healthy pregnancy

10 Ways to Prep Your Body for Pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy

Most people have a good understanding of what you should and should not do during pregnancy. We know that you should eat a healthy diet, should not drink or smoke, and you should take your prenatal vitamins daily. But what about what you should do before you conceive? The time to start planning for baby is actually 3-6 months before you plan to conceive. This is the time to prepare your body and adopt healthy habits to create the most favorable environment for your baby-to-be. Here are 10 simple ways to get your body in gear for a healthy pregnancy.

  1. Review your diet: Are you a generally healthy eater or could your diet use some cleaning up? Give up unhealthy foods and eat a diet rich in whole grains, veggies, fruit and protein. Adopt a clean eating plan that eliminates processed foods and additives in favor of organic, GMO free, whole foods. 
  2. Schedule a preconception check-up: Meeting with your doctor or midwife before you plan to conceive is a great time to identify any areas of your health that may need to be addressed. Whether it’s adding a vitamin to your regimen to fill a deficiency, losing or gaining weight or getting more sleep, your care provider can help you come up with a plan to get your body healthy and prepped for baby. You will also want to make sure you are current on any vaccines that are necessary before pregnancy.
  3. Start taking a prenatal vitamin: Prenatal vitamins help ensure that you are getting the all vitamins and nutrients that your body needs for pregnancy and will fill any nutritional gaps that are left in your diet. Start your prenatal vitamin at least three months prior to trying to conceive to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. 
  4. Give up drinking and any other unhealthy habits: Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and using recreational drugs are not only dangerous for the health of your future baby but can actually interfere with your ability to conceive. Treating your body as if you are pregnant while you are preparing to conceive is the safest and healthiest plan for you and your baby to be. You should also double check that any prescription medications you are taking are safe for pregnancy.
  5. Exercise: Establish a moderate exercise routine that you can continue once you become pregnant. Exercise during pregnancy will help ensure that you don’t gain excess weight and prevent complications like gestational diabetes. It will also aid in keeping your blood pressure low, give you energy and help combat prenatal depression and anxiety.
  6. Remove toxins from your environment: Choose non-toxic cleaning supplies, sulfate and paraben free hair and skincare products and BPA free plastics for your home and body. Avoid unnecessary pesticides and herbicides and other environmental toxins to ensure that your body is as healthy as possible. Exposure to toxins during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and abnormalities. 
  7. Schedule a dental checkup: Pregnancy hormones can do a number on your teeth from periodontal disease to loose teeth and bleeding gums. It’s best to get any preexisting dental issues resolved before you get pregnant to ensure that your mouth is as healthy as possible going into pregnancy. 
  8. Cleanse your gut: Consider adding a probiotic to your daily regimen to ensure that you have a healthy digestive tract and a strong immune system. Probiotics may also help prevent vaginal infections during pregnancy that can lead to preterm labor and other maternal and fetal complications.
  9. Reduce your stress level: Although trying to conceive can sometimes be a stressful process, stress is actually counterproductive to your fertility. Stress causes your cortisol levels to rise which can consequently suppress ovulation. Incorporating stress reducing activities into your daily life before you begin trying to conceive will help ensure that you are physically and mentally prepared for pregnancy. There are many ways you can begin to make your mental and physical wellbeing a priority including but not limited to practicing yoga, getting more sleep, meditation, acupuncture, deep breathing, counseling, and massage. 
  10. Consider doing a pre-pregnancy detox: Detoxifying your body by cutting out meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and dairy and increasing your water consumption can have a cleansing effect on your whole system. Consider also drinking a natural, detoxifying tea and doing a colon cleanse to further clean out your digestive tract.

Getting healthy before pregnancy is not only beneficial for your future babe but for you as well! Make it a team effort and get your partner involved by exercising together and coming up with a pregnancy-friendly diet plan for the whole family. At Health Foundations, we love to see couples 3-6 months before they plan to conceive to address any health concerns, review medical history and discuss your plans for a healthy pregnancy. Contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you and your family in your journey through pregnancy.

