Infertility and pregnancy loss is at an all time high in our country right now. I know more women who have LOST babies than I do women who have carried all of their children to term. I count myself in that number! I have experienced FOUR losses, and the two children I kiss and hold tight to every day where hard won. It took major changes in diet and supplementation and some interventions in order to birth them! But nothing is too much to ask to not have one’s children die in one’s womb.
The Weston A Price Foundation has a list of nutritional recommendations for pregnant and nursing mothers in order to give our bodies the best chance to safely carry and nourish our children. It’s a really great list, actually. I know a lot of folks who look at it and become overwhelmed, asking how they can EAT all of that in ONE DAY, but the truth is, a lot of the suggestions are based on a WEEKLY diet, not an every day thing.
We get our nutrients over the course of an entire year. If you think about it, if we are eating locally and seasonally, there will simply be some foods that are more available at some times than they are at others. And our bodies are ok with that. That’s why, like with most warm blooded creatures, we tend to put on weight before the cold seasons, and the types of foods available in each season correspond to something our bodies need.
Consider grassfed butter. Many cultures prize the butter that is produced in the early spring from the cows eating the fast growing grass. It tends to be a deeper richer golden yellow, and it has higher amounts of vitamins A, D, and K2. Think about the fact that we are coming out of the long, dark winter, with shorter days, and more time spent indoors. That Spring butter is JUST the extra boost of D that we need to get moving again!
Or think about the foods that come into season in the Fall; all warm, filling foods, designed to put on layers.
During the period of a woman’s (and MAN’S!) fertility, there are foods that are great for boosting our body’s ability to create a nurturing, nourishing environment to promote hormonal balance, conception, fertilization, and gestation. Most traditional cultures had “sacred foods” that were reserved for men and women who were ready to conceive. This nutritional supplementation with nutrient dense foods helped to stave off infertility, made for easier pregnancies and births, and ensured strong healthy babies.
Such sacred foods, like that delicious spring butter, fermented cod liver oil, organ meats and fish eggs, are packed with protein, FATS and lots of fat soluble nutrients. The key to fertility is fat, it seems. After all, hormones are BUILT from fat, as are BRAINS. Our brain is made up completely of cholesterol, and if you are going to grow a big brained baby, you need the fats in your system to build it! Many of the vitamins that we get from vegetable and fruits are ALSO fat soluble. And since most fruits and veggies are really LOW in fat, we need the animal fats to help us unlock and assimilate them.
Women are designed differently from men, even in the way we carry our fat. Our fat is mostly stored subcutaneously (under the skin) and we tend to pack it on our hips, buttocks and breasts: areas that speak to our fertility and ability to bear children. Men’s fat stores begin internally, around their organs with very little (compared to women) between the skin and muscles (of course, weight gain is a different thing. We’re just talking about where it’s SUPPOSED to be. )
But regardless of where our fat is stored in our body, we BOTH need it when it comes to making babies! Healthy sperm production requires just as much of a nutrient dense diet as a woman carrying a baby for nine months, so let’s make sure our men eat well too!
And don’t get me STARTED on sexual health! It’s all one, and all interconnected, but the purview of THIS post is to discuss what a woman of childbearing age and intent should be eating to help ensure a healthy pregnancy, easy birth, and strong baby.
Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers
The Weston A Price foundation suggests:
- Cod Liver Oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2000 IU vitamin D per day. Of course, fermented cod liver oil is a highly prized food, but only one company even makes it these days, and it can be pricey. There’s also debate over cod liver oil versus straight fish oil, as well as how it is sourced, processed etc. My favorite fish oil supplement is OmegaGize³™ from Young Living. The benefit of this oil is that is formulated with essential oils plus it combines the power of three core daily supplements: omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D-3, and CoQ10 (ubiquinone).
According to Young Living: “Used daily these ingredients work synergistically to support normal brain, heart, eye, and joint health.”* This is important, not only for a woman carrying a baby, but also for the baby itself! Also, to those for whom this is important, I don’t notice smelly fish burps so much when taking OmegaGize³™. Just FYI.
- 1 quart (or 32 ounces) whole milk daily, preferably raw and from pasture-fed cows goats or sheep (learn more about raw milk at A Campaign for Real Milk, www.realmilk.com.) I have been exclusively drinking raw milk from local certified raw dairies for almost ten years now. I will NEVER go back! Whether from grassfed cows, goats, or sheep, unpasteurized, unhomogenized, rich creamy milk, fresh (sweet) or cultured is packed with nutrition and healthful benefits!
- 4 tablespoons butter daily, preferably from pasture-fed cows, goats, or sheep. When not making my own butter from the rich cream off my raw milk, I prefer to purchase Kerrygold butter. It is from grass fed cows in Ireland and simply the best butter (in my opinion) on the market! I usually find it at Costco for really reasonable prices!
