S2 E5: My Pregnancy Journey


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Amanda: Hey, this is Amanda, women’s health dietitian.
Emily: And I’m Emily, nutritional therapy practitioner.
Amanda: And this is the Are You Menstrual? podcast where we help you navigate the confusing world of women’s hormones and teach you how to have healthy periods.
Emily: Each week we will be diving into a different topic on women’s health and sharing our perspective using nutrition, female physiology, and metabolic health.
Amanda: Our goal is to help you wade through conflicting health information and empower you on your healing journey.
Emily: We hope you enjoy it.

Amanda: Okay, I have a very special solo episode for all of you about my pregnancy journey so far. So if you don’t know, I’m currently pregnant. I’m 26 weeks on the time I’m recording this; when it comes out I’ll be 28 weeks. And basically, I wanted to make an easy way for me to answer all the questions I’ve been getting. So I’m going to cover preconception—lots of questions around preconception stuff—first trimester and second trimester, because obviously, I’m only in my second trimester. By the time this comes out, I’ll be entering my third. And then I’m going to do a separate episode that goes more into, like, third trimester, preparing for birth, and the postpartum period. And then breastfeeding for sure.

Yeah, I did a question box on Instagram, you guys had a million great questions. I made a whole list of those, and I tried to divide everything up into, like, preconception, first and second trimester, and then things like lab testing. You guys had a lot of great questions around supplements, main health concerns, all that kind of stuff. So let’s dig right in, because I have so many notes here. Hopefully, I don’t make this like too insanely long, because it’s my first one by myself, and I’m just hoping you guys enjoy this format. I want to do more solo podcasts in the future, but I’m just like, do people want to listen to me talk by myself for, like, 30-45 minutes or longer? Because let’s be realistic—most of our episodes are longer. But it’s just because we want to share and educate you guys so much. So let me know, please let me know on Instagram, tag me @hormonehealingrd, if you like this episode, if you like the solo format, if you want more of these in the future.

And let’s go right into preconception. So, or even just, like, we’re gonna start with conception timeline. So one of the questions I got because I did do a post announcing our pregnancy, I talked about, like, how we waited a long time to try to conceive. And then we did try to conceive in 2020, and for like three months, and it didn’t end up happening. It was a really stressful time for us. I feel like everyone had a lot of stress around that time. Just, like, with my husband’s job and our living situation and everything. It was just, like, a stressful time. And I kind of got to the point where I was so sick of waiting to have a baby that I was like, who cares if it’s stressful? Like, let’s just try and do it. I don’t regret it. I think it was a good learning experience. But I don’t know, everyone always has said to me, like, it’s, there’s no perfect time to have a baby. And I’m like, but there’s, like, a better time, you know, like, there’s, like, better times and super stressful ones.

So basically, it was June, July and August of 2020. And we were like, let’s try to conceive. So we use the Fertility Awareness Method to avoid pregnancy. We’ve done that for, like, over five or six years at that point. So we were like, alright, we’re gonna use FAM to conceive. So instead of avoiding around my ovulation, we were going to actually try to get pregnant around that time. And for three months in a row we did not conceive. I was, like, super duper stressed. And I’m like, I need to take a break, like, this is…it’s not fun. Like, I wanted it to be a fun, enjoyable experience. Everything we had going on, I was like, this is not working. So we decided to wait and try again in the future once we, like, figured a few things out.

So over that time span, over that next year—because it ended up being a year later that we did conceive—my husband applied to a different job. So over that next year, we figured out a lot of different things. My husband specifically applied to a different job, did, like, many months of interviewing, got the job. He’s still, he’s active duty Air Force, well he’s still Air Force but it was a different type of job. And it’s, like, a controlled tour, and it’s in North Carolina.

So he gets that job we find out in like, I think it was like April…April, May timeframe. And then I moved in June. We bought a house, I moved in June, we sold our tiny house. We used to live in a tiny house in Texas at our last duty station. And basically he couldn’t come, so I moved by myself and then he came two months later. But during that time period of, like, all this change happening, it’s, like, a lot of excitement honestly. It didn’t, it was, like, stressful, but it was, like, a good stress. Like, we were ready to leave Texas.

