“I just don’t remember feeling this tired with Small Shaw,” I’ve lamented to my husband in recent weeks.
I’ve also complained to him that, “I just don’t remember the Braxton Hicks being so painful last time around.”
That’s because I wasn’t.
And they weren’t.
Let me explain…
“Extremely” Iron Deficient
My iron counts got scary low over the last couple of weeks. Low enough that when Iwent into the hospital this week to do my registration paperwork (I don’t know how it is in the U.S., but in Germany, you register in advance at your hospital for you child’s birth so that they have your information on file in advance), they really scared me.
I met first with a midwife, and then with a doctor. Both commented on my low blood iron (hemoglobin) counts, and the doctor did so more than once.
She said she wanted to be sure they already had bags of blood set aside with my name on them — blood that had been “pre-tested” in case I needed a transfusion during or after delivery. They took a blood sample to test against, did an ultrasound (baby and fluid levels both look good!) and sent me on my way.
Medicine and hospitals and…blood transfusions? Those are just not my things. Give me fresh air and exercise and healthy foods, and I can keep my body high functioning, right? Apparently not, because after months of fighting my iron levels, they were at an all-time low at 37 weeks, and now the hospital was planning for the worst.
Between my 37 week checkup, though, and the hospital registration my doctor had put me on a different iron supplement. I was taking it diligently (with vitamin C, and not with dairy, antacids, caffeine, or any number of other foods that can prevent absorption), and I guess it worked. My blood iron counts, as of the end of the day Wednesday, had improved from “extremely anemic” to “pregnancy anemic”. I never thought I’d be so excited to just be “normal” anaemic.
The extremely low iron counts have really affected my energy levels and workouts. Right now, I’m mostly unable to exercise. Even carrying a small load of laundry upstairs from our basement to our living room leaves me out of breath with my legs as heavy as lead. I’m also very, very tired. I wake up tired, and I’m tired all day. Granted, that’s probably normal for the 38th week, but still, it’s so unlike me!
From here on out, I guess it’s just nutrition, iron supplementation, and whatever daily activity, breathing exercises, and stretching I can work into my day each day. I’ve been trying to squeeze a lot in (work things, personal things, things related to work and to our upcoming move to the United States) over the last few weeks, and I think it’s time I put it in low gear until the baby arrives. To put it simply, I’m pooped, and I need to conserve energy for labor and delivery.
“I just don’t remember the Braxton Hicks being so painful last time around.”
-Me. Every day lately.
As we wandered through the Altstadt (old city) of Regensburg, Germany on Saturday with friends from out of town, I started to get painful contractions. They were much stronger and longer than I remembered my Braxton Hicks contractions feeling, and they didn’t stop in my belly (in my past experience, Braxton Hicks were usually only present in my abdomen). These contractions were causing pelvic floor pressure, and I was feeling pain in my back, hips, and legs.
When I went into labor with Small Shaw, I knew, without any question, that I was in labor. I labored passively for 12 hours before going to the hospital, but from those very first contractions at 2:30 or so in the morning, I knew instinctually that this was “it.” The contractions that started this weekend felt a whole lot like real contractions, but even when I was in the most pain from them, I knew that they weren’t real labor.
Two nights ago, I sat in our family room floor, my body draped over an inflatable exercise ball, crying. The contractions were so painful, and they’d been happening for hours.
“I don’t understand,” I whimpered to Nick, tears streaming down my cheeks. “These don’t feel like Braxton Hicks, but I know I’m not in real labor, either. What are these?”
After another hour or so, the contractions stopped and I was able to sleep. The next morning I went to my Facebook Fit Pregnancy group to ask if any other women had experienced anything similar. One of the moms came back pretty quickly with, “sounds like prodromal labor.”
According to TrimesterTalk.com, prodromal labor (also called false labor) is different from Braxton Hicks in several ways:
- Braxton hicks rarely last for more than an hour or two. Prodromal labor can last all day and into the night before stopping for a few hours.
- Braxton hicks are most often painless or at the worst, uncomfortable. Prodromal labor can be as painful as uncomfortable as ‘real’ labor.
- Braxton hicks will go away with rest, hydration and change of activity in most cases. Prodromal labor usually won’t.
- Braxton hicks usually don’t dilate the cervix. Prodromal labor sometimes softens the cervix and dilates it at least a few cm.
I found a really helpful blog post on Wellness Mama about prodromal labor. In it, she says:
“After having experienced prodromal labor myself over the last month of pregnancy, I can now vouch for the fact that the contractions are very much real and feel like “real” labor. Each woman will experience prodromal labor differently, but most of the time, I’d compare the contractions to those I felt in early labor in previous pregnancies (4-5 cm range).”
You can read her full post here.
Videos to Help with Pain Management & Delivery
As my pregnancy winds down and my contractions ramp up, my workouts have taken a backseat to nutrition, rest, and trying to finish my long list of to-dos leading up to our little boy’s birth and our move back to the United States from Germany (which will begin just a few weeks after our son’s birth).
I’m praying for a safe and healthy delivery and birth, and that our daughter, Small Shaw, adjust well to being a big sister. I’m thankful beyond words for the friends and neighbors here in Germany who’ve offered to help us with Small Shaw, our dogs, and anything else we might need support around as our due date draws nearer. And I’m also thankful for the partnership I’ve had the chance to form in 2015 and 2016 with the British maternity activewear company FittaMamma.
FittaMamma — A Healthy Pregnancy Partnership
When I approached FittaMamma, I was a few weeks pregnant with Bavarian Baby Boy, and I was really hoping to find a company that supported not just pregnancy fitness, but all-around pregnancy health and wellness. I specifically wanted to find a partner who believed in active moms, both before and after birth. When FittaMamma showed interested in becoming my active pregnancy partner on MilliGFunk.com, I was elated!
I wanted to share my experiences with exercise, nutrition, and an overall active pregnancy here on the blog because during my first pregnancy, it seemed like information (especially firsthand accounts) about active pregnancies were limited. My biggest hope was that my posts would help other active, pregnant moms feel like they had a friend who was staying active in pregnancy, too.
Over the last 38 weeks, FittaMamma’s apparel has been part of countless yoga classes, long walks, at-home HIIT workouts, and days at the gym. Their recipes have inspired me to try things I’d never cooked at home before, and they’ve given me a way to help share healthy, nutritious foods with other pregnant mommas.
FittaMamma also has exercise tips and fitness videos on their website that I’ve used for everything from reminding myself (in the beginning) which activities are safe (and not) during pregnancy to researching alternative poses for late-pregnancy yoga (I took regular, non-maternity power yoga classes until about 35 weeks).
All-around, FittaMamma has been fantastic. Alexandra, the company’s owner, has been supportive and personable in all of our email exchanges, and she’s made sure I was well-clothed for this active pregnancy! If you’re on the market for pregnancy fitness clothes, or for free pregnancy recipes and pregnancy wellness tips, I’d highly recommend you visit FittaMamma.com.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by FittaMamma, who has graciously outfitted me with maternity activewear for my active pregnancy. FittaMamma supports active mammas by offering exercise tips, recipes, and maternity activewear that holds and supports your baby bump!