Pregnancy is such a special time in a woman’s life. The excitement, the anticipation and the deep love that begins to grow for your developing baby are all amazing experiences. Pregnancy is one of the most important opportunities you will have to impact the health of your child for the rest of their life. Take this time to nourish and take care of yourself and your baby. To help you do just that here are my top 10 tips for a healthy pregnancy…
1. Eat essential fatty acids daily
Let’s start this list with an easy one. Fats are so vitally important – they are used to produce hormones, aid in the development of your baby’s nervous system and brain, and to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and postpartum depression. Foods that are high in EFA’s (essential fatty acids) are fish, nuts and seeds. For extra insurance it is also suggested to add an EFA supplement such as Cod Liver Oil to the mix.
2. Drink plenty of fluids
Optimize your fluid intake with nutrient rich liquids besides water
Dr. Brewer was an obstetrician who specialized in reducing the chances of developing preeclampsia (a dangerous pregnancy complication) and preterm labor through diet by focusing on producing adequate blood volume. You should read about the Brewers Diet in its entirety, but two major takeaways are to eat a high protein diet and to drink plenty of fluids that contain nutrients. So, instead of just drinking large amounts of plain water – which Brewer states dilutes the blood volume – drink organic milk, fresh pressed juices, smoothies or pregnancy tonic teas in addition to water.
3. Take a prenatal multivitamin before & during pregnancy
You’ve heard this one before but it is worth repeating because of how important it is. Taking a prenatal vitamin daily is an easy way to insure that you are getting all of the important nutrients needed for the many different and miraculous stages of pregnancy. If you are preparing for pregnancy, begin taking your prenatal beforehand to make sure you have adequate levels of b12 and folic acid during the critical fertilization and cell division stage of early pregnancy. This is the time in pregnancy when deficiencies in folic acid could cause major developmental issues for baby such as spina bifida.
4. Vitamin D is important
Vitamin D has been a hot topic in the health world for years now, but it still has not changed the fact that more people are deficient in vitamin D than those who have adequate levels. Vitamin D is important during pregnancy because it helps to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphate in the body. Healthy levels of these nutrients are needed for healthy bone formation in your baby. Research shows that supplementing with vitamin D3 during pregnancy will help to promote healthy bone-mass for children later in life. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to an increased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm labor.
5. Prepare for the postpartum period
When I was pregnant so many friends and family members would ask about our plans for the birth. Where, with whom, would I choose medication, etc. While the birth is important it just felt weird to me that so much attention/preparation is paid to the birth, but little-to-no attention or preparations are made for the postpartum period.
The postpartum period, or fourth trimester as some call it, is such a special and delicate period which deserves attention and planning. You would think that giving birth would finally be the end of all the hard work your body has to go through, but things are not quite done yet. Over the first couple of months postpartum your body transitions from growing and developing a baby to nourishing your baby, while also transforming back to its non-pregnant self. Your hormones are changing, your uterus is shrinking, your breasts are producing milk, your skin is repairing, and your blood volume is changing dramatically; you are healing from birth.
Take time to make a postpartum plan. How long will you stay in bed and just focus on breastfeeding your baby, bonding and resting? Prepare frozen meals ahead of time so you have nourishing foods to eat those first few weeks. Make a decision ahead of time how long you will do this for and make arrangements for your household tasks to be taken care of.
There are three books I enjoyed and got many ideas for planning my postpartum period:
- Natural Health after Birth by Aviva Romm
- A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock
- After the Baby’s Birth… A Woman’s Way to Wellness by Robin Lim
6. Study and prepare for breastfeeding
If you have done any research online or read any breastfeeding books you will come away from your research knowing two things – its hard to breastfeed and not everyone can do it. That’s pretty dismal. If I were to choose the main ‘facts’ about breastfeeding for you to remember they would be:
- 1. It’s something you may have to work at, BUT it so worth it.
2. Breastfeed frequently the first month to establish your milk.
3. Know the size of a newborn’s stomach so you have an idea of how much milk they really need. It’s a lot less than you think.
