh green herbs and you’ll be FINE AND DANDY!
*I advise you to soak, sprout and bake/cook these foods before consuming. These techniques will rid nuts, beans and grains from the anti-nutrients they contain. Anti-nutrients rob your body from vitamins and minerals and leave you malnourished.
Plant-based foods rich in calcium
The same thing goes for calcium. It’s perfectly easy to get all the calcium you and your babe need from plant-based sources. I have placed some of the richest sources in the list above, but did you know even oranges contain this bone building mineral? Yes they do! Goes to show, we often think of milk and cheese when we look for calcium. I guess it’s time to do some rethinking!
There are various ways to make sure we are adequately absorbing calcium. There’s no purpose in ingesting when you’re not able to absorb and use right? Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium. And the best source of Vitamin D is… the sun! A mere 15 minutes of sun light exposure will give you a daily Vitamin D dose that will carry you right through the winter in a healthy and happy fashion. The problem is most of us spend so much time indoors, especially during the darker months, that we don’t get proper light exposure. We go to work when it’s dark, we stay behind the computer all day and we get home when it’s dark. We need to make sure we take our booties outside for 15-30 minutes a day, preferably around noon. Don’t worry about the sun being covered by clouds, it will still give you your Vitamin D*.
*Doing the ‘go outside and get your natural source of Vitamin D’ thing will help to prevent pregnancy diabetes. Research shows adequate levels of this vitamin will do exactly that! (My humble opinion: eating unrefined pure food will help too)
Now… let’s talk about DHA! DHA is a long chain omega 3 fatty acid that’s needed for brain development. Your babe needs it mostly from the late part of the second trimester up until its first years of life. But it’s not just during those first few years that DHA is essential. Everyone needs DHA to get their brains to function properly. The talk about DHA is important for those eating plant-based foods as DHA is mostly in animal products like fish and seafood. The body though is usually able to make DHA from plant-based fats known as ALA. Walnuts and flaxseeds contain ALA. Sometimes the body is not able to convert this plant-based ALA to usable DHA. It is therefore important to know, for those eating little to no animal products, that seaweed* contains direct available DHA. No converting needed. How that works? Fish contains DHA. Fish eat seaweed. Fish are rich in DHA because they eat seaweed, which is rich in DHA. We can go directly to the source and eat seaweed as a rich source of DHA too. How awesome!
*Seaweed is miraculous (pregnancy) foods! They are all super rich in growth enhancing protein, bone building calcium, blood and energy promoting iron, development supporting iodine and stress, restless leg and headache busting magnesium.
Plant-based sources of DHA
Are you also interested to hear about the healthiest non plant-based sources of DHA? Ghee (clarified butter) made from organically nurtured and grass-fed cows have it. As do egg yolks from organic chickens that have been left to roam the pastures and eat grasses.
The above information might help you understand and give direction to your nutritional needs. But most of all: observe your (healthy) cravings. If it’s pure foods you’re craving there is basically no wrong. As a vegan eating an egg, from a lovingly kept organic chicken that was out there discovering the green world, is not devilish. As a lover of all things Paleo, eating lentils is not the end of the world. Adding a knob of pure biodynamic ghee to your stewed veggies is not a sin. Be open to changes, trust your body, nurture and love it.
Bless my yoga practice. I think it’s so powerful and FUN. It makes me smile, makes me feel confident and happy about my changing body and it keeps me fit and healthy. Safe to say, during the first trimester I was a bit careful whilst practicing. Everything was so new and unknown. I did not know how my body would react to different poses and practices. But as I moved along and became more confident with my pregnant state my practice became sturdier as well. I craved practicing handstands, observed how it felt and it felt great! So I reintroduced them. My practice has been mainly about using the breath to connect and create space, about flow and grace, about strengthening the hip and pelvic region and about finding balance. You can find a youtube video of my prenatal second trimester yoga practice online, I have speeded up the video so it doesn’t take so long to watch. It’s there just to get a visual idea of what’s possible but make sure to create a practice that is suitable for YOU. Mine might not be it but it might give you some ideas and options. (I’m creating a proper second trimester yogaclass for you as we speak, it will air late September 2015)
And here are more ideas and options:
Moving on the rhythm of the breath and breathing deep made my chest expand which helps when, at some point, baby is taking up most of the chest space. Gentle chest openers do exactly the same.
