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With pregnancy comes great responsibility. Preparing for a pregnancy can be a daunting process, one that requires ample knowledge to get the best possible outcome. Most women know eating right is one of the many ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy. According to experts, for most normal-weight pregnant women, the caloric requirement for the first trimester is about 1,800 calories per day, 2,200 calories per day in the second trimester, and 2,400 calories per day in the third trimester.
While eating clean might sound like an easy feat, it’s anything but. In order to eat healthy, it’s important to know which nutrients your growing body needs and what foods you need to exclude from your diet. That’s where detoxing comes in. Detoxing, or detoxification, is the process of cleaning your body from noxious substance and toxins to make room for a healthier pregnancy. Ideally, this should begin before you conceive so that your body is already free from potentially harmful substances. This is similar to the recommendation of starting antenatal supplements about 2 months before the actual conception. Detox diets were all the rage back in the day, but pregnancy-specific detox diet plans are seldom talked about. A balanced detox diet should include some key nutrients. These diets can be personalized for vegans and gluten-sensitive individuals as well.
Seafood has long been considered a not-so-safe option in pregnancy, which is why many expecting mothers will steer clear from it. However, the truth is that not all types of seafood is harmful; in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Oily fish such as salmon and shrimp are excellent sources of omega-3-fatty acids. These are essential fats that our body cannot produce on its own; therefore, we need to consume them from our diets. Omega-3-fatty acids have antioxidant properties that effectively ward off toxins in the body and make for a great choice to have in your pre-pregnancy detox diet. What’s more, seafood is also loaded with protein, zinc, and iron – nutrients that are essential to keep pregnancy healthy. Additionally, studies have shown that consuming diets rich in omega-3-fatty acids can help in fetal brain development and cognitive development. All good things aside, there is no denying that seafood does come with a slight risk if you’re not careful enough. Dietary guidelines by FDA recommend that pregnant women should consume no more than 12 ounces of seafood in a week. This includes the safe seafood options such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines, shrimp, and cod amongst others. Certain species of fish such as swordfish, king mackerel and shark may contain large amount of mercury in them, which can be harmful to both the to-be mother and the developing fetus. Sushi and other forms of raw fish are also not recommended in pregnancy. In short, it’s best to avoid uncooked or large fish that could be contaminated with heavy metals like mercury. If seafood isn’t something you prefer, you can also get your share of omega-3fatty acids from other non-seafood sources. These include omega-3 fatty acid fortified foods such as yogurt, milk and cereal; omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and certain seeds such as flax seeds, soybeans and sunflower seeds. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife before including fish in your diet for more clarity and better help with your detox diet plan.
There’s quite a bit of controversy around meat in a detox diet. In fact, most diet plans will advise you to completely eliminate animal protein from your diet if you’re trying to detox your body. However, when it comes to pregnancy, protein is essential for the healthy development of the baby, and animal protein is perhaps the best protein form out there. Meats have the ability to slow down digestion and decrease stool transit. This gives rise to more bacteria thriving in the intestines which is the opposite of what detox diets hope to achieve. In order to achieve a good balance between consuming a healthy amount of protein in pregnancy and detoxing your body, here are some things you can consider doing:
Proteins can have an abundant amount of benefit in pregnancy. They are involved in the growth and repair process of the developing fetus, hormone production, enzyme synthesis, and proper muscle development. Proteins also have a key role in the development of the immune system of the baby. Therefore, completely excluding protein out of your diet isn’t an option when you’re pregnant. Choosing your source of protein can help you keep the right balance between your pregnancy needs and detoxing.
