Self care for the first trimester
The first trimester of pregnancy is a time of many changes, both physical and emotional. It is pretty common to experience different symptoms such as fatigue, nasal congestion, dizziness, headaches, migraines, mood swings, nausea, vomiting, sensitiveness to foods and smells and breast tenderness. Many factors can influence how you experience the first trimester and the whole pregnancy. Therefore you can try to understand these mechanisms and experience your body in a more positive way. Here are a few things you can do to take care of yourself during that time.
This is my contribution as a shiatsu practitioner and a doula. Of course, these pieces of advice are not a replacement for an appointment to your doctor or your midwife.
Traditional Chinese’s Medicine prospective
During first trimester, menstruations stop, and this extra energy is allowed to flow to mother and baby. Earth energy is predominant, and this is the time of embodiment of the baby’s soul. It is when the baby goes through many ancient animal forms and shapes. From cell to amorphous cell cluster, to worm and many others until its takes the shape of a human. Earth energy helps bring anchor in this fast transformation, for the baby and also for the mother. The organs holing earth energy are stomach and spleen, which imbalance causes digestive problems. The other important organs at this time of pregnancy are the kidneys. These organs store our ancestral energy that we will pass to our children. Low energy in the kidneys can lead to great fatigue.
So what can you do? First thing, listen to your body, because it naturally knows how to regain balance. If you are tired, take as much rest as needed. Take time to cook for yourself healthy dishes that you like. It is best to avoid stimulants, too much sugar, fatty and icy food and drinks, which can weaken spleen energy. Take time to eat slowly, and enjoy what will nurture you and the baby. It is also possible that you feel perfectly healthy and happy to carry on with your normal activities and sports, and this is fine too. If you can, don’t forget to ask support to your partner, friends and family. Their support is a direct expression of earth’s energy, which is passed through empathy and compassion.
If you are working, maybe it is not easy to keep everything as usual. Take time to acknowledge symptoms and feelings. Have some time off if you want and if possible. Take time for yourself. Here are a few gentle exercises that you can safely do during the first trimester and that will help you connect with your body and your baby. The idea is to bring emphasis to your own inner world for a moment, get yourself attention.
First exercise can be practiced sitting, standing or lying down. Have one hand on your uterus, and one hand on your heart. Breathe there. You can focus on feelings on your body, and on the connection between your hands. It might be a time to gently talk to your body or your baby.
Second exercise is to sit in seiza, on your knees; it is a good position for digestion and grounding. You can do the previous exercise in this position too.
Third exercise is there to move slightly and bring awareness to your posture. First bend your knees, find the balance of your pelvis. Rock is from front to back a few times. Feel the effect of the rocking on the rest of your posture, from feet to head. Find a point there, where you are comfortable, where the pelvis is slightly tucked down, and your body can float up from the grounding of your feet. When you feel comfortable, move the different parts of your body (1) head, (2) shoulders, (3) upper back, then move your pelvis (4) in a circle, (5) in a 8-shape, and (6) each hip up and down. In between each of these exercises you can take time in the neutral, comfortable position, to feel the centre, and the connection to earth and sky.
Finally, if you have nausea or sickness, you can try the wonderful point, Heart Protector 6 (HP6). Its name means the “Inner door”, a passage to the inside world. It is located (see my terrible drawing) on the middle of your inner arm, at a 3 fingers distance from your wrist. With your body and arms relaxed, press the point with a relaxed thumb. Begin gently. You can try different angles, and press more firmly, as you feel. Pressure can be short or long. Just feel the effect, closing your eyes. You can do both sides and feel the difference between them.
Body and mind
We all know mind and body are closely connected. In Buddhism, it is well stated that we have a direct power over our own happiness. The first step into this power is to give awareness and attention to what is. Here are a few questions that could bring awareness to states of mind that can influence your body. Take time to think and answer them. You can do it on your own or with your partner. You can speak, write, dance or draw the answers. Feel free to use them as you wish!
Do you have any expectations about how it is to be pregnant? Does reality meet these expectations?
How is your mood and is it changing a lot? Are they known or unknown feelings? How do you relate to them? Do they feel good, bad or neutral?
How are you, your partner/the father and your other children feeling about this baby arriving in the world? How this baby is welcomed into your womb and in your life? Is this pregnancy expected, did you long for it?
Do you have worries about the health of the baby, or about miscarriage?
How is your world like outside the pregnancy? Is there pressure at work? Do people around you know that you are pregnant, are they supportive? Can you take time off for yourself? Is it safe to be pregnant in your current situation?
How do you relate to your body and the changes of pregnancy? Are they welcomed? Are they good, bad, alarming, scary, comforting? Do you think these changes are an opportunity to adapt your life to the baby to come?
These questions are here to help you being aware of different aspects of the pregnancy that could affect you. Do not hesitate to talk about these issues to your partner or/and trusted people like family and friends. You can also talk to your doctor or to a therapist. A doula can help you through emotional issues, for example by debriefing previous pregnancies, births and experiences. Chinese medicine treatments or massage such as shiatsu can also help going with and through emotional issues.