As I look back on both my pregnancies, I see so many differences. With my first, I craved carbs, religiously ate at least one bagel with cream cheese daily, worked at a desk all day and subsequently gained a good 60 pounds. For those who know me, I’m a fairly petite person so gaining half my body weight in 9 months probably wasn’t the best idea. My joints felt heavy and stiff; labor was also long and arduous clocking in at 40 something hours.
In contrast with my second, this time around I was chasing a rambunctious toddler, still craved carbs but chose whole grains, ate more veggies and fruits and made an effort to exercise and gained an appropriate 35 pounds. My labor was also much shorter with only 3 hours of active labor until I was holding my baby in my arms.
We may not be able to change genetics but there are things we can do before, during and after pregnancy to help facilitate an easier and more positive birth experience.
Now is the time to look at your lifestyle and nutrition goals! Maybe it’s losing weight or building muscle tone to help your body be in its optimal health before carrying a growing baby for 9 months. Women with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 have the best success at fertility with an underweight or overweight woman more likely to have conception difficulties. If the thought of this is overwhelming, you are most definitely not alone. Chatting with a health coach or nutritionist is a great place to start. Find friends who will hold you accountable as you reach your goals. Salt Lake City Midwife Adrienne Brown, CPM, LDEM and founder of Wasatch Midwifery & Wellness offers a preconception visit to establish a baseline health assessment, discuss family medical history, fertility resources and share ways to prevent miscarriage. As a Doula, I love cheering and supporting my clients in their health journeys.
During the first trimester the life-giving placenta forms. This incredible organ provides all of the necessary nutrients and oxygen for the growing baby as well as a way to dispose of waste. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps prevent placental insufficiency and the complications it can cause to Mom or baby. Most providers agree Moms should increase their calories by 300-500 per day. As delicious as a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream may sound, choose to nourish your baby and body with wholesome nutrient dense calories. Your baby and body will thank you :)
Eating well can be easier said than done, especially during the first trimester.
One of my finest moments during my first pregnancy was secretly fishing out empty yogurt containers left in the trash by my coworkers because I couldn’t stand the smell and tossed them in the garbage faaaar away from me in an effort to prevent throwing up at my desk. Good memories right???
A recent study published by NCBI in 2014 found that the inhalation of lemon essential oil significantly reduced nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Another suggestion to combat nausea is to eat small protein-rich snacks throughout the day as a way to help balance blood sugars and reduce nausea.
Use this time during pregnancy to focus on nutrient dense foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, bone broth, protein and good fats (avocado is one of my favorites).
What About Exercise?
I know you're tired and the last thing you’re thinking is, “I should go really go workout today.” or “Does it really make a difference?” During my first pregnancy, I had this almost this fear of exercise, or I would go to bed with grand plans of doing zoomba, prenatal yoga or taking a long walk only to wake up, go to work and sit all day only. When I came home, I’d make a half-hearted effort only to spend the majority of the evening lounging on the couch. And I felt it, I was out of breath, tired and lacked stamina. According to research exercise during pregnancy helps increase energy, prevent gestational diabetes, reduce back pain and can even help moms have a shorter labor!
Ask the Expert
Nutritionist Lauren Rodas, MS and founder of YIN Wellness in Sandy, Utah writes,
Research has shown that the lifestyle, exercise, attitude, and nutrition choices made by women during their pregnancy have a direct, and often long-lasting, impact on the health of both mother and baby. Additionally, babies whose mothers take good care of themselves while pregnant are more likely to have a positive pregnancy experience, an easier delivery faster recovery and better overall health.
Poor eating habits by moms during pregnancy have been shown to slow the growth of the fetus as well as contribute to the development of long-term and often irreversible health issues for the child including obesity raised levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. A recent study by the Harvard Institute of Public Health found that 95 percent of women who consumed a nutritious diet had healthy babies. In contrast, 65 percent women who ate mainly junk food had premature, malnourished, functionally immature, or stillborn babies. Research also supports that what women eat while they are pregnant helps shape their babies taste buds to crave those specific foods throughout life.
Forget the pressure to “jump” right back into life after having a baby. You don’t need to be superwoman, and it’s okay to ask for help. Take these moments to simply breathe and enjoy bonding with your baby. For breastfeeding moms continue eating an additional 500 wholesome calories each day and talk to your provider on when resuming exercise is okay. Postpartum “exercise” might look at simple as soaking in some vitamin D on your porch or taking a short walk around your block.
I would love to hear your thoughts on nutrition and lifestyle during pregnancy! What things helped you? For Mom’s expecting their second, third or fourth child, what changes did you make between pregnancies?