Pregnancy Survival Guide: Tips to feel your best each trimester

Pregnancy Survival Tips: Basic strategies to improve your mood, energy, and well-being during pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of life’s blessings, but let’s be honest and admit that growing that little miracle can be a difficult and frustrating experience for your body. Two pregnancies and two continents later, I want to share the tips I have learned for surviving the various challenges of pregnancy. As always I’ll include specifically French-inspired tips because these French women are darn good at being glamorous no matter what stage of life they are in.


First trimester:

A time of changing moods, unbelievable fatigue, dizziness, and horrendous nausea (I personally find the first trimester to be the most difficult). To top it all off no one knows your pregnant so you just seem super lame and lazy! Here are some tips to help you muscle through it:

Survival secret Morning Sickness Extreme fatigue
Physicial activity
Balanced diet
  • Sleep it off: The best cure for a bout of morning sickness or extreme fatigue is a good nap. This tactic works well during the first pregnancy, but becomes difficult when you already have other children, just try to sneak in extra sleep whenever you can (like going to bed at 6 PM with your toddler!).
  • Move it off: The nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy can be very severe, and triggered by almost anything – food, smells, motion, iphone screen, TV, and reading. If you can get yourself up and moving it will help boost your energy and fight nausea; if nothing else it will pass the time. A long leisurely walk is the French secret to good health and a slim figure! If you are feeling up to it, prenatal yoga is also a gentle way to exercise (Prenatal Yoga with Desi Bartlett is my favorite video, used it through both pregnancies).
  • Arm your diet: At first it may seem like any type of eating is an accomplishment when you’re struggling with morning sickness but there are tricks to keep it better controlled. The French are all about preventing digestive problems before they have the chance to get the best of you.  Here’s how:
    • Always have a carbohydrate rich breakfast (ie oatmeal).
    • Prevent nausea before it hits by eating every couple of hours (but less at each sitting) and eating well-balanced meals whenever you feel well enough to do so.
    • Keep your food choices simple and decrease the amount of spices and seasoning you would normally use.
    • Avoid overly greasy foods and foods with strong aromas, because these can trigger morning sickness.
  • Ginger! Ginger is an amazing all natural way to fight morning sickness. The French are hesitant to prescribe unnecessary medications during pregnancy, and my obstetrician recommended ginger as the first line treatment to my awful nausea. Use any form: tea(Yogi Tea Ginger, Herbal Supplement, Tea Bags, 16 ct), dried ginger, or my favorite – pills!


Second Trimester:

Also known as the golden trimester of pregnancy, the second trimester marks the time when most women experience relief from their morning sickness, along with a boost of energy. Plus that adorable baby bump is starting to form and become conspicuous!

  • Take advantage of this time! Travel, be social, enjoy romantic one-on-one time with your partner before those sleepless nights, which are coming sooner than you think…
  • Sleep: Invest in a pregnancy pillow (love this one: Leachco Snoogle Total Body Pillow, Ivory). Seriously, the minute you have trouble sleeping order one, its only going to get worse. When you sleep well all your other pregnancy symptoms get better.
  • Lotion it up. The minute you feel the itch on your belly, invest in high quality lotion or oil and rub it on your belly daily to prevent stretch marks. Every time your belly grows your skin gets stretched and becomes itchy, so this is a secret sign to moisturize. My favorites are Burts Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter 6.6 oz, Weleda: Pregnancy Body Oil for Stretch Marks, 3.4 oz, and Clarins Stretch Mark Minimizer Lotion for Unisex, 6.8 Ounce.
  • Pamper your skin: Your skin changes and may be more sensitive during pregnancy. Basic pregnancy itchiness can be improved by changing your soap (AHAVA Moisturizing Salt Soap is my favorite), laundry detergent, and daily lotion application. Please note that an itchy rash can be a sign of a serious medical condition in pregnancy and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Gain weight gradually. Although you are ecstatic to be done with morning sickness and reach for those French fries, take it slow and healthy. The faster you gain weight, the more uncomfortable you will be, and the more difficult it will be to stay active and energetic.  French women gain weight at or below the recommended guidelines.  For French secrets on gaining weight slowly and healthfully during pregnancy click here.
  • Be sexy. When you sadly realize your underwear no longer fits, fight your disappointment and indulge in a French luxury – lingerie! Just one chic lingerie set in a size that actually fits and shows off your blossoming figure will boost your mood and self esteem.
  • Keep moving! The French never stop (their national motto is mangerbouger which literally means eat and move).  Here are French tips for exercising without going to the gym.
  • Sciatica: Here are a few tips to fight it.
    • Limit the amount of heavy object lifting you do.
    • Practice prenatal yoga/stretching regularly.
    • Switch from a purse to a backpack
  • Constipation: Include high fiber fruits and vegetables into your diet, stay hydrated, and be French and eat yogurt and cheese daily to improve your gut’s bacterial population. If your stomach will allow it, even a bit of coffee can help.

Third trimester:

As pregnancy draws to a close you may find yourself with a new collection of uncomfortable symptoms. Heartburn, nausea, bloating, swelling, constant peeing, aches and pains, etc. Hang in there and know you are almost there!

  • Aches and pains: these are an inevitable part of pregnancy, but take it easy and give yourself as many breaks as possible. Keep practicing that prenatal yoga and going for walks, these are surprisingly helpful at improving your comfort level!
  • Fatigue: fatigue may come back at full force, especially since you can no longer be able to enjoy a good nights sleep with your baby gymnast, heartburn, and unhappy bladder. Again take it easy as best you can with work and domestic chores.
  • Heartburn/nausea: your enlarging uterus is squashing your stomach and bowels, making it difficult for your digestive system to hold food. Decrease the size of your meals and increase the frequency of your eating to help these symptoms. Also try avoid too many acidic foods (coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, etc). You can try eliminating one food item from your diet at a time and see if that improves the symptoms.
  • Swelling:
    • French doctors prescribe medical compression stockings for those last few weeks to prevent swelling and clot formation. This is also a good trick for fighting light-headedness throughout pregnancy.
    • Remove rings whenever you notice swelling in your fingers.
  • Embrace nesting, if you get the urge. Not everyone gets the urge to nest, but if you do, have fun with it! It can really help mentally and emotionally connect you to your pregnancy and growing baby child.
  • Prepare yourself for labor and delivery.  I did not prepare at all for my first delivery, and I read voraciously for my second.  I’m not going to take sides  on the natural versus medical birth conflict but I truly think it would help most pregnant women to read about what your body will do during labor and learn mental and physical tips to help you get through it, or at least get you to the epidural!  The following are basic and popular introductory books: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Mindful Hypnobirthing: Hypnosis and Mindfulness Techniques for a Calm and Confident Birth, Birth Skills: Proven pain-management techniques for your labour and birth by Juju Sundin (2008-03-06).  What to expect when you’re expecting has a nice little labor section at the end too.

Keep your head up and keep telling yourself you are literally creating a human being every second of your pregnancy.  What your body is going through is an amazing and grueling process that you should be proud of!

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