Allison's Pregnancy Q&A
By Allison Evans |
It’s official - another little girl is joining our pack next spring! We always wanted another baby, and after a tough season with my health, we are so thrilled and thankful. I’m excited to share my pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey here. Today, I thought I’d put together answers for the pregnancy FAQs I’ve received from the BB community. Enjoy!
How did you know you were ready to conceive/at a good point in your healing journey, especially considering Lyme?
Great question! This is going to be so different for everyone, but for us it was a very spiritually-led decision. In fact, just a few days before conception, we had no intention of trying and had planned on waiting until the Fall (we conceived in early June). Without getting too personal, we received some clear signs that God's plan was different from ours, which made us rethink our timing and the way I viewed my body and healing journey. There was quite a bit of prayer and trust involved, and we both felt it was the perfect time.
Did you use ovulation tests or how did you know how to time conception?
I've never used ovulation tests and don’t take for granted at all how easily we’ve been able to conceive with all three pregnancies. (Also, I can usually tell when I'm fertile simply by cervical mucus.)
What things do you do to get your body healthy before trying to get pregnant?
I am keenly aware of the importance of clean living and for us, it's become second nature. (Remember, it takes two to tango! So it's just as important that my husband is cleaning up his act if we're even close to trying. In fact, the perinatal specialist I've worked with for years says the health of the sperm is key to having healthy babies, and argues the man's health is more important than the women's prior to conception... then us women take over!)
Because I was focused on Lyme healing this time, I was doing more detoxing (Infrared Sauna, enemas, etc) than previous pregnancies. But, I was also inundating my body with vitamins and minerals (which I was checking via bloodwork with Taylor Dukes, FNP) via food-based supplements, regular Myer's Plus IV drips, and most importantly, a whole-foods diet.
I am a big believer in building the body up before trying to conceive, versus detoxing. The baby needs our mineral and vitamin reserves to be high! Things like raw liver smoothies (I love this recipe!), grass-finished meats from places like Primal Pastures, and a ton of organic veggies (emphasizing greens)... while avoiding refined oils and refined sugar is one of the best gifts we can give our future babies. I also highly recommend both husband + wife take Hypertonic Quinton seawater minerals for ultimate replenishment and support, ideally starting about 6 months before conception, but it's never too late! I also highly recommend Dr. Dittmann's book on preconception, Brighton Baby. I have worked personally with him, and used this book as a guide for years. It is by far the most thorough and helpful guide I’ve seen.
How do you get through the fear of a potential miscarraige?
I have never experienced a miscarraige, so I don't claim to understand how difficult that must be. I also don't carry the weight or trauma of a past miscarraige that could further drive anxiety. But we have had reason to worry, as we were told our first two girls were "likely unviable" due to how low my hcg was. I remember listening to "It is Well" by Lauren Daigle over and over while pregnant with my first, clinging to all hope and casting out fear (many times aloud!). In fact, when Sloane was just 2 days old, I was holding her over my shoulder when that song came on. She picked up her tiny head, her eyes got wide, and she looked around the room. It was so clear she recognized it!
Because my HCG was low in the first two, I decided against doing any early bloodwork with this third pregnancy because I didn’t want the fear of low/abnormal levels to creep in. We chose to trust everything was ok (HCG, progesterone, etc) as it had ended up being with the first two, and sure enough my 12-week blood panel showed perfect levels. I’ve found sometimes for me, less is more when it comes to having all the info.
Since your hCG levels are low, how did you know you were pregnant?
I just knew ;) With this current pregnancy, conception was not in my fertility window, but because we believed so many signs were pointing to it, I wasn’t surprised when just 48 hours later, I experienced symptoms like sore nipples, etc. With my second, I actually felt nauseous the day after conception! I know some would think that’s crazy, but I was just sure I was pregnant.
When do you tell your family/friends?
We don’t have a set time, just when it feels right. I usually have a hard time keeping the news in because I’m so excited to share! :) Because we don’t do dopplers or sonograms, we’re not necessarily waiting to hear/see anything before sharing the news.
I have Lyme and I am so scared I’ll flare if I get pregnant. How has it been for you?
That is a very understandable concern, and I absolutely resonate with this. For me, it had been months since I had flared, so this wasn’t something I was worried about. This potential concern was also alleviated by the fact that my functional labs showed that my body was in a much stronger and not deficient state than it was when I was in my “flare zone”. DNRS is something I highly recommend for those who are fighting chronic Lyme symptoms. It is a neural-retraining program that can be done safely and effectively while pregnant and has very powerful results when it comes to mitigating/ridding of symptoms.
Pregnancy & Symptoms
Do you get morning sickness? If so, any tips for nausea?
I am so fortunate to not get morning sickness and have only been nauseous a few times. For me, it's when I go too long without eating (even when I don't think I’m hungry, I now force myself to eat a little something every few hours.) One of the best ways to combat nausea is to grate fresh ginger and add to room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon. For me, cold water is sometimes preferred. You can make a batch of this and sip on it for a couple of days!