And so my parents told us that they were retiring and moving to Myrtle Beach. And so I, like, looked at my husband and I was like, we got to try again have a baby, like, once we get settled in North Carolina. Because it’s only two and a half hours away from where we lived. And honestly one of my big hesitations, not even, like, hesitations, but, like, stressors was having a baby and not having any family around it. It’s sad, it, like, it was depressing. And then I just was like, not having any help is, the idea of that is a lot. And I mean, my parents are still, like, a far drive, but it’s, like, they can come visit, we can go there easily. It’s a lot less stressful than, like, going from Texas to Connecticut. That was like our previous kind of arrangement.

So we get this news, he, we decide that when he comes home, we’re not gonna, we weren’t necessarily going to try, we weren’t going to avoid, because I just again, I still wasn’t mentally ready to actively try. And I was like, if it happens, it happens. Amazing. If it doesn’t, then we’ll actively start trying, we were thinking the fall, like, our timeline was like, if we don’t conceive when you get here, then we’ll actually try, like October or November.

And so he got home August 9th, we conceived August 10th. So I do think there is something to say for not putting that stress on yourself. And I think for us in particular, maybe, maybe just…no, I think it was stressful for him too. I think for us in particular, and our personality types, like, we just did better not having the pressure and just being like, let’s just see what happens. So that was our conception timeline. A year ago we tried, couldn’t conceive, waited a year later, the first time we didn’t avoid we conceived, which I’m beyond grateful for. And I just think everything, like, the timing just worked out.

So what were my health concerns going into this? A lot of people asked questions around this. Again, I’ve done posts in the past on Instagram—if you’re kind of, like, where are these questions coming from—where I have shared my journey from coming off the birth control pill and then having a copper IUD for seven years. And basically I was in this state of, like, hypothyroidism, really high estrogen for a while, low progesterone, and not copper toxicity but just an imbalance. Like, I had really high copper, really low vitamin A, and I couldn’t use that copper appropriately which was leading to some excess estrogen. And that was then also impacting my thyroid.

I would say, like, four years ago, I’ve been, like, clear, in the clear with all that stuff. Minus my thyroid, that’s really the last thing to start to improve. I will say like, in the last like five years, we just had a lot of stress. Like, my husband decided to join the military and it, like, totally flipped my world upside down. And yeah, it was, like, mentally and emotionally stressful, all that kind of stuff. Plus, like, having my own business and everything, like, you’re just learning so much. And it was, like, I was learning so much in my personal life and going through so many changes there. And then also within my business, and I was just, like, this is, like, too much at once, like, for me.

And so kind of coming into this, my biggest concerns preconception were my thyroid health. I was, like, really trying to get away from trying to be perfect, though. Because I will say, like, in the past that’s, like, that’s what I was waiting for. One, for our life to settle down, for us to get a duty station and be there for a while. And then two, because I just felt like well, I don’t, I want my thyroid to be in a good place, because pregnancy is so challenging on your thyroid. And I’d wanted to make sure that I didn’t have estrogen dominance, because I wanted to avoid things like morning sickness and all that kind of stuff when you’re pregnant. And like, you know, those swings you can have postpartum. I wanted to feel good for myself, for my baby, and then for my postpartum time period. That was kind of like my thought process.

But in the past, I was really in a perfectionist mindset, so I think that held me back. Going into this, well I did Dutch tests to look at my hormones and my estrogen and progesterone looked great. They’re perfectly in line with each other, very healthy levels of both. So I was super excited about that. That was kind of, like, check that thing off my list. I also wanted to make sure my vitamin A was good, because in the past it had been low and my copper was not high. That hasn’t been high for a long time. But like these were kind of, like, my things going in, like, I want my vitamin A to be good, because that supports my thyroid. And then that’s really important for using copper and then iron during pregnancy.

Iodine…I had, in the past I had really high calcium on my hair test and a ton of, like, thyroid issues and everything. So I have used iodine in the past. I had not done iodine testing though until, like, probably like a little bit before we tried to conceive. And once I did an iodine protocol and my, my level started to improve, I did notice an improvement in my thyroid. So it still wasn’t perfect, but again, like, my hormones looked good, my vitamin A and copper looked good, my minerals looked great, my hair test was awesome.