- 2 or more eggs daily, preferably from pastured chickens (or ducks). If you don’t have your own backyard chickens, your next best bet is to find someone who HAS, or a local farmer who lets their chickens roam wild and free, eating all the bugs and fresh greens their little chicken hearts desire. You can tell the difference between a pastured egg and a grocery store “battery” egg much the same way you can tell grass fed butter form conventional: the deep golden yellow yolk of a pastured chicken is a typical tell tale sign of chickens who are getting allt he sunshine and nutrients they should be!Also, avoid “vegetarian fed only” eggs. Chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians. And most “vegetarian” feed is code for soy and corn: which means GMO’s. Make sure your eggs are GMO free, by making sure they are SOY free! Ask your farmer what kind of feed he or she uses to supplement their free-ranging birds. It’s an important question to ask!
- Additional egg yolks daily, added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc. Same rules apply to the yolks! I love adding egg yolks to everything. And don’t forget to make your lacto-fermented mayonnaise, and delicious custards, and rich puddings… Mmmmm… eggg yolks….
Want a nutrient dense smoothie? Look no further…
- 3-4 ounces fresh liver, once or twice per week. This goes for all organ meats. Learning to eat organ meats in Western culture can be a bit of a … curve. But it SHOULD be done! It MUST be done! Do it for your health! Do it for the CHILDREN! Do it because pate is YUMMY! And so is steak and kidney pie! and HAGGIS! DO IT FOR THE HAGGIS!!
- Fresh seafood, 2-4 times per week, particularly wild salmon, shellfish and fish eggs. Wild caught is SO important here. It is best to avoid farmed fish for a whole bunch of reasons, not only to avoid GMO’s but also just because farmed fish, like other CAFO’s, typically are not fed a species appropriate diet (big surprise!) But you also want to be very careful about WHERE your wild caught fish are coming from. Over fishing, mercury contamination, oil spills, and nuclear radiation from Fukushima are really limiting safe seafood, so be very careful about this one! In some ways, sticking with fresh water fish from sources you know and trust is best– as with everything else.
- Fresh beef or lamb daily, always consumed with the fat. That’s a biggie. Don’t fear the fat people. Really. In pastured animals who have lived their lives happy on organic, growing greens, you don’t need to worry about the toxins, hormones, and other nasty stuff that gets stored in the fat. Eat clean, live clean. The nice thing about lamb especially is that it is almost exclusively raised on grass it’s entire life, so it is one of the safest meats to eat out there. But as always: Know Your Source.
- Oily fish or lard daily, for vitamin D. As mentioned before with the fish, be careful of your source. Same with lard. Pastured animals and wild caught fish are best. If you avoid pork, and have limited supplies to oily fish, just stick with the OmegaGize. For serious, it will give you the necessary D3. Oh, and get some sun! At least 20 minutes a day with at least 40% of your skin exposed. Sun that BABY BELLY!!
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil daily, used in cooking or smoothies, etc. I <3 Coconut oil. It has a really high smoke point, so you can fry anything with it, or you can eat it straight off the spoon cold! Virgin Coconut oil tastes mildly coconutty, so if you object to the flavor, you can always get expeller pressed, which is slightly more processed/refined, but STILL manages to be healthy! You can get really good stuff online, or do what I do and pick it up at Costco. The savings get passed along to you, and it’s really just as good if you cannot afford the pricier stuff.
- Lacto-fermented condiments and beverages. I’m the Cultured Mama. Lacto-fermented is what I DO! Kefir, Kombucha, mayo, ketchup, sauerkraut, beet kvass… Add these incredible foods to your diet STAT! It will help you have the necessary gut flora to pass on to your baby; because whatever the state of YOUR gut is the state you pass on to the sterile intestines of your baby when they pass through the birth canal, and as they nurse from your breast. If your gut health is not in balance (and let’s face it, if you were formula fed, born via c-section, or EVER had antibiotics, then it’s NOT!) the best way to re-colonize your gut with healthy bacteria and yeasts is by EATING them! And the best sources for healthy bacteria and yeasts are the probiotic rich living foods known as lacto-ferments!Start off slowly though. Too much if you are not used to it can cause your body to go into detox as it attempts to dump all the toxins at once! Slowly slowly, especially if you are pregnant or nursing… Despite what you may have read or heard, Kombucha and other fermented foods and beverages are SAFE during pregnancy. You just might make yourself uncomfortable if you introduce them too quickly.
Beet Kvass is delicious and NUTRITIOUS!
- Bone broths used in soups, stews and sauces. The great thing about bone broths is that you can sip on them when you can’t keep down much of anything else. Seriously, is there anything in the world more comforting than a warm cup of chicken broth? SERIOUSLY? They are RIDICULOUSLY healthy for you. Made from the bones and connective tissues of pastured animals, they are extremely high in minerals, and the BEST source for the protein, gelatin, which is very important for our OWN bone, joint, and connective tissue health! In fact, gelatin is so important that I like to add Great Lakes grass fed gelatin to things myself, like smoothies, puddings, sauces, etc. You can find it on Amazon!
