Lifestyle, Nutrition Inspiration

January 6, 2020

The First Trimester

First Trimester – My plant-based pregnancy

Everyone’s experience with pregnancy will obviously be very different but here is a recap of my experience during first trimester. My diet is primarily plant-based and I didn’t change that just because I am pregnant. You can get all the nutrients you need even with a vegan diet during first trimester and all of pregnancy! 

How we found out I was Pregnant 

I was so excited to start trying to have a baby so I was using the FLOW app on my iphone to track my periods and fertile times of the month. I tried taking a pregnancy test the first day of my missed period and it was negative ( I think I was a little too excited and took it too soon)! A couple days later when I still hadn’t gotten my period I decided to try and take another test. This time it had a very faint line indicating yes. I wasn’t overly excited because I wasn’t sure if it was really true.

The line is sometimes very faint because the HCG pregnancy hormone the test measures, was still very low. I took another and it too had a very faint line. It was a bit of a surreal experience, I didn’t want to get too excited before I could confirm but I was pretty sure I was pregnant. I was in the US and had to wait until I was back in the Philippines to go to my OB-GYN to confirm.

We went to the OB when we returned to the Philippines and she confirmed with an ultrasound- I was indeed pregnant!

Soon after finding out we told our family. We were also going on a scuba trip with some friends and I couldn’t dive with them because you can’t when you’re pregnant so we told them very early on as well. We told people here and there when we were ready, but waited to tell everyone until my second trimester, just to be safe.

First trimester ultrasound

My first trimester ultrasound, confirming there’s a baby!

How I felt during first trimester

Compared to many women I think I felt very good. I started to experience nausea from about 7-12 weeks but luckily never threw up. Mostly I described it has feeling mildly hungover everyday, of course without actually having had a drink.

I was tired, bloated and always hungry. I felt like I couldn’t stop eating. Eating actually made me feel better. There were a few weekends I slept almost the entire day, and I napped almost everyday in the afternoon. Although I felt like was was getting bigger, I know no one else thought anything of it, it’s all in my head!!

Experiencing some ‘hot flashes’ is also common. I just tried to hold a cold bottle of water to my face to cool myself down. Maybe that happened more because I live in a tropical climate and ‘cool’ here is about 85 degrees but the air con has been on the steady increase since getting pregnant.

I got a bad cold at about week 11 which was not fun because you can’t take any decongestants. I went through a pack of throat lozenges and just tried to sleep a lot. It was miserable for a few days but that’s about all I could do. I had a trip planned to South Korea with some friends and was luckily feeling better by that time. 

I summited Seoraksan, the third highest peak in South Korea- this was amazing and I think getting out into nature with fresh air took my mind off everything. Maybe I took it a bit slower than I would have if I wasn’t pregnant but I was incredibly happy I attempted the hike, and very proud of myself for completing it!!

Hiking during first trimester!

At the summit of Seoraksan in South Korea. We made it through the tough 1,708m in one day!

What I ate during first trimester 

A lot of women find it hard to keep food down during the first trimester but all I wanted to do was eat. Calorie needs are not really increased yet at this stage of pregnancy but I listened to my body and ate what made me feel better.

I was craving mostly carbs, which I think is very common. I don’t think I have eaten or craved a doughnut in years but all of the sudden it was all I wanted!

I was also craving more salty foods. I took one bite of a chocolate brownie and gave the rest to my husband it was so unappealing, but couldn’t get enough potatoes and chips- the opposite of how I usually am.

A couple of nights I just wanted simple pasta with parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper. It was basic and delicious and that’s all that sounded good!

I let myself eat the things that maybe I normally wouldn’t because I was just focused on feeling better and eating simple, quick foods because I was too tired to cook much. I still tried to balance out all the carbs and get vegetables into my day but I didn’t stress about it too much. I listened to my body and ate what made me feel best.

Here are some of the things I made that incorporated veggies into comfort meals:

  • Fresh vegetables were not too appealing, but that is fine, I added them to things that sounded good to keep it healthy.
  • Pasta with roasted vegetables
  • Smoothies with ginger helped with the nausea a little bit
  • Pizza loaded with veg
  • Stir-fry with rice, edamame and vegetables
  • Noodle soup with lots of vegetables

 

Protein needs in the first trimester- Is it okay to eat less or no meat while pregnant? 

It is totally fine and actually very healthy to eat plant-based during pregnancy. If you are currently following a plant-based diet there is no need to change. Protein needs go up in the subsequent trimesters and you just need to make sure you are getting enough through grains, legumes and vegetables. 

What I’m drinking

When I first found out I was pregnant I thought I had to stop drinking caffeine. Normally I drink black coffee every morning and usually another in the mid-afternoon. The first few days I drank only 1/2 cup trying wean myself off it. I went about a week with no caffeine and then started doing some research to see if this was actually a must.

Studies show it is okay to have 150mg-300mg of caffeine per day- about 1-2 cups of coffee* per day. Since then I still start my days with 1 cup of coffee. If I really want a second cup I have it later in the day, not both at once. Black coffee wasn’t tasting good though so I started drinking cappuccinos with soy milk (no added sugar).

Other beverages of choice:

  • Water
  • Coconut water
  • Ginger spice tea
  • Fresh ginger and lemon in hot water
  • Soda water
  • Some great mocktails – try making this apple cider vinegar drink!

 

*Remember soda and certain teas have caffeine as well so keep that in mind when you are calculating your intake. Here is a chart with general caffeine amounts in different beverages.

Exercise

I wasn’t feeling super motivated to exercise but my doctor had cleared me to continue getting moderate exercise. Here’s what I found most accessible:

  • Yin Yoga – a super slow yoga practice that helps to work the small fascia (connective tissue) in your body. 
  • Prenatal yoga videos on YouTube
  • Bloom Method
  • Lots of walking and hiking when I could

Self Care

I try to use mostly natural products on a regular basis but I did an overhaul of my skin care, beauty products, and cleaning products. Here are some of the things I switched to:

  • Innisfree facial products and eye liner
  • Magwai (available in the Philippines) and Beach Bum (in the US) sunscreen
  • Distilled vinegar + water and essential oil for cleaning 
  • All natural dish soap
  • Ritual laundry detergent- from a local store in Manila
  • Wool ball for dryer sheets (you can add a few drops of essential oil to make it smell good) or you can use a tennis ball (a new clean one preferably).
  • Skeeter spray mosquito spray- you can find it at Whole Foods or use family and kid safe spray-  a dengue outbreak was happening in the Philippines which made me super nervous so I used mosquito spray every time I took the dogs out for a walk!

 

I got a few extra massages and facials as well. I know I won’t have as much time for this stuff once the baby comes so I wanted to make it a point to spoil myself a little while I still have the time!  Zennya, is like Uber for massages. It’s app in Manila where you can order a massage right to your house, amazing. All the therapists have been wonderful. 

I also get acupuncture. It can help with all sorts of symptoms including nausea, joint and back pain, fatigue, headaches and more.

Favorite Resources/ Books

I tried not to read too many books about pregnancy because I figured it will not help my symptoms that much. What is going to happen will happen and I would rather spend time learning about preparing for birth and life after the baby is born.

There is so much information out there, you could spend days just learning about everything that can go wrong. My mentality was that I will read about those things if something does go wrong, until then I focused on the helpful things. 

Expecting Better by Emily Oster – a great book about the true pregnancy ‘rules’ and why some things are still okay even though we hear they are not, like caffeine!

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May – a great book about birth, mostly about natural birth but an interesting read for anytime during your pregnancy.

Baby Center emails – I love getting the weekly emails with short updates about each week of pregnancy. They have some helpful videos as well.

The Bump app – I like this as they give you a fun fact about how big your baby is each day.

Bloom Method – a great workout website for pre and post natal

Supplements

I didn’t change or add supplements during my first trimester. These are my regular supplements anyway.

  • Rainbow prenatal– They are really big pills but they are complete with almost all the nutrients you need. I recommend taking prenatal vitamins even before you start trying to get pregnant.
  • Biohm prebiotic and probiotic – I have been taking these for about a year and half now and love them! 

 

Overall, first trimester seemed to go slow because I kept waiting for my body to change, to ‘pop’ and to start telling everyone. I tried to listen to my body and really just take it easy without feeling guilty for sleeping too much, eating too many chips and carbs or not exercising enough. My body is changing and preparing for a baby, so I took it easy and I feel very lucky I didn’t have any big complications or morning sickness.

What were some of your favorite things that helped during first trimester? Any questions or comments please share!

The first trimester of pregnancy

References:

  1. Is caffeine consumption safe during pregnancy? Can Fam Physician. 2013 Apr; 59(4): 361-362. Morgan, S., Koren, G., and Bozzo, P.

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