For Mom’s to Be
By Mary Ewing
When I married seven years ago, I was almost 26, and my husband and I knew we didn’t want to wait to have children. Although many women have children after thirty, we both wanted a large family and weren’t sure how long our “child-bearing years” would go on. Even so, we were slightly surprised when just six weeks after the wedding we found ourselves expecting our first child. Excitement filled our house! To add to our own joy, this would be the first grandchild for both his parents and mine.
At this time, I was a practicing registered nurse (I have since retired to be a mom). Although I did not work in obstetrics, I have always been fascinated with the study. Yet despite the fact that I had scored a perfect 100 ranking among my peers that year in the OB/GYN nationals competencies. I understood little about the importance of preparing to be a mom. I knew I needed to take a prenatal vitamin once the pink line appeared on the pregnancy test. I knew the importance of Folic Acid. I knew I needed to generally take care of myself. But I did nothing to really prepare for pregnancy.
My pre-pregnancy diet consisted largely of fast food, meals from a box, and sodas. I had done nothing to eliminate my chronic gut problems, build nutritional storehouses, or make sure my body was in shape for the miraculous event. Due to work hours during pregnancy, my entire day’s nutrition consisted of an orange for breakfast, half a sub sandwich for lunch , and half for dinner (and when I say sub, I mean a foot-long white bread sandwich with nothing but processed cold cuts, American cheese and jalapeno peppers.) I washed that all down with the largest cherry limeade I could buy, because it had to last my entire shift-a healthier choice, I figured since it did not have caffeine. I often went an entire week without a real meat, fresh vegetable, and whole grains.
My bouts with morning sickness-to the point of throwing up-lasted from early in the pregnancy until three days after my baby was born. Along with my second pregnancy, came nine months of migraine headaches and then my son’s chronic health issues. I finally decided there had to be a better way to do pregnancy! The challenges have leg me to some fascinating ingredients that make for a healthier momma and, therefore, a healthier baby.
Our health is a gift, not just from the Creator, but also from our parents. The health of our parents when they brought us into the world plays a large role in determining what our level of health will be. Likewise, your health plays a major role in your children’s health.
People generally assume that most health issues depend on the genes we pass on-that they determine what makes us more or less vulnerable to various diseases and health conditions. Typically, we do not make the connection that we directly pass on to our children a reflection of our own health. As a result, our children often suffer from the same digestive, immune, and chronic health issues that we do-not just because of genes but also because of how we care for ourselves. It should not be a surprise that your child is colicky if you have had problems with your digestion. So before you think about having a baby, you should first rebuild and restore your own health. Not only will you be passing on to them a head start in health, but the habits you develop will benefit them throughout life.
Getting Your Gift in Shape
The place to start building your health is with your diet-your nutritional lifestyle. Nutrients are the building blocks of cells, and it is vital to take in nutrients that build healthy cells. Diets full of healthy fats, grass-fed and organic proteins, fermented foods, properly prepared grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables are vital. While there are several very good diet suggestions out there, I recommend Diet for Pregnancy and Nursing Mothers (http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/311-diet-for-pregnant-and-nursing-mothers.html) , published by the Weston A. Price Foundation. It offers great guidance for nourishing your body and preparing the inner stores necessary for pregnancy.
While most people recognize the need for protein, iron, and vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables, it is only recently becoming known that healthy fats are needed as well. A British publication noted that for a healthy reproductive systems, a woman needs 25 to 30 percent body fat, and the American recommendation for women of child-bearing years is 21 to 33 percent. Healthy fats include coconut oil, whole milk, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, avocados, and grass-fed meats (with healthy portions of the fat included). A great primer in the study of fats is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (found on page 14).
Just as important as what you put in your body, is what you don’t put in. Fats to avoid are shortening, margarine, vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil and the like. Other no-no’s include artificial sweeteners, white sugar, white flour, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, caffeine, and soft drinks (even cherry limeades!). Not only are they empty calories, they are often toxic to the body.
Another crucial part of your lifestyle evaluation is your level of physical activity. At any time in life, exercise keeps the body feeling well, the joints moving, aches and pains dispelled, and there is an overall vitality. To “get in shape” for pregnancy, it’s important to incorporate into daily life activities and exercises that increase stamina, flexibility, and cardio function. If you’re wary of exercise because of pain, I recommend you read Pain Free (see page 14). I’ve followed its guidelines for almost a year now and have found incredible relief from aches and pains, while increasing my flexibility and balance.
When you exercise, it’s important that you not burn too much fat. High impact aerobics and long distance running often burn more than recommended amount of body fat for a healthy pregnancy. The key here is to research the regimen you will be participating in and maintain a level that’s right for you.
