Pregnancy Nutrition Made Easy
A more instinctive approach to eating is what’s needed during pregnancy, says Sister Lilian.
While one cannot totally reverse the impact of both the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors on nutritional confidence, re-empowering pregnant women and their advising midwives is possible. The Sensitive Midwifery mantra of ‘simple steps, profoundly positive effects’ is as relevant to nutrition as to birth.
Immediately a woman finds out she’s pregnant, a host of actions and emotions is unleashed. This mama is on a mission and it is an all-encompassing one, aided by complex pregnancy hormones.
Mama-on-a-mission, driven by her hormones, also turns her attention to looking after herself so her baby can develop well. She reads all she can and asks many questions. One of her strongest concerns is about what she eats and drinks, and suddenly there is a minefield of opinions, not only from all her usual sources but also on packaging of food products, in supplement and nutritional medicine containers and from advertising in the media.
Her tummy might turn at the thought of meat and milk and she may not be able to keep her pregnancy supplement down; yet her doctor insists that she eat a ‘balanced diet’ and take pregnancy vitamins daily for her baby’s sake. Our mom-to-be is soon thoroughly confused, her hormones of instinct muddled by mixed messages.
The art of eating
What every pregnant woman should do, when it comes to food, is relax! This does not mean that she should not care what she eats, nor that there are no warnings to be heeded. What it does mean is that the best nutritional status in pregnancy, with the least potential for any adverse effects, is quite possible for a lay mom-to-be to achieve. In fact, the nutritional information overload has robbed her of a direct line to the three most powerful allies she has – her own intuition, ancient instinctive knowledge and Mother Nature’s bountiful pantry.
In effect, pregnant women have two ways of achieving good nutrition:
1 – The difficult option
They can research the subject meticulously, making sure that they separate propaganda from proof and essential nutrients from economic motives.
2 – The intuitive option
As an expectant mother, a woman has the in-built endocrine response for ensuring that she and her baby will be nurtured and protected by the food sources in Mother Nature’s pantry. These foods have been eaten for centuries, long before urbanisation and the commercialisation of food. By-and-large these foods are derived from plants – fruit, vegetables, legumes, pulses, unprocessed whole grains. The variety of foods in this category is infinite.
Food common sense
Just think how many women ‘go off’ meat while pregnant, how an animal-based, protein-rich diet often causes indigestion and heartburn, and how many cannot tolerate fatty animal foods (including dairy products). Could this be because the pregnant body’s instinctive wisdom knows this is not the best form of nutrition?
It is commonly held nowadays that pregnancy nausea is at least in part a protection mechanism, keeping women from ingesting harmful substances and so protecting the developing baby in the most crucial stage, the first trimester.
Some foods – like shellfish, soft cheeses, cured meats and caffeine – are known either to be associated with increased allergy risk, or possibly harbour toxic bacteria and parasites, or cause excessive discomfort to an expectant mom, so these should be avoided.
On the whole, the principles that will keep pregnant women and their babies safe are to:
- Respect her taste buds but with healthy choices
- Increase plant foods and decrease animal foods
- Eat fewer refined foods with additives
- Eat smaller, simpler meals more often
This article originally appeared in Sensitive Midwifery Magazine (March 2017).