This is Part 4 of my Pregnancy & Autoimmune Disease Series. The other posts in this series include:
My second and third trimester update are lumped into one post because honestly… they just weren’t all that eventful. That’s a good thing in my book. But, there were still some obstacles thrown my way and I found solutions to the majority of them, so I am eager to share!
In my first trimester update, I talked about all my symptoms, cravings, and my (non)Hashimoto’s stress… but by 18 weeks-ish, almost all of those things faded away. I was able to resume my autoimmune pregnancy management plan in full force, including sticking to my diet and taking all of my supplements without feeling sick.
But there was one symptom that hit me HARD.
I had zero energy. Zilch.
Prior to my pregnancy, I achieved the highest levels of ferritin in my blood ever in my life (since I started measuring). I felt awesome, and the best part was that I didn’t need iron supplements to do it – just pasture-raised dessicated liver and homeopathy. My struggle with anemia has been life-long, and I felt like I found the winning combo and finally put it to rest.
But, and I’m not kidding… my iron levels tanked just 5 weeks into my pregnancy. 5 weeks! That’s it. All my hard work wiped away! I was so disappointed.
My OBGYN saw my blood results and told me to go on an iron supplement. I did. Got tested a few weeks later and my levels didn’t budge. Not even 0.1.
So, he told me to double it. Ehh… I felt a little uncomfortable but I did it. And guess what? Still nothing.
Went to my other doctor, he suggested I switch to Floradix Floravital instead of iron supplements in pill or capsule form. I also added in extra B12. Tried it for a month and… no luck.
Then, we pulled out the big guns – Iron IVs. I got them every two weeks and WOW! What a difference. After my first one, my mom called and said “You must be feeling better.” Because apparently my newfound energy was literally radiating through the phone.
But, you’re not going to believe it, even after 3 months of Iron IVs, I got my levels checked and… my iron levels still didn’t budge! I mean, c’mon! However, I felt 100 times better, so while I’m disappointed to not see the results in my blood work… I got to FEEL the results, and that was at least a partial win for the situation.
Why all the pregnancy anemia/iron issues?
I don’t know… do you? Really, if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Of course, it makes sense that pregnancy would deplete iron levels (and all other nutrients too since you’re growing a-whole-nother person!). But my body’s inability to absorb iron while pregnant stumps me, and also my doctors.
What is really interesting, though, is that Dr. Izabella Wentz, the Thyroid Pharmacist who also has/had Hashimoto’s Disease, shared the same struggle with her pregnancy, including needing Iron IVs. You can read about her experience here.
I echo her in saying that if you struggle with anemia during pregnancy, and supplements or food aren’t cutting it, iron IVs are an option to talk with your doctor about.
Two Full Trimesters Without Thyroid Medication
I was relieved the Iron IVs helped so much because I grew concerned that my lack of energy was related to my thyroid, especially since I just recently weaned off all my thyroid medication (I go into more detail in my first trimester update.)
Because I felt so much better once I started the IVs, all my thyroid-related stress melted away. I didn’t even think about it for the rest of the pregnancy. It felt awesome to leave that all behind me.
Aside from the iron debacle, I had three other struggles – restless legs, hip pain, and an almost-autoimmune-flare.
I *thought* I knew what restless legs syndrome was. For years, I had aches and pains in my legs that only went away once I started walking or moving around. And while I felt restless because of that, I don’t think I quite grasped the intensity of what restless legs actually means.
Talk about one of the most agonizing symptoms! It’s like the heebie jeebies live in your legs. It’s maddening. (And possibly linked to iron deficiency, which would make sense if that’s the case.)
I don’t remember at which point in the pregnancy this symptom hit me, but it only happened RIGHT when I was going to bed and robbed me of sleep, for weeks. Walking didn’t help. Massaging didn’t help. NOTHING HELPED.
Except for… you guessed it. My all-time favorite: homeopathy.
It took me a few tries to find the right remedy, but when I finally did, I only needed to use it for 3 nights and then it never returned. The winner was Lycopodium, in case you’re interested, in a 30c potency once before bed.
But, there are multiple remedies that can help, and if you aren’t too familiar with homeopathy, or don’t feel like trying to find the right single remedy because homeopathy so individualized, then this highly-rated combination remedy for restless legs might help.
After semi-reliving the traumatic insanity of my restless legs while writing this post, I can’t help but be relieved we’ve found so many natural remedies/therapies that actually work for things like this.
Oh, and did I break my hips?!
In my second pregnancy, around 20 weeks, I woke up after a night and my hips were rotated… severely. Sound painful? Awkward? Strange? Well it was all of these things!
And unfortunately… The same thing happened this time around. The pain from this freakish occurrence is roughly an 8 out 10. It hampers my ability just to walk, and there is no standing, lying, or sitting position that relieves it. I’d rather be in labor than have this hip pain, because at least labor ends at some point.
Anyways, the fix for my second pregnancy, and fortunately, the fix for this pregnancy was a few visits to the chiropractor. My chiropractor specializes in pregnancy and pediatrics, so they have a special table for pregnant women and it’s amazing because you actually get to lay on your stomach for a minute (without crushing the baby)!
… I need to buy one of those things for next time.
It took about 4-5 adjustments over the course of 2 weeks and my hips were back to normal, but I had to maintain an adjustment once every 1-2 weeks to keep them that way. The last thing I wanted to do was go into labor with crooked hips (might slow things down even further for my impossibly slow labors).
Interestingly, my hip situation conveniently timed itself with a period of high-stress. As you may know, chronic pain only amplifies stress, and as a result of both of these things, I had a bunch of warning signs an autoimmune-flare was imminent.
An almost-autoimmune flare.
Why the stress? Well, probably because of the same reason everyone else experienced stress in early 2020! The COVID-19 quarantine and everything that came with it – from not being able to source our usual food, to financial woes, and more.
About a month in, I started to feel pretty autoimmune-y, as I like to call it. It’s just this general sense of feeling inflamed. I have these really subtle aches in my bones and muscles. My joints hurt a little bit. I’m tired, but wired. All red flags.
So, I slowed it down. Got myself off social media, which was a huge help (and really haven’t gone back since). Buttoned up my diet. Took my anti-inflammatory supplements. Within a week, I was back to normal. Record time, so a testament to the progress my body is making as it continues to repair and improve.
As I navigate this autoimmune world, I continue to learn where my limitations are and where I have leeway before pushing myself into a flare. I see just how much stress management plays a role in reversing autoimmune symptoms and keeping them away.
Managing stress, especially as a mom, is an area I must constantly address because every stage of motherhood and parenting brings on something new. Perhaps the biggest key to managing stress during pregnancy and beyond is to give myself a little grace along the way.
One other important lesson I’ve learned after working through multiple miscarriages and pregnancies, and being a mother in general, is that it’s very rare to have things go as planned. I can view this as a constant stressor in my life, OR I can manage the ups and downs by turning to healthy habits that help my body, instead of hurt it. I think adapting to the stress of life’s unforeseen challenges is an invaluable key to creating a sustainable, autoimmune-friendly lifestyle, especially as a mom.
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!