Is there a perfect combination of foods for pregnancy? Not really. Though there are many recommendations on what a mother should and shouldn’t eat. Apart from the standard health advice there may be a few others things to take into consideration.
- Digestion slows down during pregnancy so that the mother’s body can absorb as many nutrients as possible. If you combine this with the common recommendation of taking iron tablets, many women become constipated. It is a great time to increase all your good fibers through fruit and vegetables. Also, look at a range of iron sources, not only from your food but also consider the liquid supplements found at health food stores such as Spatone or Floridix. Of course, don't forget about gentle exercise.
- Microbiomes – there is growing research that shows that the mother’s gut health has a huge influence on the baby’s health (in both the short and long term). Pregnancy is a great time to start eating fermented foods or taking probiotics. Sarah from Wild About Fermenting shared on my blog more about the importance of Infant Probiotics.
- Do you have allergies in the family? There is research that has shown that fish oil supplementation can reduce allergies in babies.
- But you don’t need to restrict nuts or other allergens during pregnancy or breastfeeding, just in case. In fact, by eating the allergens in moderation you may reduce your baby’s risk of developing severe allergic reactions.
What about in Labour?
Though many women may eat during very early labour, as the woman’s body goes into active labour it shuts down the digestion process and diverts energy into labouring. This is why some women will vomit during labour. It can actually be a great sign of progression in labour!
If a mother calls me during the day and says she thinks she may be in early labour, I’ll often suggest that she eat a good, carb loaded meal. Similar to marathon preparation. Slow release carbs can be perfect for long labours. Here’s some great advice from a marathon article that is very relevant to labour:
“Two to three hours before the start, "eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, even if that means getting up at an ungodly hour and going back to bed," says Girard Eberle. The reason: As you slept, your brain was active and using the glycogen (stored carbohydrate) from your liver. Breakfast restocks those stores, so you'll be less likely to run out of fuel.”
But once things are progressing nicely, most mothers will only want to sip on fluids. It is really helpful at this point to have something that is not only easy to digest, helps prevent dehydration and contains electrolytes for energy. Coconut water is great and now comes in cans and powdered form. The energy drinks may be too sweet for some people in labour. For more ideas, feel free to download my Eating in Labour document.
It’s important to note that, though there may be some scary stories in Internet-land of women being restricted food and drink in labour, it is not standard policy in our region’s hospitals. There may be exceptions health professionals think surgery may be needed in the next several hours.
So while there may be a few changes needed during pregnancy, for the most part – Eat, Drink and Be Merry! And if you’re really disappointed about missing out on camembert and pate during pregnancy, why not ask your support people to put together a little post-birth picnic to celebrate. I promise it’ll be the best tasting food you’ve ever tasted!