4. It is worth it (yes, I said it again), don’t give up, even if it hurts at first.
5. It will get better.
It may be helpful to plan on having a lactation consultant visit you the first couple of days after you give birth to help with any questions you may have. Many hospitals have them on staff or your midwife can suggestion one. You think something so natural and necessary for survival would be easy to do, but it is a learning process. Even monkeys have to learn from one another how to breastfeed.
I would also suggest having a friend who has breastfed on your speed dial. I know being able to call my girlfriend Dalene those first couple of days after birth were sooo helpful, especially when my milk was coming in and hormonally/emotionally I was a wreck. I’m all better now!
7. Find a practitioner you love
When you first find out you are pregnant it is all so very exciting, but soon after you will have the job of picking your practitioner. Will you use an OBGYN or a Midwife? Will you give birth at home or the hospital? This is one of the most important decision you will make for your pregnancy and birth.
Take the time to research your options and bring a list of questions to your first meeting with your potential practitioner candidates. Not all doctors are the same and not all midwives are the same. Their beliefs about birth will have an impact on the type of birth you end up having. Their beliefs about nutrition will have an impact on the health of your pregnancy.
Pick someone you like, who has good bedside manner, but also make sure they are supportive and believe in the type of birth you want. If you chose a doctor and they said ‘yes’ to all of the items that are important to you, but you are starting to see glimpses of an attitude that is of the contrary, don’t be afraid to change practitioners. You are hiring them for a service; a very important one at that. So take the time to find a practitioner you love, you are going to be spending a lot of time with them and the health of your pregnancy and birth depend on it.
8. Drink pregnancy smoothies
This one is easy and fun. Sometimes during pregnancy it is going to be hard to keep food down, or certain foods are going to be unappealing. Pregnancy smoothies are an easy way to get nutrients into your diet. You can add greens, yogurt, protein, etc. to your smoothies, which will help you to meet your daily nutritional quota.
When I was pregnant my appetite was ferocious. I was also following the Brewer Pregnancy Diet and had to consume a lot of protein servings, calcium and greens. I found pregnancy smoothies to be an easy way to get my nutrients in and satiate my appetite. For some ideas on what to put into a pregnancy smoothie and how to make one check out my article ‘Pregnancy Smoothies 101’.
9. Eat plenty of protein
Earlier I mentioned the importance of protein in the pregnancy diet. Proteins are required for their amino acids which are the building blocks of the body’s cells. During pregnancy your baby is developing at such a rapid rate, adequate protein levels on a daily basis are essential and necessary.
The recommended grams of protein a day will vary depending on your weight, but a minimum of 70 – 90 grams is the normal range. On the Brewers Diet you will be recommended to eat even more. When you begin trying to eat more protein you may find it hard at first. Before pregnancy a typical woman eats around 45 -50 grams of protein per day.
Learning which foods are high in protein will make it much easier for you as you plan meals and snacks throughout your day. Make sure to include a range of protein foods in your diet. Some ideas are: Meats, greek yogurt, nuts & seeds, fish, beans, eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, whole grain bread, and spirulina. I also found using a protein powder in smoothies to be indispensable. I really love whey protein powder.
Your body may be forcing you to get rest by being utterly exhausted. Listen to your body and take the time to rest. You may have to adjust the pace of life you are used to moving at now that you are pregnant. This is also a good time to get massages and take on more relaxing types of exercises such as walking, swimming or yoga.
Pregnancy is such a sacred time in life. Take the time to enjoy it and cherish the miracle that is occurring. Have a happy and healthy pregnancy!
1. Brewer, Tom, Dr. “Good Nutrition for Healthier Moms and Babies”. 2008 http:// www.BlueRibbonBaby.org
2. Barton-Schuster, Dalene “What to Eat During Pregnancy”. http://natural-fertility-info.com/what-to-eat-during-pregnancy.html
3. Barton-Schuster, Dalene “Folic Acid Vital For Preconception & Pregnancy”. http://natural-fertility-info.com/folic-acid-preconception-pregnancy.html
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