Part 2: Nutrition During Pregnancy
A study published in Nature Neuroscience by Leiden University in the Netherlands reveals that “during pregnancy, women undergo significant brain remodeling that persists for at least two years after birth. The study also offers preliminary evidence that this remodeling may play a role in helping women transition into motherhood.” You are the queen of intuition; you are more in tune now than ever with your body. Use it to guide your choices and discover what works for you.
According to John Hopkins’ School of Medicine, a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy involves:
- Appropriate weight gain
- A balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation
- As helpful as intuition is when it comes to when to eat, when to move, and when to sleep; it’s also incredibly important to educate yourself on which kinds of foods and supplements are optimal for your body right now. Here is a quick breakdown of each bullet with a few tips from Pachavega.
What is the appropriate weight gain?
Hopkins’ Medicine recommends increasing by about 300 calories per day per child. You may be wondering, “Well, where should these extra calories come from?” Great question! We want to eat a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and sprouted whole grains. Keep sweets and unhealthy saturated fats to a minimum. And also drink tons of fluids.
On average, women gain about 12 kilograms, or 26 pounds, during pregnancy, and most of the weight gain is due to water. To be more exact, you can Body Mass Index, and refer to the chart below.
Amniotic fluid is the water that surrounds the fetus and counts for about 10% of this weight gain. The Amniotic Fluid Volume (AFV) is a predictor of fetal health and wellbeing. The water acts as a shock absorber, protecting the child from mechanical trauma while also preventing umbilical cord compression.
This weight gain is also coming from your blood volume increasing by 30% and your plasma volume increasing by 40%. Drinking water helps to prevent blood clotting, pre-term labor, and even the risk of a post-delivery stroke.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
Nutrition is more important than ever at this time. Try to consume whole, organic foods from plant-based sources. Pregnant women should aim for about 70 grams of protein per day during the second and third trimesters. Try for at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables every day. And according to WebMD, you want to stay between six and eleven servings of grains. It’s a large window, but again, listen to your body. Some days will be different than others.
The benefits of healthy eating during pregnancy include:
- Fewer Complications – such as unwanted cravings
- Increased Energy
- Successful Fetal Development
- Improved Sleep
- Reduced Risk of Getting Sick
- When choosing what to eat, opt for foods rich in healthy fats, calcium, iron, magnesium, folic acid, protein, potassium, zinc, iodine (found in iodized table salt), selenium, and vitamins C, D, E & B6.
Folate (or folic acid) is important for healthy fetal development and prevents congenital disorders. Congenital disorders are conditions that are present in the baby upon birth. Common ones include cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, cleft lip and palate, spinal bifida, and heart conditions.
Foods rich in folate are:
- Nutritional yeast
- Sweet potatoes
- Calcium is always important but even more vital during pregnancy. It helps the baby’s bone development and protects the mother’s skeletal health. If the mother isn’t getting enough calcium through diet and supplementation, her body will use its own storage centers to give to the child, placing her at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis later in life.
Foods rich in calcium are:
- Sesame seeds
- Potassium helps reduce fluid retention, balances electrolytes, and eases restless leg syndrome and cramps. It also eases gestational hypertension, which is high blood pressure during pregnancy. Studies have shown women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy have low potassium levels. Its ability to balance electrolytes normalizes blood pressure, thus easing symptoms associated with it.
Foods high in potassium are:
- Healthy fats help prevent miscarriages due to undernourishment. They act as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins D, E, and K, which are essential for infant brain and bone development. They also act as a source of energy needed for growth and repair in both your body and your baby’s. Stick to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega-6 and omega-3) as well as the healthy saturated fat, coconut oil.
Foods rich in healthy fats are:
- Coconut oil
- Pumpkin seeds (Omega-3)
- Hemp hearts
- Chia seeds
- Vitamin C helps boost your immune system during pregnancy. It works to repair tissue and heal wounds as well as supports healthy bone and teeth development in your baby. Vitamin C also aids in the production of collagen – important for skin, cartilage, and joint health – and induces the body’s ability to absorb iron.
