My Epstein - Barr Virus Flared Up during Pregnancy! | Here's How I Handled It...
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
As I navigated pregnancy during the summer of 2019, I also experienced an Epstein Barr Virus Re-Activation that I was thankfully, able to heal from. As a promise I made to myself at the beginning of the year, I continued my Year of Intention, but made monthly adjustments to best take care of myself during my healing journey and you know... that little process of growing a human being 'n all. Below is my story from that summer (with a happy ending) which I hope can be of encouragement to those who need to hear it. XOXO...
Hi there, friends who are so lovely to be reading my blog! It’s about time for an update! I’ve taken a break from my blog, instagram and youtube for a good chunk of this summer. Yes, I’ve been in the third trimester of pregnancy, but that wasn’t the reason for my break. I’m grateful to say the pregnancy itself is going well and our little baby girl is growing well and healthy!
The reason I chose to cut out a lot of things on my “to do” list, things I wanted to do, etc. is because my Epstein-Barr Virus seemed to have returned DURING pregnancy. I didn’t even know that could happen!
It happened after we returned from our trip to Cancun. I thought I was just exhausted from the trip, being pregnant and just entering my third trimester at that point. Then, my exhaustion got worse, along with about 30 zillion symptoms that are as familiar to me as my best friend. It finally occurred to me that it felt like an Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) flare up/reactivation. It had been so long since I had dealt with those symptoms, that it took a few days for it to dawn on me of what was really going on with me.
At first, I was devastated. Everything I was finding out about EBV during pregnancy said it can’t be cured or go dormant again, that you can only treat the symptoms. I was SO overwhelmed and worried. I try not to let fear take over in life, but I do like to be a realist. To recognize my feelings and allow them for a time, but then to work through them and get to the other side… the positive, hopeful side! I was in tears for a couple of weeks working through my emotions… worried I’d feel this way for the entire third trimester… worried I’d feel this way during birth and not be able to make it through without my body breaking down… worried that the EBV would continue after that. I know that stats. Birth is one of the biggest factors in activating/reactiving EBV. That’s exactly what happened after I had Lorelei. Only I didn’t know it at the time and wasn’t diagnosed until she was three years old.
My pregnancy hormones were definitely putting a magnifying glass on my emotions… Not to mention that when a chronic health issue rears it’s ugly head, it can be hard to sift through the emotions and navigate towards the light because your body FEELS so very much in the dark. Fatigue, pain and brain fog all work together like a terrible tag team to work against a recovery plan. It’s so hard to think clearly during times like these. It can feel like an uphill walk in a hurricane and working towards a recover plan can FEEL hopeless. But, truthfully it’s not.
THANKFULLY, I know how to combat it because I’ve been here before. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan… it’s like that quote: “We’ve been here before. I recognize that tree.” Symptoms that I can recognize as a familiar leach I never wanted around… symptoms that were ever so present but oh so hard to describe at times, sometimes there simply wasn’t the words in the English language to accurately and fully describe what I felt. But I knew it. I knew it in my bones. I knew it in my gut. Literally.
But as I said, I was grateful, because I new what to do. (Side note: choosing gratitude whenever, wherever and as often as you can is HUGE in recovery… for any type of recovery.) There are some things that I couldn’t do during pregnancy (like infrared saunas), but thankfully there are a lot of things I COULD do that I knew would help since they helped me heal in the past. Whether you’re reading this for inspiration because you’re on your own health journey, or you’re just a friend who wants an update or perhaps you have EBV yourself OR perhaps you’re pregnant and have EBV! … I’ll share my story and hope it can help and be of comfort. I found pretty much zilch as far as other pregnant women experiencing EBV. It would have helped me so much if someone who had experienced a flare up during pregnancy would have shared their story with me. Sharing our stories helps others… it gives comfort and encouragement. Both just as needed in recovery as supplements are.
Sometimes it just helps to hear someone else’s journey to know you’re not alone in the struggle. Believe me, friend. You’re not. There might be differences in symptoms and disease, but the real life struggles are so relatable and I hope to encourage others that there is hope. Healing CAN happen. The first step is to believe it. Don’t let any doctor tell you that you can’t heal. Your body is amazing. It was designed to heal. This was what I needed to remind myself as I began the process of healing again. I needed to believe in my body’s capabilities and also embrace gratitude. Even if it was for the tiniest thing. Like: “I’m grateful for this salad I’m eating right now. It is nourishing my body.” “I’m grateful the sun is shining today.” “I’m grateful that I felt good enough to put on real clothes today.” … that last one is funny, but true.
