When working with women at Wildflower Health and Wellness, many women, young and mature, inevitably ask about at the naturopathic perspective on what a healthy pregnancy looks like. Long before the sperm meets the egg, the underlying health of the woman’s body (and the man’s) determines the health of the pregnancy. Realistically, it’s never too early to start planning for pregnancy, as a healthy pregnancy relies on the optimal health of moms- and dads-to-be. It is also something to consider as half of all pregnancies are not planned and baseline health becomes quite important.
An astounding fact that women don’t realize is that once they are pregnant, they are not only carrying their son/daughter but they are also carrying their potential grandchild.
Every baby girl is born with the eggs for their lifetime.
Imagine the impact of your health choices as you are pregnant on what we call generational health.
A healthy pregnancy aims to prevent childhood illnesses such as asthma, allergies, eczema, and autoimmune disease by improving the health of mothers-to-be.
At the very least the following should be tested:
- Vitamin D – mother’s levels have been correlated with outcomes of many chronic diseases
- Complete blood count – looks at the health of your red and white blood cells
- HbA1c – looks at the your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months
- Ferritin – looks at your iron storage reserves
- Vitamin B12
These markers should be tested by either your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. Obviously there are many other tests that are important, such as STI testing, Hepatitis B and C, etc. Not surprisingly, these are typical blood tests that are run at the doctor’s office when going for an annual check-up.
Absolutely Essential Nutrients
For a healthy pregnancy these are the essential nutrients to consider:
- Methylfolate (bioactive folate)
- Methylcobalamin (bioactive vitamin B12)
It is also important that it have as many active forms of the nutrients as possible to give your body the best chance to absorb the vital nutrients.
These nutrients protect the baby from neural tube defects, miscarriages, and ensures proper growth and development. They are also commonly found in good quantities in prenatal formulas..
Other Very Important Nutrients
From a naturopathic perspective, there some additional nutrients that is of great importance when it comes to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Those being vitamin D, Omega-3 fats, probiotics and magnesium. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) longer covers vitamin D testing for the average person. Research by Health Canada suggests that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadians and that supplementation does improve levels. Health Canada has also fortified some of our foods such as milk and dairy products with vitamin D, however, many women experience the ill-effects of dairy consumption either digestively or hormonally.
Omega-3 fats are another essential nutrient that is needed in preparation of pregnancy. Most people are not eating fatty fish three times weekly, and as such, supplementation becomes important. For vegetarians or vegans, there are good quality, plant-based Omega-3s available.
With the declining quality of our agricultural soil, our foods do not contain magnesium as they once did. As a result, even with eating a healthy diet it is common for the average Canadian to be magnesium deficient.
Probiotics have a growing role in our health as more and more studies come out. They are important when preventing childhood illnesses of asthma, allergies, eczema and autoimmune disease.
The reason I consider these additional nutrients is because it can be difficult to get an adequate amount from diet. Nonetheless, a balanced diet plays a large role in determining the health of mom and baby.
In the case of male infertility, the most important nutrients to consider are a group of nutrients called antioxidants. Nutritional antioxidants are zinc, CoQ10, lycopene (a form of vitamin A) and selenium.
Weight Management and Why it’s Important
It’s surprising the amount of women that say, “I’m going to become fat during the pregnancy anyway.” As mentioned previously, the health of the mother-to-be is very important in determining the health of the baby. Women who carry excess weight are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and have C-sections themselves. Their babies are also at a greater risk of conditions such as eczema, allergies, asthma and obesity.
Maintaining regular physical exercise prior to pregnancy and during the pregnancy can support a healthy metabolism, pelvic floor, blood flow and energy/mood.
Recent studies have also shown that exercise and regular activity during pregnancy reduces complications at birth.
Overall, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet while supplementing with additional nutrients for baby is optimal in a healthy pregnancy. Don’t stray away from being active, either!
Please see your local ND for further support.