I am blessed that many of my readers are getting pregnant after making sweeping changes to their lifestyles and diets. I get emails and messages regularly from women saying, “Okay! I’m Pregnant! Woohoo! Now What?”
Should they continue the diet? Do they have to keep using non-toxic products? Should they keep up the mind-body work? What about the supplements? What needs to be stopped? What should be continued?
I thought it was time to put it all in one place. Remember- I’m not a doctor. I’m just one lady who has gotten pregnant twice against the odds and who has researched the heck out of these things. Please consult your doctor and make your own decisions!
First of all – CONGRATULATIONS!!! I’m so happy for you!!! Now, I know if you struggled with infertility or miscarriages you are probably kind of freaking out right now. I’ve written a whole post on emotional self-care in pregnancy after infertility or loss, so please go check it out right now! Don’t spend your pregnancy terrified.
Second– When you are ready, please go over to my Infertility Success Stories post and share your story in the comments. I understand if you want to wait to share, but please make sure you make it over there so your story can be an inspiration to other women trying to conceive!
Third– Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what to do and not do in pregnancy. I’m going to break this into four sections: Non-toxics, diet, supplements, and mind- body work. Of course, please remember I am not a doctor, and you should make your own educated health care decisions in partnership with your doctor and wise healers you work with.
You absolutely, 100%, want to stay as non-toxic as possible in pregnancy. Many of the toxins that are harmful to fertility are also linked to miscarriage, pregnancy complications, and health problems in infants and small children. So if ever you were to double down in your commitment to avoid toxins such as phthalates, parabens, BPA, triclosan, and the others discussed in this post, NOW is the time. Further, many of these toxins are linked to health problems in children and adults as well. So, this is just a change that you want to keep up at for the rest of your life. Additionally, by switching away from plastic and disposables to stainless and glass, you are making safer, greener choices for the planet. Overall, its a win-win. Count it as one of the blessings of your baby journey. If you’re looking for my favorite non-toxic products- including for pregnancy and babies- click over here!
Well, ladies, I have good news and I have bad news. What? You want the bad news first? Okay. If you’ve been committed to the ultimate fertility diet I used to get pregnant (or a variation tailored to your personal diagnosis and needs), you have to stay committed to some of it during pregnancy. In no particular order here is how it breaks down:
Dairy & Gluten: If you got pregnancy after going dairy and gluten free (or ANYTHING ELSE that you might have been having an allergic or inflammatory response to), you need to stay dairy and gluten free for as long as possible. Some women feel comfortable reintroducing after the first trimester when miscarriage risks go down. Others wait until they hit the 20 week mark. For me, I wait the entire pregnancy. Not only do I not want to risk having an inflammatory response that could cause a miscarriage or harm to the baby, I also don’t want to risk passing on MY food sensitivity/allergy to my baby. It’s just not worth the risk. There are plenty of delicious and delightful alternatives. I also eat a TON healthier when I avoid dairy and gluten. What little research has been done in this area has been on women with celiacs. Unless they have switched to a 100% gluten free diet, they are at risk of higher rates of miscarriage- including late miscarriage- and pre-term birth. You can make it a few more months gluten and dairy free, I promise! Now, to be clear, before 20 weeks I am vigilant about staying 100% gluten and dairy free. After 20 weeks I start to not worry so much if, say, I have a small amount of mashed potatoes at a restaurant and they probably have a little milk and butter in them. But I still make choices as best I can to avoid, and I steer clear at home.
Caffeine: Stay far, far away. The research is clear- even small amounts of caffeine (half a cup of coffee) are linked to reduced live birth rates. Your doctor may tell you that 2-3 caffeinated beverages a day are okay, but the science says that is still allowing for increased risks to the pregnancy. Your absolute best bet is to stay completely caffeine free. You can read more about the science behind caffeine, infertility, and miscarriage here.
