Having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby isn’t just about taking a prenatal vitamin and trying to eat right. Your emotions, exercise, how you connect with the baby all play an integral part in a healthy pregnancy.
What to eat
Certainly the same foods listed on the Healthy Body page apply here. You can never eat too many fresh fruits and vegetables while pregnant. Your baby needs these vitamins to develop and grow properly. If getting enough of these is a chore try drinking them as fresh vegetable and fruit juice.
Even while eating a diet high in these foods you will still benefit from taking a high quality multi-vitamin among other nutrients. Both multi-vitamins from www.integratedhealth.com have 800 mcg of folinic acid (the preferred form of folate) per serving as well as co-enzyme forms of B-vitamins allowing your body to use the nutrients immediately rather than spend time converting it to usable forms.
Magnesium is a very important mineral during pregnancy. Magnesium relaxes muscles while calcium contracts. Both minerals are needed during pregnancy but most people already consume insufficient amounts of magnesium so supplementation may be helpful. Use magnesium in forms other than magnesium oxide, which is not very bioavailable (not readily usable for the body – requires conversion to other forms). Instead use such forms as malate, citrate, diglycinate, as is found in Myo-Mag (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpdspec/myo.html).
Or consider using magnesium oil. It can be used directly on the skin with or without oils such as coconut or almond, or in a bath. (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpdspec/magnesium-oil.html) More information about magnesium oil can be found at: (http://magnesiumforlife.com/). I used magnesium oil nightly from head to toe when I was pregnant and was amazed at the difference in my ability to sleep through the night without getting up to use the bathroom. When I didn’t use it I had to get up 2 or even 3 times in the night.
Raw nuts and seeds are a storehouse of nutrients. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) has up to 8 mg of protein and 185 mg of magnesium among other important nutrients. Sesame seeds are high in calcium while almonds are high in vitamin E and walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. Try sprinkling them in salads or in top of sautéed vegetables.
For a healthy high energy snack try grinding walnuts and almonds in a food processor, add shredded coconut, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and/or maple syrup.
Sea vegetables and chlorella are another group of foods that are extremely high in nutrients. Chlorella (fresh water algae) for example, has more protein per weight than any animal source, has important essential fats (ALA and DHA) and is full of chlorophyll, a body purifier. This single-celled organism is also high in DNA and RNA which are the body’s building blocks allowing for optimal growth and repair of cells. Sea vegetable such as kelp, dulse, laver (nori), etc., are high in minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Kelp can provide 6 mg of iodine per ¼ teaspoon necessary for proper thyroid function. Choose Atlantic sea vegetables from a quality source (https://www.seaveg.com/shop/) to avoid possible radiation contamination; Pacific seafood is best avoided in general. All of these nutrients will help you to feel more energetic as well as give your baby a boost towards optimum health!
Water is very important during pregnancy. Dehydration can trigger more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions – the painless tightening of the uterus throughout pregnancy. Drinking eight cups of water a day will ensure good hydration.
Drink water that is filtered or if you drink distilled water be sure and add trace minerals. Chlorinated water is not good for you or the baby. Chlorine can interfere with thyroid function. Using sea salt instead of regular table salt will also give you trace minerals and is better for your body.
If you find that your ankles are swelling in the later months of pregnancy try watermelon if it is in season or dandelion tea to help rid excess water. Exercise is also beneficial to circulation for swelling.
It can be difficult to have enough energy for exercise, especially in the first trimester and when working a full-time job, but a walk around the block after dinner can help you digest better, keep bowels regular and sleep more soundly. Ultimately, regular exercise will give you more energy. During my pregnancy I walked up to a mile every day, did yoga at least 3 times a week and pilates once a week. This gentle exercise kept me limber so that I did not experience back pain and when I felt some discomfort in my hips and pelvis in the 7th month, pilates actually relieved the aching. I was able to exercise to the very last day.
Yoga and pilates both encourage strong abdominal and pelvic muscles. For this reason they can be extremely beneficial to get you in the shape you need to be to give birth. If your muscles are strong and you are getting all the nutrition you need then labor can be shorter and there can be less complications. If you have never tried yoga you can still start a prenatal class. If you have never tried pilates I would recommend private sessions to ensure your safety. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant I would recommend that you start your exercise routine now!
Meditation is important for all of us but it is most important during pregnancy. Meditation can be done lying down or sitting, anytime of day, using music or guided cd or silence. Don’t let concerns of “am I doing it right?” prevent you from just taking time to center yourself and connect with your baby.
Bring your consciousness to the center of you head- imagining the point behind your eyes and between your ears. Feel your tailbone lengthening, like a root, connecting with the center of the earth. Feel the weight of your body in the chair or on the bed, allow your tailbone area to relax. Open the top of your head and bring in gold or pink light through the top of your head – filling your body, and your baby’s, with nurturing energy.
This can be a very simple way to create peace and well-being in your body. It can also be a way to replenish yourself when you have too many demands from your life or other children. Another helpful meditation is to visualize a column of light surrounding you, that is an extension of your own inner light, that extends as far as your mind can travel above your head and down below your feel into the center of the earth. This column can be as solid as you need it to be to keep your own energy in and any discordant energy out.
Meditation can also speed the birth process. The birth of my son- my first and only child- was just under 4 hours. The pushing time was under an hour. My midwife was completely surprised by this as there is no history of precipitous birth with my mother and first births are usually longer. The key for me was letting go, asking for divine assistance, visualizing my cervix opening, my root chakra relaxing, and during labor continually doing this between or even during contractions. I have given other women the same advice and they have also had very speedy deliveries. When contractions are painful, sending gold light to the area or toning (singing a single note or word like OM) can be helpful. Meditation can also be done to ensure minimal bleeding by focusing on the uterus and visualizing the blood vessels constricting.
During the labor process my midwife used warm herbal compresses, which I felt were immensely helpful to preventing any tearing. You too, can have a birth with no episiotomy or tears! Washcloths were soaked in a crockpot of herbs containing: yarrow, lavender, rosemary, uva ursi, comfrey, shepherd’s purse and sea salt- equal portions by weight. Aside from being anti-inflammatory, these herbs are also infective and can be used as a sitz bath after birth to soothe the perineum. There are other herbs that can be effective for relaxing the perineum and for an anti-inflammatory effect.
To help the uterus return to normal and prevent bleeding try a tea of raspberry leaf and shepherd’s purse. Drink this as soon as possible after birth and continue every few hours – at least three cups a day. You can drink as much as a half cup of tea every hour if needed for severe bleeding. (Severe bleeding can be a sign of retained placenta so be in touch with your healthcare provider regarding how much bleeding you are having and whether that is normal).
Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most important things you can do for him or her and it also helps you by helping your uterus return to normal size, helping to shed weight and helping your hormones. It is natural for women to feed their babies and it is also convenient. You can feed your baby anywhere, anytime without preparation. Your baby will receive a boost in their immune system as you pass your immunity on to them. There is no formula that can compare to mother’s milk- nature cannot be replicated!
For insufficient milk production try 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast per day, chlorella, or Rejuvenate, which contains both of these foods (www.integratedhealth.com). There are also teas by Yogi or Traditional Medicinals specifically for nursing mothers. And don’t forget meditation! If you are worrying whether you have enough milk you probably won’t. Visualize the milk flowing- feel the abundance!
There are many books to assist you to breastfeed and for more personal assistance there is the La Leche league.
For more information on pregnancy the following books may be of interest:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Sacred Birthing by Sunni Karll