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By Dr. Christa Reed Kruger, BAS, ND
The discovery that there is life growing within you brings with it its own excitement and nervousness. For many of you, it helps to dive right in – get educated on how to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, since the first steps of motherhood have already begun. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read the classic books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I felt I knew how to handle every possible worst-case scenario. Now that I am a Naturopathic Doctor, my mindset has changed so that instead of thinking of every potential bad outcome in pregnancy, I want to help you have the healthiest baby possible. To do that, you need to look at your food and eating habits, what your pregnancy symptoms are trying to tell you, and how you can align your body and spirit to allow for an empowering birth. Sounds tricky? It’s actually not, because what is good for your body as a solo traveller is the same is what is good for your body when you are carrying a growing baby – and your intuition will guide you there.
In reality, the phrase ‘eating for two’ isn’t very realistic. The actual energy requirements for pregnancy are only an extra 100 calories per day during your first trimester, and an extra 300 calories per day during your second and third trimesters. To give you an idea of what that looks like, 15-18 almonds equal about 100 calories. That is certainly not the same as eating double your regular intake! So why are you feeling so hungry? The important thing isn’t how much you are eating it’s actually what you are eating. You are feeling hungry because you aren’t getting enough of something – and that thing probably isn’t ice cream (although a little once in awhile won’t hurt). The most commonly missed energy source in pregnancy is protein. You need about 70 grams of protein per day! An example of getting enough protein in a day: 2 eggs, ½ cup beans, 1 handful walnuts, ½ cup quinoa, and 1 chicken breast. For some people, I will recommend adding a protein shake (made from 100% whey or vegan protein sources) as a snack or dessert to ensure that you are getting adequate protein during your pregnancy. Besides protein, it is also useful to consider your intake of healthy fats, sugar, vegetables, and fruits.
Baby brain is that feeling when your thinking is foggy, you can’t remember things as well as you should, and you forget or misplace words or items. It is usually short-lived, and regular thinking resumes once you start sleeping postpartum (eventually). Your baby will get everything it needs from you, but quite often that means that you don’t have enough of what you need to function the way you once did. Essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA will not only help you to improve memory and focus, but studies have shown that adequate amounts will also improve the cognitive function of your child in the future. You can find these essential nutrients in walnuts, chia seeds, flax oil, fish oil (2000mg per day) and salmon, however check the Environmental Working Group’s website (www.ewg.org) to source the safest fish to eat during pregnancy.
There is still no definitive cause of ‘morning sickness’ agreed upon by medical professionals. Raising HCG hormone levels are certainly implicated and new research is looking at the involvement of iodine levels and pregnancy sickness. We do know that vitamin B6 can help to alleviate symptoms, as can acupuncture (with a Naturopath, Registered Acupuncturist or doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine), ginger root and balancing blood sugar levels through diet. The good news is that for most women, it dissipates at the end of the first trimester.
Muscle Cramps & Swelling
There are several reasons that you might experience cramping and swelling, particularly in your legs and hands, during pregnancy. It is always good to consider your water intake first. For most women, getting 2-3 liters per day is adequate depending on your activity level. Drinking more water will not make your swelling worse; in fact, it usually helps reduce it. You should enjoy staying active daily through walking or prenatal yoga. I also suggest massage therapy or acupuncture to ensure your muscles are relaxed and promote circulation all over. Carpal tunnel symptoms can also aggravate from swelling during pregnancy – acupuncture is fantastic for this, as well as back pain. I also recommend magnesium supplements (600mg per day) or homeopathic Mag Phos (3 pellets three times per day) for people suffering with ongoing leg cramps.
This pregnancy symptom is a little trickier since there can be many factors including the position of your baby playing a role in your bowel habits. Sluggish bowels might be telling you that you need to change your diet, increase your activity, or get more magnesium. Initially, I suggest increasing your fiber through ground flax seeds, oatmeal, vegetables, dates or prunes. But if that doesn’t help, there are other ways to stimulate your digestion through teas and herbal remedies so that you can prevent the discomfort and formation of painful hemorrhoids.
I believe in your ability to nurture a healthy baby. You are doing important work, and so must take care of yourself as well. Tiredness and fatigue are very common in pregnancy, and pushing yourself beyond your limits will only make the transition to life with a newborn more difficult. Ensure you get enough rest, even if you have to nap to make up for lost hours at night. Plan regular appointments or activities to help you stay grounded and cared for – try massage, pedicures, dinner dates, acupuncture or prenatal yoga, whatever suits you best! The transition to motherhood or life with two or more children takes time and you must be patient and gentle with yourself. If you notice changes in your mood or heightened anxiety make sure you seek the support you need, these are very common but often unspoken feelings that come to the surface at this time.
As I have alluded to above, each woman has a different pregnancy experience but you do not have to suffer with your symptoms as we have been taught. Your symptoms are your body’s way of conveying a message that something is out of balance. There are natural, safe, and effective treatments to help you have the healthiest baby possible. I am comfortable in working with women at all stages of pregnancy, including the important preconception phase as well. For more information about my clinic, please visit www.orangevillenaturopath.com.
Dr. Christa Reed Kruger, BAS, ND
Orangeville Naturopathic Health Clinic
39 First Street,
Orangeville, ON, L9W 2E3