Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
Having a healthy pregnancy is a holistic undertaking, involving all aspects of your lifestyle and mindset. Below are some pillars of health that you can focus on throughout your pregnancy to improve health outcomes for both you and your baby.
What you eat is the foundation of your overall health. A healthy diet can reduce your risk of all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and anemia. Number one role: focus on eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods.
- Be sure you are eating enough protein throughout the day (most people need 80-100 grams/day in pregnancy).
- Include a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal and snack.
- Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense, great for hormonal health, and support digestion. Cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds are all excellent choices.
- Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods like dark leafy greens, berries, flaxseeds, broccoli, artichokes, bell peppers, eggplant, green tea, and dark chocolate can support immune health.
For more guidance on nourishing yourself during pregnancy and postpartum, check out our free online nutrition classes.
Positive connections with those around us impacts our health at a cellular level. A positive support group and community connections improve mental health, decrease stress, reduce inflammation, and improves immune system response. The opposite is also true- toxic relationships have a negative impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Protect your health by fostering positive connections with your family, friends, and community at large. As a birth center, we are honored to be a part of your positive community support group.
Genetics refers to your individual biological makeup and can include genetic predispositions to various states of health, from disease to allergies to being athletic. Epigenetics, on the other hand, refers to all of the external factors (like diet and lifestyle) that can cause changes in the way our genes work, either for the better or for the worse. Epigenetics is where the power lies! We cannot control the DNA makeup passed to us by our ancestors, but we can control our food, toxic exposures, stress levels, and sleep.
Knowing what predispositions exist in your genetics can motivate our prevention methods in our diet and lifestyle. If you want to learn more about your genetics, you have access to non-invasive genetic testing as part of your pregnancy care with New Birth Company. This can be valuable information!
Have you pooped yet today? That might be a strange question, but regular bowel movements is an incredibly important part of overall health! The microbiome is the whole collection of tiny bacterial colonies that live on and in us. These bacteria live in our gut, on our skin, in our vaginal canals, in our throat…really everywhere! These tiny organisms play a huge role in our health, our immune system, and our digestion, so keeping a friendly environment for them is critical.
- Eat plenty of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yogurt, and miso.
- Support healthy digestion by pooping every day. Eat lots of fiber rich foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Be sure you drink plenty of fluids as well- dehydration can slow our digestion down big time.
- Avoid added sugar and processed foods.
- Take a probiotic supplement daily.
- Try to eat a wide variety of foods every week.
- Spend plenty of time outdoors, especially barefoot in the soil.
Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! Most adults need between 7-9 hours daily, and you may need additional sleep while pregnant. During sleep, the body rests and recovers, while the brain stores new information and rids itself of toxic waste. Sleep is critical to every single system in the body.
- Having a consistent sleep and wake time each day greatly improves our sleep cycles and sleep quality. Aim to go to bed at the same time most nights and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.
- Eat a small high-protein snack about an hour before bed. Avoid eating large meals 2-3 hours before bed.
- Reduce blue light exposure in the last couple of hours before bed. Limit television and phone time, or wear blue-light blocking glasses
- Protect your sleep! Prioritize your rest over other things (like finishing that laundry), and make social plans intentionally to still get your 7-9 hours each night.
- Keep a journal near your bed. Spend 5 minutes each evening doing a “brain dump” to get to-dos and ideas out of your head and down on paper.
- Get sunlight exposure within 1 hour of waking up. This supports your circadian rhythm and improves sleep quality and energy levels throughout the day.
Toxic compounds from alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and various environmental sources (pesticides, plastics, personal care products, etc) can negatively impact our cellular, hormonal, immune, and organ health. Many of these compounds can even pass the blood barrier in the placenta, so pregnancy is a great time to start reducing toxic exposures.
- Avoid recreational drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana.
- Reduce plastics use- get a stainless steel water bottle, store food in glass containers, and vacuum regularly to reduce microplastics in the home.
- Gradually swap out your personal care products (soap, shampoo, makeup, lotion, deodorant, etc). Avoid ingredients such as fragrance, phthlalates parabens, aluminum, oxybenzone, talc, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Check out the Skin Deep Database by the EWG for a rating of your current personal care products.
- Distance yourself from toxic relationships. Surrounding ourselves by people who make us feel safe and valued, and distancing ourselves from those who do not, is an important piece of overall health. If you ever feel unsafe in your current relationship, please let us know or call the Kansas City Domestic Violence Hotline at 816-468-5463.
Regular movement is incredible for both mental and physical health. Exercise supports a healthy immune response, decreases overall inflammation, and improves digestive health. Focus less on “working out” and more on regular movement- walking, dancing, yoga, playing sports, etc. Moving your body outside has additional benefits, so get out in nature whenever possible.
The role of mental health and stress cannot be overstated. A stress response actually down-regulates our immune system, and if it is happening regularly it does damage at a cellular level.
- Get enough quality sleep- 7-9 hours / night is a good goal. This is SO important! Try to make it a priority (those dishes will get done later).
- In moments of overwhelm, focus on taking deep belly breaths. Count your breaths for a minute or two and try to focus your mind only on your breathing.
- Try out a daily mindfulness practice. There are lots of mindfulness apps and videos out there to get you started.
- Move your body every day. Choose exercise that feel good and brings you joy.
- Get out in nature as often as possible.
Vitamin D is a powerful mood and immune booster, and we can make vitamin D from sunshine exposure. Sunlight can also stimulate the release of serotonin, a powerful neurotransmitter that helps us with depression and anxiety. Try to get outside as much as possible, and soak up those rays!