Nutrition is the most important factor in predicting how well a pregnancy will go, and how both you and your baby will fare. This may seem obvious, but I have lived the medical mainstream pregnancy and I can tell you (or maybe you can tell me!) that this is not common knowledge in that world.
Now, in much of the slightly alternative pregnancy/birthing world, that is not the case. In my first pregnancy (which was OB-hospital based) not one person, ever, who was caring for me, asked what I put in my mouth on a daily basis.
Granted, I am studying to be a midwife now, so for this third pregnancy I have the people who are caring for me asking all of the time! I’ve filled out diet sheets, counted protein, kept tabs on my blood sugar-it doesn’t have to be even that complicated, but if you haven’t thought about exactly what you need and why to grow a healthy baby, here it is!
Here’s a very amazing pregnancy fact: by the time you are about 28 weeks pregnant, your body will have made 50% more blood!! This extra blood allows your baby and placenta to grow, so that there is enough blood to bathe the placenta, without neglecting your needs as well. The catch is this: your body can only manufacture this extra blood with enough protein and calories. That’s about 2,500 calories a day (yes, really!) and anywhere between 70-100 grams of protein daily. It is a lot of food, I agree. But if the food you eat is from whole, healthy, food sources then you will be providing your body with the fuel it needs.
And here’s another little known fact: the protein and calories are supremely important, but your body also needs salt in the right proportions to help with this expanding blood volume. Good quality salt, like sea salt, is a pregnant woman’s friend because it will help keep blood pressure and swelling down, while providing just the right fluid balance in your body. So, salt your food to taste and balance it out with enough fresh water to drink-about 1 quart per 50 lbs. of body weight.
So, what are the risks if you don’t eat this way? It varies from woman to woman, but anything from pre-eclampsia/toxemia, preterm birth to poor fetal growth to placental abruptions are possible. The good news is that providing your pregnant body with exactly what it needs puts you so much less at risk for all of these kind of complications, which unfortunately are pretty common. So, even if your doctor isn’t asking you what you’re eating, you can keep track yourself and just get a feel for what you consume on a normal day. Nobody’s perfect, but even the “best” eaters usually find some room for improvement. Most importantly, you should feel a positive difference from eating this way relatively soon. Eat up, mama!