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The Third Trimester of My First Pregnancy

The Third Trimester of My First Pregnancy

Throughout my pregnancy with my first child, I kept a journal to document my journey. I have shared the first trimester and the second trimester of my second pregnancy, and here I share the third trimester and the birth of my daughter.

Week 27

October 3, 2011

As I enter week 27 of pregnancy, I have decided to out of the glucose challenge test for gestational diabetes. At my last prenatal appointment, my midwife brought up the topic of screening for gestational diabetes. She gave my husband and me information on the potential effects of the disease as well as recommendations for screening. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Diabetes Association, a pregnant woman is considered low risk for developing gestational diabetes under the following criteria:

  • Age 25 or younger
  • Not in an ethnic group with an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Body mass index of 25 or less
  • No previous history of abnormal glucose tolerance or adverse obstetrics outcomes usually associated with gestational diabetes
  • No known history of diabetes in a first-degree relative

I am white, and my body mass index prior to pregnancy was 22.7. At week twenty-eight of my pregnancy, I have also gained only a respectable 12 pounds, meaning I have not gained an excessive amount of weight. Because I have never given birth before, I have never taken the glucose challenge test or given birth to a baby with problems due to gestational diabetes. As for my age, I am only 26; the risk suddenly does not skyrocket because I celebrated one extra birthday. Finally, none of my first-degree relatives have been officially diagnosed with diabetes. Based on the stated risk factors, I am low to lower risk for developing gestational diabetes.

I have also based my decision to opt out of the glucose challenge test based on the recommendations of other authoritative institutions.

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be screened for gestational diabetes by patient history, clinical risk factors, or a laboratory screening test.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes that low-risk women may be less likely to benefit from screening with laboratory testing.
  • The American Diabetes Association states that low-risk women need not be screened with glucose testing.
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians has concluded that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine screening for gestational diabetes in asymptomatic pregnant women.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concludes that “[c]urrent evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for gestational diabetes mellitus, either before or after 24 weeks’ gestation.”

In other words, the glucose challenge test is not necessary for all pregnant women. Instead, my midwife and I are screening for my risk of gestational diabetes with other detection methods. For example, at each appointment, I take a urine test that screens for sugar and protein in my urine.  Sugar in the urine can be a symptom of gestational diabetes. (Protein in the urine can be an indicator of preeclampsia.) We are also watching my weight and the growth of my baby. Should I begin to gain an excessive amount of weight or should the baby begin to grow too quickly, then I would consider the glucose challenge test. Until if and then, however, I am confident that my decision to opt out of the screening is the best decision for me and for my baby.

Did you opt out of the glucose challenge test?

October 6, 2011

As I was drinking a 20 ounce cup of coffee that consisted of 1/3 regular coffee and 2/3 decaffeinated coffee this evening during week 27, I decided to do a little research on the affects and risks of caffeine during pregnancy. After reading a little bit of information, I immediately ceased drinking my coffee. Tomorrow I plan to get a completely decaf coffee.

In terms of research, the jury is still out on the harms caused by caffeine before and during pregnancy. Some studies found that women who consume 200 milligrams or more of caffeine per day were at an increased risk for miscarriage; other studies concluded that a minimum to moderate consumption of caffeine did not affect miscarriage rates. Personally, I erred on the side of caution and pretty much avoided all caffeine during the first trimester of my pregnancy. I even avoided Coke, which is one of my favorite beverages on a hot summer day.

In addition to a possible but inconclusive link to miscarriage, caffeine use in pregnant women may also be linked to an increased risk of stillbirth. One study found that, as her caffeine consumption increased, a woman was more likely to give birth to a stillborn baby. Again, however, the association between caffeine and stillbirth is inconclusively causal. To be on the safe side, though, I have still been limiting my consumption of caffeine during pregnancy.

Most days, I have only a few milligrams of caffeine. I mostly drink milk, 100% fruit juice, and decaffeinated iced tea. I occasionally have something chocolate or a caffeinated soda but not every day. Because the weather is starting to turn cool, I have been craving some yummy warm drinks like coffee. I never drink more than the recommended 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.

Nonetheless, I figure the less caffeine I consume the better. And, so, today I have decided to not finish my 1/3-caf coffee. (I got the refill for free so no loss on my part!) Tomorrow if I decide to get another cup of coffee, I will settle for fully decaffeinated. Sure, the yummy fall flavor is available only in caffeinated. However, I will settle with the regular kind for the health and well-being of my precious little Poppy!

Did you limit your caffeine consumption during pregnancy?

Week 28

October 10, 2011

Baby Shower InvitationIn terms of parties, I am big into etiquette. According to etiquette, a mother-to-be should not plan her own baby shower. However, nothing in the etiquette books says that a pregnant daughter cannot help her mother with throwing a baby shower and decorating for a baby shower.

My mom is planning the baby shower for my husband and me in celebration of the upcoming birth of our first baby and her first grandchild. I am very grateful that my mom is throwing a baby shower for us. However, my mom is not all that big into parties. So, she has enlisted my help to help her with the shower. I am more than happy to help her out all while maintaining the proper baby shower etiquette.

My baby shower is planned for October 29. At the beginning of August, I picked out the invitations for the shower: yellow invitations in the shape of baby diapers. I then helped my mom figure out the wording for the invitation. While she filled out the invitations, I stuffed the envelopes and attached the stamps and return address labels. With my help, she was able to get all the invitations finished in just a few hours. I also enjoyed the time I spent helping my mom.

I also went shopping with my mom to help her pick out the decorations for decorating for a baby shower. My husband and I took my mom out to a late lunch, and then she took us to the party supply store. To make throwing a baby shower easier for her, I made most of the decisions about the colors and décor for the plates, silverware, napkins, and decorations. Because we are waiting to find out the sex of the baby until the birth, instead of choosing a typical green or yellow gender-neutral color scheme, I decided to go with a pink and blue theme. My mom was more than happy for me to pick out all the party supplies while she paid for everything.

