Nutrition during pregnancy begins before you even conceive. Just getting pregnant can be very hard for some people if they live in a toxic environment lacking the proper nourishment. Personally I didn’t get pregnant until I began to exercise regularly and juice (this was before I was more into blending). Studies have even shown that nutrition for the father as well is vitally important. Here is an article where you can read about how cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption by the father can cause birth defects just as much as the mother doing the same thing. I want to drive home the importance of removing toxins from the home if you are having problems conceiving Things like Windex bleach, and air fresheners may be standing in the way of you and a baby, just as much as your diet. Google “home toxins and miscarages” and you will find a number of papers written on the subject. This article here, entitled, “10 Ways Your Home is Making You infertile,” goes more into depth about things around your house that may be causing infertility.
By now, things to avoid are pretty widely understood, but I’ll go through it here anyway:
- Scientific studies have shown that cigarette smoking has a marked effect on the size of the baby, since it can cross the placental barrier.
- Avoid all alcohol, which can also cross the placental barrier in unknown amounts and potentially cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Avoid over-the-counter drugs without checking with your prenatal care provider. For example, aspirin, in the early months of pregnancy, can result in malformation of the central nervous system in babies. For the expectant mother it can cause prolonged gestation, anemia, hemorrhage, and a complicated delivery.
- If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, talk with your doctor or OB/GYN immediately to ensure that they are not contraindicated with pregnancy. Also, discuss with him or her any over the counter drugs or supplements you have been taking.
- Coffee, tea, salt, and foods that contain preservatives and artificial coloring or insecticides should also be avoided, as they can cause side effects in both the mother and the baby and place an unnecessary burden on the eliminatory organs and digestive system of the mother.
Some other foods that should be avoided are tuna (due to high levels of
mercury), raw meat and fish (due to potential for contamination), and
cheeses with mold (such as Camembert).
So what can a pregnant woman eat, or better yet, what should they eat? Every woman who ever got pregnant knows cravings, I for one craved peanut butter. I would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and eat it from the jar off a spoon. What I didn’t know then, that I’ve since learned from school:
Cravings may be experienced throughout the whole pregnancy from time to time. These may be the body telling you what it needs, or may be old habits reappearing. Do not satisfy cravings immediately. Instead, examine them. Look at what nutrients are in the craved foods and adjust the diet accordingly. Do not totally ignore your cravings. Often instincts and cravings are the body’s way of telling you what it needs. Listen to your body and intuition carefully. Just try to substitute healthier alternatives where possible. For example, if you are craving something sweet, have some fresh pineapple instead of chocolate.
The protein requirements during pregnancy are 60-80-gm/day. Try to eat approximately three to four servings of complete protein daily. (Quinoa, beans and rice, lentils and peas, tofu) Protein is important for the growth of the baby. It can help ease morning sickness. It is also needed to provide for the 20% increase in blood volume. The best protein sources are eggs, fish, meat, beans, nuts, seeds, sprouts, cheese, and milk. When choosing fish, avoid the larger species (such as tuna, swordfish, and shark), which can contain high levels of heavy metals, including mercury. Also, avoid farmed salmon, which can contain high levels of antibiotics. Choose wild Alaskan salmon instead.
If you are vegetarian, make sure your diet is varied and includes grains, beans, and vegetables. Two excellent books for supplying vegetarian babies with all their protein requirements is The Vegetarian Baby by Sharon Yntema, Thorsons Publishers, and Feeding Baby Naturally From Pregnancy On by Catherine J. Frompovich, DSc., ND.
**I’m editing this post to add that EVERYTHING has protein in it, and if you eat a plant based diet it is very hard to be protein deficient. Eating a diet with a lot of vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts and grains, you will be fine.
“If your diet is varied and contains good protein sources such as soy products, beans, and grains, and you are gaining weight, you can relax and not worry about getting enough protein. Many women simply get the extra protein they need by eating more of the foods they usually eat. As an example, you can add 25 grams of protein to your usual diet by adding 1-1/2 cups of lentils or tofu, 3-1/2 cups of soy milk, or 2 large bagels.” (From http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php)
If you are a vegetarian, however, PLEASE make sure you are getting enough vitamin B12. Supplement with nutritional yeast. “The regular use of vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods is recommended for all pregnant vegans. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the developing fetus. Fortified foods include some breakfast cereals, some soy milks, and Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast.” (also from http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php)
A certain amount of fat in the diet is important and will protect against dry skin, stretch marks, and constipation. We heal from within, and no amount of lotion on your stomach is going to make those stretch marks go away if you are not nourishing your insides with enough healthy fats. If you are worried about too much weight gain, rest assured, healthy fats do not make you fat! Good sources of healthy fats are fresh seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil, cold pressed vegetable oil, and lecithin.
The pregnant woman needs a certain amount of carbohydrates. A diet of whole foods, grains, nuts, and seeds is already high in natural carbohydrates. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar, which affect blood sugar levels and lead to lower energy levels.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation:
Always look to food sources for vitamin and minerals, rather than relying on supplements. Stomach acids are reduced during pregnancy and absorption of supplements may be reduced. The OB/GYN, licensed naturopath, or midwife should provide information on prenatal supplements.
Now to get on with dealing with issues that arise for every woman. From morning sickness to lactation, its something every pregnant women has to deal with.
Dealing with Morning Sickness:
Dehydration can quickly occur if morning sickness is so severe that fluids cannot be retained. This is very dangerous for mother and baby: Refer to the OB/GYN or midwife.