Foods rich in vitamin C are:
- Red bell peppers
- Citrus (oranges, lemons)
- Sweet potatoes
- Magnesium is an essential mineral required for body temperature regulation and protein synthesis. Thus, it is critical for your baby’s bone development, and it prevents miscarriages, high blood pressure, premature labor, and preeclampsia. It also helps relieve constipation, which is a common complaint from pregnant women.
Foods high in magnesium are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Protein and amino acids are the building blocks of cells and tissues in early embryonic development. The fetus receives a continuous stream of amino acids through the placenta so it can grow into a healthy, strong baby. Protein also helps with the growth of the mother’s uterine and breast tissue as well as assisting in increasing blood supply.
Great sources of protein include:
- Hemp hearts
- Chia seeds
- Black beans
- Iron is used to produce hemoglobin, which is a red blood cell protein that carries oxygen to the mother’s tissues and the embryo. Thus, it is critical in embryonic development as the baby needs lots of oxygen and blood flow to grow. Pregnant women need double the iron than they normally do. If it’s not consumed in adequate amounts, the mother could become anemic and risk premature birth, low birth weight, and postpartum depression.
Foods high in iron are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nutritional yeast
- Other vitamins and minerals that are also incredibly important for the baby’s brain and cognitive development are zinc, vitamin E, and selenium. Try pumpkin seeds for an excellent source of zinc, almonds for vitamin E, and brazil nuts for selenium.
Get regular exercise when pregnant
The rule of thumb is that if you were active before, you are safe to be active during pregnancy. Try for a combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises; but avoid bouncing. Pay attention to signs such as dizziness, pain in your back or neck, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath. Take it easy, but maintain your routine.
If you didn’t exercise regularly before and you want to start, move into it slowly and listen to your body (and intuition!) always. It is a great idea, though, to move.
Here are a few benefits:
- Reduces backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- May help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- Increases your energy
- Improves your mood
- Improves your posture
- Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance
- Helps you sleep better
- Maintains fitness levels to improve your ability to cope with labor.
- Makes it easier to get back in shape after your baby is born because the habit is established and your muscles are accustomed.
- Opt for appropriate and timely mineral and vitamin supplementation.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care of the UK, women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, starting before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks in. However, if you weren’t taking it before you became pregnant, know that folate is still effective as long as it’s taken in the first few weeks after conception.
Top supplements we recommend at Pachavega are:
- Marine Phytoplankton
- Fulvic/Humic Acid
- Tocotrienols – Vitamin E
- Whole Foods Prenatal
- Marine Phytoplankton is considered the grandmother of all superfoods and is one of the sea’s most mineral-rich plants coming covering the full spectrum. It is an excellent source of DHA’s and EPA’s and is considered a purer, better form of fish oil since it’s lower on the food chain and not exposed to as many toxins.
Fulvic/Humic Acid is one of the most important nutritional discoveries of the last 100 years. It’s potent antioxidant and electrolyte content ounce for ounce render it one of the most replenishing, restorative, and revitalizing supplements there is. The electrolytes help make cell membranes more permeable, which makes it easier for the cell to take in vitamins and minerals.
Other beneficial supplements are ginger, which is wonderful for motion sickness and pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. And also probiotics can help with postpartum depression, and infant eczema and dermatitis.
There is so much exciting new information to learn about with motherhood. Try to read during your downtown, breath, and know that you will make it through this. The fact that you’ve read this article already tells me you’re a great mom.
We are always here for you if you ever have any questions. Remember to follow your intuition. And tune into the third part of this series for nutrition and early childhood.
The information shared in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. Pachavega assumes no liability for adverse health reactions upon following suggestions in this article.
You should not use the information on this site to diagnosis or treat of any health problem or as a substitute for medication or other treatment prescribed by your healthcare practitioner. You should consult a healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, fast, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or if you suspect you might have a health problem.
Each person is different, and the way you react to a particular food or product may be significantly different from the way other people react to such product or food. You should consult your healthcare practitioner and furthermore, do more research regarding any potential adverse interactions between medication you are currently taking and food based nutritional supplements.