Ok, so here’s the lowdown on what helped me at this point of my EBV story:
I looked at what supplements I had on hand, took what I had that worked and bought what else I needed. I upped my vitamin C. I take Ester-C. It’s gentler on the tummy compared to absorbic acid. I upped my vitamin B complex. I took B-12. Vitamin A. L-Lysine. Odorless Garlic Pills. Lauricidin, a monolauren supplement - this coconut-based supplement is key in healing a virus. Sovereign Silver. Lemon Balm tincture. Vitamin D - a large dose! In Montana, we basically get zero vitamin D. Even if you’re in a sunshiny state, the amount we can get from the sun isn’t as high as it should be due to environmental issues. At least that’s what I understand from what I’ve been told. Selenium. Iodine. These were in addition to other pregnancy supplements like folate (not folic acid - that’s synthetic), also epa/dha, vitamin K, vitamin E, a high quality liquid cal/mag at night, and at the end of pregnancy I am (now) taking evening primrose oil and 5-W from Nature’s Sunshine. Other supplements that have been key for me is adding in plenty of Spirulina and Barley Grass Juice Powder. I added it to either my smoothies or just mixed some in a glass with juice or water. It’s super strong with just water but I could tell when my body needed it because I would wake up dreaming about it. So, (usually in the middle of the night) I would just mix some with water and down it. I would immediately feel a positive difference in my body. Like it got the nutrients it needed. These supplements are recommended during pregnancy in general, as they are high in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients, etc… but are so helpful in healing the body as well.
Along with supplements, I took a pregnancy liquid vitamin that I would mix with my smoothies. On days I did this, I would not take the other supplements so that baby girl get too much of one thing, such as selenium. Also, I took an adrenal blend tincture that helped me immensely. It had licorice root, ginseng, ashwaganda and a couple other adaptogenic herbs that have slipped my mind at the moment. (Pregnancy brain). I did have licorice root in it, which is discouraged during pregnancy but my midwife said for a short time is ok. Because Mama needs to be well to be able to keep growing that little miracle. As my body desperately needed it, it helped me get through a tough time and once through it, (after about a month), I haven't taken licorice.
The next thing I did was sit or lay in the sunshine. Have you ever seen those memes for the basic necessities for healing? Sun, rest, food, oxygen, supplements, gratitude, de-stress and nature? That’s what I focused on. I rested a lot. I listened to my body and cut out a lot of things I felt I needed to do or WANTED to do. That was hard for me, as I usually push myself. It’s just my personality. But I had to take a step back for not only my health, bu the health of my baby. That’s why I made the month of July “Intentional Rest” during my year of intention. I had another plan in store for July, but I knew if I didn’t take care of my body, that I would push myself and make it all worse. So, intentionally focusing on rest was on my new “to do” list.
I focused on deep breathing. On positive thoughts. On loving thoughts. If a fear popped into my head, I would acknowledge it and imagine it as a cloud that was present but passing by, out of my periphery. I tried my very best to focus on gratitude. I taped a positive affirmation list in my shower so I could meditate on them and get some good thoughts rolling through my head. I MADE myself think positively, especially on the days I felt my worse. I knew this was key to recovering. I cut out as much stress as I could. Life is unpredictable, so stresses arrive sometimes even when you don’t want them or plan them. What I did then (and continue to practice) is the art of Elsa… letting it go. That somewhat selfish, ignorant princess also had a very important life lesson. Sometimes what the storm arrives in life, what’s needed isn’t to control the storm, but to instead just let it happen, let it go. Anyway, that’s what I tried to do and continue to in everyday life, as I have a hard time letting things go when I have a specific vision in mind… I’m prating and I am getting better at it, bit by bit.
Ok, food. FOOD. Food is key, but it’s just one part of the equation. Eliminating sugar (NOT fruit), just white sugars, cutting WAY down/eliminating dairy and gluten, and eliminating eggs. Eggs flare up my EBV bigger than Will Smith's hair was in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air! As soon as I eat eggs, I crash. Being aware of how foods make me feel (good or bad) is HUGE. It's important that I eat a TON more fresh fruits, veggies, and fresh herbs like thyme and oregano. JUICING… juicing celery in the mornings on an empty stomach (besides water) was SO HEPFUL. If you haven’t heard of this new trend, it’s a trend for a reason… it works. Anthony William has a new book coming out about Celery Juice. An entire book on the bazillion benefits of just one simple vegetable. Ya, celery is THAT GOOD. Also: lemon water, sometimes juicing fresh ginger and turmeric root to add to my lemon water. LOTS OF WATER. I would down a large mason (Ball) jar first thing in the morning before any food. Cutting down/out coffee. Coffee (caffeine) drains the adrenals at a time that they're really struggling. Specific foods I concentrated on more heavily (because their nutrient/vitamin/mineral makeup is MEDICINE to the body): dark leafy greens, lemon, ginger, turmeric, aloe vera, coconut (oil, milk), lettuce, apples, berries (specifically wild blueberries), avocados, asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, potatoes, apricots, figs, mangoes, cilantro, fennel, parsley and thyme. I try my best to buy all organic veggies and fruits. If it was not possible (or too expensive), then I would use my veggie wash from Young Living to help remove the pesticides (because more toxins added into my body would exasperate my EBV.) As part of every recovery plan I have, I work on reducing my toxic load as much as I can. (Ok, I do this in every day life, too.)
