Written by our in-house Naturopath, Holistic Nutritionsit and Medical Herbalist Emma Gibson, from Nala Holistic.
Pregnancy is one of the most creative and transformative chapters in a woman’s life, often being carried out amidst a life around her that remains relatively the same.
Traditionally, the whole pregnancy was regarded as nothing short of miraculous and a time where recognition and care for the mumma-to-be was extraordinary. Not just for the health of baby, but for the woman as she grows, transforms, prepares for birth and motherhood herself, and is asked to call on more strength than she ever knew she had.
When a woman is deeply taken care of and resourced with her nutritional, self-care, and unique needs during pregnancy and post-partum, this special time is made much more meaningful and the health and resiliency of mother, baby, and surrounding loved ones is enhanced.
So, what are some ways that we can support a healthy and happy pregnancy?
Soften the Stress
Accepting the newness and uncertainty is an essential element of early pregnancy. However, finding ways to minimise the impact of daily stressors is essential during this time. Movement and time in nature, breathing practices, being mindful of the content you consume and choosing to educate yourself on positive experiences around pregnancy, birth, and mothering, being surrounded by those who emanate hope and positivity are all things to be prioritised throughout pregnancy.
A Whole-Food, Nutrient-Dense Approach to Pregnancy (and everyday nutrition)
Pregnancy can completely change a woman's relationship to food. At times, it can be your best friend and other times your worst enemy, particularly in the first trimester.
What you consume before, during and after pregnancy may change, along with your body and baby's changing needs. Additional energy is required, which we are quick to think of for growing baby, but this is also to account for the placenta, expanding maternal tissues, and the added effort required at rest and during activity PLUS in preparation for breastfeeding.
Working alongside a health-professional to ensure your unique nutritional needs are met can be a huge help. High-quality prenatal supplementation can serve as an insurance policy of sorts, but there really is no replacement for a nutrient-dense diet of REAL food, tailored to you.
Nausea/Morning Sickness can make it hard to then eat. Some fresh slices of ginger with Mitchells Bone Broth Powder is a great nutrient-top up + tummy soother to keep mild nausea at bay. See here how Libby Rainger used the Mitchells Bone Broth Protein Powders to help her through hyperemesis.
The general suggested protein intake for women is 1g/kg body weight per day. Protein requirements increase dramatically during pregnancy, with studies suggesting 1.2g/kg of body weight per day, increasing to 1.5g/kg of body weight in the later weeks of pregnancy.
For example if a woman weighs 70kg: 70kg X 1.2g = 84g protein/day, dividing this into 3 meals throughout the day: 28g/meal, OR 4 meals: 21g/meal.
Examples of Protein Sources (approximately):
85g cooked beef or lamb: 25g protein
1/2 cup cooked black beans: 6.25g protein
1 cup cooked quinoa: 6.25g protein
1 tbsp. pure peanut butter: 4.16g protein
3 tbsp. hemp seeds: 10g protein
1 large egg: 6g protein
Protein is made up of amino acids, and these are essential for growth and maintenance of all cells and tissues in the body. Both your’s and baby’s.
More often than not, I would suggest using a protein powder to help bolster protein intake throughout pregnancy. The Mitchells Bone Broth Protein Powders (24g+ protein per serve) are safe throughout pregnancy and post-partum.
Note that the above is a general base guideline and it is best to speak to a health professional to ensure you are meeting your unique needs.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Essential fatty acids act as the building blocks for baby's brain and eye development, and influence brain development and cognition in early childhood. Let’s not forget here that baby’s needs draw on mum’s reserves and EFAs are crucial to mum’s brain health and cognition too.
‘Essential’ means that the body cannot produce them and they must be obtained from our diet. They can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, ground flaxseed oil, as well as fish oils, and algal oils, to name a few.
Here’s the catch (excuse the pun): typically, women are often concerned about the effect of mercury and microplastics contamination in oily fish so reduce their fish intake (and rightly so), but this compromises their intake of essential fatty acids too.
The easiest way to ensure adequate intake is through supplementation. Brain development begins very quickly after conception so it is best to start supplementing in the preconception period or as soon as you know you are pregnant, right throughout breastfeeding. We highly recommend you speak to a health professional to ensure you are getting a clean, pure, and high-dose source of both EPA and DHA essential fatty acids.
Build Your Village / Community & Support System
Build up your network of nourishing humans BEFORE baby arrives, and ideally have these people that you love and trust around you throughout pregnancy. These are loved ones who do not expect to be hosted or tended to and can be there for you in whatever state you may be in, from joy and love to uncertainty and sleep-deprivation states.
Receiving external support in throughout pregnancy, especially throughout the post-partum period is essential. Having loved ones around that can prepare food, carry out chores, tend to older children, and hold baby whilst you shower or sleep is invaluable. It is important they are able to unconditionally respect your needs and boundaries.
The Power of Preconception Care
Preconception care is not to be considered a luxury, it is essential. This looks like working with a naturopath or nutritionist for at least 4months prior to conception to promote optimal wellbeing and address any imbalances in both partners. The purpose of this is to provide the infant with the best health possible at birth, in a way that even early prenatal care cannot.
The involvement of both partners is crucial, both because fertility, pregnancy, and infant health risk factors affect both males and females, as well as the simple importance of sharing the preparation for a major life transition. Gentle-ness and patience is essential during this time. Some couples achieve conception soon after trying, for others, patience is required.
Ideally, couples commit to at least 4 months of preconception care before trying to conceive. Why a minimum of 4months? This provides time and space to explore and address all health factors affecting both male and female. But, more specifically...
The production of new sperm takes up to 116 days, requiring as high a level of nutritional support and as low an exposure to toxins as possible. This is also true for production of eggs, with this process taking approximately 100 days before ovulation.
Many lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental factors affect fertility, birth success, and infant health. Preconception care addresses these factors, also accounting for the 3-4 month period it takes to produce healthy sperm and eggs.
Generally, a preconception dietary approach will focus on improving egg quality, helping to balance and optimise hormones, minimise inflammation, and promote proper digestion, detoxification and elimination. As well as, of course, any of your unique needs.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is not intended to be medical advice, this blog is for educational purposes only. We suggest you consult with your healthcare professional to determine what is right for you and your health.
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