Women with celiac disease have a variety of options for detoxing their body before pregnancy just like anyone else. In fact, women who aren’t gluten-sensitive can also adopt a gluten-free diet plan to eliminate toxins from their body and gear up for a healthy pregnancy. Since carbohydrates are integral to keep the body fit, you can get your share of carbs from vegetables and fruits to steer clear from gluten. Some vegetable and fruits sources that provide a rich source of carbohydrates are:
Tomatoes – Kale – Asparagus – Herbs – Artichokes – Papaya – Apple – Pears – Pineapple
You can also opt for other gluten-free options in your diet for detoxing your pre-pregnancy body. Healthy fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are great options to consider for gluten-sensitive women. You can get this essential fat from seafood as well certain seeds such as flax seeds, and egg yolk. You should also consider using healthier options for your cooking oil as well. For example, extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oils are monounsaturated fats that decrease the level of bad cholesterol or LDL in the body, while increasing the level of good cholesterol or HDL. Getting an ample amount of fiber is also important for a healthy pregnancy. However, it is commonly assumed there are few options in fiber sources for a gluten-free diet. That’s not true at all actually! You can get a good amount of fiber from certain gluten-free vegetables and fruits; psyllium is a popular one. In order to prepare for a healthy pregnancy, it’s also essential to get your folic acid levels high. Experts advise starting folic acid supplements about 2 months before your plan to conceive. While many women will choose to take prenatal supplements for it, others may prefer dietary inclusions of folic acid instead. For someone who is avoiding gluten, folic acid can be consumed through kale, broccoli, avocado and asparagus amongst other options. All in all, adopting a gluten-free diet for your pregnancy is not a difficult feat at all as long as you know your options.
Just like women on a gluten-free prenatal diet, vegans also have a myriad of options to detox their body prior to pregnancy. Nutrition planning for and before pregnancy for vegans can require some thinking but it’s definitely do-able, as long as you’re not skipping meals. Vegetarians can meet their detoxing goals for pregnancy by including a variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet. This will ensure that they get nutrients of all kind. It’s also recommended to choose foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and have a good amount of fiber in them such as cereals, rice, and pasta. Almost all vitamins and minerals the body needs for pregnancy can be found in some shape or form in vegan diets. However, one exception to this is vitamin B12. Despite our bodies maintaining a large store of vitamin B12 in the body, a deficiency can develop in strict vegans since animal protein is the key source in this important vitamin. It’s a good idea to keep your B12 levels in check and take supplements or fortified foods plant-based food for it once you discuss your options with your doctor. Women who are strict vegetarians are advised to include at least one portion of vitamin A, folic acid and vitamin C in a day, three portions of iron-rich foods in a day, and at least four portions of calcium-rich food in a day for a healthy pregnancy. It’s a good idea to adopt this recommendation before the actual conception because it can help in the detoxification process as well.
Before you decide to start a family, it’s important that your health status is as fit as it can be. Good gut health is essential for a healthy pregnancy and good delivery outcomes. In fact, research suggests that a healthy microbiome can actually reduce your risk of a lot of pregnancy-related complications. Gut microbiome is thought to influence a number of unrelated processes in the body including digestion, metabolism, body weight, risk of autoimmune diseases, immune system function, skin health and even allergies. What’s more, your baby will also receive all of his/her initial microbiome from you. So good gut health can, in essence, be passed down to your offspring. Good gut health has been clinically found to impact the following aspects of pregnancy health:
The bad news is that pregnancy can compromise your gut health in several different ways. The changes in the immune system during pregnancy and the increased incidence of inflammation can all hurt the microbiome. In addition to this, pregnancy hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can also alter the composition of your gut microbiome. Pregnancy-related complications that can occur because of poor gut health include:
Because of these changes, women who are about to plan a pregnancy should put in extra effort to boost their gut health. Detoxification is the first step to modify your gut microbiome and develop a digestive system fit for pregnancy. You should prepare your gut health well before you actually get pregnant. Some healthy detoxing habits include the following:
Similar to gut health, pregnancy also takes a toll on the immune system of the women. This is a physiological process to avoid rejection of the developing fetus by the immune cells of the body. However, this also puts the woman at an increased risk of infection and inflammation. The immune system can be improved in one too many ways before you get pregnant. Here are just a few:
There are a number of diseases that show up only once a woman gets pregnant. This could be in part due to reduced immune function of the body during pregnancy or increased inflammation. While some diseases are difficult to prevent, you can still adopt some healthy prenatal habits that can decrease the risk of getting the following pregnancy-related illnesses:
Out of all these, infections are one of the most common forms of diseases and also the most preventable. Good hygiene is the key to reducing rates of infection. You can prevent developing an infection in pregnancy by doing the following:
Gestational diabetes or pregnancy induced hypertension are two other common pregnancy-related morbidities. Although they are difficult to prevent, certain healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk. This includes monitoring what you eat diligently and getting a balanced diet throughout your child-bearing period. You can also exercise more regularly and get physically fit before you plan your pregnancy. Other conditions that can occur in pregnancy include constipation and urinary incontinence. The latter can be prevented by doing Kegel or pelvic floor exercises more regularly. This will help you prepare for your delivery as well. Constipation, on the other hand, can be prevented by taking more fiber-rich food and detoxing your body before pregnancy is a great way to boost your gut motility.
