When I found out that I was pregnant, I had NO idea what to do. I literally Googled, “I’m pregnant, what do I do”. My head was so in the clouds with work, a new puppy, and essentially everything else going on in my life that I haven’t even done any previous research on the first steps to take, and obvious pregnancy nutrition and lifestyle changes to make. Interestingly enough though at this same time, the folks over at Pharmaca reached out to collaborate and I immediately thought oh FAHCK yes I can pick the brain of the nutritionists and naturopaths there about all my initial pregnancy questions.
They were, of course, happy to listen to me ramble off questions about what I should and shouldn’t consume or put on my skin. Their makeup artists showed me all of the paraben free, clean and organic makeup lines I can use, the beauty products I can happily apply, and a list of ingredients I should avoid. There is so much to know about skin care and beauty shifts to make while pregnant that I’m going to create an entire resource guide for that.
Anyway, I was so happy to meet with Pharmaca’s on staff Nutritional Therapist, Jamie Stephens, who gave me the lowdown on all my supplement and nutrition questions. I’m happy to report back the answers I received for all the fellow mommies to be out there who have the same questions!
Pregnancy Nutrition and Health Tips From The Experts
Eat as much fish as possible.
This is something I was happy to hear as I’ve read so many different articles about being mindful of mercury levels and whatnot. It’s important to have adequate amounts of fish in your diet so that you can get healthy levels of DHA. DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid) is important to have during pregnancy as it can help prevent postpartum depression, and also helps develop a healthy growing baby. Jamie reminded me that when eating fish, you want to source clean fish like wild caught salmon.
Add DHA supplements to your routine.
To piggy back off the first tip, if you’re having first trimester sickies and can’t stomach the sight or smell of fish, pop a DHA supplement instead. Jamie recommends finding a DHA supplement that absolutely does not smell fishy, which could be a sign of the supplement going rancid. You can also opt for Cod liver oil instead of a DHA supplement to get the same vital nutrients. Another thing to look for when finding DHA supplements is to see if there is also iodine, where 150mcg of iodine is an added bonus.
Do NOT detox or diet!
This one should be a no-brainer, but is super important to remind time and time again. All of your pre-pregnancy eating rulesgo out the window during your first trimester when you’re hormones are all crazy and you have food aversions and maybe even morning sickness. You want to make sure you’re eating balanced meals for you and baby, but do not stress out about cutting calories or adding crazy ingredients to your diet. Jamie says to avoid “detoxing” ingredients like spirulina and anything that acts as a heavy metal detox. These types of ingredients absorb nutrients (which means they’re also absorbing nutrients that are supposed to be going towards your bub).
Get your vitamin D levels up.
Another mood regulating vitamin, you want to make sure you have enough vitamin D in your system (especially if you live somewhere that has seasons and not constant sunshine like Chicago). Jamie says it may be a good idea to get your levels checked, and if you don’t have enough in your body add another Vitamin D supplement on top of your prenatal. Vitamin D helps the development of your baby, helps your immune system function (because it gets suppressed when you’re preggo), and helps healthy cellular division.
Get tested for your B12 levels.
Jamie also suggests getting tested for your vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 also helps with healthy fetal development and is responsible for red blood cell production and helps the nervous system function optimally. It helps with baby’s brain and spine development and also helps mommy stay energized.
Eat iodine rich foods.
Iodine is another mineral that is wonderful to include into your diet while pregnant as it helps your baby’s brain and nervous system develop. Iodine also helps with thyroid health which is something you want to be aware of while pregnant. Lucky for us, it’s not hard to find iodine sources. It’s already found in eggs, and in seafood and kelp. Oh and did you know that iodine also helps with constipation? BONUS!!!
Digestive enzymes and probiotics.
One of my first questions was, “Can I still take my digestive enzymes and probiotics?!” And the answer was yes! (but if you want to be extra safe still consult with your Dr.). I love taking digestive enzymes and probiotics to keep my digestion kicking and my gut flora flourishing. Jamie says there is nothing wrong with continuing to use these, especially later on in pregnancy when your digestion seems to become very lazy. Jamie does note however, to switch up the strands of probiotics you take for baby and also eat high quality fermented foods. A spoonful of sauerkraut or some miso soup will also do the trick!
Try some beef liver.
Say what now? Yup you heard it correctly. Beef liver was also recommended as it has healthy levels of Vitamin A, B, and iodine. Supposedly in older communities beef liver was a common thing to eat to give yourself extra nourishment for your growing bundle of joy. Although it’s HIGHLY unlikely that any of us are going to march down to the butcher and ask for some liver, there are now supplements that you can take instead. Phew.
Next up: I picked the brain of Pharmaca’s Naturopathic Doctor Karen Carleton, to answer a fewwww more questions in addition to pregnancy nutrition that I had. Here’s her tips directly quoted below!
When it comes to herbal supplements while pregnant, there’s definitely pregnancy friendly herbs.