It was, like, I was a Slow 1, and everyone thinks Slow 1 is bad—it’s not bad. I was a Slow 1 and the majority of my minerals were at the optimal line. So that’s really what all I could ask for. I didn’t have any like major signs of stress, no super high levels, no depleted levels. It was very balanced. Now I was like, oh, it’s kind of surprising, because your hair test looks at your stress response. And, and I just always feel like I always have a lot of stress. It’s something I’m, like, constantly working on is like, how do I take this off my plate? How do I get outside more? How do I, like, make time for myself, that sort of thing, reduce stress overall. And so I was happy about that.

So I felt like, and my iodine preconception, I did do a urine and other tests before we, before my husband got home, and it was still a little deficient. So I was like, I’m going to just start taking iodine again, I know how to do the protocol, and I’m going to take whatever is considered safe for pregnancy. So that is 12 to 15 milligrams is what’s considered safe. That’s what all the research is done on. That’s what Dr. David Brownstein recommends. He has a few different books on thyroid health and iodine that are great resources if you want to learn more.

Those were the big things I was focusing on. And so I, all that stuff looked good. Oh, I did a GI map, a stool test to look at gut health. I wanted to see if I had streptococcus, because Group B strep, something I’ll mention a little bit later. That’s another big, you know, factor when you are pregnant. You don’t want to have to take antibiotics, well you don’t have to you are usually recommended to take antibiotics during labor if you test positive, and I was like, I really don’t want to do that. So streptococcus was negative on my GI map, which was great. Didn’t have any other, didn’t have, like, parasites or anything crazy like that. People on YouTube can see my dog bristle right now…she’s just getting some pets over here.

So I started the iodine. I just wanted to see like, can I optimize my thyroid at all? Obviously, we got pregnant, like, in August and I was doing all that stuff in like June and July. I would say I’ve been doing preconception for, like, ever. Basically since I got my copper IUD out, I’ve been, like, working on all these things. So I didn’t have like, oh, I’m going to do this stuff for a year and then try to conceive. It was like, I, we weren’t even ready to have kids yet. And I was just trying to get my health in a good place.

So what supplements was I taking preconception? Another really common question I got. I was doing beef liver, of course, and I would eat it, I would do the raw shots of it, or I would take the pills. And what I did just depended on what I was eating that weekend. So, but I always had beef liver every day. And I was taking cod liver oil, because I, again, like, my, I have a history of low vitamin A and I have a history of thyroid issues. And my vitamin A was okay, but I was like, if I conceive, it’s not going to be enough. You know, we use up a lot more vitamin A when we’re pregnant. So I was taking just a teaspoon of cod liver oil. Magnesium, vitamin E, shilajit, which I have a post on on Instagram. It’s basically like a multi mineral, bunch of trace minerals, is great for energy, great for overall nutrient stores. So I was already taking that, and then iodine and selenium. So I was doing, like, there’s a whole iodine protocol. It’s basically, like, you need magnesium, vitamin C, selenium, and I was already doing all those. So those were the supplements.

I was also drinking adrenal cocktails, which I don’t, I mean, it’s food but it’s kind of like I pay attention to it like it’s a supplement. So I was already doing, like, two of those a day. And then I would say, like, as I got into, once I did conceive I continued all those supplements. Everyone asked, like, can you take shilajit when pregnant? If you’re taking it before, I think that’s totally safe, obviously talk with your doctor. Also everything I’m sharing is for me, so please don’t, like, take this as medical advice. Like, this is me just sharing, like, here are the labs I did, here’s what was going on with me, here’s what I was taking, here’s what I was eating. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be appropriate for you, especially things like iodine, like, you need to do testing and understand, like, if it’s appropriate if you actually need it.

And then I did start taking progesterone, because I was just, I mean I had healthy levels, but it’s, there, now we have research that shows us that I can prevent miscarriage and I had some so I was like, I’m just gonna take it. And then once I did conceive, I continued all those things continued the progesterone.

