If you haven’t yet heard the news: I’m pregnant! As a soon-to-be mom of two, a practicing Integrative and Functional MD, and someone recovering from Lyme disease, my journey through pregnancy has been a unique blend of professional knowledge and personal experience. Pregnancy is a remarkable and transformative time in a woman's life, but it may also come with a degree of uncertainty. Regardless of whether it’s your first baby or not, if you’re expecting, you probably have a lot of questions. Whether you're a fellow mom-to-be, a supportive partner, or simply curious about the miracle of life, I hope this blog will provide you with some valuable insight and a deeper understanding of those nine months and beyond.
First and foremost, each woman is unique, as is each pregnancy. Particularly during this period in your life, there is no “one size fits all” approach. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with a supportive medical team who will treat you as the individual you are. Over the next few months, I’ll share my personal experiences and the decisions I’ve made while navigating this period. Please recognize that while these are the best decisions for me and my situation, they may or may not be the best for anyone else who is pregnant, going-to-be, or recently through. As with all medical decisions, it’s best to consult a qualified and licensed medical professional.
As soon as my tests came back positive, I had a slew of questions. Here are a few of the first!
How Should My Diet Change?
During pregnancy, it's important to make some dietary adjustments to ensure that you and your developing baby get the essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Increase Caloric Intake: You will need extra calories during pregnancy, particularly in the second and third trimesters. However, the exact amount can vary depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and activity level. Your healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance, but be prepared to eat (and enjoy!) more food.
Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods: Now more than ever, try to eat the rainbow! Aim to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in your diet. This starts with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, followed by lean protein sources and healthy fats. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals for you and your baby.
Iron-Rich Foods: Iron is important for preventing anemia, which is common during pregnancy. Include sources of iron like lean meats, poultry, fish, and beans. You can even pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits to enhance absorption.
Food Safety: Finally, it’s important to be vigilant about food safety to avoid food-borne illnesses. Avoid raw or undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat, and be cautious with unpasteurized dairy products.
What do Pregnancy Cravings Mean?
Pregnancy cravings are a fascinating aspect of the pregnancy journey. While the exact cause of pregnancy cravings isn't fully understood, there are several theories and reasons behind them including hormonal changes, nutritional needs, emotional stress, and even changing taste buds.
Of course, it’s important to note that while it’s entirely fine to indulge the occasional craving, it's also important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. Craving a specific food occasionally is entirely normal, but if your cravings lead you to consume unhealthy or excessive amounts of certain foods, it's a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you're meeting your nutritional needs. Feel free to embrace these cravings in moderation and enjoy the occasional treat, just don’t forget about those healthy fruits and veggies as well!
What Vitamins Should I be Taking?
There are a few vitamins to invest in while you’re pregnant.
Prenatal Vitamins: It’s vital to find a good quality prenatal vitamin with methylfolate – NOT folic acid. While folic acid and methylfolate are used to obtain similar end goals, they operate in different ways. Essentially, methylfolate is a reduced form of folate that can be found in certain dietary supplements. This means it’s the already-converted, most active form of folate the body can use. On the other hand, folic acid must be converted in the body (which some bodies cannot do very well on their own) creating more work for your system and possibly a lower overall folate balance. Many prenatals also contain iron as it’s a common deficiency during pregnancy. Personally, I take the Designs for Health brand called Prenatal Pro. I like this one in part because it has the forms of the vitamins and nutrients that I want, but also – it’s only in 4 pills per day. Some prenatals are 9-10 pills per day and when morning sickness strikes, the last thing you want is to take that many pills! DFH is a brand we know and trust at Case Integrative Health, and you can find it on our supplement site here!
Fish Oil: Fish oil is a great supplement to add during pregnancy, as it’s a wonderful source of omega-3s. If you’re experiencing brain fog, or “pregnancy brain”, consider changing to a higher DHA version. This will help to support both your brain and your baby’s.
Detox: I like to recommend (and practice myself) gentle detox support during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Chlorella (1000 mg/day) is an algae-based binder and helps to support detox; it’s also safe to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding. NAC (500-600 mg/day) is another supplement that will help you flush out toxins from your system while remaining safe to consume for mother and baby.
Nausea Relief: For some, morning sickness can be one of the more challenging symptoms of pregnancy. Vitamin B6 with or without ginger can help you survive those difficult months- and you can take it up to 3x/day if needed. In addition, eating smaller, more frequent meals can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and reduce nausea. If your morning sickness is severe, persistent, or causing significant weight loss, consult your healthcare provider for additional guidance.
Blood Flow: Pregnancy can make your blood a little hypercoagulable- or “sticky”. In fact, now they are suggesting that we geriatric pregnant women (I’m not kidding - that is the actual term used) take 1-2 baby aspirins/ day. This can help with blood flow and prevent hypertension, or high blood pressure. Further, Lumbrokinase is a supplement that can also aid blood flow and relieve swelling in pregnancy. However, while it is considered safe, I’d recommend chatting with your provider before starting.
Patients with Chronic Infections: If you have chronic Lyme or a vector-borne illness (even if you are in remission), I do recommend preventative treatments during pregnancy. There are plenty of pregnancy-safe medications and supplements to help, but they need to be tailored to each unique patient. If you’re living with (or in remission from) an infection like this, make an appointment to chat with your doctor.
What Do I Do About My Daily Coffee Habit?
The topic of caffeine consumption during pregnancy is one that often raises questions and concerns, but the short answer is: yes! Per the research from Expecting Better by Emily Oster, you can have up to four cups a day. That’s a lot of coffee for anyone, so while I won’t advocate for quite that much, 1-2 cups a day is perfectly fine. Enjoying a cup of coffee during pregnancy can be safe when done in moderation, however, make sure that you’re still drinking plenty of water and staying properly hydrated. If you have any doubts or concerns, don't hesitate to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
In the remarkable journey of pregnancy, you’re likely to find yourself filled with questions. Over the next few months, I’ll continue to chat about pregnancy, including immune support, delivery preparation, and even postnatal care. Beyond that, don’t hesitate to reach out to your treatment team to get answers to your unique questions! Remember that moderation and balance are key, whether it's indulging in those cravings or savoring a warm cup of coffee. Throughout this journey, staying informed, seeking support, and prioritizing your well-being are key. So, cherish every moment, savor every bite, and trust in the wisdom of your body as you navigate the extraordinary path of pregnancy.