Pregnancy is maintained by certain hormones in the body that rise many folds their baseline level. Estrogen and progesterone are the two key hormone that increase in pregnancy and each has a distinct role in maintaining the pregnancy. These changes might be drastic for someone who has never experienced them before so mentally and physically preparing for them is the way to go. When you’re planning to get pregnant, ensure that you’re eating well, exercising, and managing stress properly so that your hormones rise to their appropriate levels. Estrogen is involved in enabling the uterus and the placenta to welcome the fetus in a number of different ways. It encourages new blood vessel formation or vascularization so that an appropriate blood vessel connection can be made between the baby and the mother. The generation of new blood vessels allows for the exchange of nutrients from the mother to the baby, and waste products from the baby to the mother. Progesterone, on the other hand, has different roles. It helps the uterus to grow in size and attain its pregnancy shape to support the fetus. It also has an effect on different joints and ligaments of the body, making them laxer and looser so that they can adapt to the growing weight of the body. Hormones have also been found to impact the way a woman performs physical activity and exercise. Because progesterone contributes to increased joint laxity, this can cause significant difficulty in performing the same exercises you could do before pregnancy. It’s a good idea to slow down on your exercise regime before you plan to get pregnant. Toning down on your exercises beforehand can help you prepare for the pregnancy and its many changes. The changes in pregnancy hormones are also thought to bring about the ‘pregnancy glow’, reduce acne and overall smoothen out skin features. However, these same hormones may also have a role in rapid weight gain, fluid retention or edema. Other hormones that change in their levels in different trimesters include HCG, oxytocin and prolactin. Although changes in these hormones are necessary, sometimes an imbalance can occur. You can prepare your body before pregnancy to avoid hormonal imbalances through some of the following methods:
Certain medications can negatively impact your pregnancy and result in potentially harmful outcomes for the baby. These medications need be decreased in dose once you get pregnant or substituted for an alternative, safer medication instead. If you’re currently taking any form of medication, be it an over the counter painkiller, you should discuss with your doctor your intention of getting pregnant and if the medication needs to change. This also includes vitamin supplements and herbal medication. While some medicines can cause birth defects and other pregnancy-related complications throughout the period of pregnancy, some only cause an effect in the first trimester when most of the organs of the fetus are in development.
If you’re unsure about the risks of the medicines you’re using currently, it’s important to refer to an online database provided by a trusted source such as FDA to learn more about the medication. The following are some commonly prescribed medications that could harm the pregnancy:
Each medicine in the above-mentioned list of teratogenic medicines has diverse effects on the expecting mother and the developing baby. For example, warfarin can cause a bleeding disorder while vitamin A is associated with severe structural birth defects. Medicines that are generally safe to take in pregnancy include:
Sometimes women will continue taking their medication before they realize they are pregnant. In this case, it’s crucial to discuss any concerns that you may have with your physician, and what needs to be done moving forward.
Doctors recommend starting prenatal supplements well before you actually plan to conceive. This helps set the ground for healthy development of the fetus and ensures all necessary nutrients are at their abundant levels by the time you get pregnant. Everyone knows folic acid is an important vitamin that women should start taking before they get pregnant. Ideally, this vitamin supplement should be started two months prior to conception. You can also increase your intake of natural folic acid sources, but this may not be sufficient to meet the goals. That’s why, supplements are advised to take instead. Folic acid has a key role in DNA synthesis of humans. This important vitamin ensures healthy and complete brain development. Babies of women who lack folic acid in their diet are at a high risk of developing neural tube defects. This can be mild and present only as a tuft of hair or dimple around the lower spine (spina bifida occulta), or it can be more severe and result in the herniation of spinal cord membranes through the incomplete closure of the neural tube. Folic acid is needed most in the first trimester, particularly between weeks 4 to 8. This is when the organogenesis is at its optimum level. Because many women do not find out their pregnant by 4 weeks, it is advised to start taking folic acid supplements earlier. The recommended amount of folic acid that you should take per day is 400 micrograms. Other important nutrients such as vitamin D, C and calcium can be taken during pregnancy. However, it’s a good idea to start including these three important nutrients to your diet when you’re planning the pregnancy.
