I’m Pregnant! Our Rainbow Baby is Coming in May!
Johnny and I are beyond excited to share that our rainbow baby is due in May! I’m heading into the third trimester feeling excited, terrified and in absolute awe of human physiology. I shared the news on Instagram yesterday and the outpouring of love and support meant more than I can explain in words. Thank you for all of your support!
Photos by Chelsea Stevenson
My team and I at Being Functional Nutrition support a lot of women in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum periods with their health. This is an essential time to focus on optimizing health since your health is the building block of creating a future life and doing so without completely depleting you! This is a look at what I have personally been doing to support a healthy pregnancy and is not medical advice. Be sure to consult your healthcare team on what works best for you. I hope it serves as a helpful guide.
Supporting Mental Health After a Loss
It wasn’t easy getting here. I know many of you can relate. After we lost our first baby in 2021, from a missed miscarriage, I convinced myself for a period of time that maybe I was incapable of staying pregnant. When I got pregnant the second time, in August 2022, I had a difficult time celebrating or believing that it would work out and anxiety over the health of the baby. Even as I write this, it feels vulnerable to share because I don’t know that everything is going to work out. But here are some things that I am doing to support my mental health:
1-Walking Three Times Per Day
Walking regularly helps get out of your own head and is critical for supporting mental health! Especially if you can get outside and get that dose of sunshine and nature. I wasn’t able to do this in the first trimester but have gotten really consistent in the second trimester.
2-Reframing Fear-Based Thoughts By Going Through Byron Katie’s Four Questions
Byron Katie’s work is something that we refer our clients to when they have their own fear-based thoughts. When I’m having a negative thought or I convince myself that something is wrong (when nothing is wrong), I try to walk through Byron Katie’s Four Questions, starting with ‘Is this true’? Click here for all of her four questions. This is not a perfect cure to get my mind to stop self-sabotaging but it definitely helps.
3-Taking Time to Unplug
I have the fortune of loving my work, team and clients. But because I love it so much, it’s always been hard for me to create a work-life balance. Finding ways to unplug from work has been really important for filling my own cup in the last year. I started doing this even before pregnancy. Unplugging is key for supporting the central nervous system, mental health and lowering the production of stress hormones that likely impact the baby. Things that I am doing:
- Prioritizing relationships more. I’ve been more intentional about making time to connect with Johnny who really helps to ground me.
- Intentionally unwinding before bed. This can include an evening bath, breathing exercises, meditation, reading a book or anything that helps you feel zen.
- Do deep breathing exercises throughout the day to regulate cortisol.
- A structured morning routine. Here is what my current morning routine includes: morning minerals, lay on a PEMF mat for 20 minutes and do the Red Light Mask from Higher Dose for 10 minutes (the company cannot claim that these devices are safe for pregnancy–this is something that I personally feel comfortable doing), eat breakfast and drink matcha, walk for 20 minutes outside. Most mornings I finish with a shower and do 30-60 seconds with cold water. I’ve added the cold shower to practice finding peace and my breath in uncomfortable situations to begin to mentally prepare for childbirth.
After I miscarried in May of 2021, my physical and mental health took a turn for the worst. When I woke up I had zero energy, I felt SO depressed and I gained 10 lbs without changing my diet/lifestyle. My doctor refused to test hormones, said this was normal and that once my period came back, we were fine to start trying again.
I knew that if I wanted to get pregnant again and have a healthy pregnancy that I needed to focus on regaining my health. I spent more than one year trying to improve my health before Johnny and I started trying again. Johnny told me regularly: ‘envision yourself as an olympic athlete training for the olympics. A healthy pregnancy is our olympics’.
Preconception health is critical for everyone. This is the 90 day window before you plan to start trying. It serves as a critical time to improve egg quality and sperm health which can help to improve fertility, pregnancy outcomes and the lifelong health of the baby. Here are the four basic but essential factors to prioritize:
1-A Nutrient-Dense Diet
Before jumping to the importance of a prenatal, using a food first approach to nutrient-density is absolutely key. Food is medicine! And that is especially true when you think of all of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that the body can get from nutrient-dense whole foods that are critical for preconception and pregnancy. A 2021 study showed that a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet before and during pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and pre-term delivery. Not to mention that the mom’s diet also influences baby’s taste preferences, brain development, gut microbiome and so much more. I love the book Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols and would highly recommend reading prior to pregnancy!
