Sunday, 24 May 2015

The last leg: The third trimester

I have for a long time battled with the idea of becoming a woman. Not an adult - a woman.
When do we transform from being girls to women - is it turning 18, 21 maybe, finishing college, working full time, making a home, getting married?
I have now decided that before you can become a mother, you must first become a woman.

My definition of a woman has changed as the years go by, but I now think it has nothing to do with being grown up or wise, it is about strength.
A woman is strong mentally and physically, she has experienced ups and downs and knows how to soldier through. A woman knows her priorities, she puts her family first and herself second. She looks at the bigger picture. A woman is determined.
I realised in my third trimester I was not a woman yet, but I had to become one.

Swollen ankles at 33 weeks pregnant
So you might have guessed I found this trimester tough! I was in a lot of pain, mainly with my pelvic girdle pain (or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction SPD), but also with swollen ankles, tummy upsets and general ‘heavily pregnant’ issues. The physical pain, also brought with it a lot of self pity parties.
From about 32 weeks, the pain did ease in my pelvis.

Big baby
So my bump was big, everyone commented on it.
On a trip to the doctor to see if I had a blood cloth in my leg (blame google) he felt my tummy and said that my baby felt very big. When I returned for another check up, he said the baby was so big I would need a c-section. I started reflexology to help ease the pain of my SPD, but quit after spending an evening in floods of tears when the reflexologist asked me if I was having twins and when I said no, told me if I went full term my baby would be 12lbs!! Who tells a first time mother that?! I was scared and so upset, I blamed myself for eating too much and had a complete melt down. 
(Spoiler alert: They were wrong!)

Baby shopping
I had started my baby list in the middle of the second trimester, after I was diagnosed with SPD. The threat of crutches and or bed rest played on my mind and the organised person I am wanted to get everything I needed before I was unable to do so. I did pick up the last few bits early in my third trimester. I will do a post on newborn essentials soon.

I really wanted to know if my baby was a boy or girl. I had no preference, but I wanted to know. From our very first scan up to the scan at 35 weeks I asked about gender, but did not get an answer. Our mysterious baby decided early on in the game to not only get into the breech position but also to face towards me, like hugging me, so we could not get a clear picture of the genitals. It was frustrating, but obviously not a big deal.

Her unique comfy position, as well as my bicornurate uterus resulted in very few baby kicks. I felt the baby every day, but no where near the recommended 10 kicks a day. For some reason (despite google!) I was not worried, I felt the baby every day and just knew everything was ok. But midwives and doctors did not feel the same way, so I had a lot of check ups in my last few weeks.

34 weeks pregnant on the non-stress test
High blood pressure
At my 34 week hospital appointment, they found my blood pressure very high. The high BP and the small amount of baby movement caused some concern so they kept me overnight to monitor. It was strange staying in hospital for the first time in my 29 years, especially when I felt perfectly fine. They put me on a non-stress test to monitor the baby’s heart rate and checked my blood pressure every three hours. I was discharged the next morning as my BP had come down, but I was sent home to rest and to finish up at work.
Four days later, I had another hospital check up, I was put on the non-stress test for 30 minutes and my blood pressure was monitored, this time my BP was a little low and they said I was a bit dehydrated!
At 35 weeks I was back again for a  hospital appointment, BP was high again but I pleaded to be sent home on bed rest. Hospitals are no fun! I was sent home under strict instructions to report any faintness, dizziness or lack of movement.

My third trimester finished at 35 weeks.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What a pain in the pelvis!

We all know to expect some pain and aches during pregnancy, it comes part and parcel with growing and carrying a baby inside your body, but there are some unfortunate souls like myself who get to endure a little more pain than the norm.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) entered my life at 20 weeks pregnant and did not exit until after my baby’s birth.
I thankfully had a healthy pregnancy, but the pain and discomfort brought by this condition did leave me drained, tired, unmotivated and of course in pain.

The symptoms for me were back, hip and ass pain and severe stiffness. It is caused by a hormone called relaxin which softens your ligaments to help your baby pass through the pelvis - I obviously had too much of it and my pelvic relaxed and moved too far apart, causing inflammation.

When in pain, you should rest - right? Wrong!
Sitting or lying down in the one position for over 20 minutes, resulted in me looking like a 90 year old - a very stiff 90 year old. (My granny is almost 90 and would jump over you, she is so fit!) Trying to get in or out of bed, get off the seat, or out of the car was near impossible. The joints stiffened and any sudden movement brought intense pain.

