Blog: Pregnancy Q&A: prenatals, skincare, marriage talk & lessons from before

third trimester pregnancy outfit

Express ruffle top xxs on sale! (reviewed here), ASOS skirt 0 petite (longer midi length & thick knit), maternity support shorts S, similar slingbacks, Etsy mask & headband, similar earrings

With my due date just 2 days away (eep!!), I realized I haven’t talked much about this pregnancy and wanted to answer some questions from the past few months! I’ve broken up the topics into a few sections, and will be talking about some more personal / “TMI” topics you guys have asked about on IG stories tomorrow.

  1. Prenatals, skincare & maternity style
  2. Marriage & postpartum advice
  3. Body image, pregnancy aches & staying fit
  4. Everything else, including your guys’ top 2 nursery chair recommendations!

Here are a few related posts on these topics!

third trimester pregnancy tips

1. Prenatals, skincare & maternity style

Q: Did you naturally conceive or do IVF again? If naturally, what did you do differently?

As shared in this post, this little one was naturally conceived! Similar to our first year of trying before Nori, I was tracking my ovulation cycles by using ovulation test strips (these are beginner friendly, while these are a much better value) and inspecting my cervical mucus (see 1st book recommendation below). Aside from much lower stress surrounding the TTC process, there isn’t anything tangible I can share that was different. While I’ve heard from many others since who also conceived naturally after IVF, everyone’s personal case and medical situation is so, so different.

Q: What pregnancy books did you read?

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. An informative read if you want to better understand your body and fertility cycle, whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Expecting Better by Emily Oster. While I do not agree with everything in this book, I thought it was an interesting perspective nonetheless. Especially compared to those who caution against and limit SO much during pregnancy (i.e. many foods, drinks, activities and exercise), oftentimes based on outdated or non factual information.

Since this is a short list, I’d love to hear other interesting or useful reads covering TTC (trying to conceive), pregnancy, what to expect with first time parenting or newborn life! It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett was a frequent recommendation for those who are TTC.

Q: What prenatal vitamins do you take?

I started a prenatal vitamin before trying to conceive and will be taking one through postpartum and nursing. I found this article helpful for understanding what to look for in a good prenatal. Since many options don’t have all of the recommended levels of vitamins in one package, I’ve also been taking an iron and omega-3 supplement.

  • Recently purchased Ritual’s Essential Prenatal which has come highly recommended by friends and specialists, and plan on taking these through my postpartum & nursing periods.
  • If gummies are easier for you to stomach, I had been taking Smarty Pants gummies which taste pretty good. Note: I’ve bought these from both Target & Amazon and the ones at Target seemed better quality and fresh. These also don’t have calcium so make sure to get it elsewhere, and most gummy prenatals do not contain iron FYI.
  • Iron supplements – I tested low for iron, which is essential later in pregnancy and can also correlate with chronic fatigue, which I was really feeling. After researching the types of iron and what is more easily absorbed by our bodies, I started a grass fed beef liver iron supplement – I know this will sound gross and unusual to some, but I do think it has helped!

Q: What’s your skincare routine during pregnancy?

Moisturizers, serums, oils: I switch between a few depending on the climate and how my skin is feeling, but here’s some favorites that I’m comfortable with being pregnancy-safe after my own research:

For those interested in clean skincare in general, you can check out Follain’s restricted ingredients list for what they avoid in their products and why – it’s much more stringent than what I follow personally, but interesting to read.

Vitamin C: As there’s a general consensus that retinol/retinoids are something to avoid while pregnant, I’ve been trying out Vitamin C serums, which are pregnancy-safe, have antioxidant and brightening properties, plus are supposed to help stimulate collagen production. Maelove Glow Maker is a reasonably priced option that came highly recommended by my skincare loving friends!

Sunscreen: I’ve personally continued to use my Elta MD UV clear which is both a chemical and physical sunscreen mix, but I know some prefer to switch to a purely physical sunscreen. These tend to be thicker in consistency and leave more of a white cast – I’ve been using Babo Organics on Nori including their Clear Zinc Sunscreen, and in this sunscreen post I reviewed their lighter weight Daily Sheer sunscreen for facial use.

Q: Tips for preventing stretch marks?

Most dermatologists and docs will tell you that stretch marks are primarily genetic based on your skin type, and partly situational to each pregnancy depending on how rapidly weight is gained in a certain area. So while creams and lotions can help keep your skin moisturized and less itchy as it stretches, I wouldn’t believe in “miracle” products.

See more of my thoughts below under body image, but with both pregnancies I’ve made sure to:

  • Stay hydrated from the inside out with lots of water, which will be key during nursing as well! I keep this CamelBak water bottle on my desk and a second one in my bedroom, which has helped a lot with hydration reminders.
  • Moisturize once or twice a day on the belly, chest, and thigh areas starting in the first trimester. I like just simple organic shea butter (which is thick, so you do have to warm it up in your hands before patting it on) or an easier to spread cream like Earth Mama Organics belly butter.

