Thursday, October 13, 2011

My experience with pregnancy symptoms and paleo

I am 10 days from my due date and have yet to experience an onslaught of what many women refer to as "pregnancy symptoms." I think it is safe to say -- at this point -- that I won't. And on a side note, I am not a fan of associating the word 'symptom' with pregnancy. To me, 'symptom' implies disease or affliction. Pregnancy is neither. But this is a topic for another time.

So anyway, I've been thinking back over the past nine months and the sort of random and very minor discomforts I have experienced, and how (for the most part) I can attribute them to either a choice I've made or something that seems only loosely connected to pregnancy. Here are my observations:

Morning sickness: In the very beginning, I did feel a bit queasy. The queasiness is what sent me to the store for a home pregnancy test, actually. I do vaguely remember feeling icky enough on a couple of occasions that I just decided to write off the entire day, opting to relax on the couch and drink ginger tea instead of doing whatever it was I had planned. I also put tiny drops of spearmint essential oil on my pillow at night which, according to something I read in a book on essential oils, is known to cure morning sickness. I'm pretty sure it helped, and it also made my hair smell like spearmint! I never threw up from morning sickness, though, and the queasiness didn't last long.

Cravings: I never experienced pregnancy cravings. Sure, there were times when something just sounded good or that I really wanted a monkey muffin from Grand Central Bakery or Mexican food or whatever. But to me, this is totally normal. Everyone experiences this sort of thing, pregnant or not pregnant. I don't think it is the same as wanting/needing/obsessing over a food or beverage to the point where you MUST HAVE IT RIGHT NOW, and sending your husband out in the middle of the night to pick up a gallon of ice cream or a fast food chicken sandwich or something (I know this happens all the time and I know it is even considered socially acceptable -- but I would never ask that of Carl).

Food aversions/preferences: I definitely experienced food aversions, off and on for quite some time. Beef, chicken and cooked vegetables were the main culprits. It was really no big deal, though, because I could easily avoid these things. I just ate the things that didn't gross me out. Eggs, applesauce and carrots have been staples throughout my pregnancy (and these are things I eat a lot of normally, anyway).

Vomiting: I have thrown up exactly once in the past nine months. It happened a few minutes after I ate a potato. At first, I associated it with the potato. Later, though, I realized that I had taken my prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach that morning. Mystery solved.

Fatigue: I've been extra sleepy and have taken naps most days throughout my entire pregnancy. Lately my naps have been longer and longer, too. Some might consider this a pregnancy "symptom" and, well, maybe it is -- but the fatigue isn't a nuisance or anything. I feel quite fortunate that I am able to take naps whenever I need naps and I am grateful that I have a supportive husband who encourages me to rest whenever I need to rest.

Headaches: I've had a few headaches (one that lasted five days -- ugh), but not nearly the amount of headaches I used to get pre-paleo and pre-pregnancy. My headaches always seem to be accompanied with sinus congestion and always seem to follow a string of non-paleo days. Days involving bread and/or cake. Interesting.

Swelling: I totally freaked out a few months ago when I noticed my feet getting bigger! For one thing, it did not feel good. Plus, I was not even remotely interested in shopping for bigger shoes. I wondered if my love for salt had something to do with the swelling, so I quickly and significantly reduced the amount of sodium in my diet. The swelling disappeared right away. 

General physical discomfort: Aside from a very difficult week in early July and some annoying nighttime hip pain a few weeks ago, general physical discomfort has not been much of an issue. I am not waddling and I am still wearing heals. Is this a paleo thing? Maybe a little (the Standard American Diet promotes inflammation and inflammation promotes physical discomfort). More so, though, it is a physical fitness thing. I'm not saying that I am Ms. Super Fit or that anyone who goes to the gym consistently before and during pregnancy is going to sail through with no discomfort. It is all individual. In my case, though, I have spent the past five years working very hard on improving my fitness and the functionality of my body (I was so, so tired of my knees, back and feet constantly hurting and I knew that in order to get rid of the pain I needed to really dedicate myself). This has involved physical therapy, personal training and lots and lots of and lots of effort/commitment. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this has had a lot do with my incredibly positive pregnancy experience, and I am 100% sure that if I had gotten pregnant back in 2006 (when we originally hoped/intended to have a baby) that my experience would have been a lot different.

With all of that that said, now that I am nearing the end of my pregnancy the extra weight is starting to take a toll on my body. My knees hurt when I walk up the stairs at night and there a few things that are difficult to do, like sweeping the floor, tying my shoes or sitting in the car or in a non-reclining chair for long periods of time (long meaning 10 minutes). I'll be glad when the pregnancy is behind me so I can (first and foremost) hold my baby in my arms, but also so that I can get back walking up stairs and sweeping the floor without limitations!

So, I guess that pretty much sums it up for now. I would love to hear about other paleo pregnancy experiences, though! How has paleo has impacted your experience? Do you think it reduced/eliminated pregnancy "symptoms?"


