NOLA Birth Photographer » New Orleans birth photographer and certified doula. Celebrating the beauty of childbirth, motherhood, and real life moments.

Preparing for Birth: Nutrition Support

Well, it’s official. I’m more pregnant than I’ve ever been before! Tomorrow I’ll be at the 40 week mark. My babies have come during the 39th and 38th week, so I tried to be prepared on the early side. Although there are more things I CAN do while waiting, we are ready to meet this little one. Every day this week I’ve gone to bed thinking I’ll wake during the night with strong contractions. But each morning, I wake up thankful that I got a little bit more rest, and hopeful that the new day will bring big changes. Now seemed like a great time to get another blog post in, and then hopefully baby will get the message and join us over the weekend. How perfect would that be?!

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I have to confess that in the past I haven’t put a lot of extra focus on nutrition during pregnancy. While I ate a balanced diet and focused on getting lots of protein into my meals and snacks, I would purchase some of the cheapest prenatal multivitamins out there and figured I’d be just fine. I found out 2 and a half years ago just how depleted my body was from the stress of pregnancy and caring for a baby and toddler. Out of desperation after seeing several traditional doctors, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor, Ashley Whittemore, who was finally able to help give me answers to all of the things going crazy with my body. I began taking lots of high quality supplements and made some diet and lifestyle adjustments that have made a huge difference in my health! Although there were many things recommended during that time that were specific to my body, here are a few nutritional tips that every pregnant woman can benefit from, and some that I like to share with my doula clients.

_NM_5312PINIMAGEDigestive Enzymes
My natruopathic doctor recommended consistently taking digestive enzymes before I became pregnant to help reduce morning sickness when I did become pregnant. Although I didn’t struggle with terrible morning sickness in the past, I saw noticeable improvement compared to my other pregnancies, and experienced only a couple of weeks of occasional nausea, and no vomiting. This definitely made life a little easier with a full schedule and two kids to care for!

Fish Oil
Let’s be real. Fish oil is pretty disgusting. But, baby’s brain is doing a lot of growing during these last few weeks of pregnancy, and mama’s skin is doing lots of stretching! Both of us really need these healthy fats. I’m also trying to get some avocado and nuts in my diet each day. Thankfully, my skin is holding up great, and I’ve had very little of the itchiness that is so common with growing bellies. And this kiddo better be a smarty after all these shots of fishy-lemony nastiness that I’ve been swigging down before bed!

Prenatal Nutrients 
Prenatal nutrients are not created equal! You often hear a big push for folic acid for women in pregnancy to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. But folic acid can actually be damaging to you and baby! Your body has to convert folic acid into the usable form – folate which is actually the naturally occurring nutrient that your body needs. So what’s the problem with folic acid? Just google “folic acid linked to” and you’ll find an assortment of troubling things, from cancer to tongue and lip tie. For those with a MTHFR gene mutation (something you may never have heard of, but is actually fairly common), folic acid is especially problematic since it cannot be processed. You may also need additional folate than what’s in your prenatal vitamin. Your naturopathic physician can help you determine that. Folate is naturally found in dark leafy greens, and other veggies, so pregnancy is a great time to throw some extra greens into your morning smoothie. This is definitely a big topic to look into, and make sure that your prenatal vitamins include folate not folic acid!

Magnesium 
The majority of the population is deficient in magnesium. The combination of calcium and magnesium is great for muscle cramping, stabilizing blood pressure, keeping the digestive system flowing well, and helps to promote restful sleep, among so many other things!

Probiotics
The strength of your immune system has so much to do with your gut health! Taking a probiotic supplement, drinking my home brewed kombucha tea, and taking an additional buffered vitamin C supplement when I’m more susceptible to illness, have all been a part of my routine to stay healthy this pregnancy!

_NM_5309PINIMAGERed Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is known for supporting a woman’s reproductive system. It supposedly tones the uterus, balances hormones, and studies have shown that those who drink RRL tea have lower birth intervention rates and shorter labors! I did take red raspberry leaf tea toward the end of my second pregnancy, and had a MUCH shorter labor. Maybe it was all due to RRL tea? Although you can buy individual bags of pregnancy tea or women’s raspberry leaf, it’s a lot more economical to just buy a pound of the loose cut tea! I have plenty to supply myself with tea through the end of my pregnancy and into postpartum to help strengthen my uterus.

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Dates
Dates are a fruit commonly found in the middle east, full of fiber, nutrients, and sweetness! You’ll find them as the main ingredient in Larabar, and used as sweeteners in a variety of health foods. So what makes these so great for pregnancy? This small study indicated that women who eat 6 dates a day during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy had greater cervical dilation when they went to the hospital, higher proportion of intact membranes, shorter labors, and lower induction rates. They are a great healthy snack option for the end of pregnancy, and a favorite in our family! While I don’t enjoy plain dates, adding a little coco powder, vanilla, nuts and salt makes them a tasty and guilt-free sweet treat! Check out my favorite date recipe over HERE.

Sunshine
This summer baby is making it easy for me to get some sunshine into my day. Studies have shown that those who suffer from chronic pain, also have low vitamin D levels. Specifically looking at women in labor, it was found that those with lower vitamin D levels requested pain medication more frequently. Getting a little bit of direct sun exposure will improve your vitamin D production, and having a nice tan, and a higher pain tolerance in pregnancy and birth is a win-win!

Of course be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what nutritional supplements and tips are best for you, and always do your research. While you can have diet rich in whole foods, take just the right supplements, stay active, and have a “perfect” pregnancy, there are no guarantees in childbirth. But these things can certainly help to minimize complications and promote a healthy mama and baby!

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