If morning sickness is a problem, the following may assist:
- Ensure adequate zinc and vitamin B6 intake.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently: Even every two hours may be necessary.
- Eat something before rising in the morning.
- Avoid refined sugar and excessively fatty foods.
- Focus on organic fruits and vegetables.
- Apple cider vinegar in water. (I drink this all the time, I sweeten mine with stevia)
- Teas of basil, calendula, caraway , cloves , peach leaf tea, or spearmint. Use 1-tsp of the herb in 1-cup of boiling water to prepare the tea. Use up to three times daily.
- Juice a ¼-inch thick slice of fresh ginger, half a handful of fresh mint, one kiwifruit, and one-quarter of a fresh pineapple together and drink up to two times a day.
Preparing for delivery:
Red raspberry leaf tea if taken regularly throughout the last four weeks of pregnancy will help in a speedy delivery. The leaves contain a substance called fragine that has a toning, relaxing effect on the whole pelvic area in preparation for the enormous expansion that takes place during the birth. The tea can be taken four weeks before the birth and will give elasticity to the pelvic and vaginal area, toning and strengthening the whole area for an easier birth.
Prepare red raspberry as a tea using 1-t to 1-cup of boiling water, steep for 10-20 minutes, strain, and drink 1-cup night and morning.
I drink red raspberry tea all the time (even though I’m not pregnant), its quite tasty! It can even aid in getting pregnant. It is not to be drank in the early stages of pregnancy however.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy:
Too little weight gain during pregnancy can be as harmful as too much. With such an emphasis on “thin is beautiful,” many pregnant women strive to stay too thin. The amount of weight gained will of course vary according to body structure. Generally, it should be within 25-45-lb. The extra weight is distributed to:
- The fetus, placenta, and intrauterine fluid
- Uterus, breast tissue, fluids, blood
- Maternal fat
Try and balance weight gain to:
- 8-15-lb during the first 20 weeks; and then
- 1-lb per week for the duration of the pregnancy.
No weight gain at all may be due to a highly restrictive diet or prolonged morning sickness. This can be detrimental to both the mother and the baby. Babies who suffer from such things as milk allergies, ear infection, tonsillitis, and buckteeth can be born to mothers with poor nutrition.
Exercise During Pregnancy:
Check with your prenatal care provider, but generally in a healthy pregnancy, exercise is vital. It will keep the mother supple, toned, and fit in preparation for the work of birth. Avoid violent exercise, such as jogging or aerobics. Yoga, walking, swimming, and cycling are all good.
Heartburn and indigestion:
Baking soda and common antacids should not be taken: They contain sodium and will increase fluid retention. The B vitamins, enzyme supplements, and regular use of slippery elm will help to reduce heartburn and indigestion. Chamomile tea aids digestion, and its calming effects will help you relax.
As I stated in the first part of this series, human milk is the perfect food for infants. Breast-feed if at all possible: Breast milk is the ideal food for babies and contains maternal antibodies that help the baby to develop a resistance to infections during the early months of life.
Herbal teas can help with milk production, there are many pre-made on the market, I drank mothers milk tea, but drinking fennel tea made with barley water is quite effective, along with the following herbs:
- Anise seeds
- Borage Borago
- Buckwheat Fagopyrum
- Red raspberry
All these herbs can be used as teas and where possible included in the daily diet. Anise essential oil is effective for increasing the supply of milk. Take 1-2-drops on the tongue or on honey twice a day. Do not increase this dosage.
The volume of milk produced varies over the duration of lactation from the first few weeks to 6 months and beyond but is remarkably predictable except during extreme malnutrition or severe dehydration. The volume of milk will diminish only after the maternal urine output has been significantly compromised (10% dehydration). This means a nursing mother must drink ample amounts of fluid. Malnutrition, however, is complex, and single nutrient deficiencies are rare. Malnutrition does seem to have an effect on the total volume of milk produced. It was reported that the volume of milk was slightly diminished during malnutrition, but the duration of lactation was not affected. Milk was produced at the expense of maternal tissue. Meaning that if there is not enough nutrients, the milk won’t be affected, but the mother’s health will.
The Bad fats:
The fat that you eat appear in your milk, so if you eat margarine rather then butter have high levels of Trans Fatty acids will be in your milk. It is so important to remember that what you eat effects your baby and things like hydrogenated oils are bad for both of you.
From a practical standpoint, mothers have an increased thirst, which usually maintains a need for added fluid intake. When fluids are restricted, mothers will experience a decrease in urine output, not in milk. Sharply decreasing fluids to prevent engorgement in the mother who is not lactating is ineffectual, however, and only adds another inconvenience and discomfort.
If you take anything away from this, I hope that you understand that nutrition is important not only during, but before and after pregnancy. Listen to your body, know what the cravings are telling you, and understand that if you breastfeed (which by now I’ve driven home is the best way to feed your newborn) that EVERYTHING you eat…or do not eat…effects your milk. And, of course, avoid all processed foods, sugars, white flours, additives, and artificial sweeteners…
- Foods that May Help Curb Morning Sickness – Pregnancy – Exercise & Nutrition (everydayfamily.com)
- Nutrition during Pregnancy – Healthy Diet for You and Your Baby (everydayfamily.com)
- Pregnancy Morning Sickness or Nausea Cures – Common Discomforts (everydayfamily.com)
- How to prepare for a homebirth in a Post Collapse situation (thesurvivalistblog.net)