Essential Omega Fatty Acids are especially crucial before, during and after pregnancy. Among these are omega -3 providing DHA & EPA. DHA is the omega-3 fatty acid that is most important for fetal brain and retina development. The brain develops early in life at a rapid pace, reaching essential completion by ages five or six years. A woman’s demand for omega-3 DHA increases significantly during pregnancy and breastfeeding as infants rely on their mothers to supply DHA initially through the placenta and then through breast milk. EPA is the omega-3 fatty acid that helps support healthy mood, skin and control inflammation in the body. The benefits of Omega-3 during pregnancy and breastfeeding for mom include:
- Greater maternal stores to supply the fetus via the placenta
- Greater supply and improved nutrition of breastmilk
- Reduced risk of postpartum depression
- Healthy skin, hair and nails
- Stronger immune system
- Reduces risk of premature delivery and increased birth weight
The benefits of Omega-3 during pregnancy and breastfeeding for children include:
- Improved vision, motor abilities, concentration, IQ, coordination, attention span
- Healthier sleep patterns, better social behavior and communication skills
- Less anxiety, irritability, aggression and hyperactivity
- Stronger immunity and reduced risk of allergies, asthma and eczema
It is recommended to eat 2 servings per week of low-mercury fish (i.e. wild salmon) or take a high quality fish oil supplement to increase omega fats available to both mom and baby.
Many experts agree that passage through the vaginal birth canal at birth is the baby’s first inoculation with beneficial bacteria, making it the foundation of its own bacterial ecosystem. Therefore, the composition of the microbiome is essential to both mom and child’s health. In addition, it has now been established that breast milk has its own microbiome containing, plus it produces its own prebiotics for the bacteria residing in the breast tissue and milk. Supplementing with beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, during pregnancy and breastfeeding can reduce the risk of the child developing eczema, asthma, allergy and digestive distress, in addition to supporting mom’s immune, digestive and mental health. Consider a probiotic supplement (especially if taking antibiotics), consume fermented foods (i.e. kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha), plan for a vaginal birth and choose to breastfeed if possible.
Women need about twice the amount of iron during pregnancy as before because their body uses it to make extra blood for baby. Iron also helps move oxygen from their lungs to the rest of the body. Too little iron is a common cause of fatigue during pregnancy. Consult a health care practitioner to see if additional iron is necessary in a non-constipating supplement form and ensure adequate consumption of iron-rich foods such as beans, spinach and grass-fed beef.
Calcium is not only essential to build strong bones and teeth in a growing fetus, but will help prevent deficiency during pregnancy, which will cause baby to draw the calcium it needs for development from mom’s bones, which can lead to future health problems such as osteoporosis. Consider an additional calcium supplement if necessary and consume more calcium-rich foods such as kale, almonds or organic dairy.
Folate is essential for development of baby’s neural tube (which develops into brain and spinal cord) and helps prevent birth defects that can occur at 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. In fact, supplementation in early pregnancy can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects by as much as 80%, which is why it is often recommended even before conception. In addition to a quality supplement, consume foods such as chickpeas, asparagus and cauliflower.
- AVOID TOXINS: Avoid nicotine, excess caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives as much as possible.
- TAKE YOUR MULTI: Choose a high quality prenatal multivitamin/mineral and consider additional Vitamin D3 to meet the nutrition needs not attained in the diet.
- EAT WELL: Focus on consuming a variety of simple “whole” foods (unrefined/unprocessed), which should naturally contain the nutrients your body needs and avoid those it can do without. Enjoy food cravings in moderation, but ensure that you are taking in adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
- BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR: Consume balanced meals throughout the day that provide quality protein, fibre-rich complex carbohydrates and healthful fats.
- REST & RELAX: Manage stress and ensure adequate sleep. Consider acupuncture.
- DRINK UP: Your blood volume increases by almost 50% during pregnancy so make sure you are consuming plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- STAY ACTIVE: Engage in regular, moderate exercise that is appropriate for your pregnancy. Consult a professional for guidelines. Stretch and wear supportive shoes!
A FEW MORE TIPS:
- Both ginger and vitamin B6 have been studied as effective treatment options for pregnant women with morning sickness!
- Red raspberry leaf taken later in pregnancy help strengthen the uterus.
- Some professionals will recommend omega-6 evening primrose near the end of pregnancy in order to soften the cervix.
- To improve stretch marks, try topical coconut oil, shea butter or vitamin E cream.
- Leg cramps may indicate a possible magnesium or potassium deficiency.
- Be sure to avoid anything that will have a cleansing effect body.
Assure that any supplements taken during pregnancy/breastfeeding are approved by a professional, such as a naturopath.
-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach-