My Must-Have Pregnancy Survival Guide

Jess Ann Kirby compiles her pregnancy must-have survival guide from foods to remedies and clothing.
illustration by shore creative

I’m 26 weeks into my pregnancy, and it’s only within the last 2-3 that I’ve started to feel some sort of normalcy. While I am approaching my third trimester (and who knows what to expect for that) I wanted to share what has helped me get through the first two. It’s such a unique experience for everyone, and if there is one thing I have learned from being pregnant it’s that you really have to take it one day at time. The first trimester is often the hardest for many pregnant women, myself included, and honestly it was pretty isolating. I spent the entire time at home in bed or in the ER/urgent care getting fluids. I’ve heard from many of you in your first trimester who are struggling and looking for anything that might bring some relief. I hope wherever you are, pregnant, TTC, thinking about it for the future, or a friend looking to help someone close to you who’s pregnant, that some of these things will help bring some comfort. If you’re in it right now and you’re struggling, hang in there, even when it seems like it will last forever, I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Feel free to add any additional helpful tips in the comments. You may also like: Non-Toxic Baby Registry, Pregnancy Skincare Routine, Maternity Friendly Outfit Ideas, and Maternity Leave Experiences.

Pregnancy Survival Guide

MORNING SICKNESS

I don’t know who came up with the term morning sickness but I’m guessing it was a man, because in my experience, there is no such thing. It’s all day, and no it’s not like a bad hangover, it’s 10,000 times worse. Granted I had hypermesis gravidarum, which if you’ve had it, you know is HELL, but even if you haven’t, pregnancy sickness, especially in the first trimester can strike at any time. honestly I feel very lucky that for the most part, i had it most severe from week 6-15, and then with the exception of a few days here and there the nausea and vomiting subsided. that said, when you’re going through it, it’s awful and it feels like there is no end in sight. truthfully there wasn’t much that gave me relief, most days i just didn’t eat, but as time went on i was able to introduce more food and eventually get on medication that worked. I know everyone’s experience is so different and i am not a medical professional so please consult with your doctor on the right approach for you.
  • Organic saltines and plain white toast kept bedside- There was a period of time where I would have to wake up in the middle of the night to eat crackers or toast (whatever I could stomach) and it helped prevent sickness overnight and in the morning.
  • Diclegis – My doctor had me try a combo of over the counter unisom and B12 (basically what diclegis is) because diclegis is not covered by my insurance, but it didn’t work. I paid $700 for the first prescription, huge mistake. Luckily, they came out with a generic version of the drug, doxylamine/pyridoxine. I used the GoodRx App to fill my prescription (it gives huge discounts for prescriptions not covered by insurance) and saved hundreds of dollars. Initially I was taking 4 pills a day but I’m now (at week 26) down to 1 pill at night.
  • Lemons – My sense of smell, especially during the first trimester was INSANE. Pretty much everything made me nauseous, Craig ate dinner outside most nights (it was summer he didn’t mind) because I couldn’t stand the smell of food. I couldn’t even sit on our leather couch because the smell made me sick. Smelling sliced lemons a few times throughout the day was really helpful with nausea.
  • Electrolytes – Hydration is probably the most crucial thing in dealing with morning sickness/nausea/HG. The tough part was that even keeping down water was impossible some days. I didn’t like the taste of anything. I finally discovered Drink Basis, an electrolyte drink my cousin introduced me to and it truly saved me. I’m convinced it kept me out of urgent care because I was finally able to stay hydrated. Before I found Drink Basis, I basically lived off pedialyte pops. At the time I couldn’t find a better alternative but the ingredients in pedialyte are terrible, so I’d recommend getting an organic electrolyte drink or powder and making pops or ice chips with it.
  • Queasy Drops – My Aunt gave these to me and they were so helpful, especially when I couldn’t eat. They definitely helped in preventing me from getting sick constantly.

Food

In many ways food and morning sickness go hand in hand, because it took me a while to get to a point where I could eat anything at all, and then I had a phase where my food cravings were all over the place and usually only lasted 24 hours, Craig made many trips to the grocery store. especially in the beginning, eating little bits at a time throughout the day is helpful. when i could finally start introducing foods again i’d try and eat a small portion every hour or so.
  • Fresh Fruit – When I could finally introduce foods again, blueberries, strawberries, sliced mangos were pretty easy for me to keep down.
  • Soups – This was basically the first actual food I started eating again, it started with roasted tomato soup that Craig would make (just oven roasted tomatoes blended with chicken or vegetable stock and some olive oil, salt and pepper), then ramen, first with just broth and noodles and eventually adding chicken.
  • Protein Bars – I needed enough nourishment to get blood work done while I was still pretty sick and for whatever reason I was able to keep down protein bars which helped a ton. I like GoMacro and Luna bars.
  • PROBAR Energy Chews – Discovered these on Amazon and they were a lifesaver when I was struggling to eat or just if I’m out and need a quick snack.

