Navigating the First Trimester and 3 Tea Blends to Try
As I am moving into the last week of my first trimester, I am looking at the beauty and difficulties that time of pregnancy can bring to us.
So much of why we struggle in that first trimester is thanks to progesterone….the hormone that keeps the fertilized egg warm until our placenta takes over. Towards the end of the first trimester, that hormone is no longer responsible for sustaining the fetus…so we can find some relief in our second trimester!
However, just knowing that doesn’t really help us feel better in the first trimester.
Thankfully, we have many herbs and natural options to call upon during the precious time.
Our digestive system slows during pregnancy. One of the reasons for this is to give our body a chance to absorb more of the nutrients from our food.
Unfortunately, it can be uncomfortable and lead to feeling heavy, bloated, ill, and then of course - hemorrhoids.
There are a few areas to consider with constipation in first trimester
Are you eating enough? With nausea as a common complaint during the first trimester, we might not be eating enough to stimulate peristalsis (which is needed to poop!). Large meals sometimes aggravate the nausea, so small meals/snacks throughout the day will be a better option here. Let ANY thoughts or ideas go on set meal times for you during this time.
Are you drinking enough water? Might seem like a no brainer, but during the first trimester, all bets are off. Sometimes water doesn’t go down for us. Sometimes any liquids unsettle our stomachs. So if this is us, we can look at things like teas, popsicles (watch the sugar), and kombucha. Sip throughout the entire day, you can even set a timer to remind yourself to drink or put sticky notes around the house.
Are you getting enough fiber? This kind of falls in line with eating enough - but its kind of a double edge sword. Too much fiber (if lacking fiber isn’t the cause) can make it worse. Add some more fruit - fresh or dried - to your daily nourishment.
Are you moving enough? The physical feelings we sometimes get - nausea, extra fatigue etc - can sometimes make us just want to sleep and rest. Which is definitely something we should be doing! However, we do need to move to poop. Even just a walk around the block can provide us much needed movement (plus fresh air) to get things going.
Even if we can check off all the things above - we can still be constipated during pregnancy. So what can we use to help ourselves?
Dandelion & Yellow Dock Syrup
This is a favorite remedy for me in pregnancy, not just because of its slightly (yet gentle and safe for pregnancy!!) peristalsis stimulation, but its also a wonderful blood builder - helping with anemia in pregnancy as well. The ingredients include blackstrap molassess, which includes other minerals for us to feel better. I will be adding a post on this soon!
Additionally, Dandelion on its own is a power house herbs for pregnancy. It helps our kidney and liver keep up with the flood of hormones and keep up with the extra fluid we will be having (including increased blood volume). Even before we become constipated, we can use it to help with digestion, as it is an herbal bitter and can stimulate those gastric juices we need to digest our food.
Slipperly Elm and/or Marshmallow Root
These two, a bark and root respectively, have AMAZING lubricating properties. Thanks to being rich in mucilage, they not only help soothe out upper digestive tract, they can help lubricate our movements and rehydrate potentially dry fecal matter. Yay!
You actually have a couple options to take them - add the powder to oatmeal (also good for constipation), make a cool water infusion of the bark or root (heat will damage the mucilage), or make pastilles! I will be making marshmallow root pastilles here for sore throats so stayed tuned for that tutorial.
What about Senna?
Senna, Senna alexandrina, is a stimulant laxative. Its brings upon peristalsis to bring on a bowel movement. Typically in pregnancy, we want to avoid anything that can cause stimulation to the uterus or abdomen. Senna, however, has been show to not cause any adverse effects in pregnancy - so it is considered likely safe, with the exception of bowel obstruction (Romm, 2010)
However, it is is a stimulant and with it, it can cause some - griping, or cramping, as it works. The key to using senna in pregnancy (especially the first trimester) is to use a minimal dose with other herbs that will help with the griping. These herbs are calling carminatives. A few favorites are: Fennel, Chamomile, Lemon balm, Peppermint, and Lavender. A good blend would be Ginger, Lemon balm, Peppermint, and Senna. Senna should be no more than a few pods in a cup of water (with the other herbs). If powdered, we are talking about just under a quarter teaspoon. Sip over a few hours in the evening and usually you can have a bowel movement by the morning.
Senna should only be used sparingly…and ONLY once every other option has been exhausted. I am not a doctor, so this information is only for educational purposes.
2) Nausea & Vomiting
With my first pregnancy I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. In the 3 pregnancies following, I always lost 10 pounds (like clockwork) every first trimester. Nausea affects over half of pregnant women.
Currently one of the best remedies we have for NVP is ginger. It has been studied extensively and tests better than the placebos consistently (Romm, 2010).
Unfortunately, I have found that many people can’t stand the taste of ginger (including myself for a while). Fortunately, there are a few ways to take it: ginger tea, ginger ale (with real ginger, not just ginger flavor), candied ginger, and ginger capsules.
Personally, I have found that Ginger tea with a honey and lemon, is a very pleasant way to drink it. Additionally, this pregnancy, I have really enjoyed Ginger tea with a small piece of Orange peel (a bitter!) with honey has been a fantastic drink for me.
This carminative (see the Senna section above) is a wonderful option for women with nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Many times spasms are a reason for our nausea and this is antispasmodic to relieve that.
Internally, this should only be taken as a tea. The leaf is rich in volatile oils, which do cross the placenta so tincture or essential oils are not the best form here. For the record, I don’t really recommend essential oils internally at all (unless under the care of a clinical aromatherapist) but it becoming a popular thing.
Can I use the essential oil in pregnancy? Yes BUT only with inhalation and only when you are needing it - so no just diffusing it throughout the day. During inhalation, the essential oil still enters the bloodstream and can cross the placenta. I recommend getting a personal inhaler (found in bulk on Amazon or even fancier ones on Plant Therapy) and using it as needed, keeping it capped otherwise. I prefer Spearmint EO over Peppermint EO in this case, paired with Mandarin EO (or some other citrus).
First Trimester Tea Blends
Here are some blend ideas for your first trimester to help with hormones and nausea.
1) First Trimester Wellness Blend
1/2 cup Nettle leaf
1/2 cup Lemon balm
1/2 cup Chamomile
1/4 cup Dandelion leaf
Honey as desired
This tea blend will get you hydrated, calm the stomach, build healthy blood, and support the liver and kidneys.
Mix together and use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water. Steep for 15 minutes. Make a large batch and put it in a thermos to keep it warm all day.
2) Nausea Tea
2-3 slices of fresh Ginger
1 small piece of Orange peel (save yours when you buy oranges and dehydrate them!)
Add all to a cup and add 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes.
3) After Eats Delight
1/2 cup Peppermint
1/2 cup Lemon balm
1/4 Fennel seeds
This is a favorite stomach calming blend, designed for any issues after eating.
Mix herbs together, use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water. Steep 15 minutes.
This blend is readily available in my shop.
What herbs did you lean on during your first trimester?
Romm, A., MD. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women's Health.
Treating Constipation During Pregnancy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3418980/