Ever wonder why some women sail smoothly through pregnancy? Want to carry a healthy baby to full term and reduce the risk for pregnancy-related complications? It turns out that what you do during pregnancy has a huge impact on your pregnancy journey and your baby’s health. Nutrition and other lifestyle factors during the early periods in the lifecycle- just before conception, the months spent in utero and the months after birth- can have profound effects on an individual’s health at birth, during childhood and even into adulthood.
Read on to discover how you can lower risk of disease and give your baby the best headstart to health- starting in the womb:
1) First things first. Eat a variety of healthy, wholesome foods to ensure that you and your baby get adequate nutrients. Avoid processed foods which have low nutritional value but are filled with chemical additives. Take a folic acid supplement at least one month prior to conception to prevent neural tube defects. Choose food-based prenatal multivitamins which are natural, safe, gentler on the stomach and easier to absorb by the body.
2) Eat foods rich in good healthy fats (e.g. omega-3), particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is essential for proper brain growth and eye development in fetuses and young infants. One study shows that visual function is enhanced even up to 13 years later in children exposed to high amounts of DHA in the womb. Not only that, but recent studies have found that daily maternal supplementation of DHA can reduce pregnancy-related complications such as pre-term birth. Food sources of DHA include omega-3 eggs, salmon, cod, herring, sardines and other oily fish. DHA is also found in seaweed but in very small quantities. If you are supplementing, choose a product that has been purified from all environmental toxins (and preferably third-party tested for quality and purity assurance).
3) New research shows that women who take vitamin D during pregnancy reduce their risk of pregnancy-related complications, including pre-term birth, gestational diabetes and infection. One study shows that taking 4000IU of vitamin D daily in their second and third trimesters showed no evidence of harm, but halved the rate of pregnancy-related complications compared to women who took only 400IU. It is important to talk to your obstetrician or naturopathic doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements during pregnancy.
4) Probiotic supplementation during pregnancy has several benefits. Infants are born with a completely sterile gut, so they receive their first dose of beneficial bacteria from their mom when they pass through the birth canal and from nursing. Children with healthy intestinal flora have a lower risk of ear infections and illness in the first few years. Furthermore, studies show that supplementation during pregnancy can reduce the risk of allergies and eczema. One study shows when women take probiotic supplements during pregnancy, their babies are 40% less likely to develop eczema compared to women who didn’t.
5) Pregnant women are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses, so avoid raw eggs, raw seafood, undercooked or possibly contaminated meats (e.g. hotdogs, deli meats). Also avoid shark, swordfish and king mackerel during pregnancy because these contain high levels of methylmercury which are toxic to the nervous system. During your pregnancy, hot baths and saunas are big no-no’s.
6) Keep active, take adequate rest and take care of yourself emotionally. Exercising regularly not only trains strength and endurance needed to carry a baby and handle the physical stress of labour, but also helps to reduce stress. Remember to stay hydrated during exercise and don’t over-exert yourself. It’s common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy. Listen to your body, slow down and get more rest. Mood swings or feeling like you’re on an emotional roller coaster is normal at times. Talk to your partner and friends about your feelings. If you’re feeling constantly overwhelmed or constantly upset, express your concerns to your caregiver so appropriate help can be offered.
During pregnancy, many women prefer a drugless approach and choose to limit the use of pharmaceutical medication. Dr. Yik is trained in nutrition, natural medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. She offers natural support to conditions including morning sickness, colds/ flus, urinary tract infections, insomnia, skin conditions (e.g. eczema flare-ups), fatigue, constipation, etc. Click here to learn more about her prenatal care program, suitable for pregnant women at any point in time.
2 The British Journal of Dermatology. 2010 Sep;163(3):616-23.