I’m writing this blog to from week 23 of my pregnancy, and I’m so happy to report my morning sickness (correction all-day-sickness) has gone! I feel like I’ve got a whole new lease on life. If you’d like to read about my first trimester, you can take a read over here.
It’s a real joy to pen this piece as I’ve crafted many a pregnancy support plan for clients in my naturopathic practice. But this I share with you from the lived routine of doing it. Food is our first medicine and truly what we should focus our attention to during pregnancy, but nourishing herbal preparations and high-quality supplements bring a deeper dimension to one’s prenatal self-care.
I must note, this is a comprehensive plan! Adjusting this to a simplified version can also be fantastic. But hey, this is my wheelhouse, so I’ve gone all-in! I truly do believe that the best prenatal care is what we provide ourselves with. And these guidelines will help guide you with the knowledge that they’re safe and science-backed. I’ve broken my plan into four components:
1. Foundational nutrition
2. Immune system support for mum and immune system development for bub
3. Brain and nervous system development
4. Calming and soothing – support because pregnancy is a mighty time of changing and shifting
A good quality prenatal multivitamin
These specific nutritional complexes have an emphasis on essential nutrients that support pregnancy, and baby. They have higher levels of folate, iodine, vitamins B6 and B12 than regular multivitamins. I’ve written more on what to look for in a good quality prenatal over here.
I’m using Eagles Tresos Natal after trying a few. This one has been gentlest on my stomach and has all the levels of what I need. If you’re outside of Australia or don’t have a naturopath that can prescribe this to you, I recommend Thorne’s Basic Prenatal.
Fish Oil High In DHA
Fish oils are so loved as a health supplement because they’re rich in omega-three fatty acids. There are two main types of fatty acids under the omega-three umbrella: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While EPA has many anti-inflammatory properties, DHA is used to build nerve tissue and brain tissue. Also, as a bonus, a good quality fish oil mitigates many pregnancy skin issues and provides mood support. I use a practitioner only product by Orthoplex White Label, but Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA are equally good, albeit a bit more expensive. You want to make sure you’re taking 500 milligrams of DHA daily.
Nourishing Daily Herbal Infusion
This brew makes me feel like I’m cradling my baby in the soothing embrace of Mother Nature. All these herbs are safe in pregnancy and combine the blood building and adrenal tonifying goodness of nettle with womb nourishing raspberry leaf, nervous System fortifying milky oats, and I love to round it out with rose petals. Rose is optional abut it suits my constitution, and I feel it brings a softness to any blend it’s a part of.
Daily Nourishing Pregnancy Blend – makes 100 grams
30 grams nettles, dried
30 grams raspberry leaves, dried
30 grams milky oats tops, dried
10 grams rose petals, dried.
First thing in the morning, add four-heaped tablespoons of your herbal blend to a one-litre teapot or canning jar. Allow to steep throughout the morning – for two to four hours – and sip throughout the afternoon, instead of water, coffee, tea, or other drinks.
In the second trimester, I’ve also added my regime 24mg of Iron glycinate, and 800mg of Calcium as both of these nutrients are needed in the second trimester in more significant amounts. I use the Oriental Botanicals brand for both.
Tip: Pillboxes are a terrific way to plan out all your supplements and medications at the beginning of a week. Instead of having to remember to open several bottles and remember what dose you need to take of each of them, you’ve done it in one fell swoop. You’ll be thanking yourself during the week when all you have to do is pop that lid!
I’ve added an additional 2000 IU to what I’m already getting in my calcium and prenatal supplements (so I’m getting 4000 IU total). It’s tricky to put vitamin D in only this category as it’s involved in so many processes in mum and baby’s bodies. Vitamin D is essential for immune system development (including preventing allergies and autoimmunity), bone formation, brain development and thyroid protection for mum (the hormonal ebbs and flows of pregnancy and postpartum are a common trigger for latent thyroid conditions).
You can take vitamin D as drops, or you can take capsules if you prefer. Again I take a practitioner only product, but Thorne’s Vitamin D drops are great!
Specific strains of probiotics support both the immune and digestive systems of mum and baby. And by specific strains, I mean specific, not all probiotics are created equal!
The probiotic I’ve chosen contains LGG Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis (BB–12), Bifidobacterium breve (M–16V) and Bifidobacterium longum (BB536). If you’re unable to find one with all four taking LGG Lactobacillus rhamnosus cover the most bases for you. A very affordable alternative to taking a probiotic supplement is taking a therapeutic yogurt. Vaalia Yoga is rich in LGG Lactobacillus rhamnosus – you can get a protective dose by eating half a cup a day. This strain has been shown to reduces allergies, eczema and asthma in babies, specifically when taken in the last trimester, and while breastfeeding. They help foster a healthy and diverse microbiome for baby – an essential pillar of health.