“While there are a number of herbs that are contraindicated in pregnancy, there are many herbs that are not only safe but can be quite supportive to consume during this time. Many of these herbs can help with different conditions associated with pregnancy. As with anything, it’s important to be comfortable with what you are taking, so if you don’t have much knowledge about medicinal herbs then I would recommend working with a naturopathic doctor, herbalist or other practitioner who works with natural medicine and pregnancy.”
Some tried and true natural remedies for morning sickness.
“There are many remedies that can be helpful in reducing or eliminating morning sickness: vitamin B6, vitamin K, fresh ginger root as a tea or dried in capsules, and various (low-potency) homeopathic remedies.
Try sipping teas such as peppermint, anise, fennel red raspberry leaf or chamomile before getting out of bed or throughout the day when nausea is strongest. Other things that can contribute to morning sickness (or nausea throughout the day) are low blood sugar and dehydration. That’s why eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and a protein-rich snack before bed can be helpful. Some women also find that eating a few crackers before getting out of bed in the morning is helpful.”
What to do when pregnancy constipation hits.
“I recommend focusing on diet and exercise/movement to help prevent constipation. This means eating small and frequent meals, increasing fiber through whole grains, staying hydrated and getting movement such as walking, yoga or swimming. Should constipation occur, some natural remedies include drinking warm prune juice or eating prunes, and/or taking fiber such as bran or ground flax (with plenty of water). I would recommend against taking an over-the-counter or herbal laxative unless directed by your doctor. “
A few natural ways to increase energy, sans caffeine (since now that you’re preg – you have to limit your amount of coffee!).
“Gentle exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep will be very helpful to increase/maintain energy during pregnancy. But it’s important to remind yourself that you are growing a human, which takes a lot of energy! So it’s okay to nap, to go to bed early and to not expect yourself to go at the same speed as before pregnancy. It’s normal to experience heavy fatigue during the first trimester due to changing hormones and to the rapidly growing fetus, and then in the third trimester due to the physical demand of added weight. In addition to exercise and rest, a woman will have more energy when she maintains stable blood sugar levels by eating a healthy diet with a sufficient/appropriate number of calories.”
What to do when the bloat hits.
“Bloating is a normal part of pregnancy especially in the first trimester. The changing hormones–progesterone in particular–affects the digestive system and causes the muscles to relax. This slows down digestion, causing some bloating and for some women constipation and excess gas. Obviously, the hormone part cannot be changed–and you wouldn’t want it to because it is the progesterone that is supporting the pregnancy–but there are some ways to help minimize bloating and gas. Again, eat small, frequent meals, get in regular movement like walking or yoga, drink plenty of water and get sufficient fiber (notice a pattern here?). Dandelion root and leaf is mildly diuretic and stimulating to bile flow so it can help with some of these digestive complaints.”
Naturopathic Doctor approved supplements. (Fish oil DHA makes the list again!)
“Fish oils (or algae-based omega-3s) that are rich in DHA, probiotics and calcium are all basic additions to a prenatal vitamin that most women (and baby) will greatly benefit from during pregnancy. It’s important to take high-quality supplements, especially when it comes to fish oil and probiotics. I recommend taking a fish oil that has been third-party tested to meet international quality standards for heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, etc. Choline is also important for optimal brain development. It’s usually included in prenatals, but a great food source is egg yolk. There are other supplements that a woman may benefit from depending on her individual needs, and that’s something that can be discussed with her health care provider.
In addition, nettle is a wonderful herb. It provides vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron, and it can help improve energy when taken throughout pregnancy. I like it taken as a tea and mixed with red raspberry leaf and some alfalfa.”
Trying to get pregnant? Don’t stress out about making it happen right away.
“First off, I’d say that unless a woman has reason to believe that she needs to increase fertility, then don’t fret about it. Eating a healthy, whole-foods diet and avoiding excess sugar, alcohol and caffeine are good practices regardless, and definitely important when trying (or thinking about trying) to conceive. If you’re even thinking about conceiving, it’s a good time to start taking a prenatal vitamin to help to ensure adequate levels of folate and other important nutrients.
If you’ve tried to get pregnant for 12 months (or 6 months if over 35 years old) then it may be time to consult a specialist. There are numerous reasons for fertility struggles. Working with a practitioner who can access this through history, lab work, imaging, etc. and can offer support through nutrition, supplementation, herbs, etc. will be important. “
I’m sure there are so many questions that I’m missing or leaving out, and I’d love to be able to provide ongoing resources and information for all our mommy readers out there! The team at Pharmaca has been so awesome at being an expert resource for me to use, and I’m so thrilled that they opened up a new store front in Chicago! I used to only know of them as an online retail space but now that they have an actual storefront, I’ll definitely be popping over there to pick up all my natural product essentials and to chat with their team. They also have a pharmacy at their Chicago location which is just another reason for me to be creepin’ on by regularly. So, please send any pregnancy related questions you have to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org – leave a comment below, or leave your question on my Instagram (@balanced_babe) and I’ll have professional expert backed questions for ya!