by Martine Delonnay
The time a baby spends in utero is an equally important time for the mother, as she is the primary builder of this new life. Maintaining harmony with nature by optimizing the innate abilities of a woman’s body to create new life is critical for a successful natural pregnancy and birth.
Diet tips for a healthy pregnancy
One of the most common discomforts of pregnancy is the morning sickness that usually appears during the first trimester. The nauseous feeling mothers-to-be may have is a result of the increased hormones in her body.
While doctors recognize morning sickness as a good sign that the placenta is developing well, it can become overwhelming to the mother. Herbal teas such as ginger, chamomile, peppermint, raspberry leaf and spearmint may help to calm the stomach, reducing nausea and vomiting and increase the daily intake of water.
Pregnancy is one time in a woman’s life when the goal is to pack pounds. But it's important to keep the weight within a healthy range for her body type. Here are some general guidelines to keep weight gain on track and optimize digestion:
- Ensure optimal hydration (at least 2 liters of water/ day) as chronic dehydration can lead to serious pregnancy complications, including neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, inadequate breast milk production and even premature labor. These risks, in turn, can lead to birth defects due to lack of water and nutritional support for the baby.
- It has also been speculated that sub-optimal quantities of water consumed by the mother during pregnancy may lead to thirst from the unborn fetus and manifest as nausea.
- Eat small meals regularly and adequate amounts of quality protein to help sustain blood sugar levels throughout the day.
- Consume quality proteins such as lean red meat, organic chicken, free range eggs, nuts, seeds and organic tofu.
- Decrease one’s intake of saturated fatty acids as these may increase the incidence of morning sickness.
- Increase ginger in the diet; add it to vegetable juices, teas and recipes to help reduce nausea and relieve indigestion.
Lifestyle factors for a healthy pregnancy: sleep, stress management and exercise
It is critical for pregnant women to get adequate rest and sleep. Sleep cleans out the neurological database, allowing for one to feel rested and to think clearly. It also helps to improve the immune system and the brain function, not to mention one’s skin and mood.
Sleep helps boost growth hormone, the ultimate rejuvenating hormone that helps to keep an ideal body weight and shape. Sleep becomes extra important to pregnant mothers because they need growth hormone for developing the placenta and uterus. Sleep also helps counteract many of the stresses of pregnancy by ensuring fetal development during tough times.
Women’s fears and attitudes to childbirth may influence stress levels, the maternity care they receive and the outcomes of birth. In a study conducted in 2012 byHaines et al., three groups of expecting women were formed. Belonging to the ‘Fearful’ group had a negative effect on women’s emotional health during pregnancy and increased the likelihood of a negative birth experience. Both women in the ‘Take it as it comes’ and the ‘Fearful’ group had higher odds of having an elective caesarean compared to women in the ‘Self Determiners’ group.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout pregnancy can help women stay healthy and feel their best. Regular exercise can improve posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that physical activity may prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day, unless an individual has a medical or pregnancy complication.
Supplements for a healthy pregnancy
Pregnancy supplements should contain the recommended daily allowance of many of the important nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, zinc, iodine, B vitamins and fish oil. This will ensure optimal levels of nutrition through out the pregnancy and reduce any deficiencies.
A newly pregnant lady experiences shifts in hormonal status (estrogen/ progesterone) and this change in hormones may cause thrush or candida symptoms (bloating, constipation, flatulence, vaginal mucus discharge, or white coating on the tongue) in some women. When the baby is delivered by a vaginal birth, it receives a dose of healthy bacteria to begin life with strong immunity and digestive health. Taking a probiotic during pregnancy will help to make certain that the vaginal canal has a good supply of beneficial bacteria and minimal unfavorable bacteria.
Giving birth is a natural process that should not be interfered with unless necessary. In optimal conditions, being pregnant and giving birth are natural life experience for which a woman’s body is well designed. By supporting the body’s own instinctive knowledge, we create an internal and external environment of health for a new life to thrive.
Dr. Martine Delonnay is the founder of Healing Journey LLC, located in the Sage Healing Collaborative at 201Waterman Ave., East providence. She is a naturopathic doctor licensed in the states of VT and NH, and a member of the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physician), MSND (Massachussets Association of Naturopathic Doctors) and the RIANP (Rhode Island Association of Naturopathic Physician). For more information, call 617-401-5076 or visit HealingJourney.me. See ad, page ??.