Alcohol: So, the science on alcohol and pregnancy is actually less cut and dry than doctors would have you believe. After the first trimester, if you want to indulge in half a glass of red wine, there is no evidence showing it is harmful. Of course, there is no evidence showing it is safe either. No one is willing to run a study having pregnant women drink alcohol! Excessive alcohol consumption IS related, however, to poor birth outcomes such as low fetal birth weight. So no drinking in general ladies, but if you want to take a sip of your husband’s beverage, or have a half a glass of wine on a special occasion you are probably fine. Just look our for dairy and gluten in the drinks! For a great discussion of the science behind alcohol in pregnancy and why doctors say what they do, check out the book Expecting Better.
Sugar & Carbs: Okay! Here’s some good news! Now that you are pregnant you get to reintroduce plentiful servings of healthy carbs. This includes unlimited brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free ancient grains, and pretty much all fruits and vegetables even ones high in sugar like bananas and sweet potatoes. I let myself have unlimited amounts of these in pregnancy (while making sure I have plenty of protein and healthy fats too of course). I also allow myself to occasionally sweeten something with maple syrup or honey- a big treat after completely denying myself while trying to conceive. This means paleo baking is back in – woohoo! Now, in terms of straight up sugar and simple carbs like white rice or white potatoes you want to limit these as much as possible for the health of you and your baby. BUT if in your first trimester all you can stomach without vomiting is potatoes and white rice, then do it and don’t worry. There is no link between sugar and carbs and miscarriage- just to late term problems like gestational diabetes. So watch them as best you can, but you can indulge a little.
Soy: Here’s a tricky one. We know that soy has an estrogenic effect that is harmful to most women’s fertility. There is also some research that shows that eating too much soy during pregnancy can actually mess up the development of male baby genetalia (but this hasn’t been confirmed)! We don’t know if soy is harmful or not if you are pregnant with a girl. My bottom line is this- I don’t consider soy to be a health food and I continue to avoid soy in general, especially soy protein isolate. In my pregnancy with my son I avoided soy completely, just in case. This pregnancy I am pregnant with a girl and I am mostly avoiding soy, but if there is the occasional small amount of soy lecithin in a product I don’t freak out. And I let myself have organic tamari (fermented soy sauce) occasionally. If offered, I would probably eat miso soup or tempeh- all fermented soy products the body processes more easily- but I’m not seeking them out.
Plenty of Leafy Greens, healthy fats, and protein: Yes, yes, and yes! All the good things to eat are still going to be good in pregnancy! The only problem is that if you get very bad morning sickness and it can be hard to eat these and stay fully nourished. Do the best you can, and as soon as you are able start eating all the super healthy, nourishing foods again!
Eating Out: Okay, you are going to want to continue to limit yourself as much as possible so you can ensure you are getting healthy, organic food, cooked properly (not fried in soybean oil, for example). Eating out, especially at fast food restaurants, puts you at risk for trans-fats and lots of phthalates (because they often cook the food with plastic wrap on it, or the food sits in plastic for a long time). Restaurants have the same problem but to a lesser extent. When you do go out to eat, order carefully. And then, enjoy and don’t stress. My favorite places to eat out are the same as when trying to conceive- Chipotle or other burrito places where I can get black beans, brown rice, veggies, and guac, Mexican or Latin American restaurants for the same reasons, and a local diner that has locally sourced paleo options.
Processed Food: Processed food (i.e., packaged, or pre-prepared food with more than one ingredient) is okay with the same caveat as before- you need to know how to read labels to avoid harmful additives. If you are shopping in an organic store or the organic aisle, and you know how to read labels, then you can make educated decisions and probably buy some packaged items and be okay.
Fertility Smoothie: I keep doing a daily smoothie whenever morning sickness will allow it, but it transforms from a fertility smoothie to a nourishing pregnancy protein smoothie. I add things like bananas or other sweet fruits I couldn’t add before. Woohoo! I ditch the wheatgrass and spirulina for the first two trimesters, but keep doing my collagen-based protein powder. Most midwives and herbalists recommend keeping the spirulina going all pregnancy, but I avoid out of an abundance of caution (spirulina can easily pick up any toxins in the environment its grown in, and although unlikely with the brand I use, I don’t want to worry about this). This pregnancy I’ve added spirulina and this super green mix back in the third trimester.