The only thing that I change was, like, right in the beginning I, if I didn’t get enough folate-rich foods in that day—and I’m going to talk about nutrition and stuff and like, what, how I was eating and all that stuff in a little bit. I just want to get through, like, the labs and the supplements so it’s in, like, one cohesive segment. I did add in methylfolate, like 400 micrograms. The RDA is 600 for pregnancy. If you don’t have MTHFR mutation, I do not, it is 800 if you do. So I eat plenty of folate-rich foods normally, but during that, I would say like weeks like 6-10-ish, 6-11 if I couldn’t eat those foods, if I was just, like, I just don’t really want these, then I would just take the one capsule of the methylfolate.

But I was still doing beef liver, I was still doing lots of citrus. I have never eaten so much centers in my life as I have during this pregnancy. So I’m, like, literally sipping on this, like, lime drink here that’s amazing. And I ate a tangerine before I hit record. So yeah, and I definitely, like, normally get plenty of folate-rich foods in, but if I was worried about it, that’s the only one I really added in.

And then as I got into that first trimester, as far as like, what did they do for labs? What did you add on for labs? They tested, like, their initial testing was, like, hemoglobin. Mine looks good. It was like about 14, optimal is, like, 13-13.5 for women. Mine was actually, like, pretty strong. And then, which is like, it’s good, it’s a sign of, you know, I’ve got good iron stores. Seventy percent of your iron is in your hemoglobin. And then they did my thyroid. Now you have to ask. They will not just do your thyroid, but because I had a thyroid history, I’m working with the midwife and she was like, okay, we’re gonna check it every trimester, which I appreciated. So we did my thyroid, and then it was just like STI testing. That was really it. I was kind of like, okay, I’m really happy that I did my own hair testing and all that kind of stuff before we conceived. And then I redid all that stuff, like, halfway through, which I’ll talk about.

So supplements did not change. I did get the thyroid labs back, though, I think I was, like, 10 weeks at that point, and they were, they did decrease a little bit from my preconception panel. So I was like, I’m gonna up my iodine a little bit. And I went up, I think I was doing 12 milligrams, I went up to like 15. And I kept it there, just because my T3 and T4 went down. And that T3 and T4 are an indication of iodine. So because those went down, I was like, I’m gonna up it a little bit. And then I still kept with the progesterone the whole time.

And then, like, once I was at the end of my first trimester, I decided to add in a probiotic. So it’s typically recommended, I would say, like, most people say second trimester. You can start at first trimester, it’s up to you. But if you’re wanting to avoid something, like, group B Strep, like, that’s the test that typically happens. It’s usually in your third trimester, like, beginning of the third trimester, or end of your second is when they typically will do that group B strep. And they’re looking for that specific strain of bacteria. Because if you, if you test positive, they’re going to recommend typically—not always depending on who you’re working with—that you take antibiotics during labor. It’s like an IV, but you can usually, like, stop it, start it, you can move around with it still, like, it’s not, like, like, is it great? No, is it, but it’s not like you can’t, I think you can still have the birth you want even if you have to take it, but I was like, I’d really prefer not to.

I started taking Women’s Pro-Flora from Integrative Therapeutics, I would say, like, end of my first trimester, because during that first trimester, I was really trying to only take what was essential. And that’s mainly because I was just, like, I don’t like swallowing pills right now. Normally, I can swallow, like, I don’t know, like, 10 at a time, it’s, like, no big deal. But probably around like that 6-11 week timeframe I was like not into it. So I really had to break up when I was taking my supplements. I took, like, a few pills with every, like, meal that I ate, and I was eating very frequently. So that did help me get everything in, but I didn’t love it. So I was like, I’m only going to take what’s absolutely essential during this time, and the probiotic just didn’t really feel like it. But I knew second trimester I’m going to for sure take this every single day.

So that was really first trimester health and labs. For nutrition first trimester, my food did not change much. So I went into pregnancy with a healthy metabolism, good body temperatures, good pulses. If you don’t know what that means, listen to our first episode ever of the podcast where we talk about this. And I was nourished, I was not underweight, I was not undereating, you know, like, so my first trimester, my nutrition didn’t really change. I would just say the biggest change was eating small meals really regularly throughout the day. So I couldn’t eat those big meals anymore like I was used to. Which the biggest thing that I had to pay attention to was still getting enough protein, because it was kind of like I noticed my meals were, like I was making more snacky foods, which are not as dense, which can lead to more blood sugar swings.