Thankfully my doctor recognised the symptoms right away and recommended physiotherapy, I know some doctors can dismiss it, but if you are in pain, do persevere. My doctor had a lot of sympathy for me and told me to follow the physio's instructions to prevent me having to go on to crutches or be put on bed rest in the third trimester.

The physio found that my pelvis was off centre and my left hip had moved out of place. She did several therapies, which hurt at the time, but did ease the pain in general. She also gave some do's and don'ts. I have added to this list some of my own advice and tips. 

Most importantly she told me not to push through the pain, which I had been doing and to avoid sitting on couches and to sit on a hardback chair.
Housework left me in agony and driving over an hour a day for work didn’t help either. Pregnancy yoga helped me relax, but some of the stretches did put me in pain.
As I could not go for walks or do any exercise, I put on a stone in weight by the end of the second trimester.

What eases the pain:
- A mixture of rest and exercise. I was told not to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time and to try and walk for 15 minutes.
- Stretches. Some of the yoga stretches and others I saw on YouTube or my physio told me about did help to ease some pain in the evenings
- Physiotherapy. I attended a physio in the hospital about once a fortnight. Although the therapies did hurt during the session, the pain was lessened for a few days after
- Reflexology. I am scared of needles so didn't try acupuncture. I am not sure that reflexology helped to eradicate the pain, but it did help to calm and loosen me up. A calm mind helps everything!

The good news is that after baby was born, my pelvis returned to normal and the pain was gone. Bad news is that I can most likely expect it again if I do get pregnant in the future!

Did you suffer from SPD? And if so what helped you along the way?

Also check out:
Maternity Wear Essentials
Learning a life lesson with pregnancy yoga
The honeymoon of pregnancy: The second trimester

The Do's and Don'ts of Pelvic Girdle Pain

Pregnancy Related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) can make your pregnancy journey a complete pain in the ass (physically!) so here are some Do's and Don't s that I found helped me.

Avoid crossing your legs
- Stand for a long time
- Sit for a long time
- Carry a toddler on one hip
- Cross your legs while sitting
- Sit on the floor
- Sit in a twisted position
- Lift heavy weights (including shopping bags, wet washing, vaccum etc)
- Push heavy objects like a supermarket trolley
- Carry anything in one hand only (like a handbag or shopping)
- Get dressed standing up

- Get phyisotherpay regularly
- Be as active as possible within pain limits
- Ask for help with household chores
- Rest when you can
Get professional help to ease pain
- Sit down to get dresses or undressed
- Wear flat supportive shoes
- Sit down while ironing or other jobs
- Try to keep your knees together moving in and out of the car
- Sleep with a pillow between your legs
- Roll in and out of bed keeping your knees together
- Take the stairs one at a time
- Use a rucksack or an over the shoulder handbag to carry your daily items

You can buy these spikey massage balls online
to target stiff muscles in your back

A plastic carrier bag or sheet on the car seat will help you swivel in and out of the car.
Try to cut out drinking water at night, to lower the number of toilet breaks you need.
Get a shower mat, if you don't have one - you do not need to slip!
Massage your lower back with a spiky massage ball.
If in severe pain, ice the front of your pelvis to calm down inflammation, and put heat on your ass and back to help ease muscle tension.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Maternity Wear Essentials

There comes a point in your pregnancy, when loosening the top button will not suffice, you need to buy some maternity wear. Some people find it fun, others think it is horrible, either way it can be a daunting task.

Whether you are starting to show at 12 weeks or not until you are 26 weeks, you need comfort above all else, clothes should be practical (like machine washable and durable) and you do want to look like you still have some sense of style.

Maternity clothes are not cheap, so you need to choose your items carefully, remember you will only be using these pieces for a few months so there is no need to break the bank.

Here are my top tips to maternity wear:

1. Borrow, borrow, borrow
Ask around your friends and see if you can have a root through their old maternity clothes, if they are not pregnant, they are not using them, so there is no harm in having a look at least. A few cute tops or dresses could be perfect.

2. Maternity Underwear
Do not suffer in under wire, past the 12 weeks mark if you felt any movement in your boobs, go get measured. Maternity and Nursing bras look like medieval contraptions, but they are sooo comfortable. Get rid of that under wire and prepare to breathe again. My boobs moved up the size scale three times during my pregnancy, so do get measured, a lot!