Finally, my husband and I will help my mom with throwing a baby shower come the big day. On the morning of October 29, my husband has already volunteered to drive with my mom to pick up the cake for the party. He and I will both help my mom decorate the party room prior to the shower.

I am pleased as punch that my mom is throwing a baby shower for me and my husband and our baby. My mom is super happy that I am helping her with planning and decorating for a baby shower. Etiquette states that the mother-to-be cannot throw her own party. Nothing is stopping a daughter from helping her own mother out with the plans!

If you had a baby shower, who planned the party?

October 12, 2011

I have written about my dealings with itchy skin during pregnancy before. During the first trimester and early part of the second trimester, the skin on my chest, belly, abdomen, and sides was extremely dry and itchy. If I did not slather on my cocoa butter immediately after stepping out of the shower, I was in pain for the rest of the night. However, as my pregnancy and the summer wore on, my skin seemed to be doing a little better. Because I live in an extremely humid area, the heat and humidity put a stop to my pregnancy skin problems. Now, however, as I enter the third trimester of my pregnancy, my dry, itchy skin during pregnancy is back.

Today I am in week 28 of pregnancy. The third trimester started on Saturday. I weigh 133.2 pounds, and my waist measures 40 inches around. My tummy is bigger than ever. As my tummy has grown to mega proportions, my skin has taken a beaten. So far, I do not have any stretch marks (knock on wood), which is probably because of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. (I have a lot of extra stretchiness throughout the connective tissues of my body including my skin.) However, for the past couple of days, I have been experiencing burning, itching skin during pregnancy in the area right underneath my breasts.

In an attempt to alleviate my pregnancy skin problems during week 28, I have been drinking a lot more water and slathering on a lot more lotion. Neither seems to be doing the trick. Basically, the skin at the top of my stomach feels like I have a sunburn that is constantly being irritated. My itchy skin during pregnancy has progressed from being just dry to being on fire. And no amount of moisture is putting the burning out!

As I sat on the couch reading a book before work today, I even tried slathering some peppermint foot lotion onto my burning, itchy skin. My dog loved that I now smelled like one of favorite scents. However, even the thick, coolness of my peppermint foot lotion was no match for my pregnancy skin problems. Even as I sit here writing this, I am attempting to ignore the burning sensation on my upper belly.

I am hoping that my burning skin will cool down as my pregnancy progresses. If not, well, I will chalk up my burning, itchy skin during pregnancy as another little annoyance that I am willing to go through for my precious little Poppy. The burning will stop. Eventually.

Did you experience unusually dry or itchy skin during pregnancy?

Week 29

October 16, 2011

Yesterday during week 29 of pregnancy my husband took me for my very first massage during pregnancy. All I can say is that prenatal massages are worth every penny! I recommend getting at least one massage to every pregnant woman. There are just too many benefits and, dare I say, joys of getting a prenatal massage. I have never had a professional massage before let alone a massage during pregnancy. My husband has taken some massage classes (which is awesome for me!), so I am very aware of just how helpful massage can be.

I was really looking forward to my prenatal massage during pregnancy. I began having back pain in my lower back around week 10 of pregnancy. As my pregnancy progressed, the pain moved from my lower back to my upper middle back, mostly on the right side under my shoulder blade. With my lower back pain, I could find positions to rest in that felt pretty good. However, with my current back pain, sometimes nothing I do alleviates the discomfort. I have tried sitting and laying in every position imaginable. The only thing that helps even a little bit is when my husband rubs my sore spots before I go to sleep. My 40 inch waist and my weight gain to 134.2 pounds is putting a lot of extra stress on my tiny body.

As of writing this post, my back is feeling pretty good. During my massage during pregnancy, I could feel the tension melt away from my body. I loved being able to lay on my belly on the special pregnancy massage pillow. (Right now, my husband has to rub my back when I am either sitting up or laying on my side.) I felt a little discomfort in my upper middle back last night right before bed but nothing as painful as I have been feeling over the past couple of weeks. If my back pain starts to get worse again, I will definitely be booking another appointment for a pregnancy massage.

In addition to helping with the aches and pains of pregnancy, prenatal massages are also beneficial to the mother and the baby for other reasons. According to the American Pregnancy Associate webpage on prenatal massage, getting a massage during pregnancy can reduce swelling, regulate hormones, improve nerve pain, improve circulation, reduce muscle tension and headaches, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep. In other words, prenatal massage can be extremely beneficial.

The most important thing to remember when getting a massage during pregnancy is to find a reputable massage therapist who has training in giving prenatal massages. I went to a local spa (where I go for other things) and had a wonderful therapist who focuses on pregnant women. I hope to be able to go back again before I give birth. Getting a massage during week 29 of pregnancy has definitely helped me!

Did you get a massage during pregnancy?

Week 30

October 26, 2011

My precious little Poppy has been pushing down on my lower abdomen for most of the evening, so I thought nothing about making another trip to the bathroom during week 30 of pregnancy. However, to discover that I was lightly bleeding during late pregnancy on my most recent trip really freaked me out. My current pregnancy is not my first pregnancy. I lost my first baby to a miscarriage back in September of last year. Having been extremely anxious throughout the first trimester of my current pregnancy, I thought that I was out of the clear as far as worrying about bleeding during pregnancy goes. Now that I am thirty weeks pregnant, I realize that my anxiety will never completely go away until I give birth to a healthy little Poppy.

Upon discovering a little bit of pink after using the bathroom, I immediately rushed into my office to call my husband. He said that he would call our midwife to see what we should do. He called me back a few minutes later to tell me that, as long as the spotting remained pink and did not worsen, that we would just have to wait and see what happened. Furthermore, as long as I continued to feel the baby moving, I probably had nothing to worry about. In fact, bleeding during late pregnancy is fairly common.

