Health Tips for a Happy Healthy Pregnancy
Becoming pregnant brings on a whirlwind of changes. Emotions during this time are ever-changing and hormone fuelled; from excitement and joy of the upcoming bundle, to anxiety and fear of the many unknowns in the near future. In addition to what can already be emotionally challenging, our bodies begin to change, and there are many potential discomforts that may come along with this. Some discomforts include morning sickness, hip or back pain, heartburn, fatigue, constipation etc. During pregnancy, it is not safe to use many ‘over the counter’, or prescription medications which makes Naturopathic care during pregnancy a great option.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I can help you in a variety of ways throughout your pregnancy. In addition to addressing specific concerns that may arise using safe and natural therapies, I ensure you’re equipped with all the best information and resources in order to feel confident that you are making informed decisions for your family. I believe in health through education, and I have a complimentary educational gift for you! I have created a quick guide of foods to consume and avoid; this will help your start towards a healthy and comfortable pregnancy.
Foods to boost the health of you and your developing baby:
*Note: if possible, try to eat organic foods while pregnant. If this is not possible, consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for information on which foods are the most important to eat organic.
Green leafy vegetables
- Swiss chard
Berries and dark leafy greens have the highest nutrient density of any food. This means that for each mouthful you have of these foods, you get more bang for your buck in terms of the concentration of nutrients you are consuming. During pregnancy, developing babies, the uterus and placenta have huge nutrient requirements, and eating nutrient dense foods can help to provide these essential building blocks to growing a tiny human. I recommend having 1-2 servings of berries per day and a serving of dark leafy greens with every meal (and yes, that includes breakfast! Consider my morning smoothie recipe to get your greens in the morning).
As nutrient density is important in pregnancy, carbohydrate sources should not include white processed grain products like white rice, white breads and white crackers. The processing of white grain products strip away most of the nutritional value of the grain.
Fish or fish oil
Fish consist of very important nutrients for your developing baby, but there are some limitations when eating fish. Many of my patients find it easier to get their daily dose of Omega 3 fatty acids by taking a fish oil (note: this is different from cod liver oil. Cod liver oil should not be consumed during pregnancy). Keep reading for more details on how to safely consume fish during pregnancy.
Good sources of fat
Almonds & walnuts
Coconut oil/coconut milk
Our brains are made up of a very large percentage, by volume, of fatty tissue and therefore to help with healthy brain growth and development in your baby it is important to get adequate healthy fats in your diet during pregnancy. Making salad dressings from scratch with olive oil is a great way to get some additional healthy fats. Add in some slivered almonds, and you have two great sources of healthy fats and some nutrient dense greens. Try this recipe.
Try to drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Plenty of water can decrease food cravings as dehydration is often mistaken for cravings.
Your protein consumption should increase to about 1.1g/kg of your body weight. Protein sources (if non vegetarian) can include cooked meats and eggs, pasteurized dairy products, nuts and seeds, legumes and if necessary protein powders.
Good protein sources (vitamin K2)
Grass fed beef
Grass fed dairy
Vitamin K2 is very deficient in the modern North American diet. This is largely because the meats we are consuming are grain fed, as opposed to their natural diets. Vitamin K2 is very important for the development of your babies’ teeth, jaw and bones during pregnancy and into childhood. By consuming grass fed beef and pasture raised chicken or pork, we can increase consumption of this important nutrient as well as gain many other additional benefits from these foods. Grass fed and pasture raised animal products (note: this is not the same as free run or free range) can be found at Market Fresh in Guelph and direct from many local farms in the area. My husband and I order in bulk directly from our local grass fed, organic farm to make the beef more affordable.
You and your baby’s health can be affected by more foods than you might realize. Understanding what foods to avoid during pregnancy is an important aspect of nutrition during pregnancy.
Raw meat or raw seafood: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided due to risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella.
Deli meats and hotdogs: Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria is able to cross the placenta and may infect the baby, leading to infection or blood poisoning, which may be life-threatening.
Certain types of fish: Fish can be a great source of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3s in fish support the proper development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. Research suggests that complete avoidance of fish during pregnancy may contribute to poor verbal skills, behavioural problems, and other developmental issues during childhood.
However, fish that contain high levels of mercury must be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Fish with long life spans (i.e. shark and swordfish) tend to contain more mercury than smaller, younger fish. Farm-raised salmon should be avoided due to the significantly higher levels of PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs can disrupt the normal development of the endocrine (hormone) system. In addition, farm-raised fish generally have less nutritional value than wild fish due to the restricted diet they consume on fish farms.
High quality fish oil supplements carried by most Naturopathic Doctors are rigorously tested for mercury and other contaminants, and are safe during pregnancy.
