Second Trimester Wellness Favorites
When the second trimester of pregnancy came to a sweet close, I rounded up all the holistic tidbits I'd gathered along the way. The following is a list of wellness favorites I put into practice and strongly believe contributed to my overall positive health and wellness. As a holistic nutritionist, I love researching natural health alternatives and prevention protocol, whether it's via peer-reviewed studies or anecdotal evidence from blogs and books. Pregnancy, birth and postpartum care can be overwhelming topics, especially if you're trying to keep things low-intervention, gentle and natural. Hopefully some of these ideas will meet you where you're at and fit a need!
Epsom Salt Baths with Essential Oils
I LOVED soaking sore and tired muscles in a warm bath of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and calming essential oils like lavender, frankincense and orange. Magnesium promotes overall calm in the body, as it has a relaxing effect on the nervous system. Also amazing for water retention and swelling, but that tends to be more of a third trimester issue.
If a bath doesn't fit into your schedule, try Ancient Minerals magnesium oil before bed on your feet and legs to prevent leg cramping and restlessness. Again, it also helps promote relaxaction and better sleep.
Prenatal Yoga and Pilates at Home
Katy Appleton's pregnancy yoga series for FREE HERE.
Le Tote Maternity Subscription
With Le Tote, YOU pick the exact items you want to receive (rather than having them chosen for you by an online stylist). They offer several subscription options at different prices, but overall, it's a monthly charge, but it allows you to send back your 'totes' and get new ones as often as you'd like within each month. I found this to be the perfect maternity gift to myself during the transitional second trimester months of awkwardly fitting into most things, especially if I had a more formal event to attend. Le Tote has a wide range of gorgeous maternity dresses for all occasions that I wouldn't typically want to spend the money on for one-time use.
Use THIS link for a $25 discount on your first month, if you'd like to try it out!
Loved starting our baby registry during the second trimester! I'm a total researcher and could've spent dozens more hours than I did milling over product reviews. With Amazon's Baby Registry, you can easily add ANY item from ANY website/store with their simple browser toolbar add-on (similar to Pinterest's 'pin it' browser button). Plus, you'll be hard-pressed to find most items cheaper somewhere other than Amazon. I've heard good things about Babylist as well, but Amazon's process for marking outside gifts as 'purchased' felt more intuitive and streamlined to me.
I flew two roundtrips when I was pregnant: one at 23/24 weeks (Orange County to Jackson, WY and back) and one when I hit 30 weeks (Santa Barbara to Oahu and back). I have friends who had terrible Braxton-Hicks and swollen, cramping legs while flying pregnant, so I felt the need to come prepared. The earlier trip was a breeze (aside from some flying anxiety that I already had pre-pregnancy). I wore tight compression socks on the plane, but mostly because they were Smartwool socks, and we were landing in freezing temperatures.
The longer flight to Hawaii involved more uncomfortableness in general, but nothing extreme. I was larger, I had to pee more, and I knew I needed to hydrate more. I made trips to the galley area to ask the flight attendants to fill up my reusable water bottle, rather than just giving me a small plastic cup per their usual routine. I was sure to sip on Chamomile tea leading up to and during the flights, per a birth worker friend's suggestion. She also suggested taking homeopathic passiflora as a uterine relaxant of sorts, which I have not tried. I had about 20-30 minutes total of some crampy tightening in my lower abdomen, which is when I rubbed some calming essential oils (lavender and Stress Away) onto my abdomen and felt almost immediate relief.
Whether or not you have actual muscle tightness or back pain yet, getting started with a trusted chiropractor before your third trimester begins can be crucial for pelvic alignment during the birth process. My midwives all agreed that their clients who regularly sought chiropractic adjustment toward the end of pregnancy had noticeably less painful births and smoother labors overall.
Stretch Mark Prevention
I made a great (and thick!) belly butter at home from shea butter, sweet almond oil, and coconut oil. The essential oils I chose are what really make the magic work though: frankincense, lavender, geranium, and a few drops of one of my favorite Young Living blends, Gentle Baby. You can learn more about those HERE. I'd rub it all over my chest, abdomen and sides every night. In my experience, husbands love helping with the application process. :)
If you're not in a DIY mood, Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a great natural 'stretch oil' HERE.
