In traditional cultures, pregnant and nursing women are given the most prized, nutrientrich foods. Others are willing to sacrifice their share of these foods because they understand that healthy mothers make healthy babies. So if the secret to healthy babies is healthy moms then the health of pregnant women should be given the highest priority. Here are 4 steps to maximize mom’s health during pregnancy.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
The most important aspect for healthy moms and babies is to eat a nutrientdense diet that is made up of mostly whole foods. Nutrient-dense foods give the highest levels of nutrients in the most efficient way. These foods include high-quality meat, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. Processed foods are always nutritionally inferior and should be avoided in order to be as robust as possible and to maximize the chances of having a healthy baby. The path to health lies in eating fresh, whole foods.
Observe Your Body
Another important practice is to really pay attention to your body. Observe and respect all signs from your body. If you don’t feel well after eating certain foods, then perhaps you’ll need to rethink if those foods have value for you, even if they are considered “healthy”.
Pay careful attention to your protein, fat and carbohydrate ratios. Some people need more protein and fat while others need more carbohydrates (primarily vegetables and fruit). If granola and yogurt leave you tired and hungry then perhaps you need more protein and should try local eggs and organic bacon. By paying more attention to your unique needs and less attention to dietary dogma you will be well on the road to improved health.
Consider Hormonal Health
Paying attention to hormonal health is extremely important for pregnant women because this will affect the baby’s health, as well as the mother’s ability to have more children and maintain her reproductive health.
An issue that is of particular concern is gestational hypothyroidism, which is low thyroid function that manifests during pregnancy. Generally about 2-3% of pregnant women in America are diagnosed with it however one recent study involving over 500,000 women in the United States found that over 15% of the women tested positive for gestational hypothyroidism. Currently it is not standard practice to screen all pregnant women for hypothyroidism but the authors of this study which was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism believe it should be given the high rates discovered in their research. The long list of symptoms of hypothyroidism, which include fatigue, constipation, elevated blood cholesterol, muscle aches, irregular periods and depression, are certainly not something to be dismissed. Complications from not treating the condition can be serious and include heart problems, infertility, birth defects and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) as well as affect adrenal gland function. You may want to discuss having your thyroid function tested with your doctor before, during, and after pregnancy.
Take It Easy
Our culture seems so obsessed with getting things done that being busy is almost a badge of honor. When you are pregnant just being healthy is enough. You are doing the most important work there is. Take care of yourself—slow down, relax and rest as much as you can. Let’s make being healthy, relaxed and happy the new ‘supermom’.
Despite many barriers to excellent health in our current culture, it is not necessary for women to have their bodies go into disrepair during the years of pregnancy and childrearing. By paying careful attention to food choices and hormonal health and by taking it easy, both moms and babies can be super healthy.
Jill Cruz is a nutrition and health counselor for Body Wise, Food Smart in Rockland County and has a master's of science degree in human nutrition. She specializes in working with women as they move through adult life transitions such as preconception, pregnancy and postpartum. She provides highly individualized nutritional counseling with a functional nutrition approach. For more information, contact 425-1953 or email@example.com or visit BodyWiseFoodSmart.com.