Essential Vitamins and Nutrients During Pregnancy

Pregnant Woman w/ Prenatal Vitamins

Although it is always important to eat a nutritious diet and take your vitamins, it becomes even more necessary when you are eating for two. Your unborn baby receives all his nutrients from you through the placenta and is relying on you to send food his way that is rich with vitamins and nutrients. While many vitamins are readily available in the healthy foods you eat each day, some are harder to come by without supplementation.  A great way to fill the gap of nutrients and ensure that you are getting exactly what you need for your baby is to take a daily prenatal vitamin and any other supplements your care provider recommends.  Here’s a list of the most important vitamins and nutrients you need during pregnancy and how you can be sure you are getting them all.

What: Iron

How Much: 27 milligrams per day

Why: Iron is a mineral that is necessary to make the protein hemoglobin that is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is important for your baby because your body needs it to provide him oxygen and he needs it to make his own blood. When you are pregnant, you need two times the amount of iron that someone who is not pregnant does. Without sufficient iron, you may be more likely to get infections, feel tired and develop anemia during pregnancy. Your baby may also have a higher risk of low birth weight and prematurity.  

Where: Foods that are great sources of iron include leafy greens, lean meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, raisins, beans, dried fruit and some fortified cereals, breads and pastas.  Make sure your daily prenatal vitamin contains at least 17 milligrams of iron to account for what you are not able to get through your diet.

What: Folic Acid

How Much: 600 micrograms per day

Why: Folic acid is a B vitamin that is extremely important for the growth and development of your baby. When folic acid is taken before and during pregnancy, it can help protect baby from birth defects of the brain and spine, also known as neural tube defects. It may also prevent defects of the heart and mouth like cleft lip and cleft palate. Since neural tube defects happen in the first weeks of pregnancy, it is important to start taking iron even before you plan to conceive.

Where: When you get folic acid naturally through the foods you eat, it is called folate. The best sources of folate include leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, orange juice, beans and lentils. You may also find some breads, cereals and pastas that are fortified with folic acid. In order to meet your daily needs during pregnancy, be sure you prenatal vitamin contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. 

What: Vitamin D

How Much: 600 IU per day

Why: Vitamin D does many good things for your body while you are pregnant. For mom, vitamin D helps your immune system, nerves and muscles and aids in the absorption of calcium in the body. Vitamin D also helps protect mom from infection as it strengthens the immune system. For baby, vitamin D is necessary for the development of his teeth and bones. 

Where: The best food sources for vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and milk that has it added. Sunlight is another source of vitamin D but should be limited due to the other harmful consequences of sun exposure. Choose a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D to supplement what you receive in your diet.  

What: DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)

How Much: 200 milligrams per day

Why: DHA is a nutrient and an omega-3 fatty acid that aids in the growth and development of your baby. Specifically, DHA is integral in the creation of baby’s brain and eyes. 

Where: Foods that are rich in DHA include low-mercury fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, halibut and trout. Orange juice, eggs and milk can also be sold fortified with DHA. Because DHA is not included in all prenatal vitamins, you may have to take a separate DHA supplement. Pregnant and nursing women need approximately 100-200 milligrams more of DHA than the 250 milligram omega-3 intake recommended for all adults.

What: Calcium

How Much: 1000 milligrams per day

Why: Calcium plays an important role in the development of your baby’s bones, teeth, muscles, heart, and nerves. For mom, calcium is important to prevent bone density loss.

Where: Dietary sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli and some orange juices. Choose a prenatal vitamin that contains 200-300 milligrams of calcium to ensure that you are getting your daily allotment. 

What: Iodine

How Much: 220 micrograms per day

Why: Iodine is a mineral that is necessary to make thyroid hormones. The thyroid is responsible for helping the body store energy from food intake. Your baby needs iodine for the development of his brain and central nervous system. A severe iodine deficiency can potentially lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, mental disability, deafness and physical abnormalities.

Where: Iodine can be found in fish, yogurt, milk, cheese, iodized salt and fortified bread and cereal. Prenatal vitamins don’t always contain iodine and it is important that you check yours to see if you need to take an additional supplement. 