2-Taking a Prenatal for Johnny and I At Least 90 Days Before Conception
Research shows that a whole foods nutrient-dense diet and prenatal supplementation can support optimal growth and brain development; decrease risk of DNA damage and can lower risk of pregnancy and birth complications. I am on the Medical Advisory Board for WeNatal, a supplement company for both men and women. Johnny and I took WeNatal more than 90 days before conception. I’ve continued taking this prenatal throughout my pregnancy. I love WeNatal because they have all of the most important nutrients (Choline, vitamin D, methylated B vitamins, etc.) and the nutrients are in therapeutic doses, they are bioavailable, and contain no fillers or unnecessary ingredients.
Again unplugging more often is really key for lowering stress levels. I personally prioritized breathing exercises, low intensity exercise, walking and unplugging. Lowering stress is also key for supporting healthy hormonal balance and particularly for improving progesterone levels.
4-Blood Sugar Optimization
Blood sugar imbalances and elevated blood sugar levels can negatively impact fertility by altering hormones, damaging egg health and negatively impacting sperm quality.
It also drives insulin resistance which leads to elevated levels of insulin which also has a negative impact on reproductive hormones. There are insulin receptors in the ovarian cells. When you have high levels of insulin, those cells produce more androgens in females which drives menstrual irregularity, lack of ovulation, facial hair growth, weight gain and more.
Before trying to conceive, I really prioritized stable blood sugar levels. I made a lot of the meals from my Blood Sugar Reset Bundle and I also tracked my blood sugar levels on and off with a Continuous Glucose Monitor to work on improving my insulin sensitivity and overall metabolic health.
Additional Ways That I Supported Preconception Health
1-Testing Nutrient Deficiencies for Both Johnny and I
Having adequate levels of the essential nutrients is critical for a healthy conception and pregnancy given that pregnancy is such a nutrient-dependent process. Even mild deficiencies can decrease egg quality and lead to detrimental effects on embryonic development. In my signature program, My Food is Health we test for nutrient deficiencies with a specific organic acids test and this was the exact test that I used to look at Johnny and my nutrient status. It’s so important for seeing your nutrient deficiencies, antioxidant needs, inflammation levels, gut imbalances, and more. This is especially true after you have been pregnant, given birth or been breastfeeding–all of these experiences are very nutrient-dependent. The average American has a hard enough time getting enough nutrients in their diet–let alone when they are using those nutrients for them and a growing baby. I will absolutely retest after pregnancy and after breastfeeding to ensure that I am replenishing my nutrients.
2-Testing my Hormones
When my OBGYN said that she wouldn’t test my hormones, I decided that I would get my own hormone testing done (this is something that we run on our VIP clients and in our post-My Food is Health program, Sustain). I worked with a colleague who is a naturopath to outline the best way to improve my hormones. I specifically focused on increasing my progesterone and lowering cortisol because both were out of balance.
3-Biohacking Devices (Sauna and HOCATT for Ozone)
While purchasing a lot of biohacking devices is not necessary, they were beneficial for me. Sometimes we need more than just food or lifestyle to really help the body get back to homeostasis. I used my infrared sauna more regularly to help to decrease any buildup of environmental toxins that could negatively impact the future baby’s development. This is the portable infrared sauna that we bought a few years ago because it was very cost-effective compared to the larger saunas. I also did Ozone which was very helpful in improving my energy and mental clarity after the miscarriage and post-covid. Both of these things I did before pregnancy, not during.
First Trimester Nausea
First trimester nausea is very real and can feel extremely debilitating. I was horribly nausea from week 5-week 16. This is a time that you can feel like you are in survival mode. Even though I wanted to be eating all organic, low glycemic, vegetable-rich meals, it just did not happen in those weeks of peak nausea levels. I even had to stop taking WeNatal for about 4 weeks and switch to a low quality prenatal gummy but then switched back as I started to feel better. I survived on mashed potatoes, clam chowder, greek yogurt, eggs and gluten-free toast, and cheese quesadillas with almond flour. A few things that helped me in that time period:
This isn’t the case for everyone but eating more regularly than usual helped decrease nausea. I tried to eat foods with some form of protein and/or fat when eating carbohydrates like an apple with nut butter, a handful of Simple Mills crackers with 1/2 of an avocado, gluten-free whole grain toast with nut butter, etc. Trying to add any source of protein and/or fat to those meals can also help with blood sugar balance which can help to curb nausea. I found that after I ate more carbohydrate-rich foods, my nausea was worse.