Our Food Doesn’t Always Cut It
Ideally, you would get all your nutrients from food, but that is just not possible these days with our nutritionally-depleted food supplies, busy lifestyles, and other deficiencies. That’s where the wonderful resources of Beeyoutiful are invaluable if you’re preparing for one of life’s greatest joys-and hardest tasks.
Both parents should take a multivitamin derived from whole sources, easily absorbed, and one that works within the body to help build and restore. SuperMom and SuperDad are excellent multivitamins which also feature “bonus” nutrients such as spiralina and cholorella. Bear in mind, that dad contributes on the front end to the baby’s health, so he needs to take his vitamins to build his system as well.
In addition to the multivitamin, Folic Acid is a must. A sufficient level of Folic Acid in both parents decreases the rate of several genetic problems including spina bifida and Down Syndrome. Although SuperMom and SuperDad offers 400 mcg of Folic Acid, most midwives and health practitioners advise 800 mcg per day for those anticipating pregnancy. For more on the benefits of Folic Acid in pre-natal care, check out Beeyoutiful’s Fall 2009 article “Pre-natal Peace of Mind” (available in the online archives at http://www.beeyoutiful.com/pre-natal-peace-of-mind).
To make sure your body can use the foods and supplements you’re giving it, you’ll need to do all you can to keep your digestive system working is best. Even if you are blessed with an iron-clad stomach, you have likely taken antibiotics sometime in your life or have been exposed to toxins that could wreak havoc on digestive flora. I’ve outlined below two key supplements to help build a strong digestive tract.
1. Tummy Tuneup, taken daily, rebuilds good intestinal flora which will pass to the baby growing inside of you. It is also protecting against harmful bacteria. And a big plus I wish I had known during my first stomach-churning pregnancy: Daily use of probiotics can help decrease nausea while pregnant.
2. Digestive Enzymes are crucial because enzymes are the tools your body uses to extract nutrients from food. Most people are deficient and unable to use well what their food offers. Without sufficient enzymes, many people experience fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, food cravings, and various stomach complaints. Eliminating these problems before pregnancy will help you feel better during pregnancy. And it will help maximize the “building blocks” or nutrients available to your child.
Cod Liver Oil, One of my new personal favorites. I wish I’d taken it prior to all my pregnancies, not just the current one. Cod Liver Oil provides the EPA and DHA required for proper brain development. I suggest using Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil along with Organic 3 Extra Virgin Butter Oil because between the two you get Omega 3’s and good amounts of Vitamins A, D, and K. These three vitamins work together to help build strong bones, maintain the cardiovascular system, keep skin clear and healthy, balance the clotting in your blood, reduce the chance of diabetes, strengthen the immune system, and a myriad of other great things. Taking these vitamins in the form of Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil helps you receive the greatest benefit. Since these are fat soluble vitamins, it is also crucial to take them with a meal containing a moderate amount of healthy fats.
Red Raspberry Leaves. This herb is invaluable to women of all ages, but specifically for pre-pregnancy, Red Raspberry Leaves are known to increase fertility in both men and women, prevent miscarriage and hemorrhage, and decrease morning sickness. Many midwives agree that Red Raspberry Leaves are safe to take throughout your pregnancy, but some advise against use during the first trimester, so (as always!) check with your preferred health care provider before continuing any supplement during your pregnancy.
A Matter of Timing
The plans I’ve shared here should be started six months to a year prior to pregnancy if at all possible. Certainly, if you are experiencing specific health concerns such as thyroid issues, extreme fatigue, chronic sinus problems, et al, it would be best to get control of them immediately-whether or not pregnancy seems to be in your future. Either by diet modification or through adding supplements or working with a naturopath: the more you work to restore your health now, the less work it will require to restore it in the future-and you’ll reduce the chances of passing on these problems to your children.
Whether your first or your tenth, pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in life! Every baby brings a wealth of expectations, joys, and new experiences. So as you contemplate bringing a life into this world, I hope you can learn a little from my bad choices and the subsequent better ones. For me, the most rewarding part of all has been my youngest child, who is by far healthier than my older two. We are so looking forward to our fourth addition in December and seeing firsthand how our hard work has paid off!
Mary Ewing is a part-time employee for Beeyoutiful as well as wife, mom and aspiring homesteader. She stays at home with her three children and enjoys exploring life with her brood as they cook, clean, garden, and play. Her passions are traditional cooking, essential oils, gardening, learning about raising livestock, and traditional art forms such as sewing, crocheting, knitting and smocking!