Pregnancy is the beginning of an ecstatic transition, leading to a rite of passage unlike any other. The joy of conception comes with a renewed responsibility for one’s health, and the information available can be overwhelming.
As a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) I spend countless hours helping women sort through these messages to determine what is important for you and why. During prenatal visits we assess health, establish nutritional strategies and plan for primary care and social support. These conversations help manage the anxiety that comes when a life-changing event is on the horizon.
Stress & Hormones
Pregnant women are often told to avoid stress, and most of them know this is easier said than done! From a holistic perspective, stress describes an imbalance in the way we respond to a physical state or external situation. The physical and hormonal changes occurring will alter mood, sleep, and energy levels, making it harder to manage stress. Prenatal visits with with me examine the lifestyle habits to modify this response at the root. You might be surprised to find that a nutrient is a simple answer to your anxious mood.
Food & Nutritional Supplements
All our metabolic functions are performed by nutrients, so even mild deficiencies make it harder for the body to remain relaxed. From a naturopathic perspective, nutrients are replenished by supplements and maintained by diet.
By working through each meal, we promote blood sugar and protein balance in the diet. Blood sugar is not only key to managing nausea in early pregnancy but helps prevent gestational diabetes. Proteins have a significant role in blood sugar balance, and optimal intake prevents serious complications like preeclampsia.
We can go through all of your routine blood work during pregnancy, allowing us to individualize prenatal supplementation for what you’ve got going on. I’m often asked about the optimal dosages for the growing baby when in fact the prenatal nutrition is for moms! Unborn babies will take everything it needs from its mother, and replenishing these nutrients ensures a more comfortable pregnancy and faster recovery after birth. When the nutritional stores are ideal, the body also responds quickly to other forms of therapy.
Acupuncture During Pregnancy
Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to manage uncomfortable symptoms like headaches, nausea, insomnia, and digestive complaints. This can be particularly useful if women discover that their go-to remedies are no longer safe.
In the third trimester, pre-birth acupuncture begins at 34 weeks and encourages the pelvic muscles to allow baby to descend towards the birth canal. Treatments can also prevent and turn babies in breech positions and to deal with late pregnancy pain. Acupuncture has been used historically during the last stages of pregnancy to induce labor and keep labor progressing until the baby is delivered. Experienced practitioners combine herbs with acupuncture to nourish the tissues that will be under strain during the last phases of gestation.
Herbal Medicine in Pregnancy
Herbal treatment requires careful selection and women should not self-prescribe herbs during pregnancy or lactation. There is a good reason for this, some herbs are not safe and may harm you and your unborn baby!
Historically, midwives and doctors used herbs safely during pregnancy to assist with symptoms and prepare the body for delivery. ‘Parturient’ herbs and nourish the uterus, placenta and pelvis for the action of labor and childbirth. Since so many of the reproductive tissues are active during this phase, it helps the body’s rhythms adjust to lactation, or what is sometimes referred to as ‘the fourth trimester’.
Luckily we’re highly trained in both conventional pharmaceutical treatments as well as botanical medicine. This skill set allows me to compare the risks associated with either treatment and assess interactions where treatments are combined. Safe herbal treatments are particularly useful where minor illnesses like colds or allergies occur in those who are hoping to avoid pharmaceutical or antibiotic management.
When combined with proper prenatal care, acupuncture and herbal medicine can keep energy levels stable throughout pregnancy so that moms-to-be can maintain an exercise routine and reap the benefits of physical activity.
Fitness During Pregnancy
Since most pregnant women are dealing with fatigue, it might be comforting to know that vigorous activities are not ideal. There are benefits to low impact cardiovascular fitness, some core strengthening, and stretching.
Swimming brings the heart rate up, and the buoyancy eases the discomfort of carrying extra weight. I can help you decide if this is well suited for you since some thyroid conditions require limits on chlorine exposure. Luckily here in Calgary though, there are many salt water pools which makes this much easier to manage.
Yoga is also ideal as a low impact activity that trains the core while opening the hips to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Classes for pregnant women work on the deep abdominal muscles, low back and hip areas. This makes it easier to engage the pelvic floor (the muscles that support the reproductive and urinary organs). When they are strong, the body can moderate the new weight of a baby.
Every person and every pregnancy is different. It takes the right kind of program to support each soon-to-be mom to ensure her and the baby stay healthy during the pregnancy and well afterward too.
Toxicants and Pregnancy
One of my absolute favourite areas of medicine (you know this if you’ve been following me for any length of time) is Environmental Medicine. Helping new parents (and even one’s who already have others kids) prep their bodies and home environments to rid them of toxicant chemical exposure is so much fun for me. There is so much that we can do to get your body ready and primed for babies and to make sure that they’re exposed to fewer toxicant chemicals through the placenta and breast milk.
Avoidance is key for all of this, and the biggest impact we can make is getting rid of all the health-ruining things you may be exposed to so that we can limit exposure as much as possible.
Unfortunately everyone drinking water, breathing air and eating food these days are exposed to toxicant chemicals and you may have been exposed to a unique set of toxicants depending on where you work or live, but we can absolutely go through how we can get these out of your body before your get pregnant.
If you’re pregnant or thinking about pregnancy in the next year or two, feel free to come in for an appointment so we can get you the specialized care that you need in one of the most important stages of your life. First-time patients even get a free, 15-minute meet and greet to see if we’d be a good fit to work together!