Prenatal Vitamins:

It is important to remember that prenatal vitamins are meant to be a supplement, not a substitute, to a healthy diet during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins provide an efficient way to bridge the nutritional gap left between what you consume and what your baby needs. They also fortunately contain all of the daily recommended vitamins that you would find in any normal adult multivitamin. Prenatal vitamins can be beneficial not only during pregnancy but before and after as well. Particularly, if you are a breastfeeding mom you will want to continue taking your vitamins after baby is born as your body will need the extra nutrients. Prenatal vitamins can be bought over the counter or can be prescribed by your obstetrical caregiver. They even offer liquid and chewable options for moms who struggle with nausea or other difficulties from taking pills during pregnancy. 

We recommend Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamins and Nordic Naturals Fish Oil which can be purchased at the Birth Center for your convenience.

Eating a healthy diet and taking a daily prenatal vitamin is one of the many ways you can begin to care for your baby before she is here. For questions about prenatal care and any and all other topics related to pregnancy and birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

Recipe ~ Summer Garden Pasta Salad

Summer Garden Pasta Salad

Nothing says summer like a healthy pasta salad packed with yummy, farm fresh vegetables.  Pasta salad may be one of those foods that you don’t want to pick up premade from the store while pregnant since you won’t know all of the ingredients.  Fear not though, here is a delicious, healthy, pregnancy-approved pasta salad recipe for your next summer barbecue!

Ingredients:

8 ounces of whole-grain pasta, cooked and chilled

¼ red onion, chopped

¼ cup of fresh herbs of your choice (basil, thyme, tarragon, parsley)

5 cups total of the following veggies:

Green beans, blanched

Broccoli florets, blanched

Eggplant, cubed and sautéed in olive oil and salt

Spinach, chopped

Bell peppers, chopped

Zucchini, cubed

Summer squash, cubed

Cucumber, chopped

Cherry tomatoes, halved

¾ cup of salad dressing of your choice (Italian, vinaigrette, Greek, etc.)

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Combine cooked and cooled pasta with vegetables and dressing in a large bowl.  Set in the refrigerator to cool a half hour prior to serving to blend flavors.  Add salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese to taste.

Enjoy!

Recipe transcribed from:

http://www.pregnancy.org

Green Goddess smoothie

smoothieAll this cold weather has us thinking about smoothies...ironically enough!  While many of us benefit from favoring warm, comforting foods in colder months, a smoothie this packed with goodness is worth the possible brain freeze.  It it best to consume colder foods like these in the midday if possible, though you can enjoy them anytime. This smoothie is packed with crucial nutrients and protein from superfood all-stars like kale, chia, flaxseed, and spirulina.  Really, everything in this smoothie is great for your body and your baby.  Not only is this great for pregnancy, but would also make for a fabulous early labor snack to give you lots of fuel and nutrients for the journey ahead.  The bonus is that this smoothie is beautiful and gives a splash of color to these otherwise white winter days!  Enjoy mamas.

In a blender or with an immersion blender, blend and enjoy:

- 1 ripe banana

- 1 cup frozen organic blueberries

- 1 cup organic spinach

- 1 cup organic kale

- 1/3 of a cup of coconut water (can substitute almond milk or plain water), add more liquid if you like your smoothies drinkable rather than spoonable

- 1 T ground flax seeds

- 1 T chia seeds

- 1 t hemp protein powder (optional)

- 1 t spirulina

- 2 medjool dates (optional-- adds sweetness)

10 Great Foods for Pregnancy

salad in preg Eating during pregnancy can invite an entirely new way of eating and thinking about food.  For example, a woman who used to eat a small breakfast at 11 am, skip lunch, and eat dinner after a long day at 8pm, may find she wakes hungry and craves a full high protein meal, can’t go longer than two hours without eating, and suddenly hates all vegetables/meats/fruits/or red foods…

Because you are no longer simply eating for your single adult body (but are, miraculously, building the body of another person!) it’s a good idea to educate yourself about how to eat optimally during pregnancy.  Sometimes, all the details about grams of protein, milligrams of iron, what to avoid, and how to take various supplements can get overwhelming; so here is a simple list of ten foods that are highly nutritious and beneficial during pregnancy.  Feel free to incorporate these into your diet as they work best for you (taking what you like and leaving the rest).

foodsEggs

With more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, lots of protein and less than a 100 calories each, eggs are a great food for pregnancy.  Cheap, easy to cook, and versatile, eggs are an excellent source of choline, which is crucial to baby’s growth and brain health and helps prevent neural tube defects.  Insufficient choline consumption in pregnancy can lead to structural problems in the baby’s brain.  Some eggs also contain omega-3 fats, which are also important to baby’s brain health.  Healthy women are advised to consume 1-2 eggs daily.