Traditional pregnancy no-nos like Sushi and deli meat: Yes, you should probably avoid these. However, the science does allow for some wiggle room. For an excellent discussion on the studies behind these restrictions (and more) so you can make your own educated decision, check out Expecting Better.
Supplements: First of all, do whatever your doctor says. Second of all, here’s what I did! When I get a positive pregnancy test, out of an abundance of caution, I stop: wheatgrass, spirulina, red raspberry leaf, and nettles. All of these are probably fine to continue, but since there is some information suggesting they potentially aren’t, I put them all on hold until the third trimester. I also stop CoQ10, not because it is harmful in pregnancy, but because its so crazy expensive. Hold on to your leftovers though- you can take it (with your doctors approval) in the third trimester to keep your blood pressure down. I’ve never been taking stronger supplements like DHEA or Vitex when I’ve gotten a positive pregnancy test, but if I was I would stop them right away. Here are the only things I continue: my whole-foods based prenatal, my DHA, my calcium, and my probiotic. I also add in an additional calcium + magnesium supplement that I don’t use when trying to conceive because its loaded with sugar- but it helps me avoid pregnancy leg cramps!
If you are like me then you may have completely overhauled your daily schedule and developed a fertility-based mind-body routine. GREAT! Now you just need to change it to a pregnancy-based daily mind-body routine! This is what will keep you happy and sane during the pregnancy and will set you up for a lifetime of healthy self-care. I NEEDED my mind-body work to get through the stress and fear of the first trimester, and by the third trimester I was doing full hypnobirthing preparation every day for 30 minutes to an hour.
So in the first & second trimesters, this is what it looked like for me: Prayer, Gratitude practice, dream journaling, Circle & Bloom Pregnancy Program, and alternating between the different nine hearts visualizations in the Fertile Heart Imagery CDs. I also tried to go for a walk each day. I did some gentle prenatal yoga on my own, but I have yet to find a prenatal yoga DVD I can recommend. I can’t stand any of them :-). This pregnancy I’ve just started using the Expectful App which actually has meditation exercises for conception, each trimester, birth, and motherhood. So far I really like it!
In the third trimester I was focusing on preparing for birth. I was still doing prayer, gratitude, dream journaling, gentle walking, and gentle prenatal yoga. I was also doing daily practice of hypnobirthing techniques such as calm breathing, depthometer, the opening rose, and of course listening daily to the 30 minute Rainbow Relaxation meditation by Marie Mongan. I definitely recommend buying the book and taking a Hypnobirthing course! I wound up having an induction (using pitocin!) with my son, and managed it without an epidural for an amazing birth experience!
Don’t forget the power of prayer in pregnancy! I prayed my butt off while pregnant both times. There are tons of great books to give you ideas – pregnancy prayer books, devotionals, etc. This one was my favorite as it prayed explicitly for the baby’s development each week of pregnancy. However, in my second pregnancy I found the mind blowing book Supernatural Childbirth which is all about “confessing scripture” for fertility, healthy pregnancy, and easy birth. This book is amazing, and less than $5. There is a chapter with prayers and scripture for during pregnancy and if you are fearing a miscarriage is threatening. It is so good and totally different than anything else I have ever read. You can also pray to the Patron Saints of Fertility & Pregnancy, especially to St. Gerard, St. Gianna, or to St. Catherine who is a special saint for preventing miscarriage.
If you want to read more on mind-body wellness in pregnancy after miscarriage or infertility, please read this blog post here.
What am I missing? What more do you want to know about taking the To Make a Mommy Fertility practice and extending it into pregnancy?
Be well, and baby dust!!