Brain and Nervous System Support
Magnesium is a calming mineral that is fabulous for supporting restful sleep, preventing muscle cramps, and supporting blood sugar stability and blood pressure. It’s one of my essential nutrients to keep mums on into the postpartum for extra nervous system support while adjusting to life with a new, very dependent household member.
Choline like folate is a member of the B vitamin family and is proving to be just as crucial for baby’s brain development, and essential for the production of brain chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters. Yet it is often overlooked, and many prenatal supplements don’t contain nearly enough to meet pregnancy and breastfeeding demands. It’s mainly a manufacturing issue as choline is a bulky nutrient and best taken on its own to get the dose required.
- Dosage is 350 to 500mg in pregnancy.
- For vegans and vegetarians, take the higher end dose of 500mg.
- And our needs go up even further in breastfeeding, it’s recommended to take 550 milligrams.
That’s my very comprehensive first and second-trimester herb and nutrient plan. I’ll be making some adjustments when the third trimester rolls around, and I will be sure to update you. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into pregnancy nutrition, I’ve included some books and links to all the studies I’ve used to guide my choices.
Resources & References
Alwan, N. A., D. C. Greenwood, N. A. B. Simpson, H. J. McArdle, K. M. Godfrey, and J. E. Cade. “Dietary Iron Intake during Early Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes in a Cohort of British Women.” Human Reproduction 26, no. 4 (April 1, 2011): 911–19. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/der005.
Amalia, Nasya, David Orchard, Kate Louise Francis, and Emma King. “Systematic Review and Meta‐analysis on the Use of Probiotic Supplementation in Pregnant Mother, Breastfeeding Mother and Infant for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis in Children.” Australasian Journal of Dermatology 61, no. 2 (May 2020). https://doi.org/10.1111/ajd.13186.
Baldassarre, Maria, Valentina Palladino, Anna Amoruso, Serena Pindinelli, Paola Mastromarino, Margherita Fanelli, Antonio Di Mauro, and Nicola Laforgia. “Rationale of Probiotic Supplementation during Pregnancy and Neonatal Period.” Nutrients 10, no. 11 (November 6, 2018): 1693. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111693.
Braarud, Hanne, Maria Markhus, Siv Skotheim, Kjell Stormark, Livar Frøyland, Ingvild Graff, and Marian Kjellevold. “Maternal DHA Status during Pregnancy Has a Positive Impact on Infant Problem Solving: A Norwegian Prospective Observation Study.” Nutrients 10, no. 5 (April 24, 2018): 529. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050529.
Brannon, Patsy, and Christine Taylor. “Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy.” Nutrients 9, no. 12 (December 6, 2017): 1327. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9121327.
Caudill, Marie A., Barbara J. Strupp, Laura Muscalu, Julie E. H. Nevins, and Richard L. Canfield. “Maternal Choline Supplementation during the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Improves Infant Information Processing Speed: A Randomized, Double‐blind, Controlled Feeding Study.” The FASEB Journal 32, no. 4 (April 2018): 2172–80. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.201700692RR.
Fett, Rebecca. Brain Health From Birth: Nurturing Brain Development During Pregnancy and the First Year, 2019.
Hofmeyr, G Justus, Theresa A Lawrie, Álvaro N Atallah, and Maria Regina Torloni. “Calcium Supplementation during Pregnancy for Preventing Hypertensive Disorders and Related Problems.” Edited by Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, October 1, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001059.pub5.
Lu, Min, Yuanhong Xu, Liying Lv, and Min Zhang. “Association between Vitamin
D Status and the Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis.” Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics 293, no. 5 (May 2016): 959–66. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404–016–4010–4.
Nichols, Lily. Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition. First edition. United States Lily Nichols, 2018.
Parsons, Myra, Michele Simpson, and Terri Ponton. “Raspberry Leaf and Its Effect on Labour: Safety and Efficacy.” Australian College of Midwives Incorporated Journal 12, no. 3 (September 1999): 20–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1031–170X(99)80008–7.
Romm, Aviva Jill. The Natural Pregnancy Book: Your Complete Guide to a Safe, Organic Pregnancy and Childbirth with Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices. Third edition. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2014.
Supakatisant, Chayanis, and Vorapong Phupong. “Oral Magnesium for Relief in Pregnancy-Induced Leg Cramps: A Randomised Controlled Trial: Oral Magnesium in Pregnancy-Induced Leg Cramps.” Maternal & Child Nutrition 11, no. 2 (April 2015): 139–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1740–8709.2012.00440.x.