I see a lot of women do this in their first trimester and they’re dealing with more nausea. And I knew that if I could keep my blood sugar stable and eat every two hours, then I will not be nauseous. It was truly a, like, it was, it’s, like, a balance of, like, stomach acid and blood sugar. And so I ate protein first whenever I ate a meal, and instead of, like, putting together, like, small snacking meals, I would just take my regular meals and cut them in half and usually, like, add a little bit to it. So it’s like I would eat as much as I could, save the rest, have that as a snack, and sometimes I’d have to add more food to that. But that allowed me to keep my blood sugar stable throughout the day, keep my energy stable, keep a good routine. Instead of just being like, oh my gosh, there’s like nothing that I can eat, it was kind of like, I’m gonna eat the regular food, I’m just going to eat it in a different way. And that really helped me.

I did have some nausea weeks, like, six, seven too, like, about like it ended around, like, week 11. So it was not fun. And this is an important point I want to make, because I know I see people post on Instagram that, like, if you have morning sickness, you have a hormone imbalance, you have a mineral deficiency—but I did not. I went in with very balanced estrogen and progesterone, my minerals looked great, I didn’t have any big deficiencies. So you can have nausea without that. And I just feel like sometimes it makes women feel like they’re doing something wrong if they’re experiencing that. And it’s like, you can’t always avoid it, you can minimize it. And I got into such a good routine, that it really did make it so that it was manageable. And then it was gone pretty early. Like I dealt with it for about like four to five weeks, which felt like a long time when it was happening. But in the grand scheme of things compared to most people, it’s really not.

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And so those were the biggest things. Oh, and staying hydrated. I feel like that’s the other big thing is it’s really easy to get dehydrated when you’re nauseous. And you end up just eating lots of carb-y foods, which is fine, but that can lead to more blood sugar imbalances and that can lead to more nausea. So eat the protein first then have your carb. Eat real food as much as you can, like, try to do the more dense meals, those are going to keep your blood sugar more stable. And then, I mean, I drank probably, like, at least three adrenal cocktails a day. Now I drink, like, 24 ounces of adrenal cocktails a day, sometimes, like, more. And it’s, it just helps you stay hydrated so you’re not constantly peeing.

If you’re feeling more stressed, which a lot of women are during this time, because they’re like, what, if I’m not eating enough, I’m not getting enough sleep, like I, like it, I can’t take my supplements, because I’m gonna throw up, you know, like, all those kind of thoughts come into your head. And so I think if you can just try to calm yourself, eat as best you can, just do the best you can with what you have. I will say blood sugar and dehydration, I think are the big things that throw people off the most. It’s reflux, like, you’re nauseous because it’s, it’s like a stomach acid issue. And when you, when your hormones increase your esophageal sphincter relaxes. When you get that relaxation, you’re going to have more stomach acid come up and some people are like, but I don’t have the burning, but you have the gnawing feeling, the nausea. So that’s still reflux.

And so it’s, that’s another component of all this is, like, if you work on tackling that, then that can also help with the nausea. And then just eating every couple hours so that you’re not getting that empty stomach feeling. But I’ll talk about nausea in a little bit in, like, the second trimester, because that’s, like, reflux, because that’s really when I experienced it. That was first trimester, food didn’t change a lot. It was more just, like, way more adrenal cocktails, tried to still eat the same foods just in smaller amounts and more frequently.

Second trimester that’s really when, like, all the cool stuff happens, right? You’re like, okay, I’m starting to, like, look like I’m pregnant, which is really fun. I, like, redid all my labs, like, halfway through. I think I was like 18, like around like 18ish weeks. I tried to do before my husband… my husband deployed when I was 18 weeks. And so I was trying to get all the testing done before he left so we could, like, be in the loop, but it was great, like, redoing all that stuff. So I redid my hair test compared to my preconception one and went from a slow one to a fast one. And which makes sense because your body is using up way more energy. You’re growing a life in there and it’s, it’s, like, I mean…pregnancy is a stressor. Like it’s a positive one, hopefully, but it’s still a stressor.

