By Kathy Killebrew, CCCE, CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator~
Pregnancy is an absolutely amazing time of growing a human being! Did you know that, just before birth, the vessels in the umbilical cord carry about 300 quarts of blood a day, back and forth, from the placenta to the fetus, at a rate of about 4 miles per hour? The amniotic fluid surrounding baby circulates at a rate of 6 gallons a day, with complete replacement of amniotic fluid every 3 hours. Your baby’s brain will grow more rapidly in the last 8 weeks of your pregnancy than at any other time in his/her life. We don’t often think about the awesome things a woman’s body is busy doing to support the growing fetus, but moms-to-be obviously want to do all they can to keep themselves and their babies low risk.
The first line of defense in preventing pregnancy and birth complications is to consume a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods act as a medicine to all of us. Here are just a few examples: Arugula is a wonderful peppery green that is heart-healthy, acting as a vasodilator to help us maintain a healthy blood pressure. Lentils are anti-heart disease. Cantaloupe helps with blood pressure, and broccoli is an anti-cancer phytonutrient goldmine. Just 1-2 Brazil nuts a day will do wonders for your thyroid function. These nuts are high in the mineral selenium, which is needed for thyroid function, however be cautious and don’t go crazy with too many. Just 1-2 nuts per day is adequate. Read from Dr. Axe’s website below on safe amounts to consume, how to store Brazil nuts, and all the other benefits of this superfood.
In pregnancy, we need to add 25g for every baby we carry. So 75-100 g protein is crucial for baby’s growth and development, and it helps mom’s kidneys to function well as she moves into the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Adequate protein along with a healthy variety of foods will help lessen the chance of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure, spilling protein in your urine, sometimes migraines and abnormal swelling). Moms-to-be can add nuts to salads or oatmeal, make nutrient dense smoothies, and graze on healthy snacks during the day. A 3 oz servings of chicken will have about 25grams, and a serving of Greek yogurt contains about 21 g, depending on the brand.
1000-1200 mg of calcium is needed, primarily from foods. Prenatal supplements act as a cushion in case we fall short on certain nutrients but should never substitute a variety of healthy, colorful foods. Diary products are not the only way we can get calcium in our diets. Calcium can be found in foods like dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, figs, blackstrap molasses, and chia seeds. For example, 1 c. collards (steamed) has 357 mg, while a Greek yogurt contains 250 mg.The app MyFitnessPal can be used to put in your daily intake for a few days and allows you to see how you are doing on calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Calcium helps to regulate our heartbeat, controls blood pressure, and even helps in preventing hemorrhage.
Your liver has quite a job to do when you are pregnant. It has to clear a staggering load of female hormones manufactured by the placenta, detox the lower bowel for mom and baby, and perform albumin synthesis (selective combining of specific amino acids into the bloodstream). If albumin levels drop, water which should be in the circulation leaks out into the tissues causing abnormal swelling. Take good care of your liver with plenty of fruits and vegetables, good fats like avocado, salmon, olive oil, etc. Eating sweets and processed foods just makes the liver have to work harder at detoxing. Of course, lots of water is important as well!
Two things that strengthen collagen are protein and Vitamin C. The amniotic sac is made of collagen (connective tissue). Being sure you take in plenty of foods high in Vitamin C will go a long way in helping create a healthy placenta and amniotic sac, so consider having several sources throughout the day. Juices are quite high in sugar, so consider having the fruit itself rather than the juice. Examples are raw pepper, tomato, berries, melon, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and citrus.
Did you know this vitamin is water soluble just like Vitamin C? We need to replace it everyday. However, many people don’t consume enough, because their diets are highly processed, fruit and vegetable intake is too low, and stress and pollution deplete this vitamin. Nutritional yeast powder is another food form of B-vitamins that can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on various dishes. B-vitamins are needed for healthy skin and hair, healthy liver function and digestion, and can help to lessen insomnia . Examples are whole grains, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, and dark leafy greens.
Fruits and Vegetables
A variety of 8-10 fruits and vegetables is needed every day. Studies show there is less chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke in people who consume lots of fruits and vegetables. There is a lot of nutrition packed into these foods, so the more color and variety the better!
Pregnant women need probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and fermented veggies, just to name a few. When a mom includes these in her diet, beneficial microfloura will colonize her intestines and birth canal. Her baby passes through this healthy vagina and baby becomes inoculated with helpful bacteria. As you breastfeed, microfloura reproduce rapidly and help strengthen your baby’s inner ecosystem, which makes him/her more resistant to infections.
Lastly, remember the importance of balance. Over 100 g protein isn’t healthy, and often means mom is not getting enough fruits and vegetables. Too many starches in a day is also unbalanced and can mean other nutrient dense foods are missing (4 servings of whole grains is adequate). Don’t forget some of those aromatic foods such as onions, garlic, and ginger. They are great for the immune system, and are anti-inflammatory. Onions are quite a nutrient dense food!
It is my hope that mindful eating will continue on as you breastfeed, and your child will acquire that same mindfulness as he/she grows!