Strengthening the hips and pelvic area helps to prevent pelvic instability and because your balance point changes when you are pregnant I have found great pleasure in practicing standing balance poses and inversions. For the latter, only practice these if you have already before your pregnancy.
Pelvic floor exercises will improve the health and vitality of the hip, pelvic, vulvic, urethral and perineal areas. This part of your body simply requires more attention when pregnant and practicing this will help you prevent hemorrhoids, incontinence and pelvic instability. On top of that it will enhance blood-flow, energy, healing and balance. That said, if you practice a lot of yoga (bhanda’s) or sports the muscles in this area are quite possibly already firm and well developed. It could be that by doing these exercises you become overly tight, which makes it difficult for your baby to pass through the birth canal. I advise experienced yoginis and athletic ladies to start practicing pelvic floor exercises straight after giving birth and refrain from doing these during the second and third trimesters. Feel free to receive customized advise by consulting your yoga teacher or wellness coach.
Ideas for second trimester yoga
Gentle chest openers such as cat cow and bridge
Hip and leg strengtheners such as lunge and standing squats
‘Women’s poses’ such as half moon and low squat
Balancing poses such as tree pose
One of the keywords during my second trimester turned out to be PACE. As our pregnancy travels on I was kindly reminded of the fact that my usual pace is not the pace my body thrives on right now. In other words I need to take it easy. So much of my energy goes into building this babe and wanting to be present for it. So I decided to create space and time whenever I felt like I needed it. Deciding it and actually doing it are two different things and it proved quite challenging to slow down. There were times when I thought, “this is too much I can’t do it”. So I very consciously gave myself permission to say NO. And when the first NO was out and about it became much easier to say NO the second time around. Know that by saying NO when your body tells you to, you are not taking a break from life. You are actually living your life to the fullest. You are attending to your needs to thrive, to be happy and healthy.
My body was telling me to prioritize and slow down through three clear signals: restless legs, headaches and stuffed sinuses or blocked up hearing. (Quite possibly your body gives out other ‘time to slow down’ signals, just tune in and listen and respond accordingly)
To cure my restless legs I upped my magnesium, took warm leg showers and practiced legs up the wall pose. Restless legs are basically a type of migraine in the legs. It is the cramping of the vessels in that area that gives you this restless feeling. Magnesium relaxes them. Upping your dietary magnesium intake can thus help with migraines, headaches and other cramp-like complaints.
To cure my headaches I changed my posture. Your posture changes when pregnant. It just does, simply by carrying your babe. I found out that sitting behind my laptop and looking down at it created tension in the neck and shoulders and gave me headaches*. The stuffed sinuses didn’t help either. So now I do some computer work and then swop it for recipe development, some more computer work, some outside time, some yoga, some cooking etcetera.
*The HUGE change in blood pressure (most of the time the pressure drops quite significantly) that pregnant ladies experience can also cause headaches.
To cure my congested sinuses* I used a traditional Indian technique called the neti pot. I used warm salted water and rinsed out my sinuses by pouring this water into alternating nostrils. The water comes out of the other nostril. It’s like showering your nose and it’s pretty fun! I highly recommend it when you suffer from allergies, asthma, breathing difficulties or sinus problems. This time neti proved to be inadequate. My eardrum was blocked so I needed to use a natural sea salt nose spray (by Weleda) to direct the water towards the ear. It’s much better now.
*A lot of pregnant ladies get stuffed sinuses and runny noses. The cocktail of pregnancy hormones makes your mucous swell.
And last but not least, to cure all these three I. SLOWED. Down. Saying NO can be powerful medicine. I do no longer suffer from headaches. The restless leg thing happened only twice. My sinuses are clearing up. Don’t you just love your body and its wisdom?
Lovely ladies, I wish you all a connected second trimester ♡