What prenatal vitamin do you take?
Do you use dopplers or get sonograms?
Instinctively, I feel like less is more when it comes to testing during pregnancy. Then after doing more research, I decided to decline all dopplers and sonograms, except the anatomy scan at ~21 weeks. I found this Mama Natural article very helpful when it comes to understanding the risks involved with imaging.
Do you do any detox while pregnant?
No! I do feel comfortable with taking warm baths (iodine bath when sick), but any heavier detox like saunas, I avoid. Instead, I’m grounding barefoot, doing light bouncing on the rebounder, skin brushing, drinking lots of green juice, etc.
Do you really eat raw liver!?
Yes, oh yes I do! :) There is truly nothing else like it, and with my first, raw liver smoothies were the only thing that was moving my hemoglobin numbers up to be cleared for a homebirth. They prevent anemia, increase fertility and iron and choline, improve detoxification, prevent deficiencies in B vitamins, and support liver function!
Here is a good recipe for 1-2 raw liver "mini-muffins":
- 1/2 cup organic whole milk yogurt/kefir
- 1 T organic cacao
- 1 heaping T organic peanut butter or almond butter
- 1/2 - 1 cup water/almond milk, if you want thinner/thicker (best is homemade!)
- 1/2 cup frozen berries/cherries/other fruit of choice
- 1 frozen banana
- Dash cinnamon and dash salt (optimize blood sugar and digestion!)
- Optional: raw honey or few drops stevia
- Blend 4 (or more) grass-fed beef livers in Vitamix until smooth (messiest part of whole process!).
- Fill up mini muffin cups with the yummy raw liver goo ;) (I use these silicone ones)
- Place in freezer until hard enough to then transfer to large glass jars/ziploc bags for easier (closed) storage
- Store 2 weeks before making smoothie to ensure absolutely no bacteria transfer
Any dietary changes you make while TTC or once pregnant?
I’m eating more high quality grass-fed/finished meats to up iron reserves, as I tend to get lower later in pregnancies. I also tend to eat smaller meals because I get full very quickly which can trigger tightness under my ribs and even upper back pain.
What are your worst pregnancy symptoms and how do you deal with them?
By far, constipation! And just general feeling of digestive sluggishness, which as I said can lead to upper back tightness and pain. While I do not recommend this to others unless they’ve cleared it with their provider, I feel comfortable with doing enemas while pregnant (no more than 16oz of warm water/coffee). This has helped me tremendously!
Favorite skin care products that are pregnancy-safe?
My go-to is Primally Pure, and I’m loving their Clarifying line that just came out! I just stocked up!
What is your birth plan? Are you doing anything differently this time around?
We plan to have this baby at home, just like our first two! I am so thankful to have had low-risk pregnancies (placenta previa cleared by ~27 weeks with my second), so we feel more comfortable at home. I am actually not changing a thing about my birth plan, except the birth team due to our moving away from Houston.
Why do you choose hospital vs home birth?
I want to preface by saying that this is such a personal choice, and it comes down to what the parents feel most comfortable with! My husband and I see birth as a natural process, not a medical event (unless high-risk), and this drove most of our decisions. For our first, I was asked often why we were choosing an out-of-hospital birth, so I ended up including it in this blog post, and I"ll list here, too! While it's possible to achieve the following in hospitals, none were choices we wanted to fight for, but rather be supported in:
- Minimal Intervention: For low-risk women, a hospital birth greatly increases the risk of unnecessary intervention, which can raise the risk of infections, prolapsed cord, C-section, etc. (The U.S. C-section rate is >33% in a hospital, versus only 6% in out-of-hospital births.)
- Un-medicated: Many people have successful unmedicated births in a hospital, but the rate of intervention is much higher than out-of-hospital, where it’s not even a possibility. I have thankfully been able to avoid drugs and antibiotics for 13 years now, and also didn’t want to chance not being fully present during the delivery.
- Move Freely: In order to get this baby out without drugs, I needed to be able to get in any position my body wanted! While laying on the back is usually necessary if you have an epidural and gives the doctor easy access, having freedom to move can decrease the risk of shoulder dystocia and takes pressure off the vena cava to increase oxygen to the baby, if necessary.
- Intermittent Monitoring: I read several studies on electronic fetal monitoring, or EFM, where an ultrasound transducer is strapped to the mother’s stomach. I was glad to find there is no less risk associated with using a fetoscope or hand-held Doppler between contractions. (Interestingly, EFM - recently advised against by the American Academy of Nursing - is associated with a higher rate of C-section and has no effect on illness or death of infants or mothers.) I also didn’t want to be inhibited by the belt or expose the baby and me to unnecessary EMFs.
