This is Part 3 of my Pregnancy & Autoimmune Disease Series. The other posts in this series include:
This post is long overdue. I’m already 20 weeks!
During my first 12 weeks, time moved sooooo slow, probably because I was moving slow. But now that I’m well into my second trimester, I have minor moments of freak-out where I can’t believe we’ll have a new baby in just 4-5 months, which means we (Frank and I) will officially be outnumbered.
But, this post is going to be about just those first 12 weeks, because each trimester is a new world of pregnancy experiences. And my first trimester was… special.
By that, I mean brutal. In a good way I guess, because all my symptoms meant the pregnancy was progressing. If I wasn’t nauseous and exhausted, I’d probably think something’s wrong. Both of my previous full-term pregnancies had rough first trimesters, so I expect it now.
Doesn’t make it any less pleasant, though.
Things are a little different this time around… my Hashimoto’s Disease unexpectedly improved right before I got pregnant (you can read more about what led to that in this post), and I’m also now battling a new-ish unspecified autoimmune disease within the mixed connective tissue disease family, which I didn’t have in previous pregnancies.
Due to all the recent change, I really have no idea what to expect. I guess I’ll just start with the good part…
First Trimester Autoimmune Symptoms
You never know what you’re going to get with autoimmune disease. Will pregnancy make you flare? Will you go into remission and then flare after delivery? Will nothing change?
In my 2nd post of this series, I explain how my pregnancies in the past always decreased my Hashimoto’s Disease activity and reduced my thyroid antibodies. But, now with my newest autoimmune antibodies, I wasn’t sure if that would be the case.
While I haven’t had all my antibodies checked (yet), I can at least say I didn’t experience any autoimmune-related symptoms in my first trimester UNLESS I ate foods I knew I had sensitivities to. In my defense, I only ate to fulfill extreme cravings or settle my stomach. Often times, I was choosing between vomiting or a bag of Fuego Siete chips. Every time, I chose the chips.
NO ONE likes vomiting.
So, while I did have moments of weakness in terms of my diet, I’m happy to report no chronic pain of any kind, eczema, or brain fog, which are my biggest autoimmune symptoms. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t feeling anything…
Morning All-Day Sickness and Other First Trimester Symptoms
Around the time I hit 5 weeks, the general unwell feeling of being pregnant set in. This included nausea in the morning and afternoon, followed by flu-like symptoms (chills, aches, minor headaches, and some more nausea) at night.
If I didn’t eat at least every half-hour to an hour, I felt even more nauseous. I didn’t want to eat though. I developed major food aversions to almost everything I ate on a regular basis, except for pickles and sauerkraut.
As a result of not eating as much, I struggled with blood sugar swings and feeling faint from time to time.
Piled on top of that was pure exhaustion. While I can say that first trimester exhaustion isn’t as bad as the extreme-ultra-mega-exhaustion of Hashimoto’s Disease, it comes very close. Most of my productivity went out the window for about 8-10 weeks. I did the absolute BARE minimum.
The most puzzling symptom was my cravings. I craved random things – grapefruit, sardines (which now gross me out), pickles, sauerkraut, French fries, bread-like things, chips, chocolate, bananas, and yogurt.
And I gave in… to all of them (within my dietary restrictions)!
Usually, cravings are a favorite part of pregnancy because the craved food tastes 10 times better than non-pregnant times. The problem is that giving into my cravings made me feel even MORE nauseous after. Plus, by the time I actually made the food I was craving, the craving passed, and it didn’t end up tasting as great as I hoped. So disappointing.
There was just no winning during the first 12 weeks. Again, except for growing another human, which is the ultimate win!
So, here’s how I coped with my symptoms:
- Lots and lots of baths. So many baths. Sometimes twice a day, with water as hot as I could stand and a cup or two of Epsom salt. When I felt my flu-like symptoms in the evening, these gave me so much relief. I was exhausted after, though, so I tried to time them shortly before bed-time.
- Cravings – like I said, I gave in. But, all within my non-negotiable dietary restrictions. So when I ate yogurt, for example, it was dairy-free.
- For my exhaustion… well, honestly, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even think about what to do for this. I slept whenever I could for as long as I could and stayed away from caffeine as much as possible because I do not tolerate it well. Luckily, both of my kids are still in nap phase, so I took advantage of that time.
- Nausea – Eating often and eating “heavier” foods like potatoes, crackers, chips, and spicy food was the best remedy for this. Sadly, it didn’t take it away completely.
- Heartburn – which I didn’t mention above because it wasn’t chronic, but when it happened, it was horrible. I used homeopathy – just 2-3 pellets of Natrum Phos 6X and it dissipated every time within about 5-10 minutes. (Don’t know what homeopathy is? Click here!)
Speaking of homeopathy – I could have used homeopathy to treat all of my first trimester woes, which is what I did during my second pregnancy (worked like a champ).
But I chose not to this time because I’m crazy the morning sickness/nausea reassured me that the pregnancy was progressing. Given my history of miscarriages, this was a helpful reminder and lowered my anxiety.
Unfortunately, though, I dealt with another form of anxiety and accompanying confusion this time, it had to do with my recently reversed Hashimoto’s Disease.
Non-Hashimoto’s Stress (& Thyroid Disease Management During Pregnancy)
My first trimester quickly became an unexpected roller coaster ride.
