As I prepare for the birth of my own child, I’ve been motivated to put together a blog series covering my take on a healthy pregnancy. In the series, I’ll cover all three trimesters and include a few of my own personal observations. As with anything you read on the Leaves of Life blog, it’s thoughtful, but it is no substitute for medical advice. Please consult your physician before making any change to medications, diet, or exercise.
It’s best to prepare and nourish your body prior to conception for the best possible outcome for you and baby. If you’re lucky enough to plan ahead for your pregnancy, you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate where you are in terms of micronutrients, toxicity, and inflammation and plan accordingly. If the timing of your pregnancy has been unexpected, don’t lose heart! Any positive changes you make are still great for you and your baby.
Wherever you are on the planning spectrum, take a look at my recommended preconception plan. New studies show that your diet and nutrient deficiencies can alter your baby’s genes for life. So nourish the soil before you plant the seed!
Step 1: Get yourself tested with an intracellular micronutrient test.
What comes to mind when you think about pregnancy? Swollen ankles… Naps… Cravings? What about zinc, calcium, or Vitamin D? Pregnancy can leave you depleted in more ways than one. So my advice is to find out where your deficiencies are now!
Having this information prior to conceiving will help you prepare your body for what you need as well as the needs of your baby. For example, if your calcium stores are low prior to conception and you aren’t aware, your baby will take calcium from your bones – potentially leaving them at risk for becoming brittle. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that when you are pregnant, your baby will get what she needs but leave you depleted post-partum which could lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue and many other symptoms. The stronger you are going into the pregnancy, the stronger you will be after giving birth.
Learning about your deficiencies through micro nutrient testing will help you understand which supplements you need to take – and, most importantly, it’s a result that’s unique to you… which helps you avoid the one-size-fits-all tales that you may hear about what you “should” be eating, supplementing, etc.
A word of caution: Ask a health care practitioner if the supplements you take are safe for pregnancy.
Other testing considerations: MTHFR
What is MTHFR? We all have this gene which is responsible for converting the synthetic form of vitamin B9 (folic acid) into folate (think spinach). Many of us are poor converters of this vitamin and must be careful about supplements we take as well as processed foods that are fortified with folic acid.
Folate helps to prevent neural tube defects (spina bifida) in the fetus. Folate is also important for making and repairing DNA and producing red blood cells. Look for prenatals that have methyl-folate and NOT folic acid.
Step 2: Clean up your body and your environment.
It’s not news that we live in a toxic world and most of us are exposed to heavy metals like never before. For example, mercury happens to be very prevalent in Ohio environments because of coal burning power plants. Apart from coal – think about fish or maybe amalgam dental fillings – both of which can be full of mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin and can cause long-term health effects. Addressing some of these sources of toxicity, eliminating or limiting exposure, and cleaning up your body prior to conception gives you and your baby a better chance at long term health. Stay tuned for our “healthy home series” blogs and our upcoming classes aimed at helping you find the right home care and personal care products to accomplish the goal of cleaning up your environment!
It’s best to do a metabolic detox prior to conception to clean up as many toxins as you can. These toxins, which build up in the body, can cross over to the baby.
Step 3: Start to scale back on inflammatory foods
After detox I recommend scaling back on inflammatory foods such as sugar, gluten, alcohol and caffeine. You’ve already detox’d so keep it going! There may be other inflammatory foods that you should eliminate based on your sensitivities, but keeping an eye out for these is a great start.
Everyone would benefit from following an anti-inflammatory diet, or “clean eating.” I would advise anyone reading this post to act as if you’re pregnant now to ensure a better outcome later. If you’ve already conquered your sugar addiction or caffeine cravings now, you won’t have to deal with it while you get used to pregnancy. Believe me, you’ll thank me later!