- Relaxed Environment: This is very subjective. When Will and I toured the hospital, we were really impressed, but in the end, there seemed to be a bit of hustle and bustle, shift changes, monitoring, fluorescent lights and sanitizers. In an emergency, it’s the place to be, but given the low-risk nature of my pregnancies, we believe all would go well. Being able to relax was critical since anxiety releases adrenaline and other adrenergic neurotransmitters that can slow down or even stop the birth process. Should my labor “fail to progress” (the number one cause of hospital intervention), a birthing center or home birth would allow me to labor as long as the baby and I were okay.
- No Hepatitis B Vaccine: Hep B is transferred through unprotected sex, unsafe needles or prenatally if mom is infected, so we see no reason for our girls to get this vaccine (which contains aluminum) when just minutes old. While hospitals accept a waiver, it’s sometimes met with resistance. (We also wanted to use a botanical form of Vitamin K (drops) versus the shot that is given at the hospital which contain ingredients we try to avoid.)
- No Eye Ointment: It’s Texas State law that within two hours of birth, every newborn receives erythromycin eye ointment to protect against chlamydia or gonorrhea passed from the mom. I don’t have an STD and antibiotics are always a last resort for us, so we pass on it, and didn't want to meet any resistance which we hear can be common in hospitals.
- Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamp: This is one I became super passionate about during pregnancy. Delaying the cord cut allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, increasing blood volume by up to a third and allowing the baby to receive more iron, essential for healthy brain development. Without ample blood, organs are weakened during this vulnerable time when the immune system isn't fully developed. (Umbilical cords, throughout history, have been allowed to stay on until they fall off. We started clamping in the mid 60s when Pitocin was introduced because of potential complications, but we now know drugs can still be given with no problem.) The good news is that many hospitals are starting to honor the delayed clamp, however it's usually limited to a few minutes. I wanted to allow as much time needed for the cord to not only stop pulsating, but turn completely white (all blood had transferred to the baby).
- Water Birth: I had read a lot about how birthing in the water could greatly ease the pressure and pain. Also, the baby has been in water the entire pregnancy, so until it hits air, its lungs remain collapsed, making water births perfectly safe. While I found hospitals that encouraged laboring in the tub, I surprisingly couldn’t find one that allowed you to birth there as well.
Lastly, I'm a homebody and home is where I feel most comfortable! I absolutely love being able to snuggle up with our new baby in our own bed just minutes after she’s born, surrounded by our family.
Will your newborn receive the Vitamin K shot or eye gel?
No, she won’t! (See above). The Vitamin K I used for my first two pregnancies doesn’t seem to be available, but here is a pure Vitamin K that I would take! When looking for a Vitamin K, make sure there are no added a gums or acid (excitotoxins) to preserve them.
Are you going to encapsulate your placenta?
Yes, I have done this with my previous two and plan to do it with this one! I did a bit of research on this, and I definitely don’t think it hurt my positive postpartum mood and speedy uterine healing time!
How do you prepare for unmedicated birth, mentally and physically?
For me, it’s almost all mental! And once I set my mind to something - which usually comes from a combination of gut instinct, prayer, being convinced after research and advice from others I trust - that’s it. Practically speaking, I found this Mama Natural article helpful in assessing the benefits of an unmedicated birth. For me, I am absolutely in love with the entire birthing process, and wanted to be as present as possible. After having done it twice, I’m convinced more than ever that our bodies are amazing and made to do this! Both my girls have been over 8 lbs (and come on their due dates!), yet I had minimal tearing with the first and no tearing with the second. With both, my recovery time was really fast and I was able to put all my energy into the baby.
How do you choose a doctor/midwife?
I’ve interviewed quite a few midwives, and the two things that are most important to me is my connection with them (I want to feel comfortable because home births are a very personal experience) and their experience. I am not as concerned about their being a certified nurse or not, I am more focused on how many births they’ve attended and am not afraid to gather referrals. :)
Favorite books or podcasts for pregnancy?
I have heard great things about Genevieve Howland's (@MamaNatural) book The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. I personally was mainly focused on preparing myself for natural birth, so loved Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. If you are
Do you use special paint when painting a nursery?
Yes!! I recommend not painting at all while pregnant (have someone else do it for you), but definitely the safest paint would be ECOS Paints. Lessening any toxic exposures (all paint is volatile until it's dried) is one of the best things you can do for your baby.
Go-to brands for maternity clothes?
I usually just buy bigger versions of the clothes I already wear. I also tend to wear loose-fitting clothing even when not pregnant, so I don’t buy many maternity-specific clothes. Roolee does have some wonderful pregnant/nursing-friendly dresses, and If I’m splurging, I love Hatch and their clothes usually go beyond pregnancy as well.
Registry ideas? This is my first and I am overwhelmed!
Oh do I get that! This article is a good place to start - Kel and I shared our favorite brands and baby items. I”ll be adding to this as time goes on!
Want more pregnancy and baby articles? See below!
Allison has dedicated herself to helping others reap the benefits of clean living. She, along with her husband and two daughters left Houston for the country life as she heals from a recent mold exposure and diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. Follow her story on our Instagram and read more about her Journey to Fertility.