Other sources of choline include chicken, turkey, collard greens, and cauliflower.

Beans and legumes

There are so many beans to choose from and many ways to prepare and enjoy them.  Of all the vegetables, beans have the highest concentrations of protein and fiber, both important in pregnancy.  In order from highest to lowest protein concentrations are soy beans, fava beans, lentils, red kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, black-eyes peas, garbanzos, and lima beans.  Beans can be used in burritos, salads, soups, chili, pasta dishes, casseroles and more.

Beans are also a great source of iron, folate, calcium, and zinc.  Half a cup of lentils, for example, contains nearly fifty percent of a pregnant woman’s daily folic acid requirements.

Salmon

Salmon is a high quality protein, a great source of omega-3 fats (DHA), and has low amounts of mercury, which is the reason to limit consumption of other kinds of fish in pregnancy.  Omega-3 fatty acids are great for baby’s developing brain and eyes.  During pregnancy, you can aim to eat about 12 ounces of salmon each week (wild-caught is best).

Quinoa

High in magnesium, manganese, copper, iron (3mg per cooked cup), and B Vitamins, quinoa is one of the only complete proteins in the plant world (containing about 8 grams of protein per one cooked cup).  Quinoa can be used in place of rice or any other whole grain.  It can be used in baking (try quinoa flakes in place of some of your flour), added to soups, salads, made into a tasty side dish with veggies, desserts, and more.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids (which lend them their color), which the body converts to vitamin A.  While too much vitamin A from animal sources can be dangerous in pregnancy, carotenoids are a plant pigment that is only converted to vitamin A as needed.  In addition to vitamin A, sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, folate, and fiber.  They are also inexpensive and easy to prepare.  Try them mashed (with a little ginger to ease nausea), baked, in soups and stews, in salads, or as part of a main dish.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt typically has twice the protein of regular yogurt and is a great source of calcium, which is important for mama and baby’s bones, teeth, and more.  Be careful not to get yogurt that is too loaded with sugars.  If you want to add flavor, you may consider adding your own berries or flavoring to control the sugar load.  You can also cook with yogurt—add yogurt, vinegar, and spices as a creamy marinade for chicken or other meats.  You can also use yogurt to make dips and sauces.

Walnuts

Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, especially for those who aren’t big fans of fish and eggs.  Walnuts and other nuts are a great source of protein on the run.  Consider making a trail mix snack bag with walnuts, dried apricots or peaches (high in iron), and other nuts and berries.

Dark leafy greens

Loaded with vitamins and nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K, iron and folate, dark leafy greens are great in pregnancy.  These include spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens.  You can make salads, add into soups or smoothies, or sauté with a little garlic and coconut oil.

Lean Organic meats

Lean organic meats are a great source of protein and (heme) iron, which are both vital in pregnancy and postpartum.  Lean meats, such as those around 95-98% fat free, and those that are organic are preferred.  Beef and pork have the added benefit of containing choline.

Colorful vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits have so many outstanding health benefits that if they were pharmaceuticals, they would be hailed as wonder drugs that all people everywhere were encouraged to consume daily.

Eat a variety of red, orange, yellow, green, and purple, fruits and vegetables to ensure that you and your baby get an array of different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

As far as what to get organic, check out the Environmental Working Group's list of the "dirty dozen" and "clean fifteen" fruits and vegetables (based on pesticide use on crops).

Water

Okay, this is number 11 and water is not a food…but water is so important in pregnancy that it deserves to be on this list!  For mama, adequate water consumption in pregnancy prevents dehydration, reduces the likelihood of nausea, cramps, swelling, dizziness, constipation, hemorrhoids, heartburn, and even preterm labor.  Sufficient water intake can also prevent urinary tract infections.  Water is also crucial to building up your blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk.