After that phone call, I was of course still feeling extremely anxious. In fact, I was downright scared. I messaged my husband on Facebook to tell him how I was feeling. As soon as I typed that I was scared, Poppy kicked me as if to say, “It’s okay, Mommy. Don’t be scared.” As long as I keep feeling my baby moving around in my belly, I know that I can remain fairly calm about my light bleeding during late pregnancy.

Bleeding during the third trimester is extremely common. As I learned from a quick Google search, spotting during late pregnancy is often due to irritation to the cervix. Because a pregnant woman’s body contains a lot more blood including more blood in the reproductive organs, even the slightest jostling can cause light bleeding or spotting. I wonder if the fact that Poppy has been hanging out low in my uterus this evening is the reason for my spotting. On the other hand, bleeding during the third trimester can also indicate a serious problem such as preterm labor or placental abruption. I am trying not to think about either of those possibilities.

No matter the cause, my light bleeding during late pregnancy really freaks me out. Stay tuned for an update on me and Poppy. And, please, keep your fingers crossed!

Did you experience any bleeding during pregnancy?

October 27, 2011

Today I updated my Facebook status to “Visiting the bathroom every half hour because of pregnancy=bad. Visiting the bathroom every ten minutes because of UTI during pregnancy=worse.” Yes, unfortunately, I have a bladder infection during pregnancy. But I am so thankful that I am married to a wonderful husband who is willing to drive into town late at night to pick up a prescription for me.

Yesterday I wrote that I had been experiencing some light bleeding during week 30 of pregnancy. During another trip to the bathroom, I discovered some light pink bleeding. I immediately freaked out, fearing that something was wrong with the baby. I was quite frightened due to the fact that I had lost my first pregnancy to a miscarriage. Although I am now in my thirtieth week of pregnancy, I am still nervous about loosing my precious little Poppy. Because the loss of my first baby started with discovering that I was bleeding during a routine trip to the bathroom, I was understandably upset last night. I called my husband to tell him what was happening.

My husband and I then called my midwife and my doula. At first, my midwife advised us to keep an eye on the bleeding because light bleeding or spotting is not unusual during the third trimester. However, after a second trip to the bathroom that resulted in a burning sensation, I knew that something more was up. I then called my doula again and described my symptoms: peeing more often than usual, needing to pee with more urgency, burning while peeing, and bleeding.

After talking to my midwife and my doula, the diagnosis moved from a problem with the pregnancy to a bladder infection during pregnancy. Based on my symptoms, I more than likely have a bladder infection and a rather severe bladder infection at that. I was not experiencing any bleeding except when I went to the bathroom. Furthermore, I was taking trips to the restroom more frequently and with more urgency. In fact, when I took my dinner break, I called my husband to tell him that I almost peed my pants trying to get to the bathroom.

Getting a bladder infection while pregnant is rather common. As my doula told me, expectant mothers who go to OB-GYNs for prenatal care have to give a urine sample at every appointment. Although women rarely show symptoms of a minor bladder infection during pregnancy, the infection is usually caught with one of these routine urine tests. Once detected, the urinary tract infection is most often treated with antibiotics.

I have always been susceptible to UTIs. Therefore, the realization that I had a bladder infection during pregnancy came as no surprise to me. I had never had a bladder infection as bad as this one, meaning an infection so bad that I was peeing blood. Regardless, my midwife immediately sent a prescription in for an antibiotic. My doula advised me to drink lots of water and cranberry juice, to eat more garlic, and to avoid citrus juices. Because I worked until one o’clock in the morning, my wonderful husband drove into town late to pick up my prescription and some cranberry juice. He then delivered everything to me at my work. He then brought me my medicine, which I took immediately.

By the time he arrived, I was peeing every ten minutes or so. I also had blood in my urine, which was quite disconcerting even though I knew the cause. I immediately took my first pill, and, in only a few hours, I began to feel better. Peeing hurt less, and the blood eventually disappeared. I am now happily on my way to recovery.

Urinary tract infections are extremely common during pregnancy. Due to changes in the body, the uterus can press down on the bladder, preventing all the urine from leaving the body during urination. Residual urine can cause an infection. Changes in the urethra can also allow for bacteria to enter into the urinary tract, causing an infection.

Treating a bladder infection while pregnant is extremely important. When diagnosed and treated, a UTI during pregnancy is no big deal. The most frequent treatment plan is an antibiotic that is safe for both mother and baby. However, left untreated, a simple bladder infection can turn into a kidney infection, which is much more serious. Untreated kidney infections can lead to preterm labor and birth, which is something that I definitely want to avoid. I am therefore happy to say that my antibiotics started working within a few hours of taking the first pill. I will now continue to take the rest of my medicine for the next week while increasing my intake of water and cranberry juice. My bladder infection during week 30 of pregnancy is well on its way to being under control. Thank goodness!

Did you develop any urinary tract infections during pregnancy?

Week 31

November 3, 2011

Baby Shower CakeMy mom hosted a baby shower for my husband and me on Saturday during week 31 of pregnancy. For my Thankful Thursday post this week, I am not only thankful that my mom spent the time and energy to throw us a baby shower but also that our friends and family attended and showered Poppy with gifts and love.

I have never had a shower thrown for me before. Because my husband and I had an extremely small wedding with only parents, siblings, and grandparents in attendance, I never had a bridal shower. Poppy is also our first baby. Therefore I was super excited about our party!

Etiquette states that an expectant mother should not throw herself a baby shower. I fully agree; throwing a shower for myself reeks of asking for presents. However, although my mom hosted the party, my husband and I helped her out a great deal. She is not really that big into parties, so we helped her by choosing the invitations, selecting the decorations, and ordering the cake. She was happy to pay for everything and to act as hostess while we made the big decisions. I was happy to be able to help because I can hardly stand to sit idly by while others do all the work.