Q: Tips for morning sickness / nausea?

I was lucky to not experience much with either pregnancy, but below are some top tips shared by readers!

  • Ginger hard candies or chews – your favorite brands were Chimes, Prince of Peace & Trader Joe’s!
  • Vitamin B6 + Unisom
  • Preggie Pop Drops
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals starting right when you wake up and having a snack like crackers or nuts in your bag at all times (since many of you said your nausea often correlated with low blood sugar or an empty stomach)
  • Lemon water + smelling fresh lemons, fresh grated ginger “tea”
  • Prescriptions like Zofran or Diclegis – of course, talk to your doc about the benefits vs. side effects

Q: What are some good stores for affordable maternity clothes?

For pregnancy outfit ideas utilizing both regular + maternity clothes, see all of my maternity outfits here!

  • H&M Mama for affordable maternity basics and nursing pieces
  • ASOS maternity for basics as well as more unique maternity pieces and dresses. I got a few more special occasion and maternity photoshoot dresses from here!
  • Pink Blush Maternity which has a whole section on pieces that are petite-friendly, and helpful user reviews and photos.
  • Amazon Maternity for easy free shipping and returns on lots of affordable bump-friendly dresses, maternity & undergarments and pajamas.

2. Marriage & Postpartum lessons learned

Q: Advice for first time moms on how to keep your marriage strong?

In advance of when baby arrives:

Discuss expectations with your partner and how you’ll share in the responsibilities. For example, how will you two be sharing in the middle of the night responsibilities? If you end up mainly breastfeeding and not doing bottles or formula, will your partner still wake up to help with diaper changes, burping, soothing a crying baby back to sleep? Who will take the early morning shift?

I’m not recommending making any concrete plans or schedules ahead of time, because newborn life will constantly be changing as you figure out your rhythm and adapt! But it’s good to at least start talking about this early on versus arguing while sleep deprived and emotional (which will likely still happen – and that’s totally normal)..

Discuss signs of postpartum depression or anxiety with your partner before giving birth so they can be informed and help support you postpartum. After having Nori, I talked a little about my experience with things that helped me cope. Like many mamas, I could not recognize the signs in myself (or was dismissive of them) while deep in the fog, and it was my husband who suggested that I may be going through PPD. 

Discuss the possibility of your partner extending paternity (or unpaid family) leave and how to financially plan for it. I know in many US workplaces, paternity leave is pretty much non-existent. I’m grateful Nick was able to take unpaid leave when I really needed the support, and in retrospect it should’ve been something we researched in advance and started financially planning for if needed.

Q: What did you learn your 1st pregnancy that you’ll do differently?

Prioritize postpartum care for the mother as much as care for the baby.

Line up your postpartum support circle in advance. Accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This could include:

  • Talking to a parent or relative about coming to help for a bit postpartum, even if it’s not something you’re usually comfortable with asking.
  • Joining a local new moms support group (or virtual one), or ask your doc about local lactation support groups
  • Looking into a hiring a night nurse a few days a week if it’s in your budget, as they are often “reserved” by expectant families a few months in advance.

With Nori, my mom kindly offered to come help for a month (btw, traditional Chinese postpartum care is focused on nurturing and replenishing the mother that first month), and I declined, wanting to figure things out ourselves and thinking our small condo would be too cramped. Boy did I change my mind the second time around! 

Don’t be afraid to turn down visitors until you feel up for them. 

Things are different now due to Covid (making it easier to politely decline visitors), but hosting well-intentioned family and friends can sometimes be the last thing you want to deal with postpartum. This “etiquette for visiting parents of a newborn” made the rounds on Facebook, but I know for others, having visitors and seeing friends are a mood booster so do what’s right for you! After Nori was born, all our family came into town shortly afterwards, and this time it’ll just be my mom here for a month.

Instead of physically visiting, easy ways friends can support new mamas are by texting or calling to check in, dropping off food or baked goods, or sending an electronic food delivery gift card.

3. Body image, working out, pregnancy pains

Q: How do you deal with insecurities about your body changing?

With Nori I didn’t get any stretch marks, but this pregnancy has brought on MANY stretch marks and dark pigmentation. These changes can be surprising and sad to see and definitely take time to get used to. If you’re currently struggling to accept your pregnant or postpartum body, please allow yourself some grace, and hopefully with time we can normalize many of these natural changes that come with growing a life inside your body! 
With social media, unfollow accounts that are taking away from your happiness and well being in any way. In particular with TTC, pregnancy and postpartum, certain things can be hard to see during certain seasons in your own life, and there’s just no need to subject yourself to it.
Some mamas will have smooth baby bumps with minimal weight gain and not a stretch mark just due to their natural body type. Some will get back into their jeans and bikinis a lot quicker, and some will appear to juggle everything seamlessly after birth while you feel like you’re under water. Please remember that social media is just one small snapshot of someone’s life, but if you ever find yourself comparing and feeling “less than,” unfollow and find others that bring you more inspiration and relatability.

