Prenatal Health & Nutrition
The first moment of awareness that you are in fact - pregnant is a profound and memorable moment. It can be profoundly joyful yet overwhelming yet a moment you'll never forget. I knew the moment as I conceived and the first sign of subtle changes occurring throughout my physical and mental being. My husband & I were at Rolley Lake in Mission, BC with family. That day I was feeling irritated, fatigued and I couldn't force myself to put it behind me no matter how hard I tried. There was absolutely nothing bothering me and I soon realized the source of my odd mood. I asked my sister-in-law what her first signs of pregnancy were and that's when I knew I was expecting. 2 weeks later, I wasn't surprised to receive not one but FOUR positive pregnancy tests. I've been a Nutritionist longer than I've been expecting, however, I spent much my studies fascinated by women's health and use my knowledge to empower women to take charge of their health. I believe a healthy lifestyle is attainable as long as it's simple, this way you are setting yourself up for success.
I've compiled a list of helpful tips to optimize your pregnancy through nutrition, lifestyle, supplementation, helpful books, and things to avoid. Please keep in mind that this information is written by a Certified Nutritional Practioner and approved thereby Hannah Smith's consulting Midwife.
- Consume loads of high-quality protein. Preferably free-range and grass-fed meats, organic free-run eggs, wild sustainable seafood with an emphasis on smaller fish.
- Consume lots of green leafy vegetables! They contain folate which is essential for normal fetal growth. During pregnancy, constipation can be an issue so when you're in doubt eat more veggies because you can ensure that you are getting enough vitamins,
- While you are pregnant and nursing, this is the time to load up on healthy fats! The key is quality fats which are jam-packed with nutrients and aid in baby's development, organ, and tissue growth. You also benefit from healthy milk production! Some sources are quality meats, coconut-based products, avocados, olive oil, hemp seeds and nut.
- Broths and soups are such an easy and simple way to add more nutrition to your day. Soups and broths tend to be relatively in nature to prep and once you have all the ingredients in your stock pot you just have to let the stock pot do all the work. Other ideas are green smoothies, berries, and homemade sauerkraut. These foods will also benefit you while you are nursing!
- Eat a balance of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
- Pregnancy only requires a slight increase in caloric intake, and consuming too many calories during pregnancy can be just as damaging as a calorie or nutrient deficiency.
- Keep empty calories to a minimum! Sure, you're entitled to your occasional treat and you certainly deserve to indulge here and there, however, it's best to limit these foods as much as possible because not all calories are created equal. The goal is to have quality calories to fuel you and your baby aka nutrient-dense foods.
- Skittles made a pretty good point with their marketing phrase ''taste the rainbow'' but instead of tasting the rainbow with empty calories, eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Doing this will ensure that you are getting enough essential nutrients in your daily diet. Ideally, your plate should be bright and colourful! If you see more whites and browns on your plate you can assume your meal isn't providing you with everything you need.
- Water is required for building your baby's cells and developing their circulatory system. Drinking adequate water will help to deliver nutrients to your baby and dispose of waste. Drink 1–2 glasses of water with every meal and snack, and carry around a refillable water bottle with you during the day.
- Keep it simple! I understand that it can feel overwhelming to think about giving adequate nutrition to yourself and your baby, therefore, keeping things flexible and easy is key. If you are not in the mood to eat a plate of greens, then don't! Prepare a sweet and creamy smoothie instead, make a large pot of soup that will serve as lunch or dinner for the week or make a large batch of tomato sauce to top over a steaming plate of chickpea pasta. The goals is to make a healthy lifestyle as easy as possible to keep it running long-term.
Hannah's favourite foods: fresh vegetables (especially dark leafy greens!), fresh fruits, organic free-range eggs, organic meat, wild salmon, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, quinoa, rolled oats and brown/wild rice.
Try out these recipes!
Green Goddess Protein Smoothie
Nourishing Tomato Sauce: A Revised Family Recipe
Gluten-Free Vegan Sweet Potato Cookies
Throughout your pregnancy, it's vital that you keep your stress levels to a minimum as much as possible. To work on your spiritual growth and your overall well being by practicing techniques that nurture your mind, body, and soul. Getting plenty of rest is important, to listen to your body when you are starting to feel run down and make it a priority! Don't feel guilty for taking extra rest time to your self because after all, you're growing another human being who needs you take care of yourself. During stressful moments, it's important to keep yourself grounded because stress can cause anxiety and doubt.
- Nature walks
- Read uplifting books about self-development and motherhood (see recommendations below)
- Locate support from your spouse and/or loved ones
- Daydream about the little human being you are creating!