To begin helping my mom out with the task of hosting our baby shower, my husband and I first picked out the invitations. We chose a gender-neutral yellow invitation in the shape of a baby diaper. To further help my mom, I helped get the invitations ready and put in the mail. My mom filled out the invitation information while I addressed and stamped the envelopes. I am very thankful for the afternoon we spent together.

On Saturday morning, after waiting patiently for two months, I was super excited about the baby shower. My husband drove my mom into town to pick up our adorable cake. We decided on a sheet cake that was half red velvet and half white with cream cheese icing that was decorated in pink, blue, and white to look like a baby quilt. We had “Hello Baby” written in the quilt squares. My mom then prepared all the food—which included a veggie tray, a fruit tray, and cheese and crackers—and the faux sangria punch. I put up the decorations in the party room that we had rented at a local hotel. Instead of a more traditional green or yellow color scheme, I had decided to put up both blue baby boy and pink baby girl decorations.

I had a lot of fun at our baby shower. A number of our friends and family came. I did not expect presents, but I feel so blessed for all the gifts that my friends and family showered on my baby. I really appreciate that everyone thought of us and bought us the many things that we will need for Poppy. I am also so glad that everyone who attended could attend.

I am so thankful for my mom who hosted our baby shower during week 31 of pregnancy. I am also so thankful for our friends and family who were thinking of us and our baby. My family is truly blessed.

Did you have a baby shower?

Week 32

November 7, 2011

For as long as I can remember, I have dealt with anxiety and depression. After my miscarriage last September, my depression intensified into postpartum depression. My husband and I started trying to conceive again as soon as my body healed. Because of my depression, however, my hormones were completely out of whack, which made conceiving again more difficult. Once I got my depression under control, though, my husband and I were able to make our precious little Poppy.

Being pregnant has really helped with my depression. Losing a baby that we really wanted really messed me up last year. Conceiving again helped heal me. Feeling Poppy wiggling around inside my belly all the time truly keeps my spirits up. In fact, I will go as far to say that being pregnant with Poppy has made me downright happy. My depression as of week 32 of pregnancy is really under control.

My anxiety is another story. After conceiving Poppy, I started to notice that I was feeling a lot more anxious about things that had not bothered me so much before. I have always been a high stress individual. (Sometimes, when I have nothing to stress about, I stress about not having enough stress.) However, pregnancy has intensified my anxiety to a new level.

One of my biggest worries right now is the death of my pets. I am absolutely terrified that Espen and Princess will die unexpected and horrible deaths. After learning about a dog who died in a house fire in my town, I developed a fear of Espen dying a terrifying death in a house fire. To help quell my fear, my husband and I are looking into buying smoke detectors that text our cell phones in the event of smoke. So, on the one hand, my new anxiety is a little extreme, but, on the other hand, my fear is improving the safety in our home.

Another one of my anxieties is not quite productive. When I leave my house for work in the afternoons, I find myself overcome with anxiety over leaving my husband. I know that I will be coming home in only a few short hours and that I can call James whenever I need him. However, my anxiety over being away from my husband makes the drive to work absolutely torturous!

When I begin to feel really anxious, I try to remind myself that my anxieties are unfounded and sometimes the result of all the pregnancy hormones gushing through my body during week 32. I also try to remind myself of things that make me happy. For example, yesterday while driving to work, I felt my anxiety coming on and reminded myself how much I love the fall weather. Reminding myself of something I love helped push my uneasiness out of the forefront of my mind.

Anxiety during pregnancy is not normal. But anxiety during pregnancy is not unusual. Dealing with anxiety is sometimes very difficult. However, I will not allow myself to become a victim to my anxiety.

Did you experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy?

Week 33

November 12, 2011

Writing a birth plan is simple. Because my husband and I know what we want to happen and what we want to avoid before, during, and after the birth of our child, I was able to write my birth plan in only a few minutes. As of week 33 of pregnancy, here are my hopes and desires for the birth of Poppy in January:

During the Labor

  • Limited or no internal exams
  • Use of my bathtub if desired
  • Perineal massage from James

During the Birth

  • Oil or other to lubricate the birth passage
  • James or me catch the baby

After the Birth

  • Delayed cord clamping and cutting (Wait until the cord stops pulsing)
  • Put the baby directly in my arms
  • Immediate breastfeeding
  • Keep placenta for encapsulation

When I showed my midwife my birth plan, she said, “Yep, those are pretty standard.” In other words, my requests are not out-of-the-ordinary for a homebirth. Because I plan on giving birth at home, in fact, my birth plan is more of a reminder for me in case I lose my head during the labor or birth. I have been known to go a little crazy in potentially stressful situations; having a documented plan in hand will help me immensely.

Depending on where a women choses to give birth, her birth plan may be more or less elaborate than mine. For example, because I am planning a home birth, I did not need to worry about including my preferences for medications such as an epidural. A woman who plans on giving birth in a hospital may want to indicate on her birth plan whether or not she wants certain medical interventions.

A birth plan need not be a difficult or drawn out document. As far as mine goes, I chose to write a simple list of my most wanted desires. More details are definitely possible but not necessary. In other words, if you want to write a birth plan but are unsure of where to start, make the task simple for yourself by just jotting down what you want and what you do not want in a list.

Did you write a birth plan?

November 13, 2011

Birthing DVDsAs a librarian, I have a world of information at my fingertips. Therefore, in preparation for the birth of my precious little Poppy, I have been reading books about pregnancy and birth. In particular, I have been trying to find some books with photographs of the natural birthing process. I have found a few with some helpful pictures; however, now that I am in week 33 of pregnancy, I really wanted to find something that visually guided me through the stages of labor and birth.