I purchased this pregnancy pillow at the very end of my first trimester (overly eager), but really didn't feel it to be necessary until the end of my second. You can definitely make do with multiple pillows to support between the knees, ankles, and possibly one to 'hug' for shoulder alignment...but I found that every time I moved, the single pillows would slip out of place too easily or fall to the ground. The Snoogle looks like a human-sized Dr. Seuss character in pillow form. It has a washable cover/case, and much to my husband's chagrin, it feels like a third person in the bed between us at times. But it made side-sleeping so much easier for me, not to mention more comfortable. It kept me from rolling onto my back too often in the middle of a deep sleep, which compresses the inferior vena cava and can diminish blood flow to both you and the baby (thanks to the heaviness of the baby and uterus weighing down toward your spine). Read more about maternal sleep positions in a study HERE.
Magnesium, Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
To prevent against some common pregnancy woes like constipation, fatigue and indigestion, I made it a part of my daily supplement routine to include these three powerhouses:
For magnesium, which can relax the colon to the point of sometimes acting as a mild laxative (but only in therapeutic doses), I drank CALM powder at night and took Thorne Research magnesium citrate capsules during the day.
Digestive enzymes were KEY for me throughout my entire pregnancy. The natural rise in progesterone that women experience after conceiving has a major slowdown effect on certain systems in a woman's body (AKA digestion and elimination). To properly break down the food we eat and actually absorb the majority of vitamins and minerals, we need enzymes, and we need different kinds of enzymes to help digest different types of foods. I regularly used Solaray's Super Digestaway and Young Living's Essentialzyme in between meals to help bolster my body's natural supply.
Citrus Essential Oils
Essential oils have been a huge and powerful part of my pregnancy journey (future blog post coming soon!). For now, more on what ones I use and how, HERE. That said, I consumed a few drops of citrus oils (tangerine, lemon, and orange mostly) either in my water or through an antioxidant drink like Ningxia Red. I only experienced slight swelling in my legs and the aching that comes with that for two days, and that was while I was without these oils on vacation in Hawaii. Rubbing diluted citrus oils with some cypress essential oil on my legs was huge relief during those two days as well.
I felt very safe taking elderberry syrup during pregnancy. For centuries, elderberries have been used as a winter remedy to bolster the immune system. I chose not to get a flu shot, and I was pregnant throughout the "germiest seasons" (fall and winter), yet I never got sick. I truly think this helped (among a few other tricks I had up my sleeves)!
As with so many things involving pregnancy, there aren't many hard-and-fast studies done on various herbs, red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) tea included. The Pregnant Scientist has rounded up some info that's worth a read before you dive into a giant kettle of a potentially uterine-strengthening elixir. My midwives gave me an endless supply of loose-leaf tea made from red raspberry leaf, nettles, dandelion, peppermint, blessed thistle and yellow dock. I drank it about every other day during my second trimester, and a bit more often during the third, in hopes of making my labor contractions as efficient as possible when they began. Wellness Mama has some great info HERE as well.
Protein from Collagen Peptides
Second trimester is really when you want to start upping your protein to epic proportions. Adequate amounts of good quality protein can help prevent against varicose veins, pre-eclampsia...even late-onset pregnancy nausea. Grass-fed collagen peptides from Vital Proteins is my absolute favorite protein powder—it's paleo, flavorless and full of natural peptides that are highly bio-available, digestible and soluble in cold or hot liquids. I added a scoop to every smoothie, pot of soup, bowl of yogurt, etc.
LISTENING & READING
I discovered a newer site called Expectful recently that is beautifully cultivated and includes audio meditation and relaxation recordings/exercises for each trimester. They have a free 15-day trial and then it's $9/month. From Expectful's website: "Meditation during pregnancy and beyond has been shown to improve the connection between you and your baby, and have a positive impact on their health, and yours. It also decreases stress, enhances immunity and can reduce pain during labor."
An online archive exists with Hypno Birthing's Rainbow Relaxation and birthing affirmations for free as well.
Natural Childbirth Books
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is seen as the end-all-be-all natural birth book. The front part is all birth stories (LOVE!) and the second part is her essentials, logistics and facts about low-intervention births.
Dr. Sears The Birth Book is another tried-and-true classic that presents birth in a calm and natural light and has tons of helpful birthing preparation ideas and tips.
This quickly became a favorite for me during pregnancy. I'm well on my way to listening to every recorded episode already. It's a great mix of natural births, home births, hospital births, complicated births, etc. For me, it felt helpful to hear about the wide array of birth experiences that people had, no matter what their initial plans were.