I’m now 14 weeks pregnant and officially into my second trimester! With the first trimester behind us, I’m looking forward to sharing more about my experience as a mama-to-be who also happens to have gastroparesis. This first post will be a bit long as I’ve waited to write it, but I’ll be posting more regularly over the next six months.
The last three months flew by, between our pre-planned vacation and then packing, moving, and settling into our new house. Thankfully my pregnancy been pretty uneventful, aside from some “morning” sickness during the second month and a ruptured ovarian cyst a few weeks ago (scary and painful, but at least I got an extra ultrasound!).
I’ve been able to gain the recommended amount of weight (about 6 pounds, so far, even though I’ve eliminated all wheat from my diet) and have been giving my baby as much nutrition as possible via Orgain, fresh juice, smoothies, and purees. That’s not all I eat, of course…just the most nutrient-rich things I eat.
That said, there have been a few challenges when it comes to balancing GP and pregnancy…but not necessarily in the ways I was expecting. Let’s start with heartburn, something I haven’t experienced since I weaned myself off of Nexium four years ago. Since I’ve been pregnant, I get heartburn quite frequently between meals and almost always at nighttime. I bought myself a Snoogle, which I fold in half so that my upper body is propped up while I sleep and that’s helped (this thing is so comfy…and versatile!). On the upside, it’s so nice to have a “normal” symptom. Almost all pregnant ladies get heartburn. I’m just like everyone else! As someone with a not-so-common chronic condition, that’s a nice change of pace.
I’ve actually been less symptomatic gastroparesis-wise since I’ve been pregnant and I’ve been able to add some foods to my diet that, though GP-friendly, weren’t Crystal-friendly before. Things like eggs and chicken. I’ve also been able to eat some things that aren’t necessarily GP-friendly as long as I keep the portion small and the flavors fairly bland.
The “problem” with this, is that my stomach doesn’t actually seem to be emptying any faster. In that way it’s kind of like what I’ve experienced with the gastric neurostimulator (in fact, it seems like pregnancy has enhanced the effects of the stimulator!). Feeling less symptomatic upon eating makes it more difficult to avoid eating “too much,” which does trigger symptoms. This is further complicated by the fact that my appetite has definitely increased. Some days, I swear I never feel full or satisfied. Until the evening, that is, when the fullness finally hits, my belly gets huge, and my symptoms flare up with vengeance. It’s almost like I can’t feel the symptoms until my stomach is really full…which, given how I spent the first 5 or so years after my gastroparesis diagnosis, is really nothing to complain about! Just something that has required some special trial and error.
Other challenges have included finding a prenatal vitamin that I could tolerate over the long term. For this, I had to really take to heart the messages I repeat in my Living (Well!) with Gastroparesis Program over and over — “some is better than none” and “do what you can with where you are.” There are some really good prenatal vitamins out there. But it doesn’t matter how good a vitamin is if I can’t take it day in and day out for nine-plus months without it exacerbating nausea, constipation, and/or stomach pain. A less-than-perfect prenatal vitamin every single day, in my opinion, is better than a perfect prenatal vitamin here and there when you’re able to tolerate it. I currently alternate between VitaFusion Gummy Prenatals most days (which does not contain iron; probably why I tolerate it better than other formulas) and New Chapter Organics Perfect Prenatal a couple of times a week.
I discussed this decision with my OB/GYN, taking the vitamin bottles with me to an appointment before I even got pregnant, and she was on board with my decision. Since the need for iron increases in pregnancy but supplemental iron is hard on the GI tract — especially slow GI tracts — we decided that I would continue to supplement with blackstrap molasses. So far, it seems to be doing the job. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant in the near future, I highly encourage you to start experimenting with prenatal vitamins now. It might take some trial and error to find one that you tolerate and it’s preferable to start taking them before you conceive to prevent early birth defects.
Another interesting experience that I’ve had just recently is the emergence of the “baby bump.” It’s exciting to see the changes in my body, but it’s also slightly confusing. As someone who has struggled with bloating for the past eight years, sometimes so severe that I did look pregnant, it’s hard not to immediately think “something’s not right” when I see the belly sticking out. Granted, I’ve had quite an issue with constipation lately (which is true for many women during pregnancy, with or without a slow colon) and that’s contributed to the belly bloat, but much of it is normal pregnancy growth. It’s something I hadn’t expected to have any trouble with, but it’s been a little hard to wrap my head around.
One thing I haven’t kept up with during the past three months but I can’t wait to get back to is my normal exercise routine. Partially because I was busy and partially because I was exhausted (we’re talking ready for bed at 8pm), I haven’t been walking or practicing yoga regularly. Thankfully my energy level has increased in the past week or so and life is settling down, so I’ve dusted off my treadmill and I’m actually heading to my first prenatal yoga class tonight!