So, in addition to books, I have also been preparing for childbirth by watching birthing DVDs. The university that I work at has a serious nursing program. As a result, my library is home to a sizeable collection of birthing DVDs. Although most of these videos are designed for nurses entering the medicalized field of hospital births, two DVDs offered me a look at the natural process of labor and birth: The Stages of Labor: A Visual Guide and The Miracle of Birth 3.

When I asked for permission to check both of these DVDs out of the library for the evening, the nursing librarian warned me not to be afraid. As she said, medical videos tend to focus on what goes wrong rather than what goes right. I am already very aware of this fact but braced myself accordingly.

I was pleasantly surprised by both DVDs. The Stages of Labor: A Visual Guide was particularly useful in that the film visually walked me through all the changes that my body will be going through during the labor and birth of my baby. Information comforts me, so, although I was never afraid of giving birth (I am looking forward to it actually), knowing more about what will happen to my body makes me feel even more confident about my ability to bring my baby into this world without medical intervention.

I was also surprised by The Miracle of Birth 3. This DVD contained five birth stories. Surprisingly, four were vaginal births and only one was a cesarean birth. Of the vaginal births, two were completely unmedicated. Seeing women giving birth without interventions again has helped me prepare myself for the birth of Poppy.

I am very much looking forward to the birth of my baby come late December or early January. To help prepare myself for the miracle of labor and delivery, I have not only been reading as many books as I can get my hands on but I have also been watching films that depict actual labors and births. I highly recommend any mother-to-be do the same to prepare herself for the birth of her baby.

How did you prepare for childbirth?

November 17, 2011

I am a huge fan of tea. In fact, I drink about thirty-two ounces or more of iced tea almost every day of the week. Prior to conceiving my current pregnancy, I drank red raspberry leaf tea starting on the first day of my period up until ovulation. Red raspberry leaf tea is helpful for regulating the menstrual cycle and for increasing the chances of conception because this herbal tea helps to thicken the lining of the uterus. In fact, red raspberry leaf tea is cited as one of the best teas for a woman to drink while trying to conceive.

After only two cycles of drinking red raspberry leaf tea, I conceived Poppy. However, immediately after ovulating, I stopped drinking the herbal tea. Although the evidence is lacking and far from conclusive, drinking red raspberry leaf tea during the first two trimesters of pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage. So, just to be on the safe, I drank only decaffeinated black tea and never red raspberry leaf tea throughout the first two-thirds of my pregnancy.

However, as my pregnancy progressed to the third trimester, I followed the recommendation of my midwife and began drinking red raspberry leaf again. Drinking red raspberry leaf tea during the third trimester is beneficial for a number of reasons. First, this herbal tea helps tone the uterus, which can make labor and birth quicker, easier, and less painful. I am all for anything that will help my labor progress as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Second, red raspberry leaf tea can help with intense Braxton Hicks contractions by again working to tone the uterus.

Because I had been experiencing some pretty intense Braxton Hicks contractions, I began drinking iced raspberry leaf tea again. To make a batch, my husband uses one tea bag to make thirty-two ounces of iced tea. I drink one bath of this herbal tea per day (although sometimes I forget on the weekends!). Although not necessarily the cause or the only cause, drinking red raspberry leaf tea again seems to have helped reduce the intensity of my practice contractions.

However, I do have a warning to offer about the use of red raspberry leaf tea. When I started drinking this herbal tea again, I noticed that my blood sugar was dropping more often and more severely than usual. I have always suffered from hypoglycemia, but I was a bit concerned at the drastic change. I was also feeling more anxious than usual. A little research revealed that low blood sugar can cause anxiety. Furthermore, red raspberry leaf tea can cause low blood sugar. In other words, drinking red raspberry leaf tea was causing my blood sugar to drop, which was causing me to feel anxious. (On the plus side, for a woman struggling with gestational diabetes, adding red raspberry leaf tea to her diet might help lower her blood sugar.)

I had been drinking my iced tea after dinner. However, to combat the side effect of low blood sugar, I began drinking my tea from late in the afternoon until dinner. Keeping food in my stomach has definitely helped my low blood sugar problem that was caused by the red raspberry leaf tea. I am now happy to say both that my blood sugar is under control and that I am still able to drink red raspberry leaf tea. Hopefully, the benefits of drinking this herbal tea during the third trimester will continue as I go into labor and give birth. Bottoms up!

Did you drink red raspberry leaf tea during your third trimester?

Week 34

November 22, 2011

Today I am thirty-three weeks and three days into my pregnancy. Today James and I also went to our fifth appointment with our midwife. Yes, I have had only five appointments for prenatal care so far. And guess what? I have been absolutely pleased with each and every visit. My pregnancy has progressed normally and without any problems, so more care was never needed. In fact, my prenatal care has been minimal in general: Perfect for a low-risk pregnancy.

Other mothers-to-be who have chosen a care provider other than a homebirth midwife may be wondering what exactly goes on at each of my appointments. Here is what happens at a typical visit.

First, we arrive at our midwife’s house. Unlike with an OB-GYN or a midwife who works at a medical facility, all of our prenatal care happens at our midwife’s home. As we are nearing the end of our pregnancy, our midwife will also make a special trip to our home to check it out before the birth, but all of our other appointments have been at her house. She lives about an hour away from us, so we usually make a little trip out of the day. For example, today we used the time to stop at eat a late lunch at a little diner and then finished our Thanksgiving food shopping before heading back home. We also always stop at our favorite little sweet shop for marshmallow vanilla cokes on our way to the midwife’s.

After arriving, if I need to use the bathroom, I do so. At all except one appointment, I have needed to pee. (The other time I had just eaten lunch and had needed to pee at the restaurant. I absolutely could not wait until getting to the midwife’s.) However, I am not just using the bathroom because I am pregnant and need to pee every ten minutes; I am also checking my urine for sugar and protein. Sugar in the urine may be a symptom of gestational diabetes. Protein may be a sign of preeclampsia. All I have to do to check my urine is pee in a little paper cup (easier said than done!), stick a test strip in the urine, wait a minute, and compare the results with the chart on the bottle. So far, all my urine tests have been normal.