What are your favorite ways to eat these foods in pregnancy?

Preconception Planning

PPcoupleMost couples don’t think about preconception planning—yet it can make a world of difference in fostering a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Every couple benefits from addressing their overall health and wellness in preparation for pregnancy, even if they are not having fertility issues. This preparation supports a healthy and happy pregnancy and eases the transition through postpartum into parenthood.

preconceptionP1For all the gardeners out there, consider this metaphor: preconception planning is much like preparing/improving the soil. Creating a healthy environment for your growing darlings even before they are planted optimizes their chances of thriving -- sometimes in ways that later care doesn’t allow (e.g. water and sun; or, in our case, pregnancy care).

Health Foundations offers preconception planning services, including comprehensive visits to discuss your health and create an individualized plan that works for your family.

When should preconception planning begin?

Ideally, we love to see couples three to six months before they hope to conceive.  This gives us time to correct any nutritional deficiencies (such as low iron or Vitamin D), which can have a significant impact on the pregnancy.  Sperm live for approximately 3 months, so we want to get dad as healthy as possible before conception so that his contribution to the pregnancy is healthy and strong.  Eggs begin their maturation process around this time too; when, like sperm, they are most vulnerable to toxins, radiation, and nutritional deficiencies.

What does a preconception planning visit look like?

During a preconception visit, we will talk with you and your partner about your current health, lifestyle, diet, personal and family medical history, medications you are taking, work and home environments, past pregnancies, and you and your partner's desires and concerns about getting pregnant.  Here are some of the issues we will explore during your appointment:

  • General current health:
  • Blood Sample
    • We recommend women receive a pap and cultures during a well-woman visit (which Health Foundations can provide)
    • Visit a dentist to get a cleaning and any necessary work done prior to conception
    • Talk to your provider about current medications to make sure they are safe at this time
    • Discuss any history of hormonal birth control
    • Have diagnostic/lab tests for various issues that can impact pregnancy and maternal health (all offered at Health Foundations)
  • Diet/Weight
    • Love coupleWe can work with you to optimize your diet to ensure the greatest health prior to and during pregnancy
    • Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
    • Drink plenty of water (aim for 8 glasses a day)
    • Weight: women 15% below their ideal weight may benefit from added pounds during pregnancy; women who are overweight, however, do not benefit from crash dieting prior to pregnancy, as this can deplete their health.  In either case, we can create a plan to create optimal health for you.
  • Lifestyle
    • Establish a consistent exercise pattern
    • Inventory your environment for chemical, heavy metal, and other toxic exposure (you may want to work with a professional on a detox plan)
    • Address emotional health and stress
  • Use of supplements
    • We recommend women begin prenatal vitamins at least three months prior to conception (folic acid is especially important to begin prior to conception to avoid neural tube defects in baby)
    • Omega-3 and DHA are also important
    • Nutritive herbal infusions such as alfalfa, nettles and red clover can support overall health
    • Vegans and vegetarians may want to begin B12 supplementation
    • Additional supplements may also be recommended based on the individual
  • Men’s health
    • Men should follow the same dietary and lifestyle recommendations as their partner
    • Men should also take a multi-vitamin for the months leading up to conception
  • Fertility awareness
    • PPchartingWe help couples understand their fertility so that they can maximize their chances of conceiving.
    • Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weshler (book and website) and Fertility Friend (website) are great resources for understanding fertility awareness and how to chart your fertile periods each month
    • Inexpensive, reusable fertility test kits are available (less expensive than one-time ovulation tests)
  • Useful therapies
    • Acupuncture has proven benefits for women wanting to conceive
    • Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, and chiropractic can also help by reducing stress, balancing hormones, and overall physical wellness.
  • Having fun
    • Above all, we encourage couples to have FUN during this process!  It takes an average of 6 to 9 months to conceive—being stressed during this time will only make conception more difficult.  Plus, this is your time to really enjoy your partner and all those things that can be a bit more difficult to enjoy during pregnancy and into parenthood.