Part 1: Preparation
My health principles are relatively easy to follow as I often pretend I’m a cave woman and imagine what they would’ve done.
Pregnancy is no different. Women over the ages have successfully reproduced so even though the whole thing is quite overwhelming, you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that billions of females before you have done this….and ultimately it’s what we were designed to do.
Sadly in this modern era of information and technology the whole process has become pretty confused so I’ve written this 4 Part Blog Series simply to document what I would do if I were to plan another baby (not happening by the way!)
According to the observations of people like Dr Weston A. Price who spent a lot of time with tribes, preparing our bodies for reproduction would often start up to a year beforehand. During this time both men and women would modify their diet to ensure they had all the nutrients and building blocks for growing healthy babies. Many of these practices are considered controversial today due to some isolated incidents which were dramatized by the media. Traditional populations, who don’t have access to modern food processing facilities, will consume raw dairy, fish and lots of organ meat because they have an inherent understanding and instinct for what produces the best results.
Unfortunately, our food supply in the western world is compromised from a soil content and processing perspective so we can’t always apply the same ancestral principles. Often soil and seafood deficiencies mean we need to supplement with nutrients like magnesium and iodine which are usually included in a good pre/pregnancy multi.
Our modern busy lives are a lot less about long-term future planning, and much more about getting what we want NOW, so it is unlikely that a year long preparation period for pregnancy is the norm anymore. Does this in part contribute in some way to the growing epidemic of a generation riddled with allergies, chronic disease, and autoimmune conditions?
The lists below are some of what I would do in advance if I were to do it over again (looks remarkably similar to the healthier lifestyle I live now anyway 😉).
Clean up my environment
Once you’re pregnant it’s likely your instincts will kick in and you’ll want to protect that growing miracle by cleaning up your diet and lifestyle. There can be a ‘washout’ effect that happens when someone does this and less than desirable substances released from your cells as a result will enter into circulation, easily passing through to your baby. We know from umbilical cord testing after birth that babies already have over 200 different environmental chemicals in their blood. So you want to do as much as you can before getting pregnant to reduce the levels passed onto your baby. This goes for the father as well because sperm quality is also important, those little swimmers need all the energy and endurance they can muster to go on the epic journey ahead of them 😉Things I would seriously consider:
- Switch to organic as much as possible, there is a list of the ‘dirty dozen’ fruits and vegetables that should be prioritised as organic over the rest, as it’s not always possible or affordable
- Remove harsh chemical cleaning products from the home, there are many more natural alternatives using essential oils and vinegar for example
- Change beauty products to those with more natural ingredients, making them at home is super easy! My homemade face cream is also great for baby bumps and boobs!
- Prioritise dental health! Due to changing fluid levels and blood pressure when pregnant you may find your gums inflamed or bleeding so it makes thorough cleaning difficult then, so get in early and get them in good condition (daily flossing and proper cleaning twice per day)
- Remove all devices from the bedroom so that as baby develops all of its organs it is not being ‘distracted or distorted’ by any EMFs. Certainly avoid carrying a mobile phone anywhere near a pregnant tummy, and never rest a laptop on it!!
- Ensure no smoking, alcohol or chemical drugs and medicines where possible. Whilst there’s a lot of controversy and conflicting information in some of these areas, there are very few studies done on pregnant women (for obvious ethical reasons) so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Check with your Dr if you’re unsure about medicines you may be taking.
- Drink enough filtered water. 2-3 litres depending on levels of activity is a good guide and it’s best to work up to this slowly rather than starting the day you find out you’re pregnant and your bladder starts to operate on its own!
- Supplement to ensure any nutritional deficiencies required to conceive are covered. In college we were taught (obviously simplified but a good rule of thumb) that ‘it takes zinc to make a baby and magnesium to carry one’ and also that vitamin D is very important so if you’re conceiving during winter it would be recommended to supplement this and once pregnant continue (daily sunshine is always your best source). A good pregnancy multi will cover most bases and should also cover the fact that folic acid can be problematic for some women dealing with methylation issues and so uses a methylated form instead. A multi should be started a few months prior to conception and continued through pregnancy. I used this one from Cytoplan: Pregnaplan
- Men need to consider the quality of their half of the bargain too, with zinc, selenium and healthy fats being important for super-swimmer strength, but reducing alcohol consumption is also important.