Once I use the bathroom, my midwife weighs me. Today I weigh 144.0 pounds, which means I have gained a total of twenty-four pounds. I am definitely doing great on my weight. The recommended gain is between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds by the end of the pregnancy for a woman who was a healthy weight pre-pregnancy. So, as long as I do not pile on the pounds in the next couple of weeks, my weight gain is right on track.

Next, we go into a little bedroom in which the bulk of the appointment occurs. The midwife checks my blood pressure and pulse. She also measures the height of my fundus and listens to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler. Today I measured 35.5 centimeters, and Poppy’s heartbeat was 140 beats per minute. Today the midwife also checked the position of the baby. As I suspected, his or her back is on my right side with his or her butt jutting into my ribs; the head is on the lower left side. Seems like Poppy is getting into position to be born!

Finally, our midwife gives us any information she might have for that week. For example, at our last prenatal appointment, she gave us information about GBS (Group B Strep) testing and newborn eye drops. We also get the opportunity to ask any questions we might have.

So far, all but the first appointment with out midwife lasted a whopping fifteen minutes. (The first appointment was longer due to some additional information gathering.) All in all, I have been super happy with each of my appointments. With my low-risk pregnancy, additional testing is unnecessary. I am also so glad that we arrive at our midwife’s house and get in and out quickly. Not only does our midwife provide great care, but we also don’t have to wait around in a doctor’s office forever. And that is what happens at a typical prenatal appointment with our midwife!

What is a typical prenatal check up like for you?

November 25, 2011

Espen Protecting Mommy from PrincessFor the past couple of days during week 34 of pregnancy, Espen has been especially overprotective of me. For example, while snacking on some crackers and cheddar bacon cheese ball this afternoon, Princess peered over the edge of the couch to investigate. Espen immediately began growling and barking at his cat sister. He then nipped her on the side of the face. She took off running, and he gave me a satisfied look. A little while later, Princess came back and again tried to figure out what I was eating. Espen again chased her away from my food.

Espen has always been a protective puppy. He absolutely adores his mommy and will do anything to keep me safe. However, recently he has become incredibly protective. Wondering if his change in behavior had anything to do with my pregnancy and the upcoming birth of Poppy, James did a quick Google search. According to other anecdotes that people have posted online, some dogs do seem to become overprotective of their pregnant female humans as the pregnancy nears the end. James even found one story online of a husband who could not hug his pregnant wife for more than ten seconds before his dogs freaked out.

My official estimated due date is January 7. If Poppy bakes for a full forty weeks, then he or she has six week and one day more to go. However, he or she could safely be born in as little as two weeks. Could Espen’s newfound overprotectiveness mean that Poppy is coming sooner than later? I kind of hope so. Although, I have asked Poppy to wait until December 18, the day after my graduation. I guess, however, time will only tell if Espen is actually predicting the impending birth of my first baby during week 34.

Did your pets act strangely as your due date approached?

Week 35

November 27, 2011

Now in week 35 of pregnancy, I am an absolutely tired mother-to-be. No, calling myself a tired mommy in no way accurately captures the extent of my tiredness. No, I am an absolutely exhausted mama-to-be. Between my ever changing hormones and my inability to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, I am a rather sleep-deprived pregnant woman at the moment. So, how exactly am I as a tired mom-to-be dealing with the fatigue of late pregnancy?

Although this tired mother-to-be would love to lounge around all day while taking naps as needed, I cannot afford such a luxury. In order for my husband and me to keep our insurance, I must work full time. I work second shift at the moment, which is Sunday through Thursday from 4:30 in the afternoon until 1:00 in the morning. I really like this schedule because I am a night person. If I were eight months pregnant and having to get up early in the morning like I used to have to do when I worked a regular first shift job, I would be even more miserable. No, getting up early is not my thing. Fortunately, I get to sleep in until 1:00 in the afternoon almost every day. Sleeping according to my body’s natural sleep schedule is definitely helping this tired mommy-to-be get as much sleep as possible.

I have gained about ten inches of baby around my waist. I weight 145.6 pounds, and my belly measures 44 inches around. In other words, my tummy is huge! Prior to conceiving Poppy, I was a tummy sleeper. Sometimes I would sleep on my side and occasionally on my back, but the most comfortable sleep position for me is on my stomach. An ever expanding belly makes tummy sleeping almost impossible. Almost. For the most part I use a bunch of pillows to keep me propped up on my side while sleeping. Sometimes, though, my unborn baby absolutely will not allow me to find a comfortable position on my side. Either my abdomen hurts or my back hurts. Sometimes both sides of me hurt. At moments like these, I find some relief by building a mound of pillows in a way that allows me to lay safely on my stomach for a bit. Sometimes Poppy just wants to hang upside down! During these moments, I can usually catch a little much needed shut eye.

Finally, to prevent this tired mother-to-be from getting too exhausted during week 35, I rest and nap whenever possible. For example, today before getting ready for work, I just lounged around on the couch. I worked on my computer a bit, but mostly I just laid down resting. I may not be getting as much sleep as I would like at night, but resting as much as possible helps this tired mommy-to-be deal as best as possible with the fatigue of late pregnancy.

Did you experience increased fatigue at the end of your pregnancy?

Week 35

November 30, 2011

Belly Button Ring on Pregnant Belly Week 23 and Week 35When I was eighteen years old, I pierced my belly button. I absolutely love my belly button ring. However, I did have some concerns that I would experience some problems with my piercing as my stomach grew and expanded throughout my pregnancy. Now in week thirty-five of my pregnancy, I may no longer be able to see anything below my protruding abdomen, but I can definitely see my belly button. I am happy to report that I have thus far experienced no major problems with my belly piercing.

