There are two main types of expectant parents I tend to run into within my midwifery practice, not to say that no one is hanging out in the middle ground, but most seem to be on one side or the other. There is the parent with a counter full of expensive food-based supplements who wants to know if it is going to permanently damage their baby if they slip up and have a candy bar on Halloween. Then there is the parent whose toddler is eating dino nuggets while we steal a moment for a prenatal and I am greeted with a blank stare when I ask when them when was the last time they had a glass of water. Both are ways of eating are okay. While nutrition in pregnancy is important, a large part of midwifery care is meeting people where they are and working with what you've got to make individualized care plan. We have a little give and take.
I like to think of the why before we think of the how. I can give you a list of things you need to eat and nutritional boxes to check. Best case scenario you meet most of the "requirements", worse case all you see is that you are not doing what you "should" and subsequently feel that you are failing your baby. This can be especially true in the first trimester when many are in the thralls of "morning" sickness (what a mean joke of a name!), for many this time in pregnancy is dedicated to surviving, and that is okay too. While small protein rich meals that keep your blood sugar stabilized and keeping hydrated may curb the nausea, if all you can stomach are Cheetos, eat the Cheetos! Then when your craving is satiated and the nausea is curbed, sneak in a nutrient dense cup of soup or a smoothie.
In this blog I will focus on the reasoning, then provide samples of ways to check that box with diet and with supplements. Follow along and I will be sharing posts with what to avoid during pregnancy along with some recipes and herbs and teas for pregnancy.
Why number one, keeping blood sugar balanced. Food pairing is great for keeping blood sugar balanced, you can have the carbs, but if you make it a breakfast sandwich with egg instead of toast with butter your blood sugar with stay stabilized for longer rather than spiking and taking a dive, leaving you feeling sluggish and nauseated. Small frequent meals and snacks will be vital throughout your pregnancy. If this is something you struggle with try setting a two hour timer, even a few almonds or a hard boiled egg are enough to keep you going.
Lean meats and fish
Quality protein powders like garden of life or orgain
Beans and legumes
Nuts, seeds and their spreads/butters
Tofu and tempeh
Why number two, iron and anemia. In pregnancy our blood volume expands by up to 50%. About the time this happens we see a change in iron levels in the blood, a sort of dilution. Stores of iron and not being anemic will also serve you well in the immediate postpartum especially if you have a bit of a hemorrhage. If you are even borderline anemic your body heals more slowly, you feel more easily fatigued and it has been linked to a higher instance of postpartum depression. Too much iron can cause constipation, because iron is not easily excreted by the body, toxicity can occur, this is typical of taking more than the recommended dose of iron capsules and not liquid or diet-based sources.
Dark leafy greens (broccoli counts!)
Floradix liquid food based iron
Shrimp and Oysters
Desiccated liver capsules
Megafood blood builder
Garden of life raw iron
Beets (The root and the greens)
Why number three, Folate/folic acid/vitamin B 9. This one is a little tricky. Folic acid is often used interchangeably with folate, but they are biochemically different nutrients. Vitamin B 9 is important especially in the beginning of a pregnancy and is often suggested to be supplemented up to a year before conception. A deficiency can result in a higher chance of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in a fetus. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that in the 1990s started being added to foods, especially grain products like breakfast cereals. This can be helpful for many, but is thought to be responsible for the increase in midline defects like oral ties in those that can not process folic acid. That is why many seek out prenatal vitamins with L-5-methyltetrhydrafolate, which is easier for the body to utilize.
Why number four magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that supports muscle and nervous system function. Sufficient magnesium intake has been shown to prevent preterm labor, improve mood and memory and discourage muscle cramps. magnesium is actually absorbed better through the skin than the digestive system, so if you'd like to supplement I suggest starting with epsom salt baths before ingested supplements. Sprays and lotions are also available, but often leave a salty or sticky residue on the skin that many find unpleasant. you know you've taken too much magnesium when you have loose stools. Slowly increase your dosage to avoid this.
Last but not least- calories. The old saying "eating for two" may be a little misleading. In the first and second trimester in a singleton pregnancy it is recommended to add about 300 calories a day. This usually is most helpful in the form of three 100 calorie snacks added through the day. Some good examples of this are a small handful of almonds or a single serve cup of Greek yogurt. I've added a list of thirty 100 calorie snacks in the links below. This increases to about 450 additional calories needed every day in the third trimester. These numbers are a little higher in twin pregnancy, with 300 additional calories recommended in the first trimester, 600 in the second trimester and 900 additional calories in the third trimester.