Which brings me to my next thing… addressing the adrenals. Cutting out stress saves the adrenals. Stress causes adrenaline to shoot the through the roof, which drains the adrenals. When dealing with chronic health issues, always give the adrenals a helping hand. Apricots and dates are great for adrenals. But what else is great for adrenals? Herbs. As you might know, I’m an herb nerd. I have over 100 dried herbs in my beautiful apothecary that my husband built for me. I love making my own tea, decoctions and tinctures. That’s my go-to spot whenever illness occurs in our house. From poultices to help heal my husband’s broken foot, to chest rubs when my daughter is sick, to anti-stress blends I make for friends, to sleep teas, pregnancy tea and even an after-birth tincture to help with after pains… my apothecary is where it’s at! During this time of my EBV reactivation, my midwife said: “Go into your apothecary and pull out all your adaptogens. See which ones work for you.” Adaptogens help your body apapt to stress… both in general life, but specifically help the hormonal reactions going on as your body’s response to stress. (Because our bodies run on hormones… that’s not just a word for pms, pregnancy or menopause. Hormones direct our sleep, awake, energy, etc.)
So… the herbs I brought into my tea (and sun tea!) were these (adaptogens and others): rhodiola, eleuthero root, licorice root, marshmallow root, lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis), astragulas, ashwaganda, maca (I added the powder to my smoothies), holy basil, moringa, dandelion root and leaf, Pau d’Arco, echinacea, elderberries, motherwort, and gingko biloba. I would add any mixture of these to my usual pregnancy tea blend consisting of: nettle, red raspberry leaf (only at 28 weeks onward), rose hips, dandelion leaf and root, peppermint, oatstraw, lavender and chamomile.
At night, I would take motherwort tincture (helps with anxiety which seems to tighten more at night), ashwaganda (an adaptogen that is best taken at night to help your body the following day), a sleep tincture made of: valerian, passionflower, hops, chamomile (contradictory during pregnancy, I know… it’s truthfully only a problem if you have a ragweed allergy) and catnip. Lastly, I also took a very small dose of melatonin. When my adrenals are out of wack, I’m exhausted during the day but anxiously wired at night. Melatonin (another wonderful hormone the body makes) gets out of wack when our adrenals are out of wack. So, I have a bottle of 3 milligram Melatonin, but I only take about an 1/8th of a pill… so like 1/3 of a milligram of melatonin. I learned a while back that Melatonin is helpful to take in EBV flare ups but found out that 3 milligrams is too much for the body… it can even have the opposite effect and make you more wired if you take too much! However, every body is different, so perhaps your body needs more. As stated at the end of this blog post, this is all my own story and thoughts. Always consult your health care professional.
Along with herbs via teas and tinctures, I also turned to essential oils. I was careful as to which ones I chose to protect the baby. I would mix frankincense, thyme, rosemary, cilantro and oregano diluted with a carrier oil and rub them on my feet. I also mixed orange essential oil and peppermint with carrier oil and would rub on my chest and neck to help “wake me up”, energize me and give me a boost of happiness. I’m in love with peppermint. And orange EO tends to have a joy-ifying effect. (I use Young Living essential oils. I really love the way their dedication to high-quality sourcing, extraction, and processing. But, to each their own… There are lots of great essential oils out there. Just make sure they are very high quality and come from clean, high-quality sources, and are processed in a good way. Not all essential oils are created equal. If you are curious about the oils I use, let me know and I can help you out.)
Epsom salt baths. Detoxifying and healing.
We also went to our local hot springs and soaked up the mineral goodness in the water… I also paired it with jumping in the cold pool for about 10-20 seconds and went back and forth a few times. SO GOOD for your lymph system! So good for healing. I spoke with my midwife prior to this and she explained the baby is incredibly insulated and protected. I just didn’t do the hottest pools, didn’t do what intuitively felt wrong to me, stayed hydrated with not only water, but sea salt water and coconut water too. My midwife said that I would start feeling ill before it would affect the baby… if I felt dizzy or nauseous then I should get out. I never felt like this, but I also went slow and gentle. This was also a great way to gently exercise, which is also key in healing… but it’s so ironic!! Like, who wants to/ CAN exercise when they find getting out of bed the biggest chore of the day!? Haha!!! So, finding gentle ways to sweat, exercise and breath is key… I just listened to my body and didn’t push it. Again, gentle does it.