2-Drinking a Green Juice Daily
I love smoothies, especially with Be Well By Kelly Vanilla Protein Powder. But smoothies were harder to tolerate in the first trimester. Green juices that are low glycemic and don’t have a lot of fruit can give antioxidants and phytonutrients when you can’t stomach a lot of vegetables. I ordered Farmer’s Juice Green’s Only Box (The Focus Greens and Digestive Greens) and have been drinking one per day. The Focus Greens has matcha in it so it does contain some caffeine. The recommendation is to consume less than 200mg of caffeine per day during pregnancy.
3-Relying on Nutrient Stores
One of the many benefits of taking a prenatal before conception is that it helps to increase your nutrient stores. Your body is able to pull from those nutrient stores when you are in your first trimester if your diet is not as well-balanced. This helped give me a peace of mind and made me feel less guilty when I was eating mashed potatoes and clam chowder for lunch and banza mac and cheese for dinner.
4-Making Better for You Swaps
The only food category that I could comfortably tolerate was carbohydrates. I know this is the case for so many pregnant women in the first trimester. I bought better alternatives to some of the foods that I was really craving like Banza Mac and Cheese made with chickpeas instead of white pasta; Tolerant Foods lentil pasta; and Siete Almond Flour Wraps for the cheese quesadillas.
5-Finding Tolerable Ways to Eat Vegetables
Finding the vegetables that you can tolerate, in which forms and with which condiments is key. The only forms of vegetables that I could tolerate were: coleslaw mix with shredded cabbage and carrots with Garlic Expressions dressing (typically I do not eat a lot of canola oil but this dressing hit the spot and helped me get my coleslaw in. I had the mindset that getting more vegetables into my diet was worth eating some canola oil); roasted cauliflower (batching 1-2 heads of cauliflower per week); and carrots with hummus. Since I couldn’t eat a lot of vegetables, I ate fruits that I could tolerate (especially berries, apples, kiwi, pomegranate seeds and oranges) for the fiber and phytonutrients and paired them with nut butter. There were some days that I ate 2-3 apples in one day! It’s important to just do your best.
Second trimester can be something to look forward to in hopes that symptoms improve and diet/exercise can be prioritized more. Since 16 weeks my diet has returned to normal. I’m able to take as many supplements as I need with no problem, vegetables sound delicious again and I am able to exercise more.
1-Focusing on Nutrient-Density
When structuring meals, it helps so much to think of how to maximize nutrient-density. I’m balancing my meals, trying to get an abundance of non-starchy vegetables, beans, organic meat, wild salmon, and other nutrient-dense staples to get all of the nutrients that I can to the baby. I love thinking of small ways that I can add nutrient-density like grating ginger root into warm water, adding broccoli sprouts to eggs, adding beans to any meal for additional fiber, or drinking almond milk for extra calcium.
2-Increase My Steps
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are continually conveyed. But getting movement and exercise can be much harder when pregnant. I wasn’t able to walk much in the first trimester because movement usually made my nausea worse. Now that I am in the second trimester, I’m walking three times per day and aiming for 7,000-10,000 steps per day. Tracking steps helps. This is where an Apple Watch can be beneficial (I bought an Apple Watch to track my steps since the Oura Ring that I typically use to track sleep is not as accurate for tracking movement). I also bought a walking pad to get more steps in throughout the day. For additional exercise, I am doing sculpt classes using small weights three times per week.
I’m now able to take more supplements with no problem. Everyone needs to figure out which supplements work best for you personally (outside of the prenatal). I’m currently taking the following daily:
- Morning: minerals & MitoPure (this is something that I feel comfortable taking during pregnancy to support my mitochondria)
- Mid-afternoon: prenatal, omega 3 fish oil, probiotic, prebiotics
- Before bed: magnesium glycinate
4-Hydration & Electrolytes
Hydration is so key for all of pregnancy but I’ve found it to be especially important to focus on in my second trimester after I started feeling light headed sometimes. Dehydration can be a common cause of this but it’s not just from not drinking enough water, it could also be not having enough electrolytes. Your demand for electrolytes increases with pregnancy and higher blood volume. Things that helped me:
- Prioritizing reverse osmosis whenever possible. I bring my water bottle with me to try to make sure that I have water that doesn’t have a lot of environmental pollutants.
- Tracking my water consumption on a sticky note for more than a week to ensure that I was getting at least 100 fl oz per day.
- Using 1 packet of LMNT per day. I started out just doing 1/2 of a packet consistently everyday but I’ve found that 1 full packet is needed to support my energy and decrease lightheadedness. This has 1,000mg of sodium in one packet.
Sleep is one of the most critical aspects of overall health and even more important for pregnancy health. But it can be so hard to get quality sleep. The past few weeks sleep has gotten much harder. So I’ve been more consistent with the following to help improve sleep quality:
- Magnesium Glycinate every night before bed.
