Reflecting back on my first pregnancy, I would have done things a little different. Long-story short, I was pregnant with my first child during the violent protests in the city, there was a shooting right outside my place of work when I was 4 months pregnant, I lost my beloved grandfather when I was 6 months pregnant, and due to Covid, I was not able to see him at his funeral.
Right before I gave birth, families were being separated if they contracted the virus, and birth partners were not allowed in the delivery rooms. The virus was new, and there was so much fear-mongering in the media. Luckily, I had my husband beside me in the delivery room, but my anxiety levels were on steroids as I had a miscarriage right before this.
I had a 24-hr labour, that was painful and exhausting. I felt so underprepared and unfit. Postpartum was really tough as I had gained 25kgs, and I did not enjoy breastfeeding.
I vowed to do things different if I got pregnant again. Here are a few things I did for my second pregnancy to make sure I was happier, fit and not as anxious, overwhelmed and fearful. I wish someone had told me to do this during my first pregnancy to make it better. I guess you live and you learn, so here I am sharing my two cents with you.
These tips may not work for everyone, but it surely made a world of a difference for me.
1. Investing in prenatal massages
Getting a good masseuse to come to your home on a weekly basis to help with your back pain is not a luxury but a necessity. Moreover, the massage helps increase blood circulation which can significantly reduce pregnancy swelling. I blew up like a puffer fish when I was pregnant the first time, and my body continued to swell until two months postpartum because I didn’t think a prenatal massage would help too much, but after I started the weekly massages during my second pregnancy, I noticed a big difference.
Ensure you get someone who is experienced, and who knows what they are doing. Please ask the number of years of prenatal massage experience before you book a massage with anyone. I once went to a massage place for a prenatal massage and I was shocked to find out that the woman who was massaging me had never done prenatal massages before, I was her guinea pig. You do not want to be someone’s guinea pig when you’re pregnant, it can do more damage than good.
2. DIY pregnancy oil
I have a recipe for an oil that can be customised to your needs during all three trimesters of your pregnancy. I have tried all stretch mark prevention creams out there, and none of them work as well as this DIY, no nonsense oil.
For the 1st trimester:
- Avocado Oil
- Olive Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Caster Oil
- Grape Seed Oil
For the 2nd trimester:
- All of the above
- Essential oils like lavender, bergamot and lemon grass to help with soothing/calming and sleep
For the 3rd Trimester:
- All of the above
- Apricot Kernel Oil
- Rose Hip Oil
Only use 100% pure, cold-pressed/expeller pressed oils. It is minimally refined, and all the nutrients of the oil is retained. It has absolutely nothing else added to it, so you can use it even on the most sensitive of skins.
3. Avoid salt
Going back to swelling up like a puffer fish during my first pregnancy, I also ate a lot of salty foods which contributed to that as well.
During my second pregnancy, I did not diet or stop myself from eating what I was craving, but I was very mindful of my salt intake. I ensured I did not go overboard with the crisps or Chinese food.
As Oprah famously said, where salt goes, water follows. If you have a high salt intake, your body will increase its water retention to balance the salt to water ratio. This is why salty foods cause water retention and swelling.
4. Organic raspberry tea
I drank 3 cups of raspberry leaf tea after 36 weeks of my second pregnancy, to help with the contractions and smooth labour. Raspberry tea strengthens your uterus walls to avoid any complications during childbirth, helps decrease labour time and reduces excessive bleeding postpartum.
I am talking from first hand experience, and this tea makes a massive difference.
You can read here for all the studies to prove this as well.
5. Perineal massage
One lady in a group chat for pregnant moms mentioned this and it was the first time I had ever come across anything like it. Apparently it helped her not get any stitches after giving birth.
This massage helps prepare the tissues for vaginal birth, and reduces the risk of tearing. According to Healthline, 40-80% of women experience tearing during birth, and this massage can help prevent that.
At 38 weeks during my first AND second pregnancies, my baby flipped sideways (transverse position) and I had to prepare for the possibility of a C-section delivery. There is absolutely nothing wrong with C-section deliveries, but I was just not prepared to go through surgery. I went to a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) clinic to do a treatment called Moxibustion.
This non-invasive treatment works! I have done it twice and my babies turned both times. What the doctor does is place a herb near your pinky toe, and lights it up. The heat from the herb next to your pinky toe sends signals to your uterus, and the baby moves in the direction of the heat signals. It is truly amazing, and not painful one bit.
By the end of the session, I could literally see my baby moving in my belly. I took the moxi sticks home and did it every night for a week. My baby moved back, head down, and I had a natural delivery both times.
7. Stay Active
Giving birth is one of the most intense mental and physical experiences you will ever go through, especially if you opt for vaginal delivery. I would never recommend just sitting there thinking your body will adapt as you grow a human inside you, you have to put in the work to build your body and mind to reach that level of fitness.
Of course, don’t try anything while pregnant if you’ve never done it before, but you should definitely maintain your stamina. Seeing an osteopath or physiotherapist to help with your alignment and posture can really help relieve some of the pain pregnant women experience.