But the interesting thing was like my mineral levels didn’t change a ton. It’s just the type changed. My calcium went down a little bit, that’s what really put me into that fast one category is my calcium took a dip. So I was already eating a lot of calcium-rich foods. And I was like, I don’t know how I could possibly get more dairy in or, like, bone broth. Like, I mean, I drink bone broth every single day, I have milk, yogurt, cheese…like, I eat a lot of dairy. And so I added a little bit of pearl powder in based on the lower calcium that I saw, but like my copper still looked good. And most of my levels were still optimal. So it was just, like, that little change in calcium kind of sped up the nervous system. And then I did increase my adrenal cocktails. I was already doing like three-ish most days, some days I would like get lazy and only do two. But at that point, like, once I got to, like, 20 weeks, it was like craving way more adrenal cocktails. And I, like, my belly was really growing, and so I was having more urgency with going to the bathroom. And I didn’t want to, I was like this is only going to get worse and worse. So I need to be really good, like, I’m trying to stay hydrated. But if I drink too much plain water, you’re going to be running to the bathroom constantly peeing out all your minerals. So I really upped my adrenal cocktails to like 24-32 ounces a day.

And I, also in your fast metabolic type, I was like, I know I’m using more of these better also. So that hair test was really helpful for me to do halfway through. I would not add, I would not have added in the pearl powder if I didn’t see that. And then I redid my iodine test, because I did that preconception. It did increase which was, like, a nice, pleasant…I was just hoping to maintain, because you use a ton of iodine when you’re pregnant. I mean, your thyroid is working at like 150% capacity. So my goal was to maintain, I actually went up 11% which is great. But my thyroid again, it’s, it still just, like, went down a little bit. So I was like, alright I’m going to increase it one more time. So I increased my iodine to 20 milligrams. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, and I feel good with that. Again, like I can see I have a deficiency. So for me, it doesn’t worry me to take more iodine, so…

And we also did our anatomy scan, we did that at 18 weeks because my husband was leaving. So a little bit early, but we did see that we’re having a baby girl. She’s very healthy. My placenta looks great, my cervix looked great, nice and long. And trying to think of the other big things. Those were like the biggest things and she, like, heart, all her, all organs all looked amazing. Heart rate was great. There was nothing that like stood out to my midwife that was an issue. And I think seeing that, like, you’re just kind of like, is everything going okay? At least I was because it’s my first time ever being pregnant. And I was just kind of like, I mean, I know things are happening, but I don’t know exactly what, and it just, you just get nervous. I think also working in this field you know too much. Sometimes when you know too much it’s just like, this is not helping me, it’s almost like making me stress a little bit more. So after seeing that, I also was like, okay, we’re good. I just want to make sure I can continue to produce enough thyroid hormone so that she has enough and that she doesn’t get thyroid issues. My blood sugar can stay really consistent. I can keep sleeping good. All those things.

And so I upped my iodine a little bit. My vitamin A went down just a teeny bit, it went down like four points, which, I don’t know, I was like happy with, because I was only taking, like, a teaspoon of cod liver oil. But seeing that, I was like, okay, I’m going to be entering the third trimester soon. And that’s really when your vitamin A is going to take a huge dip. So I went up to two teaspoons of cod liver oil, still continuing all my other supplements. But those were, like, the two changes that I made based off that testing. And then I did redo my progesterone. I don’t know what made me want to do this. I just, like, added it on for some reason. And it was, like, the lower end of optimal. So I was like, I’m going to add my progesterone back in. And my midwife, she’s, she wasn’t concerned because my cervix looked good. So she’s like, your cervix looks fine. So I’m not worried. But if it’ll make you feel better, then add it in. And it did actually help with, like, sleep and stuff.

I got a puppy…how many weeks was I? I think I was like 20 weeks or something or like 21 weeks or like around there. And Diego, he’s very cute. He’s a mini poodle for those on YouTube. I’ll pick him up so you can see him. Isn’t he the cutest baby? He’s a very sweet boy. He was only eight weeks when I got him. So it was, like, a real puppy, right. It wasn’t, like, I got Priscilla when she was

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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