What a daunting, amazing and wonderful time – a pregnancy, a birth and a beautiful baby. But what might help along the way?
The test confirmed it. There was life before baby and then suddenly there he or she is… a line on a test, then a scan on a screen, a bump and a baby. And then there’s mum…the anticipation, then a whole host of body changes that bring to birth a new child. When all goes to plan it’s an amazing gift of nature. When things don’t go so well, it brings worry and concern. But along the way, there are natural products and remedies that can help to manage the process, and make it as pleasant as possible.
Couples who are trying to conceive will ideally begin with a good nutritional foundation; adequate intakes of folic acid, zinc, calcium, iron and all essential vitamins are adequate for conception and supporting pregnancy.
Even if a pregnancy is rather a surprise, supplementation as soon as you find out can still help to safeguard nutrient intakes and all women are encouraged to supplement with 400micrograms of folic acid daily.
Supplementation: to pregnancy and beyond!
Formulations designed for pregnancy, which might also include nutritional oils, such as omega 3, which is essential for many elements of health and wellbeing, and can help with the health of the skin, hair and nails too. These supplements can often be continued throughout breastfeeding.
Do also look out for key nutrients for breastfeeding mums, inculding calcium, magnesium and often zinc. We can’t forget iron either. They is a key mineral for energy, with low levels being expressed as tiredness and fatigue. There are many forms available, including liquid forms which some women find useful if they have trouble swallowing tablets during pregnancy, or if digestive function is compromised (the same is true of multinutrients).
Of course, as well as supplements, healthy eating is a must for all kinds of reasons. Sensible, well-considered snacking is essential. Rather than grabbing for ‘empty calorie’ foods laden with fat and sugar, choose nutrient-rich foods such as dried fruits, vegetable crisps, and you might choose snack bars with seeds. Then of course, there is the advice to eat at least ten portions of fruits and vegetables daily, so always make sure that you have a big bowl of salad and fruits in the fridge to grab for when you feel like you need an energy lift.
Whilst some women stay relatively slim and only carry baby weight, others gain a lot of weight during pregnancy. If they are eating healthily, this might just the way that they carry their pregnancy, and the weight will slowly and surely (with some effort) come off in the months after baby is born. But for others who over-indulge, the path back to pre-baby weight can be arduous and tough, so choosing foods that are nutritious and lower calorie safeguards against excess weight gain. In any case, foods should be nutritious to keep intakes of important vitamins, minerals, fats, water, protein and fibre up.
Eating little and often can not only help to stablise blood sugar balance, but it can also help to manage nausea. You might like to try some herbal teas if tea and coffee make you feel a bit sick, and don’t forget cordials, which can give you an energy lift (ginger is good for nausea) and do experiment with fruit-packed smoothies made with various milks such as oat or soya. These days, kefir is really popular, because it contains many strains of bacteria that are helpful to a person’s ‘microbiome’ (in other words, the make up of the microbial environment in the body) and can influences immunity, allergies and bowel function.
A gutsy time
Some women experience some bowel disturbance throughout pregnancy, due to changes in diet, stress, or even the physical pressure placed on the bowel by the growing foetus. For this reason, it’s important to really take care of your digestive system.
It’s important to keep your bowel function regular. Some women find that they become constipated throughout pregnancy, and including linseeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds can really help this. They can also increase intakes of important polyunsaturated fats in the diet, which are great for immune health as well as the skin, hair and nails. Some women also use natural fruit cubes or prune juice to try to help this. Increasing intakes of beans and pulses can also be useful, and increases B vitamin and mineral levels in the diet. It’s important to recognise that there are two main types of fibre in the diet, notably ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’, which are both important to maintain gut health, including keeping bowel function regular.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can ask in your local health store for details of a local practitioner; a herbalist, aromatherapist or nutritionist who can put in place an action plan to help you sleep more naturally. None of them are able to ease the pressure that a baby might place on your internal organs, but they will be able to look at eating patterns that influence sleep quality. For example, you might already be cutting down on caffeine as you’re pregnant, but if not, then switching to herbal or fruit teas late at night might help. Going to bed hungry, or too full, can affect sleep too.
Throughout pregnancy, various aromatherapy essential oils can be wonderful for relaxation, and it’s wise to find out the best way that you can include them in your daily regime, whether for massage in creams, or in electric burners etc. Do look out for specific pregnancy blends.
Mum, you’re amazing
Amazing you. Bringing life into this world as you do. You deserve some pampering, and your health store will stock some luxurious creams, lotions, massage oils and specific products for skin conditioning throughout (and after) pregnancy.
Natural and organic skincare ranges are wonderful for this, and many are very popular during pregnancy. Whilst some argue that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that they prevent stretch marks, there’s no doubt that products which encourage healthy skin tone and condition do improve the appearance of the skin and can certainly provide time in the day to be pampered. These can be general products, or ones tailor-made for the stomach, buttocks and breasts.
Have you ever used natural hair dyes? Pregnancy is a good time to try. These are made without conventional ingredients, making them suitable for people who have sensitive skin, or those who just want to avoid use of chemicals, if possible, throughout their life.
Look out for organic and natural nipple-creams, you might choose arnica for bruising, tea tree as an anti-microbial for skincare and even calming music to help keep you sleepy in the small hours when baby is awake.