Practising your kegels, and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help you so much with recovery post birth. Weight training your thighs, glutes, and back can help with your growing body and also with recovery once you give birth.
I recently also started working out with Ishka, the founder of Mummas Who Move, a holistic prenatal and postnatal coach. Originally from South Africa, she has a strong background in fitness and has expanded into prenatal/postnatal healing. She is dedicated to customising the exercises to meet your physical needs and endurance.
After your 6 week OBGYN check-up, you will want to take things slow and not go insane with the workouts, especially if you have abdominal separation (Diastis Recti). I took a few months with Nicole from Flex Studios to help me strengthen my core with postnatal pilates. We worked on lots of simple exercises I could still do at home with my newborn to help me increase my core endurance, fix my posture and relieve my back pain.
Once you are ready for something more intense, I highly recommend personal trainer Louis Doctrove. I was working out with him for 3 months after my first pregnancy and he dedicated so much time and effort to get me back into shape with a complete diet plan, and focused workouts.
8. Energy Healing
If you believe in energy, and vibrations, then go see a reiki healer. I saw Corie Chu a few times and she truly helped me cope through my anxiety around my miscarriage, pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t know how she did it, but I felt so much lighter after her sessions, as if the negative cloud of energy surrounding me disappeared. She is a magician.
Reiki is a non-invasive treatment that helps individuals lessen the impact of stress, releasing tension from the entire biological system. According to the University of Minnesota, there is more research and evidence to show that Reiki’s effects are lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones and strengthened immunity.
This treatment focuses on what medical practitioners call the ‘Biofield’, which is a large field of energy that surrounds the human body up to about 8 feet. It is not visible to the human eye, but it is felt through changes in pressure, and temperature.
I kept healing crystals beside me throughout my second pregnancy, to constantly manifest positivity and the vision of a happier self. I got these pocket-sized crystals from Angel Illuminate that helped me focus my intentions for my goals, my health, and my baby.
Each crystal has its strengths, and Stephanie was kind enough to help explain each crystal and its purpose. I kept them near me throughout my pregnancy to always remind myself to manifest a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby.
10. Make memories even if you’re scared
I didn’t want to believe I was pregnant until my baby was in my arms. I didn’t even want to share it with the world. I refused to have any celebration like a baby shower or sprinkle. But I do wish I took more pictures of me during that time because now that I am feeling so much better, I want to remember those beautiful moments when I was pregnant for the first time.
So mama, you don’t have to share these pictures with the world, but do it for yourself. Make memories of you because one day you will want these memories, and want to remember your strength during the most difficult times.
I would highly recommend Mouton Photography for some beautiful captures of you and your little one.
I was much more prepared the 2nd time round on how to handle my postpartum experience. Here are a few things I did to support my physical and mental well-being after giving birth:
- Hospital Bag: I prepared a Mommy Bag, which included everything needed for the baby, but more importantly, for myself postpartum. My first pregnancy, I did not have anything to help me recover, as I was so focused on the baby. This time, I ensured I had the right equipment to help me recover, because a happy mom = happy baby. Click on the link to see the checklist.
- Tea: I made about a liter of Chinese herbal red date tea and drank it every morning and night during the first 6 weeks of postpartum. This helped replenish my blood and is an amazing lactation/nursing drink. Its got Chinese jujube red dates, goji berries and longan.
- Supplement: after you give birth, you will notice many changes in your body such as hair loss, joint pain, back pain and dry skin. It is so important to continue supplementing with your prenatal vitamins BUT ALSO with collagen. I use Crushed Tonic collagen to help with all of the above, but I started drinking this after I stopped breastfeeding. It is the best thing I have used for my postpartum recovery. It has helped me so much with my hair, skin and gut.
- Massage & belly binding/belly band: Invest in postnatal massages, and belly binding or a belly band, at least for the first month of postpartum. The first 6 weeks are crucial to get your body in order, as some of you may have a significant abdominal separation (Diastisis Recti). After 6 weeks, your body doesn’t shift too much. We only have that 6 week window to heal the gap significantly, so make sure you use it wisely. I unfortunately only learned about this after my 6 week check up, so I will have to invest more in DR exercises to reduce my 2 cm gap.
- Breastfeeding Diet: There was a special diet I followed after I gave birth to help with my recovery, but also to help avoid gassy babies with my breastmilk. Here are a list of things I had to avoid for my recovery and to ensure my baby was not gassy/colicy:
- But here is a list of what you can eat, to help promote milk and recovery:
- Moringa leaves
- Ripe papaya
- Green peas
- Whole wheat
- Mung dal/masoor dal
- Personal Care:
- The postpartum kit from Frida Mom was truly so helpful. It was everything I needed in one caddy.
- I also used Haakaa milk collectors for any let down milk.
- Something that many people don’t talk about openly is hemorrhoids. It is so common to have them during pregnancy or post-pregnancy. Be sure to talk to you OBGYN about it and they will prescribe you some meds to help.
- For breastfeeding, this nursing bra was a game changer. It is a massage bra that helps increase flow by 30% and prevents mastitis. Additionally, these nursing bras without the massage function were very good quality, and comfortable, as well as affordable.