There are several frequently-asked questions that the nurses get around the clinic and on the nurse line. Here, I’d like to talk about a few of the things that come up the most frequently in pregnancy and postpartum.
Hippocrates, who was known as the father of nutrition said, “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” This wisdom is especially important in the first three months before conception and during pregnancy. In preconception planning, it is important to consider nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes 90 days before you conceive, if possible. It takes 90 days for a human egg to mature, so those nutrients are important for your body leading up to pregnancy.
“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.”
When you’re pregnant, whatever the baby needs is drawn from you, which can deplete what you have stored in your body. It’s important to keep up the nutrition during this time. Of course, there is so much information on the internet that it can be overwhelming, so I hope to break down a few of the most important things to help you and your baby stay healthy.
Increase your protein intake. Protein is necessary for cell growth and reproduction. Ideally, you’ll be taking in 65-70 gm of protein a day. Getting enough protein in pregnancy can be challenging, especially if you’re nauseous or overall not feeling well. Try a collagen protein powder mixed in with hot tea, or a savory bone broth sipper. Pro tip: You can put broth in your coffee cup during meetings, and it will look like you’re drinking coffee!
Don’t fall for the list of traditional foods that people say not to eat. Make sure that you’re eating foods that are good quality, and that food prep spaces are clean. If you’re one of those people who never ate deli meat or over-easy eggs during your pregnancy, more power to you! But recent studies show that it isn’t necessary to stay away from most of these things. If you’re feeling wary, you can heat the deli meat before you eat it. Getting eggs that aren’t factory farmed, with a label like “Pasture Raised,” means you shouldn’t have any problems. There is one thing I still recommend being cautious about: sushi. Make wise choices when it comes to consuming raw fish. If you’re craving sushi, you might try a nice vegetarian version like avocado rolls, or stick with the cooked type.
Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Early on at Dar a Luz, we used to check everyone’s Vitamin D levels at their New OB visit. After a while we realized that all but a few people had low levels. In order to save time and lab costs, we now suggest a supplementation for everyone of 4,000 IU daily of Vitamin D, all the way through breastfeeding. Although it varies, just for reference, your prenatal vitamin usually has about 400 IU of Vitamin D — look at the bottle to check, and supplement as needed. While supplementation alone can be helpful, there are a few other things you can do to help increase absorption. First, it’s important that you take Vitamin D with a meal, and that the meal has fat in it. Also, together with getting some sun, working on your gut health with pre- and probiotics and fermented foods can help your body naturally synthesize Vitamin D and keep those levels up.
UseFolate, not folic acid. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, and folic acid has been recommended in pregnancy for many years. It has contributed to lowered incidence of neural tube defects in newborns. Although it sounds like a great supplement, in order for your body to convert folic acid to the bio-available folate, it has to go through the process of methylation. Crazy but true fact: fully one third of adults have a genetic mutation that prohibits methylation from happening effectively in their bodies. Whether you know if you have this genetic mutation or not, it may be easier to find a vitamin with folate instead of folic acid — and then you can rest easy knowing you’ve covered all of your bases.
Increase your intake of iron-rich foods. While it is often recommended that you supplement with iron in pregnancy, sometimes increasing your daily intake of iron-rich foods alone will be enough. The body goes through many shifts in the blood stream during pregnancy, and supporting the body to keep up with in increase need of red blood cell production may prevent you from needing to supplement. Two other helpful things to know are that Vitamin C helps you absorb iron, and calcium can inhibit the absorption of iron. The best iron-rich foods are dark-green leafy vegetables, brown rice, beans, and red and white meats. Combining these foods with citrus fruits, tomatoes, red or yellow peppers, or broccoli and can help you absorb the iron you need. That sounds like a few yummy meals I can think of! Small changes and a bit of awareness can make a big difference.
These five points are answers to some of the most popular questions that we receive at Dar a Luz. If you have more questions about amounts, calorie needs, and good food choices, look in your Birthing your Baby manual. It has several pages of information and is a great resource! I hope that these things will help ease any pressing questions you have, and will lead you on to a healthy happy pregnancy.