During week twenty-three of my pregnancy, I began noticing some changes to my piercing. I have had my belly button pierced for the last eight years, so the least of my fears is that the hole would close if I decided to remove my belly jewelry. I will also confess that I actually pierced my belly button myself. In fact, I pierced my belly button myself twice. I was not happy with the depth of the initial piercing, so I let the first hole heal a bit before redoing the piercing. Because I wanted the fleshy area between the top and bottom hole to be wider, I ended up with a total of three holes. The middle hole has since healed, but I do have a scar between the top and bottom holes from my initial attempt at piercing.

At twenty-three weeks into my pregnancy, the only noticeable change to my belly button was that the little scar in the middle of my piercing was a little redder than usual. (The scar was a bit red from being stretched but did not hurt at all.) I have an extremely deep belly button to begin with, so I had not yet noticed any drastic popping. In fact, I could still fit my finger nicely inside my belly button. Therefore, in addition to the slight redness, the only other change that I could identify was a slight—and I mean slight—shallowing of my navel. I was even still able to use my regular metal belly ring.

Now at thirty-five weeks into my pregnancy, my belly button has changed a bit more. I still have an innie but a much shallower innie. Honestly, although I was sure that my belly button would eventually pop, I am now pretty certain that I will maintain my innie until the end of my pregnancy. My belly button is just too deep and my skin is just too stretchy for any major popping to happen. My piercing is another story.

The redness from the inflammation around my scar between the top and bottom holes of my piercing is now extremely obvious. (My skin is also obviously more stretch and my veins more visible.) My midwife even asked me if my piercing were beginning to bother me. However, I am happy to say that, although the inflammation looks awful, I am not experiencing any pain whatsoever in my belly button. My belly button is also much shallower, so I did have to switch from my regular metal belly ring to a special plastic pregnancy ring a while ago, but I have otherwise not had any problems with my piercing. I was so determined to maintain my piercing throughout my pregnancy; I am so happy that I have been able to do so without any major issues.

If you have a pierced belly button, did you leave the piercing in the entire pregnancy?

Week 36

December 7, 2011

Pregnant Belly Button Week 36Last week I wrote about my hope to maintain my belly piercing throughout my entire pregnancy. I had pierced my belly button when I was eighteen years old (with ice, rubbing alcohol, and a safety pin, I will admit). Now, eight years later, the chances of the hole closing up is slim. However, I still had originally hoped to be able to leave my belly button ring in from the beginning through the end of my pregnancy. And I was doing pretty well up until last weekend.

Halfway through my pregnancy, the only noticeable change to my belly button was that the little scar between the top and bottom hole of my piercing was a little stretched out and rather red. (I have actually pierced my belly button twice, and the little scar is the result of the bottom whole of the first piercing.) Then at a little over three-fourths through my pregnancy, my piercing and belly button were even more stretched out. My belly button, too, was much shallower than before pregnancy.

However, last weekend I decided that the time had come to remove my belly ring. The little scar between the two holes was now incredibly stretched out and extremely red. My belly button was also feeling a little sore; I would get a twinge of uncomfortable pain when I bumped or rubbed my stomach against something. And so I took out my belly ring. I slathered on a bunch of cocoa butter, and, by the next day, my belly button was feeling and looking so much better.

I had really hoped to be able to keep my belly button ring in throughout my entire pregnancy. As of today at thirty-five weeks and three days pregnant, I am measuring a whopping thirty-nine centimeters, which means my uterus and stomach are both stretched to the breaking point. Because I am so enormously huge, my belly button and piercing are also both stretched to the extreme. Alas, I was therefore forced to remove my belly ring for my own comfort. Now I am just hoping that my belly button returns to something somewhat normal-looking after Poppy is born!

What changes to your belly button did you experience during pregnancy?

December 8, 2011

Pregnancy Stretch Marks During Week 36This mama-to-be suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which is an inherited disorder that affects the connective tissues in the body by weakening those tissues. In my case, I have Type III of the syndrome, or the hypermobility type. The biggest symptom of my form of EDS is joints that extend beyond the normal range of motion. You might even call me double-jointed. However, in addition to my joint hypermobility—which can be a huge pain in the butt…and hips and ankles and shoulders and pelvis…—I have found one positive of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: minimal stretch marks during pregnancy.

Another common symptom of EDS is stretchy skin as the syndrome can also affect the connective tissues in the skin. One side effect of pregnancy that many mothers-to-be fret over is the dreaded stretch mark. Personally, I think that a mother earns every stretch mark on her body, kind of like a medal of courage for bringing forth a baby into the world. I know that stretch marks largely cannot be prevented. I also know that worrying about stretch marks is a huge waste of my time. Yes, I have been using lotion and cocoa butter on my hips, abdomen, stomach, and chest, but my use is more about my terribly dry and itchy skin than about preventing stretch marks.

Regardless, I have so far been blessed with minimal stretch marks. I have a few small stretch marks on my sides right above my hips. I also have about four tiny stretch marks on my lower abdomen. However, for the most part, other than stretching over my protruding belly, the skin of my tummy shows limited signs of my pregnancy with just a few stretch marks on my abdomen. So, although my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has caused me some extra joint pain throughout my pregnancy, I can acknowledge at least positive about the disorder: Unlike some women, I have minimal stretch marks due to my abnormally stretchy skin.

Did you develop stretch marks during pregnancy?

Week 37

December 12, 2011

Heather Pregnant Week 5 and Week 37I want to welcome my Parenting Patch readers to my daughter, Poppy, who was born at home at thirty-six weeks and two days on Monday, December 12, 2011 in the morning. I also want to share the story of her birth.