- Stay physically active: walking, swimming, prenatal yoga, strength training, stretching, and cycling
Probiotics are critical, I took them before pregnancy and I have no plans to stop! Essentially probiotics help facilitate the balance of good and bad intestine flora. During the birth process, your little babe cultures their healthy gut bacteria from what they receive from mummy when passing through the birth canal and also during nursing afterward, You helping your little one develop their immune and digestive system during this crucial time. QUALITY probiotics are key, remember that not all probiotics are equal so discussing it with your qualified healthcare practitioner (LIKE ME!), can do wonders! By giving your little babe a good dose of healthy bacteria during a vaginal delivery this helps reduce the risk of ear infection and illness during the first few years. Healthy digestive balance has an amazing impact on lifelong health which is why almost all of my clients are on probiotics! They assist mama by avoiding illness and especially beneficial for digestive imbalances such as constipation and diarrhea. Even after birth, your little babe's gut bacteria continue to develop during nursing so it is so great for mama to continue taking probiotics.
- Food-Based Prenatal
I have been LOVING my food-based prenatal, it's made from 100% organic FOOD and I feel great taking it. I've heard some women talk about having a hard time with prenatal vitamins however I ask you the question... why continue taking a product that doesn't make you feel good? Chances are the product is synthetic based, and maybe taking it on an empty stomach which can cause nausea and if it's making you feel bad, then chances are you are not absorbing it which makes the digestion process harder on your stomach and your little babe isn't getting the nutrients it needs to thrive.
- Magnesium Glycinate
Personally, I take magnesium all the time but from research and reading the blogs of other holistic-minded seasoned mamas... magnesium is especially helpful during pregnancy. Magnesium deficiency can lead to poor fetal growth, preeclampsia or even fetal death. Healthy magnesium levels help mama's tissue growth and recovery during pregnancy and have been shown to help baby receive more nutrients. Today, it is very hard to get enough magnesium from food sources due to nutrient-deplete soils so I typically take a supplement. I would recommend to not exceed 500mg from ALL sources unless advised by your Midwife or Doctor.
DHA plays a major role in the structural integrity of neuronal membranes and is essential for neurological and visual development. DHA is vital throughout pregnancy to support fetal brain growth and the formation of the retina and visual cortex. As the most abundant fatty acid in the brain, adequate amounts of DHA are also needed throughout adulthood for ongoing optimal function. Low levels of DHA have been correlated with changes in memory, visual and other neurological parameters.
- Coconut Oil
Personally, I love coconut oil and I've been using it in my cooking and as a beauty product for many years. Coconut Oil is a healthy fat that is naturally immune boosting, it's properties help to support baby's brain development and it's can continue post-natal because it's properties contain the components of breast milk.
Folate is the most critical vitamins for a healthy pregnancy, a deficiency is especially risky because it can lead to potential neural tube defects, spina bifida, malformations of limbs, anencephaly and heart complications. This critical vitamins functions as a coenzyme in the synthesis of nucleic acids and metabolism of amino acids. Folate is required for DNA copying and building new cells therefore low levels can result in various types of developmental issues as outlined above.
- Vitamin D
This essential vitamin is apart of a larger group of hormones that are traditionally grouped with the fat-soluble vitamins (A, C, D, E). It's mainly available through sunlight, supplementation, and ingestion of fatty fish and fish liver oils with smaller amounts to be found in egg yolks. Adequate intake and stores are associated with lower rates of preterms cesareans compared to women who are low in vitamin D. Studies also show vitamin D is effective for uterine function during labour. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium from the intestines and the breakdown and assimilation of phosphorus which is necessary for bone formation. It also helps to maintain a healthy nervous system, heart function and the regulation of clotting responses by helping the body absorb calcium and magnesium.
Things I Avoid
Just as a deficiency can be harmful during pregnancy, consumption or contact with certain substances be harmful to a developing baby. As a rule of thumb, these are things I stay away before I was pregnant and will continue to stay away from.
- Diet/Regular Sodas
- Deli Meats
- Artifical Sweeteners
- Raw or Smoked Seafood
- Raw Meat
- Dairy Products
- Raw Eggs
- MSG/Chemical Additives
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Refined Carbohydrates/Sugar
- Vegetable/Canola Oils
- Trans Fats
- Plastic Containers/BPA
- Antiperspirants (Aluminum)
- Artifical Dyes
- Chemicals in laundry detergent, personal care products, and household cleaners
- The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm
- The Mama Natural Week-By-Week to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland
- Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read
- Spiritual Pregnancy by Shawn A. Tassone, MD & Kathryn M. Landherr, MD
- Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA & Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PH.D., IBCLC
- Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman
- Studies have continued to show that you are what you eat and that same logic applies during pregnancy. What you eat affects the health of your baby and your little one depends on you for caloric intake, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fluids.
- Your choice of diet will affect a developing baby's organs, brain, birth weight, eating habits, mental health and long-term health. It's also important to note that a healthy lifestyle pre, during and post pregnancy can greatly improve mama's health which decreases her chances of conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and depression.
- In conjunction with a high-quality prenatal vitamin by consuming foods that are rich in calcium, iodine, choline, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, selenium, and copper is known to have a positive impact on expectant mamas and babies.
- High protein foods, omega-3 foods, fibre, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats benefit both baby and mama-to-be.