I would (and continue to) end every shower or bath with at least 30 seconds of cold water. Sometimes go back and forth… 30 seconds hot, 30 seconds cold, etc. Again, great of the lymph system, immune system, and circulatory system.
I also added medicinal mushroom powder to my smoothies, such as cordyceps, chaga and reishi. Chaga is particularly miraculous in healing EBV and even cancer.
Another part of my recovery plan was to get Vitamin IV’s at my doctor’s office. During pregnancy, my Naturopath’s office has a pregnancy vitamin blend for the IV. I added amino acids to this as well. It usually took me a couple of days to feel the positive effects, but a couple of days after the IV, I could feel an enormously positive difference. Gratitude. Huge gratitude.
Lastly, a new part of my healing plan was brought to me by my midwife. She recommended I see a Kinesiology doctor whom she refers to as “Magic Mike”. I thought: “Ok, if she refers to him as magic, I have to give it a try.” She recommended I see him for boosting my immune system. After my first appointment with him, I got in my car and was purely exhausted. I could tell my body was working hard. About an hour later, I felt a surge of energy and felt BETTER. I’m not saying 100 %. I’m talking AN IMPROVEMENT that I could FEEL. You know, that feeling beyond words, like I was talking about. I went back once a week and I’m convinced this was a huge part that helped me immensely. He lived up to his nickname.
My roughest period during my EBV flare up lasted about a month/month and a half. But, boy… when it was bad it was bad. I had heart palpitations, aches, pains, heavy feeling in my body and blood, extreme fatigue (the type that makes it feel like you’re up against a marathon just to GET OUT OF BED, let alone take care of an energetic 4 year old), tingles, numbness, eye floaters, headaches, inflammation, brain fog, anxiety, depression, mood swings, buzzing blood (ya, I know, like what the heck is that!? But it feels like my body is hooked up to a generator that pulses on and off in a buzzing type of way), light headedness, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears and full ears, irritated/infected eyes, achy eyes that had a hard time focusing, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness (like… what’s that word? Oh! Watermelon. Ya. That kind of forgetfulness. Like your brain is empty or turned off), easily confused, sneezing, runny nose, itchy, achy, sore throat (tell-tale sign of EBV), hoarse voice (ditto what I just said), body chills that arise out of nowhere (DURING PREGNANCY, IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER. Ya. Super weird.), nausea, trouble getting to sleep, insomnia, not feeling rested after after waking, swollen neck lymph nodes, severe lack of energy (like I said… no word to describe it in the English dictionary), trouble completing tasks I usually find easy (like making dinner), poor digestion, tingling aches all over - mostly my legs though, heart beating really fast all of a sudden (even while resting), low blood pressure (mine is “normally low”, but it was even lower than my norm), low back pain (where an old injury is), and lastly… irritability… or that could just be from pregnancy itself, LOL. ;)
After combating it in all of these miraculous, numerous ways… I turned a corner. It was like the sunshine returned after the storm. Gratitude, again… lots of gratitude.
I was reassured all along this journey that our sweet baby girl was protected and growing healthy. I focused on that as reassurance and positive affirmation. I am SO thankful that although she was growing inside my body that was ravaged by my nemesis, EBV, she was still protected and growing well. Once I felt better, there have been a couple of times where I felt my symptoms starting to return, but I jumped right on it and made it disappear like a magic trick… or as Lorelei would say: “Lickety split!”
I am fully aware that by giving birth ( a process that uses AN ENORMOUS amount of adrenaline) might trigger my EBV again. So, I’m taking precautions, practicing awareness and planning to incorporate a lot of my healing plan (above) as preventative measures… basically, I’m going to be babying myself AS WELL AS my new baby! You have to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. First rule to healthy postpartum time. But, as a veteran mom I know it’s easier said than done. SOOOO... I decided to make September’s theme for my Year of Intention: “Intentional Babying”. So that I remember to baby myself (nurture, comfort, rest, nourish, de-stress, encourage, etc.) as I also care for our new little bundle of happiness. I’ve really dedicated myself to these monthly intentional themes as my monthly missions... as small, short promises to myself. And although I had different plans for July, August, and September, I chose to listen to my body, *let go* of my own expectations, and change my plan to best suit the needs of my mind, body and spirit. I’ll share some tricks and tools that I’m utilizing as I baby myself and OBVS my baby… once she arrives. Be prepared for a deluge of tiny cuteness in the coming month!
Photographs by Orange Photographie.
The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Always consult your healthcare professional for medical advice.