Clean up my diet
It’s a bit of a myth that you need to eat for two when you’re pregnant. It is generally accepted that women require around 2000 calories per day in normal circumstances, and when pregnant this only increases by 200 calories per day in the third trimester (according to guidance from the NHS). But when hormones take over, you can be capable of anything! So it’s more important (in my opinion) to focus more on quality and nutrient dense foods, than quantity. If you’ve cleaned up your diet prior to pregnancy then you’ll likely be in a better position to listen to what you’re body is telling you and eat instinctively for your needs.
It is thought that these instincts contribute to some of the crazy cravings many women have when pregnant, they can be indicative of a deficiency and are telling you to get more of a particular nutrient. A strong reaction to smells and tastes is also a survival technique which likely warns you away from things you can’t stand the smell of.
- Smoothies can be a quick and easy way to get in a variety of nutrients, and can be a great snack if you’re really hungry.
- I was scared of getting hungry in my first trimesters because it always made me feel terribly nauseous, so keeping protein rich snacks on hand helped a lot. Nuts, seeds and butter popcorn did it for me! It is thought that limited amounts of a variety of nuts during pregnancy (if you’re not allergic) may reduce the risk of nut allergies in baby
- Eating little and often may be a way to balance the nausea (see Part 2 for tips for combating morning sickness)
- Lots of colourful varieties of fruit and vegetables help to get in a broad range of vitamins and minerals
- Whole/full fat dairy may be an option if tolerated; low fat dairy however is not beneficial and can cause inflammation. The Weston Price Foundation also have great information on the benefits of raw, grass fed cow’s milk if you have a good local source (US sources, UK sources, New Zealand sources) . Up until around the 1920s there was no discussion re pasteurised vs raw milk (and women still managed to have healthy babies...) plus pasteurised milk comes with risks of its own, so it’s best to do your own research and see how you feel. (Welcome to the responsibilities of parenthood where you are constantly weighing up risks and working out what your ‘risk tolerance’ is!)
- Healthy fats will help pregnancy hormones and baby’s brain development, things like avocados, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, full fat butter (from a good source) and oily fish (sardines are perfect, salmon, mackerel etc)
- A teaspoon a day of a good quality cod liver oil will cover a lot of requirements for healthy fats plus the key fat-soluble vitamins like A, D and K all in one. Read more about cod liver oil here.
- A daily mug of bone broth will supply collagen requirements for building/rebuilding tissue, and may help with the dreaded stretch marks! (Although I have learnt to wear mine with pride, a visible reminder forever after of the awesomeness of my body to produce another)
- Protein is particularly important when growing a new human because it is the building block for everything! Vegetarians may find they crave meat during pregnancy, and many who have started eating it at this point say it helped satisfy this (and they continued after the baby was born too). Many women report that increasing their protein intake also helped with ankle swelling, as can adding a small pinch of salt to your daily water intake or to food. Good quality sources of protein are meat, poultry, wild seafood, eggs, lentils, chickpeas and beans.
- Raw garlic is a great natural anti-bacterial (cutting/crushing garlic and leaving it to sit for 5-10 minutes will increase the potency of the active ingredient allicin) so including this in a pregnancy diet daily can help fight some of the common ailments such as yeast infections and cystitis. In fact, inserting a garlic clove suppository into the vagina overnight is also a great naturopathic remedy for yeast.
- Drink enough water to help hydration and blood pressure, between 2-3 litres per day will help to flush out toxins and prevent constipation (with an added pinch of salt)
- Good choices for alternative liquids are coconut water, peppermint/ginger/lemon tea
- Limit caffeine because it is a stimulant (and your sleep is sacred!), but I did enjoy one cup of tea/coffee/green tea per day (before midday).
I hope that's been helpful, feel free to ask any questions below or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want further information.
Tune in for Part 2, when I talk about overcoming Morning Sickness.