Q: What workouts are you doing?

If your doc clears you for working out, I highly recommend setting aside a few times a week to work out through the end of your pregnancy. Even if it’s just 30 minutes to do squats and lunges on repeat at home, which are great for beginners during pregnancy (see below, under back pain). As a free option, I’ve done a bunch of prenatal workout videos on YouTube from BodyFit by Amy (easy to modify for beginners), this 6 minute workout which I usually do on repeat, and this 30 minute pregnancy workout.

My first pregnancy, with the help of a personal trainer I stayed active leading up to giving birth and I honestly felt so good physically, mentally, and energy level-wise. After delivering Nori, my labor & delivery nurse and doc asked whether I had been working out, and commented on how it may have contributed to a smooth and short labor. This time around, my workouts fell to the wayside and I am for sure feeling the difference!

Q: What helped with your sciatica or pregnancy back pain?

  • Regular stretches throughout the day geared toward sciatica. I looked up a bunch on Youtube and ended up doing the simple cat / cow stretch multiple times a day, including when I got out of bed. If the pain is very intense or chronic though, definitely talk to your OB about seeing a chiropractor or specialist.
  • Strengthen your lower body. I actually started personal training sessions my first pregnancy due to bad sciatica pains. My trainer geared a lot of our sessions toward lower body / hip / pelvic area strengthening and mobility, which beginners can do simply at home with daily squats and lunges!
  • Wear supportive bottoms. I rotate between these maternity support shorts and Zella maternity leggings almost daily and feel an instant lift and relief when I put them on. If you need something even more supportive, I had a support belt from Amazon my first pregnancy but its more bulky under clothing.
  • Support while sleeping. I love my Boppy pillow (also at Target) from my maternity must haves post – note this is a fluffier, less firm and less filled pillow which I personally liked for knee and belly support to help keep my back better aligned while side sleeping.

4. Everything else!

Q: Petite friendly nursery / glider chair recommendations?

This was a frequent question I got across both pregnancies, but living in a smaller city condo we never got one. I polled you guys on Instagram, and these were BY FAR the top two styles of nursery chairs that readers suggested, many of you saying that they’re comfortable for both a petite frame as well as your partner who is taller.

Q: How do you cope with anxiety between each OB visit?

With Nori, I got a baby heartbeat doppler to listen to at home which we still enjoy using, BUT I’m not exactly recommending this because you might end up causing yourself even more anxiety. When you’re not a doctor or expert, it can be hard to locate the heartbeat and then freak out even though baby is totally fine. Nick became an expert at finding the heartbeat but I almost never could!

Q: What are you packing in your hospital bag?

After having Nori I shared all the details on My Hospital Bag and Postpartum Must Haves, and for baby #2 I’ve literally packed almost the exact same stuff. Remember, most birthing hospitals will provide your postpartum care & healing necessities, although they will be generic versions and some of the FridaMom brand ones may be worth the upgrade.

To wear home, this time I now know to bring something nursing-friendly, comfortable and loose (and dark colored, if you’re concerned about getting blood on your clothes) as you might still look or feel 7 months pregnant right after giving birth, so I’d leave your pre-pregnancy jeans at home!

Q: Have you worked with a doula?

I researched local doulas my first pregnancy, but my OB’s advice was that they may be more helpful if you’re planning to have an unmedicated birth, and less so with an epidural. I know everyones opinion on this will be different, but having had an epidural with Nori, I would definitely agree that I would personally not have benefitted from another person in the room. However, this could also be due to my birthing hospital experience, where my labor & delivery nurse was wonderful from start to finish in making me feel comfortable, coaching me, letting me know what to expect and when to push.

Q: Biggest differences between each pregnancy?

The fatigue is real while pregnant with a toddler! To get me through the day my 1st trimester, I would do a quick at home workout during Nori’s naptime. I dreaded it, but it always helped boost my energy for the afternoon. As mentioned above, one of my biggest regrets is letting those workouts slip.

Body-wise, much of what they say was true for me…second time around, my belly popped much earlier (since your uterus has been stretched out before) and got a lot bigger more quickly. I’ve had lots of Braxton Hicks “practice contractions” starting earlier in my second trimester, and a more low hanging belly. 

With Covid protocols, this time Nick was unable to attend the ultrasounds. I’m grateful he got to experience them with Nori, and can’t imagine how this might feel for first time mamas who are pregnant this year!

Q: How many kids do you want?

Two! Feeling very grateful for where we’re at, and also bittersweet that this is most likely my last pregnancy. Each pregnancy around this time, despite discomforts, I become very emotional as this very intimate bond of growing a little one inside comes to an end.

Q: How are you preparing Nori for the transition?

Been working on a blog post with some wonderful tips we’ve received and will be trying to do – stay tuned!

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