Smoked Seafood: Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria. (These are safe to eat when they are an ingredient in a meal that has been cooked, like a casserole.)
Raw Shellfish: The majority of seafood-borne illnesses are caused by undercooked shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but does not prevent the algae-related infections that are associated with red tides. Raw shellfish pose a concern for everybody, and they should be avoided altogether during pregnancy.
Raw Eggs: Raw eggs or any foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to salmonella. Some homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards and Hollandaise sauces may be made with raw eggs; when preparing eggs at home, cook them until the whites and yolk are opaque and firm. Generally, commercially manufactured ice cream, dressings and eggnog are made with pasteurized eggs; and do not increase the risk of salmonella. Check the manufacturers website if you’re unsure.
Soft Cheeses: Imported soft cheeses may contain listeria. Avoid soft cheeses such as: Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk. All soft non-imported cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
Unpasteurized Milk: Unpasteurized milk may contain bacteria called listeria. Make sure that any milk you drink is pasteurized.
Pate: Refrigerated pate or meat spreads should be avoided because they also may contain listeria.
Liver: Liver is high in vitamin A, and high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy may cause birth defects. Liver can be consumed during pregnancy, but only in small quantities and no more than once per week.
Caffeine: Although most studies show that caffeine intake in moderation does not cause harm to the developing baby, there are others that show that caffeine intake may be related to miscarriages. Avoid caffeine during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage.
As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per day during pregnancy. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it helps eliminate fluids from the body. This can result in water and calcium loss. Some research shows that large amounts of caffeine are associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms in infants. The safest thing is to refrain from consuming caffeine.
Alcohol: There is NO amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy; therefore, alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of the baby. Depending on the amount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders. If you consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, stop drinking now. You should continue to avoid alcohol during breastfeeding. Exposure of alcohol to an infant poses harmful risks, and alcohol does reach the baby during breastfeeding.
Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are safe to eat, and you should be eating a wide variety of them throughout pregnancy. However, it is essential to make sure they are washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis may contaminate the soil where the vegetables were grown. Also be sure to cut away and discard any damaged parts of the fruits and vegetables to avoid bacteria and mould growth.
Raw Sprouts: Raw sprouts – including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean may be contaminated with bacteria and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Artificial Sweeteners: Although the FDA considers artificial sweeteners to be safe in pregnancy, I recommend they be eliminated from the diet. Aspartame, for example, consists of three components: the amino acids phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. Methanol is toxic in humans even when consumed in small amounts. There are also concerns that aspartame may have a link to immune system dysfunction and neurotoxicity. It is best to avoid all artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. Examples of artificial sweeteners include sweet’n low, saccharine, aspartame, sucralose, sorbitol, Splenda and xylitol.
Herbal Teas: Many herbal teas are safe during pregnancy, but some are not. Some teas are safe for consumption during the third trimester, but not the first. Do not consume herbal teas without first seeking the advice of a Naturopathic Doctor.
Other considerations during pregnancy include avoiding toxic chemicals in your environment including food packaging, personal care products and cleaning products.
As you can see there is much to consider when caring for your little one that is growing inside you, and consulting with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you to navigate through the often conflicting and confusing information that is available to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
Naturopathic medicine is an ideal treatment option during pregnancy; however, being under the care of a naturopathic doctor during pregnancy does not replace the prenatal care offered by your medical doctor or midwife. Naturopathic care should be used in addition to those services.
A Naturopathic Doctor can help you feel great throughout your pregnancy, as well as addressing pregnancy-related complaints such as fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps and more! In pregnancy you may want to avoid using antibiotics and other pharmaceutical medications for common concerns such as sinusitis, colds, allergies and more. Your ND can find safe and effective natural methods to address your health concerns. In addition, there are a number of interventions which can help maximize your baby’s health, reducing the likelihood of them developing asthma, allergies, eczema, etc.
A naturopathic doctor can help prepare for labour and delivery. Pre-labour acupuncture starting at 36 weeks gestation has been shown to reduce labour time and complications by naturally preparing the cervix for delivery. Acupuncture can help to turn a breech baby, and help if you go past due with your baby by inducing labour.
Naturopathic care post-partum aims to support the ongoing health of you and your baby. Naturopathic treatments can help with moms’ recovery and offer treatments for perineal healing, to support milk supply, and to offer support for post partum depression and anxiety. In addition, naturopathic medicine can offer gentle and safe treatments for infant colic, eczema, cradle cap and teething pain.
You may find general answers to your pregnancy related questions online, but your ND can help develop an individualized treatment plan that is safe, tailored to you and your partner, and takes your personal health history into consideration.
Most extended health care plans include naturopathic medicine. Pregnancy is a great time to use these benefits to maximize your health and the health of your future child!