Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Prenatal Nutrition and Exercise
So I already admitted in the intro to this series that I didn’t get a chance to do a pre pregnancy cleanse like I had always hoped and planned. Pregnancy snuck up on me and I all of a sudden one Sunday afternoon had to start treating my body like a “temple” rather than a collective pit for margaritas, hot dogs, cheese curds, and beer that I had been treating it like.
I feel it’s important to preface any information I give out on nutrition, that I had these grandiose ideas of how I would eat and exercise when pregnant. I imagined eating healthier than I ever had, giving up caffeine completely, buying many more organic products than I already did, and eating a lot of protein and nutrient packed smoothies. I would finally figure out how to consume those “hippy” things like wheat grass, chia seeds, spirulina, and coconut oil. The following section is a compilation of the ideal and my reality during the last 9 months of my life.
The most basic of prenatal nutrition is the importance of taking a prenatal vitamin. The biggest difference between your average “one a day” and prenatal vitamin is going to be folic acid (B6) content, calcium content, and iron. Folic acid is the big deal that everyone talks about because of its proven effectiveness at preventing neural tube defects with the baby.
Through my research and training, I feel that the mother’s diet or supplement should incorporate more protein, calcium, omega 3s, choline, and vitamin D as well. Consumption of all of this seem to be the number one issue with pregnancy, as many women don’t exactly feel like eating as nutritious as they had hoped.
If you are one of those lucky women who has no problem blending up some spinach in your morning smoothie, getting 9-11 servings of organic produce, 80gms of protein daily, or chomping down on a huge organic greens salad for dinner- good for you! More than likely the typical “one a day” prenatal is good enough for you because of the quality of nutrients you are getting from your food.
Or you may be one of those women who can’t stand to even look at a vegetable in the first trimester and has to rely on getting nutrients from your vitamins. This was my category. Luckily for me, I didn’t have much nausea associated with my produce revulsion and was able to swallow a hefty amount of vitamins to make up for what I ate, or more importantly what I didn’t eat. Below is a picture of the pile of pills I took daily… well almost daily.
I realize that this may look very different than many of your “one a day” vitamin, but here’s what’s in that pile o’nutrients: 2 multivitamins, 2 calcium, 1 choline, 2 fish oil, and 2 vitamin D. Choline and fish oil are very beneficial in the growth and development of the baby’s nervous system, and vitamin D is a very strong immune system support. This is more important for women living in areas with moderate to severe winters and are more likely to have decreased levels of vitamin D. What your “pile o’nutrients” looks like is going to vary from pregnancy to pregnancy depending on what additional issues have arisen for you- whether it is heart burn, high blood pressure, sleeping problems, low energy, nausea… etc.
So we’ve covered category 1-the woman who actually eats as healthy as you’re supposed to and doesn’t crave doritos and ice cream; category 2- the woman who gets sick thinking of eating nutritious food, but is able to swallow a hand full of pills; and now we’ve got category 3- the stage 5 mess of nausea, puking, and a nasty gag reflex. A couple of my most nutritious conscious friends fell into this category during pregnancy and resorted a taking a one a day gummy or Flintstone vitamin. I am not going to lie to you, this is barely better than nothing at all. But you have to work with what you can while pregnant, and at least you’re going to be getting more folic acid. But please realize that this is not enough if you are able to take more. Get yourself on the most nutritious diet you can and take the highest quality of supplements that you can.
As far as ideal nutrition goes, there are plenty of books and online resources that will give you chapters and chapters of information on what to eat. There’s no way to cover everything in this short blog, so here were a few of my general guidelines.
-When it comes to produce, I am a big fan of following the “dirty dozen”. These are the 12 fruits and vegetables if bought organically, will reduce your pesticide intake by 95%! They include: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens.
-I also tried to start choosing products that had the fewest of ingredients possible. We picked dairy products with less preservatives like butter that only had 2 ingredients: cream and salt.
-We bought grass fed beef because of its lack of antibiotics, hormones, and increase in omega 3s.
-We bought organic grass fed milk for me only, and my husband still had to drink the normal stuff because organic milk is so expensive where I live! We’re talking $5 for half a gallon.
-Drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day
-We also found local eggs because of the higher nutrient quality, and much lower risk of salmonella.
-I also tried to increase my protein content to at least 80g a day. I got a lot of it through milk, chicken, beef, bacon, nuts, eggs, greek yogurt, and lots of cheese.
-We started getting the creamer for my coffee that only had 3 ingredients: milk, sugar, and natural flavoring.
Oops…. The cat’s out of the bag. I drink coffee…. Every day. According to research, a pregnant woman can have 300mg of caffeine a day. If you are able to give up caffeine while pregnant, that is the healthiest thing for your baby. But just in case you can’t- here are some very loose numbers to give you an idea of what 300mg looks like:
8oz medium roast coffee- 130mg
1 shot of espresso- 70-80mg
Hershey’s Chocolate bar (1.5 oz)- 9mg
(more available at http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm)
So I’d love to tell you that I also avoided fast food and heavily processed white flour and sugar, but that just wouldn’t be the truth. Although I knew I shouldn’t, I’ve eaten more McDonalds and dairy queen in the past 9 months than I have in the last few years. Don’t judge me… look at the picture of my vitamins again!
Again, high hopes here that fell drastically short. I had planned on becoming a runner prior to pregnancy. This I had actually planned as part of my “pre pregnancy cleanse” or work out. I never have considered myself a runner but always wanted to be. Oh… to be one of those people who goes for a 10 mile jog because it’s such a gorgeous day. I did occasionally go for a couple mile run (usually 2, but at brief moments in my life was at good enough condition to do 4 or 5). But I knew that in order to run during pregnancy, the obstetricians always say, “if you were already a runner prior to pregnancy, then you’re fine to continue running.” Well what was I? I sure as hell wasn’t a runner.
I did my best to keep working out at least as much as I was prior to finding out I was pregnant, but that didn’t really happen. I was so tired, that sleeping seemed like way more important than going to the gym. When we got a treadmill, it did help eliminate one hurdle in getting exercise and I resumed at least walking 2 or 3 times a week for 20-30min. I firmly believe that the time of year you’re pregnant makes a big difference here. The majority of my pregnancy was over the winter, when going for after work walks wasn’t really an option. It was dark by 5pm, I was tired from work, and all I wanted to do was eat a bacon cheeseburger, watch tv on my couch, and pass out by 8:30.
And although I recommend to all of my pregnant patients the importance of yoga, lifting weights, doing squats, strengthening the core and pelvic floor- I barely did any of it myself. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULDN’T- it just means I’m lazier than I expect you to be :o)
For those of you with more motivation and will power than me, here are some helpful links:
Exercise in general- http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/exerciseguidelines.html
Just in case any of you were wondering, I remain an optimist and plan on eating healthier than ever and working out more than ever after the baby is out in order to lose the 45 pounds that McDonalds and not exercising has built up on my body. Haha… another reality check post for another day.
Next blog will be on the nursery and collecting all the baby essentials.