Essentials

Choosing Your Care Provider and Nutrition

There are two essential elements to getting your pregnancy off to a good start.  The first is choosing your care provider wisely, and the second is good nutrition and exercise.   When choosing a care provider, you need to find someone that shares your vision of birth, and someone that you trust to provide you with the best birth experience that you can have.  This looks different for everyone–there is no “one size fits all.”   First, you must shape your own philosophy about birth, and then begin your search for a care provider.  In Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, she writes:

“As I’ve mentioned before, it is not possible to determine solely by licensure, certification, gender, profession, or outward appearance the philosophy of practice of any given practitioner.  Not all midwives work within the midwifery model of care; not all doctors work entirely within the limits of the medical model of care.  What I am saying here is that you need to be a smart shopper.  One of the best ways to educate yourself about the possibilities in your are is to interview several practitioners.  Notice how you feel during and after your talks with them.  keep in mind that some practitioners may tailor their answers to match what they think are your prejudices.  Respect your own intuition.  If you get “good” answers from a given practitioner but you just don’t feel comfortable with that person, you will probably be wise to continue looking for a good match.”

A good place to start your search in Virginia is:  Virginia Health Information.  Here you can find information and statistics about doctors and hospitals in your area.   Some women feel that they can create a birth plan and make wise decisions on their own and that everything will go well.  While this might be true in some cases, you will have a much easier and more enjoyable time if your provider is on the same page as you, working as your ally, instead of working against you.   You may think that if you hire a doula, then your care provider does not really matter.  While your doula is your advocate, it is paramount for the provider-doula relationship to flow well–both have different roles, but should work together to achieve the goal of the client.  Remember that your care provider will greatly shape your birth experience, so taking the time to research and find the right provider is important.

Pregnant women with the least amount of complications during the pregnancy and postpartum period do not follow the normal American diet.  The traditional American diet consists mainly of processed food and empty calories, which do not benefit a pregnant woman and growing baby.

It is recommended that a pregnant woman increase her caloric intake by 300.  If those calories come from processed food and empty calories, it is no wonder that American women face so many complications—more than any other part of the world!

 

Before reviewing dietary needs during pregnancy, we feel it is best to discuss the role of the wonderful and miraculous organ—the placenta.

 

The placenta is such an important and hugely overlooked organ, however, we often think about it in a fictitious fashion.  We view it as a barrier to protect our baby from harmful substances and forget the other functions it provides.  Yes, it protects but it also provides nourishment and blood supply to the growing baby.   It does not do this by itself, but by the food intake of the mother and the choices that she makes on a daily basis. If we were to think of it as a straw instead of an umbrella we might change our diet choices for the better.  For instance, would you feed your newborn baby coffee through this “straw?”  Sure, the baby will be protected from SOME of the effects, but not all of them.  So with this new mind set, let us now visit nutritional needs during pregnancy and allow our comfort zone to be stretched in order to better ourselves and our baby.  Remember to take baby steps–the changes that you implement at any stage in your pregnancy will affect not only this baby but your family and future pregnancies as well.  It is never too late to start.  For more information on the role of the placenta visit http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n1/placenta

 

Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy

 

Protein:

We like to put protein at the top of the pregnancy food chain.  Healthy choices of protein include fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, nut butters, greek yogurt.

 

A study conducted at Harvard University found that by eating at least 75 grams of protein per day, pregnant women could prevent diseases of pregnancy such as preeclampsia (metabolic toxemia of late pregnancy). During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases as much as 40 to 60 percent, and in order to reach this necessary level and maintain it, a woman’s body needs adequate protein, salt, calcium, potassium and water from her diet.

 

Carbohydrates:

Eating carbohydrates are not a normal problem in the typical American diet, but some good sources include breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.

 

Calcium:

When you think of calcium you automatically think of milk.  While this is true, it is not the only source.  In fact, ½ cup of cooked from frozen spinach has 146 mg of Calcium and 1 cup of milk contains 285 mg of calcium.  At first glance it makes sense why one would gravitate towards milk instead of dark leafy greens when in need of more calcium.  However, according to the government dietary guidelines for Americans, (as seen in their report at http://www.health.gov) the average American is supposed to aim to achieve: 3 servings of milk a day to achieve the proper amount of calcium.  However,  they also are recommending 2 ½- 6 ½ cups of vegetables per day for proper nutrition in general.  By choosing your veggies properly you can achieve a high dose of calcium by other sources than just milk.   See example below.

 

3 servings of milk a day = 855 mg calcium

2 ½- 6 ½ cups of spinach or other green leafy veggies= 730-1898 mg

 

There are many other sources of calcium that can be found at:   http://www.health.gov/DIETARYGUIDELINES/dga2005/document/html/AppendixB.htm

 

While milk products are certainly a high source of calcium, it can also have its drawbacks.  Milk allergies can be a reason for colic in newborns.  This is true even while breastfeeding.

 

RAW Fruits and Veggies

These are a must!  In addition to what you normally eat in your diet, we have found liquid chlorophyll to be an excellent source of iron, magnesium, and copper, which are abundant in raw fruits and veggies.