- Getting into bed at the same time every night–aiming for 9:30pm at the latest.
- Limiting exposure to electronics at least one hour before bed.
- Finally buying and using a pregnancy pillow. I bought this one because it has low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
- Using my pink Himalayan salt lamp in my bedroom instead of the overhead light.
- Eating dinner one hour earlier at night.
- Eating frozen cherries after dinner that can help to increase melatonin.
6-Chia Seed Pudding Daily for Constipation!
Constipation is a very common symptom in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. And I forgot how incredibly uncomfortable it can be. Not to mention that having a regular bowel movement is key for removing chemical pollutants and toxins to help decrease baby’s exposure too. Before I said yes to a stool softener, I wanted to use a food first approach which has really worked for me. That includes:
- Eating chia seed pudding every morning with breakfast. Chia seed pudding can be wonderful for lubricating the GI tract and aiding in bowel movements.
- Taking a probiotic and prebiotic daily. While I think that everyone needs to figure out which probiotic is best for them, the most common probiotic that I recommend is Just Thrive. You can use the code beingbrigid for 15% off your order. They also sell a prebiotic which I talk about the benefits of here.
- Increasing my daily electrolytes, as I discussed above has also helped reduce constipation.
Overall Consistency Throughout Pregnancy
Overall there are certain behaviors and habits that I have really prioritized because I believe so strongly in their ability to support a healthy pregnancy. Here are things that I have been extra consistent with:
1-Eating 80-90% Organic
Overall this has been more of a focus than ever before. I was not as consistent as I would have liked in the first trimester with eating organic but I still made every effort to prioritize organic whenever possible. And that has become super consistent in the second trimester. This help to decrease the baby’s exposure to environmental pollutants. Here’s an article that I wrote on benefits of eating organic.
2-Limiting Environmental Pollutants
Limiting the body’s exposure to unnecessary environmental pollutants is especially important during pregnancy. Think of your haircare products, soap, lotions, makeup, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, perfumes/ cologne, candles, and more. We’ve been trying to limit environmental pollutants for years but I got more diligent since being pregnant to try to lower the baby’s exposure to these endocrine disruptors. I also personally chose to not dye my hair during pregnancy and to avoid painting my nails. It also helps to prioritize regularly washing bed sheets, hand washing, and thoroughly washing feet in the shower to decrease environmental chemicals that get on my hands/feet and then track throughout the house. Some of my favorite products:
- Air Doctor to help filter the air in your home.
- Branch Basics cleaning supplies.
- Honest Beauty soap and makeup.
- Native deodorant.
- Rahua shampoo and conditioner.
3-Trying to Keep Electronics Away From Belly
While there isn’t a lot of research about the negative impact of EMFs, this is something that I have been cautious of. I avoid laying down and putting my laptop directly on my stomach and I try not to keep my laptop sitting on my bed or couch for long periods of time and instead transfer to harder surfaces that we don’t sit on. When I am letting it sit on the couch, I put my laptop on top of the Defender Laptop Shield that is supposed to help block EMF transmission. I also try to avoid putting my cell phone in a pocket that is sitting close to my stomach for the same reasons.
4-Taking a Daily Prenatal
My OBGYN continues to remind me that if you do nothing else, taking a prenatal vitamin daily is absolutely critical for supporting the health of the baby. The problem is that a lot of prenatals don’t contain the best doses of nutrients in the most bioavailable form. That’s why I feel so good about taking WeNatal for Her everyday. I helped to formulate the product with our Medical Advisory Board which gives me peace of mind that we chose the most therapeutic doses of nutrients to support this nutrient-demanding process.
5-Limiting Added Sugar
Limiting added sugar is important for many reasons but my top three motives include supporting: 1) the metabolic health of myself and the baby to decrease risk of gestational diabetes, 2) immune health (here’s an article that I wrote about how sugar can suppress immune health) and 3) skin elasticity. Over the holidays when I was still nauseous, I had more sweets than usual. But outside of that I have been super committed to avoiding added sugar as much as possible to help to decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, help to positively influence the tastebuds of the baby, and to try to decrease the severity of stretch marks post-pregnancy. My daily source of added sugar is 1-2 handfuls of dark chocolate gems from HU Kitchen with dry roasted almonds or cashews. This has a great blood sugar response on my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM).
I will continue to share resources that have been working for myself and my health throughout the pregnancy so be sure that you are following me there and DM me to introduce yourself!