Pregnancy is an incredible time and every mother-to-be deserves to enjoy it
I loved being pregnant. In fact, I never felt better than when I was expecting, but I know dozens of women who certainly don’t feel the same.
While every pregnant woman has her own story, I personally attribute my vibrant pregnancies to my educational background in prenatal nutrition. Having developed a strong preconception diet and knowing what a high quality prenatal diet and supplementation protocol looked like, was invaluable to me. Now, I guide women in the planning stages and mothers-to-be so that they can enjoy a vibrant pregnancy too.
In my experience as a Nutritionist, I have met many women who suffered from pregnancy related symptoms but felt like they just had to ‘ride the waves’ until it was over. Here’s a secret, pregnancy doesn’t have to be all about nausea, heart burn, fatigue, and swelling. It can be a happy, energetic, glowing, and amazing time with a little help from every pregnant woman’s two best friends: wholesome food and supporting supplements.
Nutrition and supplementation are strong contenders for boosting energy levels, mood and mental acuity and for reducing heartburn, nausea, high blood pressure and the risk of postnatal depression. Healthy maternal diets can prevent a high-risk pregnancy as well as lower the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate and neural tube defects, especially when taken during the preconception period. [i] Essentially, if there was ever a time to eat right, it’s now. You have 9 months to build your masterpiece and like anything else you make, you need the right materials. Let me put this into perspective.
During pregnancy, the need for adequate supplies of protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals goes up. Luckily, these are all available from the grocery store so you can continue to drive past your local fast food joint. The protein from your food will help to build your baby’s organs (i.e. kidneys, liver, lungs, heart), hair, nails, hormones, enzymes and plenty of other important features. In the first trimester, you will need approximately 50g daily increasing to 60g-80g during the last trimester. [ii] Healthy fats from your diet are essential too and will help to build your baby’s brain and improve your circulation. Dr. Mercola reports that the DHA component of the omega-3 fatty acid is “so essential to a child’s development that if a mother and infant are deficient in it, the child's nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders.” [iii] The best sources for building these brain fats are wild caught Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, and fish or krill oil.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals needed for brain, immune and heart function, nerve transmission, digestion, muscle growth and joint support and for just about everything. Your fruits and veggies also contain much needed fibre to eliminate the toxic waste you don’t want circulating in your body. Fibre will promote regular bowel movements which helps to prevent hemorrhoids and constipation. A rich, colourful supply of fresh produce will provide you and your baby with antioxidants that protect the cells from damage as well as a bountiful array of other nutrients that support a healthy pregnancy.
Here are a few important nutritional tips to help you to have a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Eat at regular intervals. This means eating smaller meals/snacks every 2-3 hours. This will help to keep blood sugar levels regulated which helps to boost energy and stifle cravings.
Choose clean, whole organic and local foods whenever possible. Spend more time shopping the perimeters of the grocery store and less time in the aisles.
Avoid packaged and processed foods as they are high in sodium, sugar, preservatives and artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners.
Drink approximately ten, 8oz cups of water a day to help prevent constipation and bladder infections. This does not include carbonated beverages, coffee or caffeinated teas as they are dehydrating. Choose soup broths, decaffeinated herbal teas and filtered water.
Choose a high quality prenatal multivitamin/mineral from your local health food store. The drugstore variety of prenatals not only use cheap ingredients that are hard to absorb but can also contain unacceptable ingredients. Like any packaged product, please read the label for the non-medicinal ingredients. Below is a list of ingredients, from a popular doctor recommended brand, that should not be in your supplements. If you find any or all the of highlighted items (at the very least), please visit your local health food store and choose a better one. Thorne Basics prenatal is an example of a very good choice.
Non-medicinal ingredients: ascorbyl palmitate, BHT, calcium phosphate, citric acid, corn starch, crospovidone, FD&C Red No. 40, gelatin, hypromellose, lactose, magnesium stearate, methylcellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, mineral oil, modified food starch, polysorbate 80, silicon dioxide, sodium alumino-silicate, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, sodium citrate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sorbic acid, soybean oil, stearic acid, sucrose, titanium dioxide, triethyl citrate. [iv]
[i] Carmichael SL1, Yang W, Feldkamp ML, Munger RG, Siega-Riz AM, Botto LD, Shaw G. Reduced risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts with higher diet quality. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21969361
[ii] Kaur ND, Sat Dharam. The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. Toronto: Robert Rose Inc., 2005
[iii] Mercola, Joseph. No-Nonsense Guide to a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy and Baby. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from
[iv] Centrum Reference Chart (2011). Retrieved June 3, 2016, from http://www.centrum.ca/sites/default/files/ReferenceChartEnglish.pdf