During your pregnancy, how you treat your body will have a direct influence on the little person growing inside of you. Not just on their formation in the womb, but their genetic expression for the rest of their lives. That famous saying - "You are what you eat" applies to both you and your baby now.
It can also be a time where if you don`t look after yourself, you may be really drained of your nutrients and your years after your pregnancy could be quite difficult. It is so important to fuel your body the right way, so that you keep not only your baby, but YOU healthy as well.
A depleted mother
Mother nature knows that the most important thing is to focus on the procreation of humanity. She will always put the baby`s needs before the mother. If you don`t have enough nutrients and fats for the both of you, the baby will get as much as it possibly can, at the detriment of the mother. This can mean that the baby will take vital nutrients and leave the mother very depleted after pregnancy.
Having a newborn is amazing, in every sense, but in reality, it is a very demanding time. Looking after yourself before, during and after pregnancy is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
Sickness in the first trimester
Pregnancy is a time that we expect to be wonderful, but for some people, pregnancy can be really, really tough. The first trimester can be a bumpy ride for those of us who suffer with sickness and nausea, not to mention the intense fatigue that comes with the early weeks of pregnancy.
In those first few weeks, you may not be able to stomach much and may have a strong craving for starchy carbohydrates - breads and pastas - that sort of thing. I know that when I was in my first trimester, I could literally eat a whole packet of soft white bread rolls in one sitting but just couldn`t stomach anything else.
It`s really hard in those weeks to try to keep a balanced diet. If you aren`t suffering from sickness, you should try to ensure that every meal and snack contains a protein, healthy fat, plenty of vegetables and a carbohydrate.
If you are feeling unwell during this time, that can be really tricky to do. The thing is, early pregnancy sickness is linked to blood sugar imbalances. Your blood sugar is swinging around wildly as you are not only fueling your body, but the little person inside of you and the placenta that you are growing. That is a lot of demands upon our glucose levels, and when they fall low rapidly, you will feel sick and extremely tired.
The first thing you will want to do is reach for carbohydrates or sugars, but this is precisely the wrong thing to do as you will just continue and worsen the roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar. Try to find some protein snacks that you like - nuts, seeds, cooked chicken, dare I mention hard boiled eggs without turning your stomach! ... and have them alongside what ever you are eating at the time. Keep protein snacks with you at all times and nibble on them regularly. Regular, small meals every two to three hours can really help, as well as a late night snack of something balanced like apple slices with nut butter. Keep some healthy snacks by your bedside also and a drink of water. It is common to wake up famished in the middle of the night in those early days.
It`s also really important to drink plenty. You are not only needing your normal amount of 1.5 - 2 litres of water per day for your own bodily functioning, but you have all the blood to make inside the baby and everything else that hydration supports. Water also helps to balance your blood sugar. If you can balance your blood sugar through this difficult time then you will support yourself with your sickness. Have a look at my other information sheet on blood sugar to understand this further.
The good news is that the sickness should calm down and be gone by your second trimester. If you can not eat and your sickness is debilitating, you should see your GP.
As you reach your third trimester, you may find it difficult to eat regular sized meals as the baby is putting more pressure on your stomach. You may need to revert to smaller, more regular meals again.
It`s essential to give you and your baby everything you both need. Think of baking a cake... if you don`t put all the right ingredients in, it won`t be right. You need to think of your food as ingredients for your baby`s development and for your health to sustain your baby.
So what do you need?
For a healthy pregnancy, your body needs fat. There are many types of fat, good and bad... I am talking about good fats derived from oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, coconuts etc. (You can read all about healthy fats in my other information sheet labelled essential fats). Fat is a vital fuel for energy and is needed to coat every single cell in both the mother and the babies body. Every cell has a phospholipid membrane. These need replacing regularly. Cholesterol, is made from fat and not all cholesterol is bad. Our good cholesterol is what hormones are made of and the highest concentration of cholesterol is found in the brain. It plays an important role in memory and serotonin regulation. Both you and your baby need this from your food.
Protein is the building blocks of life. It is what all tissue is made of. Not only this, it is important for brain health, enzyme functioning and mood. You should include a good quality protein with each meal and snack. Please see my other handout on the importance of protein and ideas of foods.
Zinc and Magnesium
Most of the population has far less magnesium and zinc in their diets that they should have. These two minerals are vital for maintaining your pregnancy and for development and health. Magnesium is mostly found in plant matter, especially dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and wholemeal grains. Please read my other handout labelled Magnesium. Zinc is available in red meat and poultry and as a plant based option, in pumpkin seeds. Both of these minerals are vital and are hard to get the right amounts that you need from your food. A good pregnancy multivitamin and mineral will help you achieve the right amount. Please speak to your GP, midwife or Nutritional Therapist regarding a pregnancy multi.
B6 is needed for the development and functioning of the nervous system. There has been research that suggests that B6 might play a role in the prevention of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy. It can also help play its part in preventing pregnancy nausea. B6 is available in lots of foods, including: meat, poultry, starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits
Vitamin D is critically important for firming your baby`s skeleton, kidneys, heart, nervous system and teeth. It helps the absorption of calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D is only available in a small amount of foods including oily fish and eggs. We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, but only between March and October. Another reason why a multivitamin and mineral is so important.
Folate (folic acid)
Folate is a type of B vitamin that your body needs to make DNA and other genetic material. It is also needed for your cells to divide and to make red and white blood cells in your bone marrow. During periods of rapid growth, it`s essential to have adequate amounts of folate. This is especially true during pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby. Folate is available in leafy vegetables, lentils, eggs and certain fruits. It`s equally important to have the right amount of folic acid in your pregnancy multi as it is to include natural folate in your diet at the same time. This is because some people really struggle to absorb folic acid so top yourself up with plenty of folate rich foods.
Pregnancy do`s and don`ts
If you can, eat organically. This will help to shield your growing baby from neuro-toxins found in chemical laden foods.
You should calculate your water intake regularly as you grow. Water intake should be based on 30mls of water per kg of your body weight. Avoid using plastic drinking bottles. Invest in a glass bottle. Pregnancy increases the risk of UTI`s, drinking water will not only keep you hydrated but will lessen the risk of Urinary infections.
Eat LOTS of fruit and vegetables - this will not only nourish you and your baby but will help prevent constipation
Eat legumes and beans for fibre and protein
Avoid caffeine and alcohol completely. Caffeine is still found in decaffeinated drinks and is in cola and dark chocolate.
Avoid preservatives, colourings, additives, refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods.
Avoid smoking, recreational drugs or any unnecessary over the counter medication.
Avoid any raw food - shellfish, fish, meat or eggs
Avoid listeria risk foods: soft cheese, cold or smoked meats, tiramisu, custard, mousse,mayonnaise, sushi, salad bar food
Be careful when re-heating food. Ensure it is piping hot.
Avoid foods that you are intolerant to
Avoid high mercury foods such as shark, swordfish and tuna
Make sure you get enough sleep
Avoid hot baths, saunas and spas
Do NOT take epsom salt baths
Do NOT use aromatherapy oils or herbs without guidance from a qualified aromatherapist or herbalist