How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

pregnantHaving a baby is a very special time in a women’s life. It is a time to reflect and to get in tune with your body. It is a time when you and your spouse get together to prepare for a family. There are many concerns associated with pregnancy these days. There is also a lot of confusing information as to what type of diet, supplementation or even herbs that can be safely taken during pregnancy not to mention the type of birth you will want to experience. This article will give some of the latest protocols and advise to ensure that you have a healthy baby.

I recently met a certified profession midwife at one of the conferences I attended and she has given me the understanding conveyed in this article. Since it has been a while since I have had to deal with pregnancy or even a new born I appreciated her wisdom.

To ensure a healthy pregnancy, the time to improve your nutritional status is before conception. This applies to both partners. A good whole foods multiple supplement is recommended with additional nutrient rich foods. The standard American diet is nutrient poor and this needs to be assessed.

Reducing refined fats, white sugar and chemical additives is a must. Begin to include whole grains, beans, high fiber foods, fruits and vegetables and restrict fast foods. We do not recommend the use of nutra sweet and it even states on the label not to be used during pregnancy.

Let’s look at some of the other toxins that need to be eliminated to ensure a healthy pregnancy. As stated in Alternative Medicine; maternal exposure to alcohol, and cigarettes; the recreational drugs marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and medications such as lithium and tetracycline; pesticides, petroleum products, heavy metals such as lead and mercury; coffee and even over the counter medications like aspirin can harm the fetus especially in the first trimester. We know that alcohol use can lead to mental retardation, hyperactivity, heart murmur, and facial deformity. Smoking cigarettes cuts the amount of oxygen available to fetal tissue.

Let’s look at some dietary factors and supplement recommendations for use during pregnancy. It is advised to eat a variety of foods but the quality is the important part. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish are essential; organically grown, if possible, especially meats and poultry. Remember that many commercial meats are laden with hormone residues so be careful. Milk is an issue of confusion for many women. Yes calcium is an important issue but is dairy the best source. Because of the high fat to protein ration some milk is acceptable but don’t overdo it is the recommendation of Dr. Lendon Smith, a pediatrician. He states that over use can be a contributing factor to lactose intolerance in the infant. There are many good sources of calcium. They are nuts, soybeans, tofu, soy milk, sea vegetables, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

According to Dr. Linton the ideas that a pregnant women needs to eat for two is a myth. Both undereating and overeating can have negative impacts. Eating five to six nutrient dense meals a day is a sensible idea and will usually not lead to a weight gain problem. Remember to eat enough calories.

So what about supplementing the diet with vitamins? Nutrient supplementation is recommended to rule out deficiency but it is no reason to avoid a good diet. Many prenatal vitamins are synthetically made and cause some problems like constipation. The iron used in these is in the form of ferrous sulfate and it can be constipating. There are other prenatals that use a better form and eliminates this problem. Look for ferrous gluconate or peptonate.

  • Iron is important in that it fuels hemoglobin and is the primary protein which carries oxygen.
  • Folic acid with B complex- one of the b vitamins necessary for healthy blood. This nutrient has been proven to prevent neural tube defects. Found in green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas and brewers yeast.
  • Calcium- required for development of healthy bones and teeth. Also helps prevent leg cramps.
  • Zinc- deficiency has been a problem for many women. Aids the body’s ability to fight infections and wound healing. Helps increase infant birth weight
  • Magnesium-needed for good nerve development and helps with cramping. Also balances calcium.
  • Vitamin C- mainly for its role in collagen formation. Collagen is a connective tissue protein. Good for developing fetus.

Cautionary supplements would include:

  • Vitamin A -from fish oil. Not to exceed 10000 IU per day. Has been associated with birth defects. Beta carotene appears to be safe though.
  • Vitamin D- more than 400 IU daily in not recommended. It does aid calcium absorption though. Usually found in your prenatal supplement.

I always get the question concerning the use of herbal products during pregnancy. Because they are natural; are they safe or will they hurt my baby? I consulted with a naturopath Mary Bove ND. LM on this recently and the following are her recommendations in regards to herbal use.

When using herbs with a pregnant women remember to consider:

  • That most herbal constituents will pass through the placenta and reach the fetus.
  • That the pregnant body under goes physiological changes in metabolic processes which may influence the effect of the herb on the body.
  • Take extra caution in the first trimester.
  • That all herbs have the potential to be harmful. Use medicine as medicine.
  • Choose herbal preparations which complement pregnancy.

It is important to refer to a practitioner or a good herbal authoritative manual if the need arises for the use of herbal products. Herbs have been in use by midwives for thousands of years and they can be used safely. Timing and dosage is very important.

There are some very safe and useful herbs that can be used in teas form. They are to be used in teas or beverage strengths. The use of fennel seed, lemon balm, oat grass, red raspberry, red clover spearmint and lemon verbena have been used without incident. The following herbs are contraindicated for use during pregnancy and include laxatives like senna and cascara sagrada. They cause uterine contractions and can contribute to miscarriages. Herbs with a high concentration of alkaloids like berberine found in goldenseal, barberry, and oregon grape root. Licorice root, dong quai, and chaste berry contain hormonal regulators and must be used with caution.

Two good publications to aid your experience would be Natural Healing For Babies And Children and The Natural Pregnancy Book both by Aviva Romm SPM AHG Herbalist.

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