  1. One thing I've noticed is that I get the dreaded pregnancy heartburn whenever I've overeaten/cheated with something fried like potato chips or yam fries or anything else that's particularly carby/greasy. I never ever had heartburn problems before, especially since paleo. It's happened to me two or three times now and is clearly related to the deviation in my diet. I can't imagine suffering from it on a regular basis as I know many pregnant women do.

    I had constant nausea and extreme fatigue during the first trimester. Never threw up. Definitely had food aversions and cravings, though they were more thoughts of particular foods than "I must have it now" and I rarely indulged them when they were about non-paleo food. That's all gone now that I'm in the second trimester.

    I'm sure eating a clean diet doesn't hurt. If I were eating lots of sugar and bread, I imagine headaches and digestion problems, etc. would only be exacerbated.

    1. I am currently in my 1st trimester and am nauseous 98% of the day and extremely tired. I am also not actually throwing up. It is promising to hear this may subside in a month or so. Was there anything you found that calmed your tummy during your first trimester?

  2. lucky girl...your pregnancy seems to be going really well!! I wish you a terrific birth, too!

  3. I'm about 5 weeks into my pregnancy and I'm not getting any of the "symptoms" the other mommys around me complained about. My breast are sensitive but its bearable, I do urinate due to my increase in water intake, also I get tired.

    But I don't have the heartburn, the bad cramping, gassy, etc...perhaps I'm too early into the pregnancy? Or maybe the Paleo diet has curved a lot of these symptoms? I'd love to hear from Paleo mommies please :)

    **P.S. I would love to follow Dawn on her Facebook Paleo Baby but if I "Like" the page now, everyone on my Facebook will know what's up. We'll share our good news later in January. So for now I just go to Paleo Baby and read all of Dawn's posts. I can't wait to start sharing and commentating with everyone else.

  4. We're only semi-paleo around here (more WAPF), but I've definitely noticed symptoms increasing after eating grains or sugar - especially heartburn. The experts talk about avoiding fatty foods to alleviate heartburn, but I can eat a stick of butter and feel fine. One slice of bread, and it's sheer misery!
    Missy Summer, congrats! Most pregnant moms don't really have heartburn or much gas until later on, but I bet your paleo diet will save you from a lot of it. My first pregnancy was horrible with heartburn, and I think it was mostly due to my Standard American Diet at the time. Good for you for knowing to eat right, right from the start!

  5. I'm 8 weeks pregnant and am feeling so many "symptoms." I am also nauseated most of the time but have never actually thrown up. I am also dizzy/lightheaded most of the time, especially after I walk up stairs. I'm not surprised by this, however, as I am prone to be dizzy when I work out which, I think, is due to my lower-side-of-normal blood pressure.

    I haven't had any exhaustion or heartburn. I do get 8 hours of sleep every night and I feel the need for it, but I don't get sleepy. Physically, I feel tired, but I'm trying to combat that with walking on bad days and working out on good days.

    I have definitely had food aversions (I have to leave the room when my husband cooks meat), but I can usually eat anything I try to...I just have to get over the initial lack of desire to do so. I have given in to a few non-paleo moments simply because it was the only thing that didn't make me sick to think about eating. I don't consider the french fries and mayo to the be worst deviation, but the ham and cheese sandwich was definitely not paleo. I also had some tacos on Cinco de Mayo and some pho the next day. But in 8 weeks, that's not too bad. Most days I am 100% paleo.

    The thing that's getting to me, however, is my upset stomach. I dont mean nausea. I mean that every time I eat I feel the opposite of how paleo usually makes me feel. My stomach churns and gurgles. No matter what I eat (eggs and Canadian bacon, salmon and asparagus, paleo brownies and homemade almond milk, the aforementioned ham and cheese sandwich), I feel miserable afterwards. I am gassy (which I never am normally unless I've been cheating) and my stomach will not stop turning loops. I have no clue what to do. Eating the right foods doesn't seem to help. Eating in small doses doesn't seem to help. Eating non-paleo foods definitely doesn't help.

    Everything I read suggests cutting out dairy, whole grains, or beans, but I obviously don't have anything to cut out except my occasional cheats which I know are not the main culprits. The other thing I seem to be reading is that I should cut out fats, but that's against the main paleo belief. Besides, I definitely don't want to cut out omega-3's even if salmon did add to the problem. Does anyone have any suggestions? I was certainly hoping that being paleo would make my pregnancy easier, but I really haven't found that to be true.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Congrats on your pregnancy! I'm sorry to hear you aren't feeling well, though. :(

      My initial though when I read your post is that the upset stomach might not be directly related to pregnancy. I mean, when you are pregnant everything is on some level related ... but I'm wondering if you've caught a bug of some sort? I would perhaps try drinking a lot of bone broth and avoiding fruit and nuts? Just a thought.

      Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? Please weigh in!


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