Practices for a Pleasant Pregnancy
By Mary Ewing
After three pregnancies, each featuring a number of “pregnancy symptoms” and baby complications following the birth, I had resigned myself to the idea that all my pregnancies would be difficult, and my health would never be great while pregnant. Still, I envied women who actually enjoyed pregnancy. Many feel wonderful and love every minute of it. But I had never experienced such a thing!
Throwing up was a way of life form me with most of my pregnancies-sometimes the entire nine months. I was constipated, had blood sugar problems, anemia, back aches, swelling..you name it! Since I was convinced a lot of my problems centered on nutrition. I decided to change my diet and be faithful with supplementation to see if my next pregnancy would be any better.
The first few weeks of my fourth (and current) pregnancy were still hard-tiredness, vomiting, migraines, and dizziness-but I stuck with my plan to stay on a healthier diet, get moderate exercise, and use supplements. Slowly I noticed a difference and by week 15, I was actually starting to feel good. By 20 weeks, I consistently felt wonderful. For the first time ever, I was pregnant and felt fine at the same time.
Despite my success, I was quaking in my boots as I went for gestational diabetes and anemia checks around 30 weeks. I just knew some of my problem was “genetically me.” I’ve always battled hypoglycemia and anemia, so when my midwife took blood samples, we waited nervously as her machine ticked down the seconds. I almost fell off her couch when the results came back not only normal but textbook normal. As the weeks have passed, I continue to feel fine, sleep well, and have fairly decent energy levels.
So what did I do this time? Three things:
1. Traditional Diet with Supplementation;
2. Moderate Exercise
3. Good rest.
Traditional Diet with Supplementation
In my “Pre-Pregnancy” article (Beeyoutiful Fall 2010 Catalog), I recommended the Weston Price Foundation approach to a healthy diet: raw milk, farm fresh eggs, good fats (butter, animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, cod liver oil), bone broths, lacto-fermented vegetables, and grass-fed meats and vegetables (see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon on page 12). This has become the mainstay of eating for my family and me. I’ve also limited my intake of white flour, white sugar, empty calories, preservatives, and chemicals. Eating 2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day has helped to decrease my cravings for carbohydrates and starches and to maintain my pregnancy-appropriate weight gain. My protein intake is 80-100g per day, equally spaced throughout the day, and making sure to have a healthy portion in the morning. Protein is crucial to the development of your baby during pregnancy. Most people consume only about 35g per day. That level can sustain you and your baby, but it increases your risk for developing toxemia or pre-eclampsia.
Early on, it was sometimes a struggle to eat these things when I felt yucky-Sprite and a chocolate chip muffin sounded much better. But if I chose to eat a bowl of bone broth, I would often start to feel normal again soon. Thankfully, as I entered my second trimester, I felt much better and was able to eat the suggested diet without problems.
Even the best diet often lacks key nutrients crucial for ourselves and our developing babies. Therefore, supplementation is essential, and I cannot tell you what a difference this pregnancy has been. My husband is grateful for Beeyoutiful because supplements have meant a lot less complaining on my part!
Supplements for daily usage:
SuperMom-an excellent prenatal multivitamin. I’ve had some problems early on with tablets, but using the capsules four times a day instead helps ease my indigestion or discomfort. On days I was having a particularly hard time stomaching things, I found that taking SuperKids was a great way to get my vitamins without the discomfort. These supplements provide important building blocks to help keep you healthy and nurture a strong baby.
Tummy Tuneup or Ultimate Defense probitoics. I’ve taken Ultimate Defense because of nausea and to insure the best gut health possible, eliminate nausea, and pass on a healthy gut to my newest addition. A recent study links a decrease in childhood allergies to use of probiotics during pregnancy.
Digestive Enzymes. There’s a theory about morning sickness that links it to the live and a back-up of toxins. Digestive Enzymes can help the body break down these toxins and ease morning sickness. It also helps the body use the nutrients in food, decrease bloating, and indigestion (see Beeyoutiful’s article “The Essential Work of Digestive Enzymes“.
Folic Acid. Although Folic Acid is most critical during the first few weeks of conception and growth, it’s important to continue supplementation throughout pregnancy. Check with your midwife or health practitioner for the specific amount to take, because this varies between individuals. Typically 400-800 mcg per day is recommended. SuperMom contains 400 mcg, so you will likely need to take extra. Also, on the days you just can’t stomach much else, Folic Acid’s small tablet is a great source of folic acid without having to take a bunch of pills.
Magnesium. Wow! I can’t say enough about this one. The migraines and constipation I feared were the norm for all pregnancies…are not. I had heard many years ago that magnesium was crucial for migraine sufferers, so when my migraines peaked again in the middle of pregnancy, I took a healthy dose of magnesium every day. Within several weeks, I no longer suffered the constipation my OB had told me was completely normal and expected in pregnancy. My husband was thrilled, too, because it meant I no longer read a full novel every three days, camped out in the bathroom. I also slept much better than I ever had. In addition, magnesium helps prevent pre-eclampsia and pre-term labor. I take Beeyoutiful’s Magnesium and split my dose with two capsules in the morning and two before bedtime. I take it with raw milk because calcium is great coupled with magnesium.