 

Liquid Chlorophyll:

Liquid Chlorophyll, which is also called green blood or plant blood, is similar to human blood and high in oxygen content. The difference is hemoglobin surrounds an iron atom and chlorophyll surrounds magnesium atom.  Its first use was to treat anemia. Now it is known to combat bacterial invaders and even stabilize blood sugar.  When ingested, the magnesium in this plant form acts as iron and attracts oxygen.  It is high in iron, magnesium, and copper. World Organic Liquid Chlorophyll recommends taking 1 tbs daily. You can get it at most health food stores and we find it doesn’t have much of a taste when mixed with some limeade.

 

Iron:

Iron means red meat to the typical American.  It is needed for red blood cell production and to prevent anemia.  The blood supply increases significantly in the pregnant woman (average increase 2 ½ -5 lbs). Not only are Iron demands increased in pregnancy, but also in the postpartum period from blood loss.  By building up a good foundation of iron in the pregnancy, you are setting yourself up for fewer complications after the baby is born, not to mention having a good amount of energy to meet the needs of your baby.  Here are some other healthy alternatives to spice it up a bit:  Leafy greens, (which is why we suggest the liquid chlorophyll) beets, garbanzo bean, kidney beans, and black beans.

 

WATER:

Water is perhaps one of the most important nutritional needs.  Most Americans live in a dehydrated state.  During pregnancy your water needs increase for many reasons.  While staying hydrated it acts to dilute the hormones swimming around in your system.  This is important to note in early pregnancy when nausea and vomiting are at their peak.  We have found through our experience that the more hydrated you are the less likely the nausea will get to the point of vomiting.  The opposite is also true… The more dehydrated you are the more likely you will begin the nasty cycle of vomiting and then becoming more dehydrated which leads to more nausea and then leads to more vomiting and so on and so on.  Try ice cubes if you cannot tolerate water.  As your pregnancy progresses, your need for water will also increase.  The dilution of hormones is also important during the last stages of pregnancy.  If you are dehydrated, the concentration of your hormones sends signals to your brain that you should be in labor, when actually your baby might not be ready to be born.  Your hydration is directly related to your amniotic fluid level.  AMNIOTIC FLUID is what cushions and protects the baby.  It is the fluid your baby is swimming in and constantly drinking and excreting.  Wouldn’t you want that fluid to be as “clean” as possible?  YOU are solely responsible for how “clean” that fluid is, by selecting the appropriate fluids to drink, with water being at the top of that list.  The amniotic fluid has been shown to actually have flavors that a baby will begin to taste while in utero.  Healthy eating during pregnancy will promote healthy eating during childhood.  Our recommendation is to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.

 

Salt:

Restriction is not as good as you might think.  Salt is needed for normal expansion of the blood volume during pregnancy—a  blood volume that is ever increasing as your baby is growing inside of you.  If salt is restricted, blood volume is restricted and this limits the blood supply to the baby.  Dead tissue can be found in the placenta and could result in your baby not receiving adequate blood supply.  We are by no means telling you to ADD salt to everything you eat.  We are however telling you that moderation, as with everything, is the key.  You should not restrict your salt intake unless otherwise suggested by your care provider.  Rock salt and Sea Salt are our favorite choices because of the high trace mineral content, but check with your provider before changing your usual selection of salt.

 

Folic Acid:

Folic Acid is a must for prevention of Neural Tube Defects in the newborn and proper brain development.  It is recommended that you have 800 mcg in your daily prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is also found in (you guessed it!) dark green leafy veggies, but also in the “pulp” of oranges, grapefruit, lemons and green peppers.

 

Choline:

Another important dietary component needed for proper brain development is Choline. Eggs are an excellent source of Choline.  Visit the following website for more information.  http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Americans-Deficient-In-Dietary-Intake-Of-Choline-Needed-for-Fetal-Brain-Development-14004-1/

 

Sugar:

Is NOT a necessity for the growing fetus.  An article done by Tufts University (2002) found that we average more refined sugar in a single day (by between 300-400 calories worth) than our prehistoric ancestors ate in an entire lifetime. http://www.writing.ucsb.edu/faculty/tingle/courses/W109W/sugarpaper.htm

Too much sugar leads to vitamin B deficiency, which in turn leads to an

increase in nausea and vomiting.  An increase in sugar also creates the perfect breeding ground for bacterial infections such as Group B Strep, an infection which is treated in the hospital setting with IV antibiotics.

 

References:

 

American Medical Association. 1996 Apr 10. JAMA. 275(14).

 

Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2008, January 23). Do National Dietary Guidelines Do More Harm Than Good?. ScienceDaily.

 

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (2009, July 22). Are We What Our Mothers Ate?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 7, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/07/090721122843.htm

 

http://www.health.gov/DIETARYGUIDELINES/dga2005/document/html/AppendixB.htm

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T6P-4R2963P-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=a794b37bb7b5035c6d99f4603a2a9917

 

Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jun;28(6):1294-302. Epub 2007 Feb 8.

 

Bayol SA et al. A maternal ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation promotes an exacerbated taste for ‘junk food’ and a greater propensity for obesity in rat offspring. British Journal of Nutrition, published online 15 Aug 2007.