On Sunday as I was getting ready for work, I was feeling extremely anxious. I had nothing to be anxious about, so I brushed off my feelings as part of the anxiety that I had been experiencing throughout my pregnancy. I was also incredibly hungry that evening. In addition to my usual snacks and dinner, I also ate three of the donuts that my university was providing to students at my library during finals weeks. Little did I know that the changes in my emotions and appetite signaled the impending birth of my baby.

At around six o’clock on Monday morning, I awoke to a dropping feeling in my abdomen followed by a gush of fluid. The dropping felt similar to the sensation of my stomach dropping at the end of a fast elevator ride. My first thought was that the baby had punched me in the bladder, causing me to pee myself. I pulled myself out of bed as quickly as I could so that I could go to the bathroom. However, as soon as I stood up, I felt another gush of fluid that dribbled all over my bedroom floor. After standing still for a minute, I made a mad waddling dash into my bathroom. Still thinking that I had wet myself, I made my way to the toilet to pee.

Then my first contraction started. Unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been feeling in my entire abdomen for the past couple of weeks, this contraction felt like a painful period cramp in my lower abdomen. I immediately yelled for my husband who was sleeping on the couch in the living room. I told him about the fluid and the contraction. At first we were unsure of what to do, as soon as the second contraction hit five minutes later, we both knew that I was in labor.

After my second contraction, James made calls to our midwife and our doula. Our midwife said that she would send her assistant to our house and that she would be on her way right after she finished eating breakfast. Because our doula was dealing with a family emergency of her own, she said that she would send her backup doula over. At around 6:30 in the morning, my birthing team was headed to my home.

Beginning my labor with my water breaking was completely unexpected. Beginning my labor with a rather strong contraction was also unexpected. That my contractions progressed to a minute apart only fifteen minutes was the most unexpected and surprising part of my labor. Yes, even though I am a first time mom, my contractions started coming a minute apart after only fifteen minutes of the five-minute contractions. My precious little Poppy was in quite the hurry to make her entrance into the world!

I will admit that I started freaking out when my contractions immediately became stronger and closer together. Although I knew that labor sometimes progresses quickly for some women, I had been expecting a slower labor in which I would have more time to adjust to the pain. Instead, one minute I was sleeping peacefully and the next I was in active labor.

The assistant midwife was the first of my birthing team to arrive at my house. Her first question was about any pushing feelings. I initially said no but also told her that I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. She told me that my bathroom feeling was the pushing feeling. She then checked my cervix for my progress. Another complete surprise: I was already completely effaced and dilated! When my midwife arrived, she also confirmed that I was effaced and dilated and could begin pushing when I wanted. Poppy really was in a hurry to be born!

Once my midwife and the backup doula arrived at my house, I began the process of pushing my baby down and out. Because I kept feeling like I needed to use the bathroom, I decided to labor on the toilet. By sitting on the toilet, I was able to spread my legs apart and push in the most comfortable position possible. James was also standing in front of me. He helped me push by holding onto one end of a towel. With each contraction, I was able to pull on the towel while I pushed. My pulling helped me make my pushes stronger and more efficient.

After about an hour or so of pushing on the toilet, I moved down to the floor into a squatting position. James sat behind me with his back to the bathroom wall. I leaned against him while he supported my weight and held me up slightly. I was also able to use his body as resistance while I pushed.

At a little before 10:30 that morning, the head finally emerged from my birth canal. My midwife told me that I could reach down and feel. At first I declined for no reason that I can understand. However, after a moment, I reached down and felt the top of my daughter’s head. As the rest of the head emerged, I remember a burning sensation that made me beg for someone to pull the baby out. (Pulling the baby out would not have been good for her, but I was in a lot of pain and rather illogical at the moment!) Then came the worst part of the birth: the shoulders. However, after a few more moments of stinging and burning, the shoulders passed through followed by the rest of her body.

My daughter was born at home on the morning of Monday, December 12, 2011. My midwife immediately placed her in my arms. At first James and I were unsure about the sex of the baby because we were just so amazed at the little person that I had just brought into the world, but, after a few moments during which I just stared in amazement and wonder at the little miracle in my arms, I checked between her legs and discovered that we had a daughter.

The birth of my daughter was nothing more than surprising. The earliest she could have been born at home was December 10. I had asked her to wait until after December 17 so that I could walk at my graduation. Poppy had her own ideas. She is most definitely her mother’s daughter!

My labor was also nothing but unexpected. However, although surprising, my homebirth was exactly the kind of birth that I wanted for my daughter. I was able to move and behave intuitively in the best way that my body knew how to bring my daughter safely into the world. I am also so glad that Poppy was greeted by not only me, James, my midwife and her assistant, and our doula but also by my parents, her grandparents. So, to my daughter I say: Happy birthday, my precious little Poppy!

How did you feel during your third trimester?


Caffeine in Pregnancy:
Drinking Herbal Teas During Pregnancy:
Massage and Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage:
Red Raspberry Leaf:
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea:
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know:
Urinary Tract Infection During Pregnancy:
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. 2008. Screening for gestational diabetes mellitus: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Annals of Internal Medicine 148(10). 759-765.
What’s the Real Scoop on Caffeine During Pregnancy?:

Image Credits

The Third Trimester of My First Pregnancy © 2014 James and Heather Johnson
Baby Shower Invitation © 2011 Heather Johnson
Baby Shower Cake © 2011 Heather Johnson
Birthing DVDs © 2011 Heather Johnson
Espen Protecting Mommy from Princess © 2011 Heather Johnson
Belly Button Ring on Pregnant Belly Week 23 and Week 35 © 2011 Heather Johnson
Pregnant Belly Button Week 36 © 2011 Heather Johnson
Pregnancy Stretch Marks During Week 36 © 2011 Heather Johnson
Heather Pregnant Week 5 and Week 37 © 2011 James Johnson

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