- Soaked whole grains. Another Cultured Mama favorite, I prefer sourdough to conventional yeast bread far and away! It is best to soak your grains, seeds, legumes and nuts in order to eliminate the anti-nutrients that are inherent in all seed like structures. In nature, those enzymes are useful to keep the seed from being digested in the tough stomachs of birds, for instance, so they can be spread far and wide, or they act as pesticides to keep the seeds safe until time for planting and germination. But in our tummies, they act up, and keep us from being able to absorb the nutrients locked inside! So we soak them, sprout them, sour them or otherwise make them nutritionally available! (NOTE: if you suffer from multiple miscarriages, or pregnancy losses, this may be an indication of a food intolerance such as Gluten Intolerance. Please see your physician for testing to see if you have the markers for it, and try eliminating gluten– even soaked, soured, or sprouted wheat– for a while to see if other issues perhaps clear up.)
- Fresh vegetables and fruits. This really should go without saying. After all, haven’t we been told all our lives how healthy fresh fruits and veggies are? Most of the healthy carbs we eat come from fruits and veggies, and they are packed with vitamins and minerals. And yet, even so, there is a caveat.Make sure when you source your veggies, you are getting the cleanest ones possible. Avoid GMO’s at all costs, and if you cannot afford ALL organic ALL the time, use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopping lists to help you choose wisely. Of course, your best bet is to shop locally, in season, and know your farmer. It cannot be said enough.
- In all things, whether meats, grains, dairy, or produce, seek out artisan, heirloom varieties and farmers who like to produce SLOW FOOD. Good food, with lots of nutrients takes TIME. Just like building babies. Don’t rush your labor and delivery, and don’t rush your food!
Things to AVOID:
- Trans fatty acids (e.g., hydrogenated oils)
- Junk foods
- Commercial fried foods
- White flour
- Soft drinks
- Drugs (even prescription drugs)
IMPORTANT WARNING from WAPF: “Cod liver oil contains substantial levels of omega-3 EPA, which can cause numerous health problems, such as hemorrhaging during the birth process, if not balanced by arachidonic acid (ARA), an omega-6 fatty acid found in liver, egg yolks and meat fats. Please do not add cod liver oil to a diet that is deficient in these important animal foods. It is important to follow our diet for pregnant mothers in its entirety, not just selected parts of it.”
Essential Oils and Supplements During Pregnancy and Nursing
If you have not yet gotten a copy of Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Infant Care* by Debra Raybern; GET IT. Right now. It’s available on Amazon. I’ll wait…
Seriously, I <3 this book so much I GIVE it away for FREE with the purchase of a Premium Starter Kit. (If you have purchased a Premium Starter Kit through me, and would like a copy of this book, please contact me!)
This book is a treasure trove of wisdom for folks who are interested in natural health solutions to the common discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth. It has a reference guide to common ailments and lists essential oils and supplements that are useful in addressing them. It also lists options for your birth kit, and oils and supplements that support an easy labor and delivery.
While we would like to believe that by simply eating a nutrient dense, nutritionally balance diet, we are feeding ourselves and our babies everything that we need to survive and thrive, we know that today, we simply cannot. Most of us are coming to the table at a health deficit, and as mentioned earlier, if you have ever had a round of antibiotics, your gut health has been greatly impacted! Add to that vaccines, junk food, and all of the hormones and toxins in our diets and environment, and really, it’s hard to find an individual in Western society who does not have some element of dysfunction going on. At the very least, our foods are not as nutritionally replete as they once were, and our bodies are not as efficient at processing them as they should be.
Enter supplements and essential oils. I have already written about how supplements from the grocery store really aren’t very helpful, and the benefits of those formulated with Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, so I will let you read all about that here.
Young Living has a lot of supplements that are useful for women of childbearing years, and helpful for all states of health. Of course, it is my belief that EVERYONE can benefit from 4-6 oz of NingXia Red every day, but there are many other options as well, such as the Core Supplements discussed in the link above, or the Master Hers formula of vitamins specifically for women (there is also a Master His).
There are also oils and supplements that are valuable for those TTC, or for individuals like myself who tend to have low progesterone early in pregnancy. Progessence Plus is excellent for helping in that department, and there are other oils and supplements as well that can be helpful before, during, and after conception.
Infertility and pregnancy loss is at an all time high in this country. I and many of my friends have been impacted in some way by this epidemic. But it is not a lost cause! Nutrition, supplementation, avoiding toxins in our environment as much as possible and living a clean, holistic lifestyle, built on faith, hope, and love, will go a long way toward reversing a lot of our problems. I hope I have given you a glimmer of that hope today!
Disclaimer: The FDA pretty much resents and refutes everything I share with you through this medium and would rather I not say any of it, but in an effort to appease them, requires that I state that nothing I say here is examined or approved by them, and does not act in the place of licensed medical advice. Furthermore, the FDA wishes me to assert and reinforce that this blog and the contents therein does not constitute “legitimate” medical advice, and is not intended to prescribe, treat, diagnose or cure any ailment or infirmity. If of your own volition you choose to imitate some of the information presented here and you experience healing, it is NOT my fault, and the FDA wants that to be abundantly clear. Conversely, if you do not seek the advice of your medical professional and attempt to enact any of the anecdotal or even scientifically backed information herein and experience adverse conditions, understand that it is STILL not my fault, though the FDA will probably be smug about it and snarkily blame me in their heart of hearts.
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