3. Slip on Shoes
Luckily, most of my pregnancy was spent in flip flops, when I had to move into socks, I almost collapsed - such effort! Slip on shoes are easy and comfortable, your swollen ankles will thank you and you will use them after birth too, when every second of time saving is essential for getting out the door.

4. Leggings
I am not really a leggings kind of gal, but boy, oh boy did I live in them during my pregnancy. Great for under dresses or just with a long top. They are comfy and stretchy - an essential item(s).

5. Maternity Jeans
You don’t need to say goodbye to skinny jeans with this wonderful invention. This would be the one item I advise you spend some money on, a good pair will go with everything and you will feel good and a little normal in them.
6. Maternity vest/ tank tops
I lived in these during my pregnancy. Whether you wear them alone or under another top, they really are so versatile. Get a few of them, maybe a few nursing ones too, so you can wear them if you are breastfeeding your baby.

7. Bump friendly cardigan/ jacket
These are great and again go with everything, you feel covered and some even make you look slimmer.

8. Tracksuit bottoms
For walking, for napping, for watching TV, driving etc. Get ones that look good enough to go shopping in, such a good investment.

9. Dresses
What you need to look dressy is a wrap dress or even a maxi dress. Show off your bump, because if you don’t you might just look fat. You are not fat you are growing a baby!

10. Accessories
Now is the time to bring out the bling! Long necklaces, dripping earrings, bracelets, rings, scarves and handbags. Focus the eye of these items, and keep in style with the season’s print, colours and textures through your accessories.

11. Size Up
You do not need to buy everything from the maternity section, try a size bigger than your usual and look out for big flowing tops, shirts, and skirts. Also if you buy the darker shades they usually look more slimming.

12. PJs
Every day that I came home from work or an event, I got into my pjs. Buy pjs and a night gown that you love, ones that are comfy and cosy. You will be spending a lot of time in them during your pregnancy and after you had your precious baby.

What are your maternity wear essentials?

Also check out:
12 things to do in the second trimester

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Majestic Cruise of the Greek Islands

The Greek Islands have been on my travel list for well over a decade, but every time I looked into the trip it always seemed so complicated. Unless you have a ton of money or a few months to spend, it is difficult to organise, as boats do not sail everyday so you could be stuck on some islands for days.

Me and hubby
So it was the last place I expected to go on my Babymoon - which coincidentally was also our honeymoon! To explain: we got married in Italy on the Alps in January 2014 and decided to hold off on our honeymoon until later in the year … later that year we were expecting a baby!

We chose a cruise for a number of reasons, the first was the itinerary, the second was the ease of travel and the third was the great price. We didn't have to worry about strange food to avoid while pregnant, or having to hire a car or spend ages finding our accommodation, a restaurant, etc - a cruise was stress free and easy. Perfect for a Babymoon.

I was 18 weeks pregnant when we embarked on our voyage, I still had plenty of energy and barely looked pregnant (just plump!). This was not an adventure trip, no crazy activities, this was a relaxing, romantic and luxury holiday.

We flew from Belfast to Corfu and met the Thomas Majesty Cruise Ship, the whole package was perfectly organised. We had one full day of cruising out of ten, the rest of the days the ship docked at various locations. I never slept so much in my life! We also ate a lot, listened to smooth music, read and perused the islands at a leisurely pace.

A cruise holiday also gives you the chance to really get dolled up for the formal evenings, which are fun if you get into the right spirit. The Thomas Cruise did not have as much variety or quality entertainment than a Royal Caribbean but it was perfect for our laid back journey.

The ship stopped off at:
Mykonos - idyllic, whitewashed buildings, stunning island
Kusadasi - If you want a bargain and like to haggle this is your place (not my cup of tea)
Athens - Where civilisation began, Acropolis, Hadrians Arc, Temple of Zeus - I love this city!
Monemvasia - A jewel in the ocean. Old town is built inside a walled fortress clinging onto a cliff. 
Such a romantic and unique location - my favourite spot.

Kataklon - Olympia the home to the Olympic Games, not quite as impressive as you would expect, but pretty spectacular all the same!
Corfu - The party island, but we did not party. We did some sightseeing, got some pampering and dined on some moussaka.

I highly recommend a cruise for a honeymoon or babymoon.
Where did you go, was it amazing?