NOURISHMENT IN PREGNANCY
As a self-proclaimed professor of unpopular opinion, I’m about to say two of the most unpopular things I could utter to a pregnant woman: First, you are not eating for two and second, you can’t eat all the ice cream you want. I’m sorry if that’s crushing to hear, but it is time for it to be lovingly said.
Nutrition matters. It matters at every stage in life, but with a special emphasis in pregnancy. You are, after all, providing the building blocks for another being’s development and providing the space for that being to grow, all the while preparing to physically bring forth that being into the outer world. In terms of what is in the realm of your control, the most impactful way to influence the health of the baby is to be mindful of what you’re eating. It is also a significant factor in minimizing many pregnancy-related health risks and complications for yourself. Nourishing your body is a foundational part of self-care. Self-care can be interpreted as treating yourself to a tub of ice cream and, on occasion, that may be warranted. But, in the highest sense, self-care really means looking after your fundamental needs, which often requires discipline. What makes it unpopular, and rather difficult in this context, is the cultural narrative that tells us pregnancy is a time to overeat and overindulge.
A prenatal vitamin is a good place to start. But, as my naturopath would say, you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. I cannot state that there is one correct diet for every person and I’m not going to. However, there are some general guidelines I would suggest following. Drink lots of filtered water. Limit refined sugar. Limit gluten and dairy, which have been known to cause an inflammatory response, even for those who are not allergic or intolerant. Eat lots of cooked and raw vegetables. Eat plenty of fruit. Eat fresh, local and organic, as access and affordibility allow. Eat mainly whole foods (think: foods that are ingredients, not foods that have ingredients). Aim to include protein and fat/oil in every meal. Eat intuitively, meaning listen to your hunger cues; never restrict calories during pregnancy. When you have a craving, pause and see if there’s a healthier alternative that can satisfy that craving. Treat yourself occasionally, without guilt. Don’t obsess over weight loss or weight gain. In fact, avoid weighing yourself altogether throughout your pregnancy unless you are truly experiencing an extreme fluctuation. It’s going to be a balancing act, so don’t be too strict or hard on yourself. The same rough guidelines apply if you’re breastfeeding as well. You do have increased energy output both in pregnancy and while lactating, so eat according to your body’s cues, do not restrict portions, and eat for nourishment.
I will advocate that those experiencing morning sickness need not worry about achieving excellent nutritional input. Do whatever it is you need to survive this phase. If you need to live off of saltine crackers and ginger ale for a few weeks, then that’s what you need to do. If all you want is fast food, then send your partner through that drive-through for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If double-choco-brownie ice cream is the only semblance of joy in the midst of what seems like an endless wave of nausea and listlessness, then grab a spoon and chow down, sister. Whatever you need to do to get any sustenance, with the exception of hard drugs and alcohol, do it – for the short term. In terms of seeking relief, the most effective remedies are probably a prescription medication or a shot of Vitamin B6 given by your medical or naturopathic doctor. Rest when possible, stay hydrated, try to eat and drink simple and easily absorbable things like bone broth, and experiment with other remedies such as essential oils and anti-nausea wristbands. Hang in there! It is not easy and it is not fair. My heart goes out to you!