“A healthy start for our children begins before they are even conceived.”
I’ve always heard this, and have always known it on some level, but it was never as important to me as when I realized my first child was sick. “What could I have done differently?” was something I asked myself everyday in the beginning. We know that genetics play a certain role in having a child who is predisposed to autism, immune issues, etc. But I do believe, while some of us are born with a “smoking gun” of sorts, what pulls the trigger is often environmental: i.e. our lifestyle, the toxicity of our environment, and our diet. I don’t believe in living in regret or wishing to change the past. But I do try and take the knowledge that I’ve gained and apply it to my life going forward. It’s never too late to start getting healthy.
When I got pregnant with my second child, I was able to have a much more natural and organic pregnancy experience. I believe this helped us catch my daughter’s gut issues before they became as bad as my son’s were. I am grateful to have been able to make some changes in pregnancy that I feel will only help her in the future.
In terms of having more children, my husband and I have decided that our shop here is closed. However, if I were ever to go through another pregnancy, here are a few things I would aim for in achieving the best healthy and natural pregnancy possible.
Excellent gut health
I started my first pregnancy with a less than stellar gut environment. I had taken a ton of antibiotics for various reasons during my early twenties that left me with a pretty damaged gut. I had heard of probiotics, knew I was supposed to be taking them, and just started taking the first one I could find. I had done nothing to research whether these synthetic vitamins I was ingesting worked. In short, they didn’t. I was also still eating a ton of processed foods and, for the first trimester of my pregnancy, when I was in the throws of morning sickness, I existed soley on pizza and bread. The second half of my pregnancy was filled with lots and lots of cookies. Just ask my husband. I couldn’t stop with the cookies.
If I had to do it again, I would focus big-time on my gut health. A great way to do this is by taking a daily serving of CocoKefir, a probiotic made from coconut water. Any supplement you take should be derived from a whole food source for your body to absorb it properly. CocoKefir fits the bill. I recommend everyone take their kefir whether they are pregnant or not (if pregnant, let your OBYGn know about any supplements you are taking). If you can make sure your gut is in good standing before you conceive, even better. Our whole family takes CocoKekir and loves it. You can purchase CocoKefir here.
Sleep wasn’t something I took seriously enough in my twenties and early thirties. However, sleep is everything! It is our body’s time to recharge, and without the proper amount of sleep, we will never feel our best or do our best. We have become a culture that prides itself on how busy we can be and how we can go-go-go. That isn’t something to aim for. At least, it’s not what I aim for anymore. I want a slower pace of life, with time to enjoy and listen to what my body needs and when it needs it. I can’t believe how much less anxiety I have when I get regular sleep.
Our mental state
We need to rely on friends, families, and partners more in our pregnancies. I can’t stress this enough. I wasn’t always good at asking for help without guilt. I would request support, but then I would still be worried that I wasn’t deserving of it or that I would be seen as weak and lazy. This would cause me to still be stressed even when “resting”. In my second pregnancy, my son was still a toddler and in tons of therapy, I was trying to change his diet, and I was so incredibly worried about this new baby who was about to be born. I also had terrible morning sickness. I found myself in bed a lot, but instead of feeling ok taking that time, I just felt bad about it. Well, what good does that do? These days, I own when I need “me” time because I realize I am not good to anybody when I am stressed. Yes, this is still something I have to work on constantly.
If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that I believe a good diet changes everything. It keeps anxiety low, energy levels high, skin clear, and body fat from creeping up. Joint pains get better, hormones regulate. A good diet, free of processed foods, changed my son’s life. I think we would all be amazed by the amount of mental fog and physical sluggishness that can lift when we eat better. In our house, we eat Paleo, but we (meaning the adults) aren’t always super strict. I believe in the 80/20 rule. Don’t stress yourself if you’re not perfect all the time. But each day, wake up and tell yourself, “Why not try today?”.
Admittedly, I am not an exercise person. The thought of strapping sneakers on and going to the gym or going for a run just don’t appeal to me. But I love walking and I like yoga. So I do what I can as often as I can, without putting strict rules on myself. The only rule is, get moving as often as possible. I try to get myself outdoors and moving everyday, and I notice that throwing myself into active play with my kids does a lot in working all sorts of muscles I didn’t even know I had (parents of toddlers, I think you feel me on this).
Choose a good prenatal vitamin
This goes back to the rule of picking only supplements derived from a whole food source. Our bodies do not process the fake stuff, so why waste your money? A great prenatal vitamin is Innate Response Formulas Baby & Me Prenatal Vitamins. Of course, always let your OBGYN know which supplements you are taking.
Consider a doula
This goes back to the idea of taking care of your mental health. A doula was, hands-down, the best thing that happened to me in my second pregnancy. I was able to get through twenty-four hours of unmedicated labor with her support, and, to think, we almost decided against hiring a doula, assuming it might be an unnecessary expense. My husband now touts the benefits of a doula to anyone who will listen. It allowed me to be so much calmer, knowing there was someone there who knew how all this labor stuff worked, who could be the liason between me and the hospital staff, and who could keep me moving and progressing in labor, even when I wanted to just lay back and give up. Both my mother and husband, who are both pretty supportive, admit they wouldn’t have even known where to start in providing the type of thorough support our doula provided for me. And remember – your doula is there to give you support and care even after the birth, both in the hospital and back at home.
As often as possible, we use homeopathic remedies for any illnesses that crop up in our household. Countless times, this has kept us from having to take any prescription or over-the-counter meds, even Advil. We have survived croup, sinus infections, and fevers using homeopathy alone and with great results. Anything that can help you avoid taking any sort of drugs during pregnancy is awesome in my book. For my second pregnancy, I actually used homeopathy to keep my blood pressure regulated towards the end of my ninth month. It worked! I was amazed and so were my doctor and nurses.
I know some people have trouble with meditation. It is such a novel concept in a fast-paced world. How can we achieve anything by just sitting there quietly with our eyes closed? The most common complaint I hear is that it’s just not working. That the mind won’t shut off. If your mind doesn’t shut off, don’t fight it. We are not supposed to control what the mind does while in meditation. It all leads to stress release, even if we don’t think it’s working. Just keep at it and over time your mind will learn to find it’s way to transcendence. The benefits from meditation can truly spread to every part of your life. I know that I am calmer, more focused, feel less resentful, and remember how to treat myself well when I meditate regularly. (More to come in a future post on meditation.)
These are just a few things I would focus on in I were to go through pregnancy again. I can’t change my children’s genetics, but I can change their environment going forward, so that the toxins they are exposed to are kept to a minimum, and so they that have a chance at great gut health and physical and emotional balance. I think these tips work for pregnancy but also for achieving great mental and physical health in general.
Here’s wishing all you mamas-to-be a happy and health pregnancy!
P.S. If you’re looking to actually get pregnant, and barring any medical issues, here are some things I found extremely helpful: the My Days app for your iPhone (to track your cycle), ovulation test kits (which help you figure out the days you are most likely to conceive), a clean diet (which helps keep ovulation consistent and hormones balanced), and this technique. Was that last one too much information? If so, sorry!
Please note: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. To keep true to the spirit of this blog, I only recommend products or services I personally use and/or truly believe will add value to my readers.