I detailed much of what happened with my thyroid in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, but to sum it up: I experienced rapid healing of my thyroid the month before I got pregnant. And just recently received the news that my Hashimoto’s thyroid antibodies are negative, which means…
I no longer have Hashimoto’s Disease!
At least for right now. Post-partum might be a whole new ballgame.
As a result of my change in health, I dramatically decreased my thyroid hormone medication. I’ve taken thyroid medication for a decade now and it’s an imperative part of my healing, so this is really strange for me.
I figured after 10 years of my immune system attacking my thyroid, I’d need medication for life because it would be too damaged to function on its own, but that’s not the case.
Around 8-10 weeks into my pregnancy, I had to stop the medication completely. I continuously experienced heart palpitations and crazy, uncontrollable anxiety. Seriously, I’ve never experienced such anxiety. I thought I might explode, or implode… or destruct in some way.
And if I wasn’t pregnant, this would be cool – something I could take in stride.
But, since I AM pregnant, I’d wake up every morning, exhausted of course (because I’m pregnant), and start thinking “Maybe my thyroid isn’t fully healed yet. Maybe it still needs time to heal, and I still need to supplement with hormones until it does. Maybe that’s the reason I’m so exhausted. And what about the baby? What if the baby isn’t getting the thyroid hormone he/she needs to grow?!”
I know how important optimal thyroid levels are for a healthy pregnancy. So, I’d take a tiny, tiny dose… just in case. On some days, it helped me, but on most days, I went right back to palpitations and anxiety.
So, eventually, after about 2-3 weeks of bouncing around like this (I was in touch with my doctors by the way), I decided to give it up for good. I called my homeopath and she prescribed a remedy to help with the transition, which is definitely helping.
In the meantime, I’ve been monitoring my thyroid hormone levels and TSH every 4ish weeks. My TSH is slowly climbing up, but this happened in my past pregnancies even while on medication, so I’m not sure this is a sign I need more thyroid hormone.
Either way, I continue to monitor my levels, but as for now… I am not on any thyroid medication. My doctor is confident my thyroid function will continue to improve as it heals and gets into the groove again of producing its own hormones.
Sticking to My Pregnancy Management Plan
In Part 2, I outlined my plan for managing my autoimmune symptoms while pregnant, and to hopefully prevent flaring after delivery.
This included various things like what doctors I’m working with, diet, supplements, stress management, etc.
I expected my first trimester to be rocky due to the morning sickness alone… and I was right. Here’s how it went.
Knowing I have multiple food sensitivities that trigger autoimmune flares, the first trimester is always the hardest because I usually crave foods I don’t tolerate well. I learned during my second pregnancy that giving in to those while pregnant is just as unpleasant as when I’m not.
Therefore, I do not eat, under any circumstances, dairy, gluten, or eggs. These are my absolute non-negotiables. But, I tend to be a little loose with my other restrictions until the first trimester sickness is over because they help alleviate nausea (sometimes).
While I stayed the course the majority of the time during this pregnancy, there were two places I waivered from my original plan: legumes and tomatoes.
Despite knowing I have sensitivities to tomatoes, they were one of the only foods that helped my nausea. I craved tomato sauce, so I would use that on top of chickpea pasta or homemade AIP-compliant flatbread.
At one point, I ate grain-free tortilla chips and hot salsa three days in a row (so good, and made my stomach feel so much better), but almost immediately noticed the return of joint/arthritis pain. By the third day, I started developing a rash on my fingers, and decided to give them up for a good… again.
I also dramatically decreased my vegetable intake, because smoothies and salads, which are my primary sources of vegetables, made me gag. This only lasted for a short time, though.
Overall, I’m happy with how it went, and grateful the damage from the tomatoes went away fairly quickly after I stopped eating them.
I don’t really tolerate any vitamins in pill, capsule, tablet, or chewable form until after the nausea has passed. If it’s a liquid, or oil based (like fish oil), then I seem to be okay.
That said, my first trimester supplement protocol included:
- No magnesium in capsule form, which is another reason I took daily Epsom salt baths. The Epsom salt gave me at least a little bit of magnesium every day to help make up for the lack of supplementation.
- ½ dose of a chewable prenatal multivitamin probably once or twice a week. I had to literally force myself to do this, and always regretted it after because I felt so sick.
- Liquid vitamin D/K gave me no issues, so I stuck with that on a daily basis.
- No iron supplementation because of the nausea. Instead, I used desiccated liver every day.
- Probiotics every day. No issues there.
- Fish oil and choline every other day or so. These didn’t seem to bother me either.
- MegaIgG2000 every day for the first 10 weeks or so, then I dropped it due to cost.
- Systemic enzymes every morning and night – I don’t think I missed a dose. Didn’t have any issue with these at all.
As for the rest of my plan…
The rest was pretty low key and simple. Like I said, I was moving slow… taking it one hour at a time.
I worked with my doctors on a regular basis, and also went to acupuncture and my chiropractor once a month. I consulted with my professional homeopath who helped me find a remedy to help my thyroid, as I stated once already.
Right around 12 weeks, my nausea started to lift. It was gradual. One day on, one day off.
I’d say by about 14 weeks, it was gone for good. But then that takes me into the second trimester, which has been interesting thus far. I’ll give that update when I’m through it. 😉
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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?!