Comfort

Whatever you can do to make yourself comfortable, go for it. as i mentioned, there was a long stretch of time where i basically didn’t get out of bed, and didn’t leave the house. unfortunately i know this isn’t realistic for everyone, especially if you have to go into an office (i recommend looking into your company’s and state’s leave policies as there can be ways to get Pto if you’re suffering from hg). here are some things that really helped me.
  • Silk Sleep Mask – Pregnant or not this is one of my favorite things, but it really came in handy on my worst days. When I just needed to lay in stillness and darkness I would put this on and it helped with headaches, nausea, etc.
  • Latex Mattress Topper – I’ve never really had trouble sleeping until I got pregnant. I was so uncomfortable, all day and all night. Because I was in bed so much our mattress just felt hard as a rock. I found this 100% natural latex mattress topper (2 inch) on Amazon and it was a lifesaver. It’s soft but supportive, stays cool, and has no bad smell.
  • Headaches – Probably a combination of hormones, dehydration and hunger I had some brutal migraines in my first trimester. I didn’t want to rely solely on tylenol (which didn’t help much anyway). The Indie Lee Mind and Body Gel truly helped me get rid of or keep migraines and headaches at bay. Craig would massage it into the base of my neck and shoulders and it gave me so much relief.
  • Pregnancy Pillow – I got this pregnancy pillow and it’s really helpful for making side sleeping more comfortable and also keeping you from rolling onto your back.

maternity Clothes

i had this thing about not buying maternity clothes, it didn’t last long. once i could actually get dressed and leave the house again i just wanted to be as comfortable as possible. i don’t even want to admit how many different maternity leggings, maternity jeans and nursing/maternity bras i tried. i also discovered it’s actually kind of difficult to find sustainable/ethical maternity brands, but they do exist!

Beauty & Wellness

If there’s ever a time to make the switch to clean beauty products, pregnancy would be it. There’s so many toxic ingredients in regular skincare products and on top of that, so many ingredients you’re supposed to avoid while pregnant. here are the clean beauty products that have worked well for me.
  • Stretch Marks – If I’m being honest, I think stretch marks are in large part, genetic. There’s things you can do to help prevent them, but ultimately there is no miracle cure. Staying hydrated is of course important, and keeping your skin moisturized. I love this pregnant belly oil from Follain (use code JESSANNKIRBY for 15% off).
  • Skincare – My already dry skin is even more dry (and itchy) now. The two moisturizers that work the best are RICA body butter and Billie Body Lotion. I did a post about my skincare routine you can find here, I’ll do another update soon for winter. If you look under the Beauty section of the site you can find my favorite clean makeup.
  • Prenatal Vitamins – I had been taking Ritual for a while before I got pregnant so switched my subscription to their prenatal once I found out (use code KIRBY for 10% off your first three months). Honestly I didn’t take it from about week 6-15 because I couldn’t keep it down. I’ve always been borderline anemic and pregnancy made it worse. I started taking MegaFood Blood Builder and it was life changing. I felt a difference in a matter of days.
  • Pregnancy Books – So I’m taking a less is more approach as in, I’ve barely read any books. Eventually I might but for now I’m just focused on trying to be healthy (and sane). Two books I have enjoyed are The First Forty Days and Momstrology.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

14 Comments

  1. Sarah wrote:

    I was also really sick for about 6 months and was adverse to ginger which was a real bummer. I found that chewing peppermint gum (or any flavor you can stomach) really helped combat the nausea. I also wore the acupressure sea bands.

    For nursing bras, I love Kindred Bravely.

    And if you don’t want to buy maternity leggings, Lululemon Align leggings are great. They grow with you but don’t stretch out so you can wear them post pregnancy too. I did go one size up but probably would’ve been fine with my normal size.

    10.28.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Thank you definitely checking out the Kindred Bravely bras!