On the other end of the spectrum, vitamin A is one vitamin that should be avoided. An excess of vitamin A can cause multiple birth defects in the growing fetus. Therefore, it’s important to avoid all supplements that contain vitamin A. This also includes certain acne medication that contains vitamin A in the form of isotretinoin.
A number of environmental, household, and social toxins can negatively impact pregnancy. We’re all well aware that tobacco and alcohol are two of the most important toxins that are strictly advised to steer clear from. Alcohol intake can result is a condition known as the fetal alcohol syndrome. This presents with distinct abnormal facial features of the baby as well as mental disability. Tobacco smoking, on the other hand, increases the chance of stillbirth, preterm delivery and sudden infant death syndrome. Because alcohol and cigarettes can easily become addictive, it’s a good idea to quit them well before you actually conceive. Women are encouraged to check themselves into rehab if required just so they can be alcohol and tobacco-free once they get pregnant. Apart from these two main poisons for pregnancy, some other less talked about toxins exist in our environment. Air pollution can also have adverse effects for the developing fetus, as can certain household chemicals. Here are a few:
Lead: Lead is an insidious heavy metal that can crawl its way into our lives one way or another. From chipped paint to batteries, lead is present in a number of different things around us. This toxin can also contaminate the soil which is why if you’re planning to get pregnant, you should avoid gardening or handling soil.
Lead can have numerous effects on the baby. It is associated with mental and learning disabilities, delayed growth, and movement disorders.
Mercury: Another heavy metal that can have deleterious effects on the baby is mercury. Mercury can contaminate large fish which is exactly why pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming large fish such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tuna. Instead, seafood should be limited to smaller fish because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.
Toluene: A common component of paint, glue and nail polish, toluene is another household toxin that should be avoid in pregnancy. Because of its role as a solvent in a number of different things around the house, it can sometimes be difficult to prevent exposure from toluene altogether. However, before you plan your pregnancy, you should take measures to reduce this toxin from your house. This means you shouldn’t plan a refurnishing or house painting project when you get pregnant. Toluene is highly volatile and evaporates in the air, contributing to indoor air pollution. In a developing fetus, this solvent can affect major body organs including the liver and kidney, as well as affect the immune and reproductive system of the body.
Asbestos: Asbestos can be found in home roofing and insulation because of its inherent property to resist fire. Freshly installed roofing might not be an environmental and pregnancy hazard, but old roofs definitely require investigation. This mineral is a clinically proven carcinogen and can affect the lungs in both the developing baby and the adult. One way to ensure safety is by getting your water supply tested for asbestos levels. Asbestos can get into drinking water and consumed through this route which can then affect the pregnant woman and the baby.
Formaldehyde: Another commonly used substance in the house and another potential harmful toxin in pregnancy is formaldehyde. This is a preservative that is a constituent of a number of different household products including furniture, cosmetics, and shampoo. Studies have shown that an increased exposure to formaldehyde can result in poor lung function in the baby as well as low birth weight. To prevent formaldehyde exposure, you should make a habit of reading labels on your personal care products and get items that are formaldehyde-free. You should also avoid going to nail salons or purchasing faux wood furniture to avoid formaldehyde exposure.
A lot of careful planning goes into starting a family; ensuring the pregnancy is healthy and uneventful should be your priority. Although sometimes complications are impossible to avoid, preparing your body for the physiological changes that come with pregnancy is essential. This includes detoxing your system by eating right before you conceive, taking the recommended prenatal supplements, carefully monitoring your medication intake and avoiding harmful toxins.
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