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12 October 2021

It’s not always perfect: my pregnancies on the Overcoming MS lifestyle

Ineke shares the reality of her two pregnancies while following Overcoming MS.

For me, it wasn’t easy to live the Overcoming MS lifestyle during my two pregnancies. Before I got pregnant, I always intended to stick to the lifestyle because I wholeheartedly believe that it is the best choice for people with MS, pregnant or otherwise. However, life isn’t always that simple or easy. In this blog, I’d like to tell a little bit about my pregnancy journey, which unfortunately wasn’t perfect, Overcoming MS-wise, but very much a real-life experience.

My first pregnancy

My husband and I hadn’t planned to get pregnant soon after our wedding (which was only 2 months before), but I hadn’t started any MS medication yet and I wanted to do my pregnancy medicine-free. We never really worried about the impact MS might have on our ability to have and raise children; Overcoming MS had given us hope and my neurologist was confident that we would be fine.

Of course, I had planned on continuing the Overcoming MS diet during my pregnancy. The only real change I felt I had to make was giving up raw fish, but otherwise I was determined and confident that I could just continue doing what had left me feeling so well.

That lasted for about two weeks after holding a positive pregnancy test. I started getting more nauseous and I had horrible food aversions that seemed to change and grow worse by the day. I threw up a lot and I couldn’t stomach anything with the word ‘vegan’ in it. Needless to say, the Overcoming MS diet went out of the window as the morning sickness grew worse (and definitely was not limited to the morning!). Even meditating made me sick and exercise was out of the question; I was unable to move without getting terribly sick.

For weeks, until about the 16th week of my pregnancy, I lived on grilled cheese sandwiches, sour sweets and whatever my body decided it could handle that day. Thankfully, after the 16th week, my nausea subsided and by week 20 I felt mostly back to normal. I was so glad I could continue with the Overcoming MS diet (although nutritional yeast was a no-go until years after my first pregnancy!) and I discovered some amazing new recipes (which after my pregnancy ended up not tasting quite as good; funny what those hormones do to your taste buds). I picked up walking again and I felt quite good; it surprised me how quickly I had forgotten my initial misery and sticking to the Overcoming MS lifestyle was easy for me throughout the rest of my pregnancy.

When my daughter was born I had no problems continuing the lifestyle (although I had some M&M’s during the delivery – sorry not sorry), and I felt really well her first few months. Unfortunately a post-partum relapse 3 months after her birth left me with a sore leg and depleted me of all my energy. It shocked me, as I felt so well, but thankfully the sore leg recovered fully and once the broken nights disappeared, the energy slowly returned too.

My second pregnancy

My second pregnancy was quite similar initially. Our son was a surprise and not planned at all, but we were so happy to discover the pregnancy. I was very sick for the first few months and I once again could only handle cheese, although this time around there was less throwing up and the worst symptoms ebbed away by week 12, a blessing when you have a toddler to care for too! When they had completely faded by week 18, though, I was hungry. I tried sticking to the diet as best as I could, I didn’t eat dairy or meat, but I sure ate a lot of other things. My son, who is now two, still eats a lot! He’s just a hungry little guy.

Because of this, my second half of my second pregnancy was hard. I gained weight faster, I had more aches and pains which made working out almost impossible. When it comes to sticking to the lifestyle, this was the hardest period for me ever since I started in 2016 (apart from both first trimesters, of course); I just wanted to eat, I didn’t move as much as I should and I had no interest in meditation. Subsequently I felt myself spiraling away from Overcoming MS, making it harder for me to stick to the lifestyle, especially when my mother passed away when our son was 8 weeks old. It took me a while to get back on track, although I did stick to a mostly-vegan diet. Thankfully, this time around there was no postpartum relapse for me and I am still relapse free since 2017, and I’ve been back on the lifestyle for years now.

"I've given myself grace"

While neither of my pregnancies were perfect and I’m sometimes a bit jealous of people who managed to stick to the diet during their entire pregnancy, I’ve given myself grace. It was hard and I did what I had to do, especially during those horrible first trimesters. The most important thing for me is that I got back on the Overcoming MS-horse as soon as I was able to. And looking at my kids, I know I’d do it all over again!