      10.28.19 | Reply
  2. Holly wrote:

    I have previously suffered with HG and an currently dealing with it again- with my first experience I didn’t realise all the options available to me until much later when I was very very sick. I saw a GI doctor who diagnosed HG and prescribed at home infusion therapy. I have a nurse visit me at home every few days to place an IV canula then I hook up a bag of fluids with added vitamins and folic acid to infuse daily. Previously I’d been going to the ER whenever I got really really dehydrated- this way I keep on top of the dehydration and get the vitamins I’d otherwise be missing out on. With my last pregnancy I didn’t start the therapy until 12 weeks, this time I was hooked up by 6 and am managing much better. Don’t be afraid to push for help, HG is a real and potentially very serious illness- it is not a normal part of pregnancy so don’t let anyone make you feel you’re making too much fuss!

    10.28.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      God I wish I had done something like that probably would have made a huge difference. Good to know, thanks so much for sharing.

      10.28.19 | Reply
  3. Darby wrote:

    Lemon popsicles were a lifesaver for me! Had them for breakfast lunch and dinner for the first trimester. Pregnancy underwear was a huge difference maker in comfort The last few weeks of pregnancy and I wish I had gotten some earlier

    10.28.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Oh lemon pops sound good, I did have citrus pops a few times too.

      10.28.19 | Reply
  4. Lynn wrote:

    All I can say is WOW and I’m so sad that you gave felt so very sick for so long . I really was worried about you, but I had no idea how hard it had been.
    My own pregnancies many years ago were so very different. My first I remember a few bad mornings and I kept crackers next to my bed. I was basically very healthy and chubby. The second time I felt very well and made sure to gain very little weight . Too little , 10 pounds. I was afraid to gain the 50 lbs I did the first time. The kiddos weighed the same . I had no sonograms. There were none. I read no scary delivery stories so I went in innocently at 21 and 23 years old and I delivered my first one in 2 hours and the second one in about 45 minutes. And yes , I had what was equivalent to today’s epidurals. I was lucky . I know that. I wish for you to enjoy the last three months and to have a safe and easy delivery. I watched my deliveries in an overhead mirror and I’m really glad I did. It was pretty fascinating. From then on I was in love. It’s so worth it all . Congratulations! You have been so brave! That was really hard Jess. Sending much love and my very best wishes to you both! ❤️

    10.28.19 | Reply
  5. Marisa wrote:

    Second Sarah’s comment about Kindred Bravely bras and the Lululemon Align leggings! The KB nursing & sleep bra is much more comfortable than the Motherhood Maternity one (in my opinion) because it doesn’t have an elastic band. It’s pretty much the only thing I wear at this point (33 weeks). Also personally speaking I prefer the organic cotton over the french terry bc the material is a little thicker and more supportive; of course some people prefer the french terry bc it’s softer and lighter. Another must have for me is the Tata Harper Redefining Body Balm – I find that it lasts way longer than any of the other oils / creams I’ve tried and really helps combat the itchy feeling from skin stretching.
    One last recommendation, if you start to get swelling feet / legs or soreness from carrying the extra weight in the 3rd trimester I have found knee high sport compression socks (CEP brand in particular) to be really fantastic!

    10.28.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Thank you Marisa! Checking out Kindred bras right now. xx

      10.28.19 | Reply
  6. Kimberley wrote:

    Thank you for this list! I have 2 (I guess 3) book recommendations from a less is more perspective: 1) Expecting Better by Emily Oster: it goes through the actual data behind different hot topics re pregnancy and helps you weigh the risks (also her Crib Sheet for once baby is here); 2) Bringing up Bebe: an American evaluating French parenting styles – I like this one because it’s more of a philosophy and perspective rather than hard and fast rules that so many other parenting books like to preach and then you just feel like a failure if you can’t follow exactly

    10.28.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Too funny! Those were the (only) three books that most of my friend recommended. I have them in my Audible library so I was thinking as I get closer to the end of my last trimester I’d spend some time listening to them. Thanks Kimberly! xx

      10.29.19 | Reply
  7. Jessica wrote:

    The First Forty Days is the most magical book. It really helped my husband and I to set the tone for how we prepared for and approached postpartum. I found The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth with my second and found it to be the most relatable, direct, and open book about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum without going overboard on information, plus it’s a quick read.

    Also, Lalabu has incredible maternity and postpartum leggings. I live in mine.

    10.28.19 | Reply
  8. Katie wrote:

    Late to the game, but I recently found out I’m pregnant and the only book I’ve found to be helpful, nonjudgmental, and encouraging is Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen. Her work is truly amazing!

    11.14.19 | Reply
  9. hope you’re feeling well! if you’re looking for a more sane/practical new baby book, i can’t recommend “the new basics” highly enough. i read it while pregnant and still refer to it now when things flare up. (my daughter is five :))

    11.15.19 | Reply