Pregnant Without Land Legs: The Third Trimester

As I write this, I’ve nearly reached the end of the third trimester.  I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I can’t wait to meet my little girl! I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for her.  

The love and excitement from family and friends has been so uplifting.  It’s a lot of fun feeling her limbs moving and trying to guess what she’s doing in there! “Nesting” is one of my favorite things.  I love organizing and arranging her room and, most of all, shopping for baby clothes.

I’m not trying to be a complainer by listing my ailments; my goal here is to give you the low-down on all the Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS) and vestibular migraine (VM) symptoms and changes during this trimester (as promised).  I realize I am so lucky to have this miracle happening in my body, and I am so grateful for this experience, even though it definitely has its challenges.  If you are reading this and considering pregnancy soon, know that your experience could be much, much better than mine!  We are all so different.  

Discomfort and Sleep Changes

If I had to describe the third trimester in one word, it would be uncomfortable.  Every few days some new, uncomfortable (although normal and common) pregnancy symptom seems to arise (numbness, swelling, random pain, sciatica, pelvic pain, aches, heart palpitations, baby’s movements, baby’s position, cramping, nerves, uncertainty, etc.), making it difficult to stay asleep. 

I think the lack of a consistent sleep schedule and not getting enough sleep has made me more prone to migraines, dizziness, and vertigo (along with all the other factors of pregnancy that cause headaches and vestibular symptoms!). 

MdDS and VM Symptoms

This trimester was definitely more difficult than the second trimester, but it’s been manageable.  

At week 33, my baby flipped positions in my belly, and as a result I developed a strong bob, up and down.  It would get worse or better depending on triggers, but my vestibular symptoms overall from that point on seemed higher than they had been in a long time. 

As my belly has grown, my balance has decreased.  Being front-heavy throws seems to increase the rocking/bobbing/swaying.  I feel stronger false motion, and I see it more often now, too.

My walk has become a waddle, which I don’t think helps the vestibular situation! Going for a walk became an MdDS trigger at the start of this trimester. However, after the weather got better and I spent a couple of weeks of walking daily with a big belly, my brain seemed to adjust to the walks without an increase in symptoms.

My doctor said that the fluid changes (in mucous membranes, blood volume, etc.) in pregnancy were likely increasing the vestibular symptoms overall, and that it’s common to struggle with equilibrium.  Clumsiness is typical in pregnancy, but I definitely think what I am experiencing is beyond the norm. It is almost comical how much I am tripping, dropping things, and losing my balance!

I learned pretty quickly to take it slow on stairs, hold on to things, watch where I am walking, avoid multitasking (like walking while looking at my phone) and avoid carrying anything that throws off my equilibrium more or blocks my sight-lines of my feet and the surfaces I’m walking on. 

Despite all of that, I feel like I’m managing pretty well. The pregnancy symptoms I’ve had have been more challenging for me than the increase in VM/MdDS symptoms.  It’s likely because I’ve been dealing with this for almost 3 years now, and although I have some rough hours, I know how to cope.  I think the novelty of the pregnancy pains and discomforts has been part of what makes them more challenging for me.

The random visual spots/auras that were constant for part of last trimester show up only occasionally (I swear they are triggered by the baby’s position or the misalignment of my pelvis due to joint dysfunction).  I see some new squiggles in the morning sometimes and some moving visual auras when looking at bright, white spaces or moving my head a certain way, but they are fleeting. I had two migraines with vertigo and aura this past week, but both improved significantly with the Cefaly and a long nap. 

One of the tricky things about being pregnant with migraine has been the similarities between the symptoms of preeclampsia and the symptoms of migraine with aura.  So far, my blood pressure has been normal at most doctor visits, but it is definitely something I’ve had to call and talk to my doctor or nurse about multiple times.  

Coping Strategies

On the difficult days, I often remind myself that I knew this would be hard, but I had decided to do it anyway! It’s a challenge that I signed up for, and that I can handle.  Not to mention the huge reward at the end – my little girl, and so many fun and miraculous moments along the way!  I feel really lucky that my baby is healthy and all indications are that things are going smoothly.  

Anything I can do to keep my spirits up and stay distracted is helpful (including writing this post).  Luckily, it’s been pretty easy to keep busy working and preparing for the baby’s arrival.

I am continuing to take pregnancy-safe migraine supplements, use the Cefaly (sometimes for 2 hours a day), and use Timolol Maleate eye drops to help reduce visual motion and migraine.  I’ve needed to nap strategically, and I’ve even used a little caffeine to manage some head pain and brain fog (but only a little – too much makes the vertigo worse).  

I’ve had to limit my exposure to triggers more than last trimester to avoid making symptoms worse.  I have been more sensitive to technology, light, and scrolling again.  I also think I’m more sensitive to chocolate, but I have to admit it’s been extra hard to avoid!

Spending time in nature, social connection (as much as possible in these weird times!) and recognizing and honoring when I need to rest (without feeling guilty about it) has been key.  

Planning for the Future

I’ve had lots of “adventures” since I became more comfortable living in constant motion, but this might be the biggest one yet!  I’m nervous about managing symptoms during labor and birth… although I tend to get through the tough stuff pretty well and later struggle with “let down” migraines and vertigo.

My plan for symptom management during labor and delivery is to take a low dose of prednisone as a last resort if I’m experiencing a lot of vertigo (per my neurologist and OBGYN).  I’m really hoping to avoid the steroid, though, and get by with:

  • Cefaly device
  • Timolol Maleate eyedrops
  • Light sensitivity glasses (I’ll bring both FL-41 and blue-blocking glasses)
  • Peppermint oil
  • Ginger chews
  • Sea Bands
  • relaxation techniques

After the birth, I’m nervous about the prolonged sleep deprivation, but I am lucky enough to have a great support system. My doctors recommended using either prednisone or lorazepam as needed for symptom management, but I’m hopeful that I can continue to cope with the tools I’ve been using.

This whole situation feels really surreal… It’s hard to believe that any time now she will finally be here.  I am so excited and happy!  I know despite any challenges there will be so much joy.  

I’m planning to take a hiatus from social media for a while after the baby is born, but I’ll be back to give you the details of how it’s going when I’m ready.  In the meantime, wishing you all wellness and stillness!

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