If there is a single most important time to care for our bodies, it’s during pregnancy! Not only is our own health being considered, but also that of that sweet growing baby! It’s also no secret that our bodies like to get a little unpredictable during pregnancy and tend to really crave or have insane aversions to different things that may not be typical of our non pregnant selves. I know I have definitely been that way during this pregnancy. Some of these are super helpful like my aversion to coffee and cravings for apples, but my cravings for burgers and chicken tenders aren’t quite as convenient… It’s in those moments that I am glad I know how to care for my body, even when my body doesn’t seem to want to take care of itself!!
Since we may not naturally desire what is good for us, we need to be able to know what things are beneficial during pregnancy and make sure that we’re finding ways to include them in our diets. So I wanted to share some of the things I love to include during pregnancy and some different ways to do so!
Real folate is one of the most important nutrients that we need in our diets during pregnancy. It is essential for healthy development of your baby’s brain and spine. So taking a good prenatal vitamin which includes folate is very helpful even before pregnancy if at all possible! Many supplements include folic acid which is the synthetic version of folate, but it is definitely much better to get the real, natural version of this nutrient that is found in food. You can also find prenatal vitamins that include folate instead of folic acid. I use Garden of Life prenatal vitamins because they contain real vitamins sourced from organic foods, including folate! Some people can’t really process folic acid in the same way that folate is processed, so that is another reason to take a vitamin with real folate. Even better is to eat foods that are rich in folate! Many green vegetables are packed with folate, including spinach, asparagus, and broccoli. Also oranges, mangos, avocados, and beans are all great sources of folate. If some of these foods sound terrible during pregnancy, just pick the ones that sound best or mix some of them into a healthy smoothie! Thankfully there are plenty of options 🙂
Eggs are another wonderful food for a healthy pregnancy. They contain many nutrients that are essential to your baby’s health like choline to help with brain development, and protein which is essential for both mom and baby. I don’t personally eat a whole lot of meat, and I try to avoid meats that contain added hormones (which are sadly included in many of the meats available today). So my go-to meats are grass fed, organic beef, turkey and chicken, or eggs! Since eggs are more affordable in many cases, they are my primary source of protein. Eggs are also very good for strengthening the amniotic sac or “bag of waters” surrounding the baby. Having a healthy amniotic sac is very beneficial for many reasons, but also because labor is typically less painful if your water hasn’t broken. So if you would like for it to not break until as late as possible, eggs are a great addition to your diet! My water didn’t break with Ezra until I was pushing, so it seemed to work well for me! But you do want to make sure that they are free range and organic which ensures that they weren’t fed GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or given any hormones or antibiotics. If eggs aren’t something you’re exactly craving while pregnant, try using them to make french toast with sprouted bread, making breakfast sandwiches or burritos, or adding scrambled eggs to homemade fried rice! If eggs just aren’t your thing, you can also get protein by eating seeds, nuts, dairy products, and fish!
Probiotics are also very beneficial during pregnancy (and all the time!) These are the beneficial bacteria that are incredibly good for your overall health and especially a healthy digestive system. They help maintain a healthy pregnancy as well as pass on beneficial bacteria to the baby during the birth process and through nursing afterwards. We all know that your digestive system can have some ups and downs during pregnancy, and probiotics are a wonderful way to help regulate your digestive system and ease some of the discomfort. There are so many benefits to taking probiotics, so I highly recommend taking them, especially towards the end of pregnancy and close to time for delivery! You can incorporate probiotics into your diet in pill form, through yogurt or kefir (our favorite!), fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, or by drinking kombucha. However if you don’t drink kombucha prior to pregnancy, some suggest to not begin drinking it during pregnancy, so if it’s not a part of your current diet you may want to try one of the other probiotic options instead. I also want to mention that this is why it is very important to try and avoid antibiotics if at all possible during pregnancy! Antibiotics kill all of the bacteria that they can – the good and the bad. So taking an antibiotic destroys the beneficial bacteria stored in your gut. So unless it is absolutely essential, I’m planning to avoid antibiotics until after birth.
In addition to these supplement and food tips, I also just wanted to briefly mention a few of my favorite physical exercises that helped significantly during my first pregnancy and that I am still working to do during this one as well! These exercises are Kegels, squats, and stretches. All three of these will help prepare you for birth and keep your body safe and strong as you support a growing baby!
Kegels are pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the muscles in your pelvis that the baby will pass through during delivery. Strengthening them while pregnant also helps to improve bladder control post birth, which is definitely a plus! Squats are extremely helpful in strengthening your hips, and allowing them to open and loosen in preparation for delivery. One of the best and easiest ways to do this is to simply position yourself into a low squat, and hold that position for as long as you can. It can definitely be tough at first, but just doing it a few seconds a day and slowly working up to 30 seconds or more if possible will really help to loosen your hips. Lastly, I just love to stretch! It’s so easy to get tense and tight when we really need to allow our bodies to relax and loosen in preparation for birth. Stretching helps to relax your muscles and sooth any aches and pains you may be experiencing. It also helps with blood flow which can help with any swelling we may experience. One of my favorite ways to stretch is when I’m playing with Ezra – I just simply sit with both legs out on the floor in as wide of a V shape as is comfortable and stretch back and forth from one leg to the other while we play. Many pregnancy books consider this to be a very useful stretch for birth, and it’s so easy to do!
Believe me, I know it can be SO difficult to stay on track during pregnancy when you just want to eat cake all day long! I’ll readily admit that I’m far from perfect when it comes to controlling my cravings and staying in shape. But it’s comforting to know that we can include many of these things in our diet to help curb those unhealthy cravings and keep our minds on keeping our babies healthy. What a blessing to be able to grow little lives inside of us and do what we can to help prepare them for a healthy future!