Whether you are newly pregnant or in the “trying” stage, there is no doubt that you have considered whether or not your body is in it’s optimal place to support a healthy baby. Most people know that once pregnant, you should avoid smoking, alcohol, and unnecessary medications, as these can lead to higher rates of miscarriage, birth defects, and even infant death. But did you know that if you are “trying” then you should go ahead and avoid these things now? Allowing your body time to detoxify from these things will give you better rates of conception and implantation.
Beyond these basics, what else can you do to optimize your health for pregnancy?
1. An excellent diet
A whole foods diet is ideal, with lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein options (poultry, grass-fed beef, fish, beans, dairy and eggs). If not cost-prohibitive, choose organic meats, dairy and eggs whenever possible as these will be free of added hormones. While organic fruits and veggies are best, simply wash any non-organic foods you buy. Also include foods with “good” fats, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds for their anti-inflammatory effect. Fish oil can also be an excellent source of DHA, which is needed for baby and mama. (Cold water fish is best, but no more than twice per week due to potential contamination. Otherwise, a supplemental DHA capsule is appropriate.)
2. Support your liver function
As your liver is the main organ for detoxification, it is especially important to keep it healthy during pregnancy. Eat at least one big serving of green leafy vegetables per day (kale, swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, etc.), as these support your liver function. They are also a great source of folic acid, which is known to prevent neural tube defects in early pregnancy.
3. Cut out the caffeine
Decrease your consumption of caffeine as it increases your heart rate and your production of stress hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol can lead to blood sugar dysregulation and may contribute to gestational diabetes down the road. If you can, slowly wean yourself off of caffeine before pregnancy or as soon as you can. Do it slowly, over time, so you do not get a rebound headache. Decaf green tea is a nice alternative to coffee or black tea, as it contains l-theanine, a component that decreases anxiety.
4. Eat fermented foods
The introduction of fermented foods such as poi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, are a great addition for pregnancy. The “good” bacteria (probiotics) present in these foods promote optimal digestion, improve the microbiota of the reproductive tract, and decrease inflammation. They also help to regulate your immune system function, which has to work harder during pregnancy, so probiotics will help you to not catch all those nasty colds and flus.
5. Drink lots of water
Your blood volume increases by at least ⅓ during the first trimester of pregnancy, so increasing your water intake will help make up this volume. Lots of yuckiness can be found in tap water, like industrial byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals. A water filter like Brita or Pur can help,, but a reverse osmosis filter is best. Add a squeeze of citrus to “activate” your water so it is better absorbed by the small intestine. Try to drink ½ of your body weight in ounces per day.
6. Decrease your toxic load
In order to decrease environmental toxins, which can act as endocrine disruptors, switch from plastic to glass containers, choose “green” cleaning and pest control products, and look for paraben-free cosmetics and skin care products..
7. Sleep while you can
Eight hours each night is considered the minimum to allow the cells of your body to restore and recharge. In addition to sleep, make sure you are getting time for yourself to do things that you love. It is important to have YOU time. As stress is a component of conception difficulties and miscarriage, introducing ways to combat anxiety are key. Short walks, gentle exercise, prenatal yoga, meditation, pampering, a quiet meal, a good book… take time for yourself each day to unplug from the stressors of life.
Image Credit: Emma Whitney Photography