Whether it’s the fulfillment of a long-awaited plan or a complete surprise, the facts are what they are – you’re pregnant! First, of course, congratulations! You’re about to be in for a significant number of changes, a few of which will be almost instantaneous. Once the initial glee begins to calm, the mind starts to focus on the immediate alterations to your daily routine; the major change many are aware of is the diet.
A common misconception is that a woman is now “eating for two”. This, unfortunately, causes many women to overindulge, intentionally or otherwise. A loosening of portion control and change in snacking routine seems like an ideal way to ensure your little Pea is receiving adequate nutrition. Incidentally, most women (those in or near their ideal BMI) need only an additional 100-300 calories daily under the current guidelines of the American Pregnancy Association, as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This is also the LAST time you’d want to sacrifice quality for quantity – after all, there’s someone else relying on you to provide nutritive support for development (get used to it now, it’s going to be a long, albeit rewarding road ahead!)
Current guidelines base expected healthy weight gain on your starting weight;
Underweight – 28 to 40 lbs
Normal Weight – 25 to 35 lbs
Overweight – 15 to 25 lbs
Obese – 15 lbs
Carrying twins – 35 to 45
So what does this caloric addition look like? In food terms, 100 calories equals….
½ avocado – chock full of essential fatty acids, as well as a nice potassium boost
1 banana or orange – high potassium and vitamin C, respectively
1 cup grapes, watermelon, or peaches – great sources of hydration, especially during the summer months
…. You get the idea. Whether it’s pumpkin seeds full of selenium and EFAs, or nice protein-heavy almond butter, boost your day with a healthy treat rather than an extra meal. Consider tuning your snacks to the list below; basic essential daily nutrients not only for Pea, but for a healthy mama as well.
Iron – 30mg daily, c/ 100mg C for absorption – Your body is increasing its capillary density every few hours within the uterine lining, as well as building a thick endometrial (uterine wall) that helps protect and nourish Pea. I recommend a food based iron such as Megafood’s Blood Builder, as it’s significantly more gentle on the GI tract (which is going become important soon as other normal processes slow down) than a “mineral” iron. If you find you’re… a bit backed up, don’t forget the dietary fiber and extra water. Spinach, kale, beets, and other dark reds and greens are great, providing natural iron as well as the fiber to boot.
Prenatal w/ Folate (Folic Acid)– 400mcg-800mcg per day – Critical. Especially during the first few weeks. Many women choose to boost their prenatal with additional folate (though there’s little benefit beyond 800mcg daily, I advise not capping 1000mcg). This is key for the healthy development of the neural tube, later to become Pea’s spinal cord. If you find you are sensitive to taste and smell already, try looking for a capsule version; while they tend to be slightly less potent than the compressed tablets, the coating helps prevent a scent-trigger for mama. Folate is simply the naturally-occurring, food-based form of folic acid – which your body readily converts- found in many dark leafy greens (yet another reason to add them to your regimen).
Folate/Folic Acid (supplemental)– 400mcg-600mcg) – Range is listed due to the variability in prenatal levels. This is easily acquired in a B-Complex (all the B-vitamins together) or Stress B-Complex (B-complex with added C), though be very careful to avoid any blends with “energizing herbs”. I’ll cover it below, but many of these can be harmful to Pea, especially in the early stages.
Zinc– 15-25mg, DO NOT EXCEED 40mg – Key for nutrient uptake from the umbilical cord as well as assimilation of amino acids for new tissue development and hormonal regulation, though too much is damaging to Pea’s organs. A great excuse to snack, as some of the highest naturally occurring sources are in pumpkin seeds, raw or dark chocolate, and chickpeas and sesame (hummus). If you’re cooking, try adding some garlic for additional zinc as well as a nice immune system boost, as yours will be getting run down fairly soon (yay!)
Quercetin– 500mg– A key bioflavonoid to assist in healthy circulation without putting too much stress on the uterus as many circulatory herbs unfortunately do. If you’re already taking your Vitamin C (2000mg total) in spaced out doses, many come with a bioflavonoid complex that contains quercetin. Try to multitask (and take fewer pills) by combining supplements into multipurpose tools.
Beta-Carotene-NOT Vitamin A, 10,000IU- There is a critical difference for Pea in terms of natural or synthetic A; while beta-carotene is a precursor, allowing the body to slowly assimilate and utilize the pending vitamin A, taking it in it’s heavy form has been linked repeatedly to birth defects and liver damage for the fetus. Many supplemental forms exist in the basic form, such as Solaray’s food-based carotene. To get this dietarily, start thinking light green, yellow, and orange, as it’s naturally found in tomatoes, sweet potato, broccoli, and winter squashes.
Calcium/Magnesium/D3 Complex– 1500mg, 750mg, and 2000IU respectively – The combination of these three nutrients is key as they work with each other in a synergistic fashion for proper uptake and assimilation. Together, they help with the formation of bones and teeth and the prevention of hypertension (key since your blood pressure and circulation will be changing).
EFA Complex – Omega 3- 1200mg, DHA 600mg- Critical for proper development, especially the in the CNS, brain, and eyes.
Dietary Herbs to AVOID – While some herbs have been traditionally used for health benefits during pregnancy, such as alfalfa for K2 and Red Raspberry for uterine toning, there are a number of herbs to avoid entirely: Aloe vera (used internally), angelica, arnia, barberry, black cohosh, bloodroot, cat’s claw, celandine, cottonwood bark, dong quai, feverfew, ginseng, goldenseal, lobelia, myrrh, Oregon grape, pennyroyal, rue, sage, saw palmetto, tansy, and turmeric. It is strongly advised to avoid all herbs during the first 12 weeks as development is rapid and Pea’s sensitivities are still forming and fluctuating on a daily basis.
While I am not a licensed midwife, I’m happy to assist with any unique situations you may have to the best of my herbalist and nutritionist training, please contact if you’re having trouble answering a question leading to a healthy and happy pregnancy. And please remember to inform your trainer of your new situation so they can adjust your workouts accordingly.
Thank you, and congratulations again!