Cod Liver Oil. Another “Wow!” moment when I started taking this. Although it had been on my shelf for years, I just didn’t want to take another thing. But the energy, clarity of mind, and overall vitality I experienced was incredible. To be sure that Cod Liver Oil was making the difference, I took myself off of it for a few days. Within a week, I was sluggish and feeling drained again, so I haven’t missed it since. It not only nourishes your brain but provides your body with crucial Vitamin D3 which helps keep your immune system in high gear. In my first three pregnancies, I struggled with colds and viruses several times during each one. (Nothing more miserable!) But with this pregnancy, I was 35 weeks along before catching even a slight cold, and it ran its course in just 48 hours!
Red Raspberry Leaves and Evening Primrose Oil. These two are excellent hormonal supports during pregnancy, and they prepare the uterus and body for labor. I did take these in my third pregnancy, and although I can’t confirm their overall impact, my labor was only four hours long-tolerable until the last two hours or so! I have read many different suggestions regarding when to start taking them. I suggest personal research and asking your midwife or health practitioner what is best for you. Each woman’s body is different, and the needs should be specifically addressed.
Supplements to keep on hand:
Activated Charcoal. This has been a lifesaver during this pregnancy, for two reasons: (1) A horrible stomach flu went through our family while on vacation. I immediately grabbed the charcoal and began regular doses. Although I typically catch any and all stomach viruses, it totally skipped me! (2) It greatly relieved morning sickness and indigestion. When I felt bad or had that acidy feeling in the pit of my stomach, I drank a slurry of Activated Charcoal powder. While I don’t mind the slurry’s taste and texture, others may prefer tablets or capsules. (NOTE: With regular use of charcoal for morning sickness, be sure to take either a mineral supplement or to mineralize your water because charcoal can decrease the mineral population in your intestines.)
Pregnancy Tea. Oh, what a comfort you are! When I am not feeling well, have a lack of energy, feel extra emotional, cold, or just want to enjoy a cup of warm tea that’s good for me, I relish Pregnancy Tea. Its slightly spearmint flavor is quite a comfort when mixed with a little honey and sipped in my favorite rocking chair.
Ow!-Ease. For those back aches or round ligament pains, Ow!-Ease is my favorite pain reducer. If occasional back or neck-aches creep up, Ow!-Ease delivers instant relief.
Exercise and the Rest
During this pregnancy, I’ve tried to stay as limber as possible. In the past, I’ve tried to stay active, but by 30 weeks, I usually take to the couch. Backaches are my biggest enemy, along with swelling of the legs and feet, and being generally uncomfortable. I have found several things to help combat this.
1. Regular/weekly chiropractor appointments. Find a reputable chiropractor who will work with your midwife or health practitioner to privde the care you need while pregnant. I found an incredible chiropractor-a young dad himself-who has been diligent to communicate with my midwife about my specific needs. The results have been amazing. I’ve had no backaches since seeing him, no nausea, no swelling or round ligament pain (which plagued me non-stop with my last two pregnancies), and I am much more active. In addition, he convinced our little one to flip head down and engage early in the third trimester. He advises that pregnant women find a chiropractor who is familiar with natural medicine and trained and/or certified in the Webster techniques. Most chiropractors will work a cash payment deal with patients who do not have insurance, so make sure to ask them about arrangements for paying.
2. Bradley-recommended exercises. I had hoped to take a class in the Bradley method this pregnancy-yes, even though it’s my fourth time around! Unfortunately it didn’t fit into our schedules. Yet, I checked several resources out of our local library that offer a few chapters about moderate, appropriate exercise-mainly stretching and positioning. Kegel exercises are very important as well. I spend at least half and hour a day relaxing my body and practicing relaxation. This has helped tremendously to relieve stress or tension pain that often accumulates with pregnancy, and I am hoping to experience its benefits in labor as well! (Editor’s note: Mary reports that this was the first of her four labor/delivers that she was actually able to maintain relaxation throughout the entire time. Her support system, which most had been with her through all four delivers concurs! She is thrilled with the results of this exercise in relaxation.)
3. Drinking plenty of water. Water retention is usually a sign of dehydration. I’ve known this through all my pregnancies but have not followed it as closely as I should. Usually by 30 weeks, I look more like a sausage than a person. But thankfully, between the chiropractor helping blood flow through the pelvis with a loose and straight spinal column, the stretching and increased water consumption, I have not had to battle thick extremities. This in not only beneficial to me but also to the baby. It helps insure good blood flow to the little one.
4. Get enough sleep. Sometimes easier said than done-but important. Since I am a night owl, I began enforcing an earlier night time for myself and thankfully began sleeping longer stretches. Also, turn off all electronics in your room.
Even though I haven’t attained that “perfect” pregnancy yet, I’m excited about the progress on my journey of making this process healthier for myself and my future child. Sitting here tonight, I feel the kicks and jabs of my little one as she stretches and grows, and I’m extremely thankful for the insights I’ve gained over the last few years. I hope it won’t take you as long as it did me to discover the joy of feeling good while pregnant!
Editor’s Note: Please join us in Celebrating with Mary on the safe birth of her fourth child on December 26, 2010. Charlotte Elizabeth Rose Ewing weight 7lb 8 ounces, 20 ¼ in. We are so happy for Mary and her husband, Talmadge Ewing, and the proud siblings, Emma, Elliot, and Maggie! Mama and Baby are both doing very well, which Mary credits in no small part to the nutrient dense diet she enjoyed during her pregnancy.
Mary Ewing is a part-time employee for Beeyoutiful, as well as wife, mother, and aspiring homesteader. She stays at home with her four 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 lifestock, and traditional forms of art such as sewing, crocheting, knitting, and smocking!
Products Mentioned in This Article:
Cod Liver Oil
Red Raspberry Leaves
Evening Primrose Oil