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Pregnancy and Prenatal Vitamins

Pregnancy lasts about forty weeks from conception to labour. Careful planning prior to conceiving a child may reduce any potential problems that could be encountered along the way. The right nutritional supplements for pregnancy, along with specific prenatal vitamins and herbal remedies is invaluable. There are many natural remedies for use before, during, and after pregnancy that may make the pregnancy experience even more enjoyable.

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Pre Pregnancy Planning with Prenatal Vitamins...

Good nutrition should begin before attempting to conceive. A healthy diet is a good habit to acquire early in life, however, if you plan to become pregnant it is essential you make positive changes, prior to conception, to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child. It is also beneficial to go on a cleansing program, to cleanse the body (especially the liver and colon), before pregnancy. This lessens the chance for nausea and hormonal imbalances. Cleansing also helps to reduce any potential endotoxin or allergy exposure the foetus may be in contact with, along with minimising any toxic chemicals that may be stored in your fat cells. In fact many women who have problems becoming pregnant, are able to conceive after going on a cleansing program. A cleansing program should only be carried out under the supervision of a registered health therapist.

Caffeine must be avoided in all forms, as even 1 cup of any caffeine containing drink or product has led to a temporary reduction in fertility rates by 50%. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy, as no safe amount has been established. Be aware that foetal alcohol syndrome has been traced back to consumption of alcohol, by either parent, prior to conception. Alcohol increases the body's need for the B group vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, and Calcium. Excessive alcohol consumption damages the liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and adversely affects the absorption, availability, and metabolism of nutrients.

In preparation for pregnancy, women should stop taking the contraceptive pill at least six months before conception. Conception that occurs immediately after cessation of the pill increases the risk of malformation or spontaneous abortions. The contraceptive pill increases the body's need for Vitamins B6, B1, B2, C, Folic acid and Zinc. These nutrients are usually marginal or deficient in most women on contraceptive pills. As pregnancy creates higher than average demands for nutrients, including the B group, A, D, E, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc and Phosphorous, start taking a multi-vitamin such as a Pregnancy Multi as well as a multi-mineral such as Mineral Power. Six months prior to and during pregnancy, maintain a good diet. Eating small regular meals (5-6 day) with as great a variety of foods as possible is recommended. Ensure you are getting a good balance between essential fatty acids, carbohydrates and protein (30:40:30) and make them good quality choices.

There is a fertility tester called Maybe Baby, which is an individual, reusable, medical diagnostic, mini microscope. It is ideal if you are trying for a baby as this device helps you to determine exactly when you are ovulating, so you can try and conceive. For further information check it out on our website.

Natural Remedies and Pregnancy Supplements

A baby can inherit weaknesses from its parents. A mother can lessen this by improving any problems or weaknesses she has before pregnancy. Herbs can assist in this process. As each person is unique, a health consultation with a registered natural health practitioner would be ideal to determine specific problem areas.

Hormonal imbalances can also affect your ability to conceive. Vitex is recommended to promote ovulation and to restore a normal menstrual cycle. If you suffer from pre-menstrual fluid retention (swollen tender breasts and weight gain), mood swings, depression, loss of libido, excessive or prolonged bleeding or absence of menstruation, and infertility, talk to your natural health practitioner and see if this is right for you.

What Nutritional Supplements should I use During Pregnancy...

Pregnancy lasts about forty weeks from conception to labour. Pregnancy is a stressful condition involving numerous physical and mental changes in the mother's body as the foetus develops. The tissues in the breasts and uterus increase, the blood supply increases, and there is a frequent urge to urinate, there is slight nausea in the morning or even later in the day, the menstrual period is absent, and the need for sleep and fluids increased. Because of these changes, supplementation is advised, since all nutritional requirements of the mother increase in preparation for the newborn baby. A women who has maintained a nutritionally balanced diet throughout her life has the best possible chance of remaining in good health, while bearing a likewise healthy child that will be capable of developing to his or her full genetic potential.

The foetus takes nutrients from the mother; therefore, if the mother does not eat properly, both may suffer the consequences. Expectant mothers should be free to gain weight, within reason, on a diet full of wholesome foods containing all vital nutrients. Calorie intake should not be increased in the first 3 months of pregnancy, however, from 3 - 9 months the calorie intake can be increased by approximately 10% or 160 - 200 calories extra a day. These extra calories should come from first class proteins eg fish, soy, yoghurt, beans or lean meats (approximately 2 serves). Eat small regular meals (5-6 day) with as great a variety of foods as possible is recommended. Ensure you are getting a good balance between essential fatty acids, carbohydrates and protein (30:40:30) and make them good quality choices. This type of eating plan is an excellent way to stay healthy and feel good throughout your pregnancy. Your growing child will also benefit from good nutrition.

The extra need for Calcium, Folic Acid and Iron double through pregnancy and are usually best catered for by nutrient supplementation. However, foods rich in these items are as follows:

Calcium : Low fat dairy products (in small amounts), legumes, broccoli, almonds, figs, sesame seeds (tahini), egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, molasses, sardines.

Iron : Prunes, liver, sardines, tuna, apricots, beetroots, parsley, pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Folic Acid : Green leafy vegetables, eggs, lentils, beans, potatoes, broccoli.

Cravings for unusual foods during pregnancy usually indicates a need for further minerals such as, Zinc and Chromium. An Iron deficiency may present with cravings for ice or cold drinks, spoon shaped fingernails, brittle hair, anaemia, fatigue/weakness and/or difficulty breathing on exertion. A Magnesium deficiency may present as muscle cramps, fatigue, nervousness, and/or nausea. A Zinc deficiency may manifest with stretch marks/dry skin, coarse hair, loss of taste and smell/poor appetite, delayed wound healing, dark circles under eyes, and/or infections/cold sores. A Vitamin B deficiency may show up with cracks in the corner of the mouth, oedema in lower limbs, falling out or thinning hair, muscle weakness, anaemia and/or dandruff. A Vitamin C deficiency could appear as gingivitis, hair thinning, broken capillaries, dry skin, painful calf muscles, and/or poor wound healing. A Folic acid deficiency may show up with falling out/thinning hair, loss of hair colour, diarrhoea, anaemia, and/or a cracked swollen tongue.

Three very important nutrients often neglected are Iodine, Taurine and Polyunsaturated oils. Iodine is sourced from seaweeds, kelp, Celtic sea salt, and deep sea ocean fish. Taurine is especially concentrated in whey proteins, and organ meats. Polyunsaturated oils, mainly DHA, is highly concentrated in tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines and seaweeds. All three nutrients are required for healthy foetal brain development and cognitive function.  Mother and Baby is a specialised product designed specifically for before, during and after pregnancy to supply this essential fatty acids.

Hydration - There are basically three stages to water regulation of the body, in different phases of life.  Phase one is the stage of life of a fetus in the uterus of the mother.  During the interuterine stage of cell expansion, water for cell growth of the child has to be provided by the mother.  The very first indicator for water needs of the fetus and the mother seems to be morning sickness during the early phase of pregnancy.  Morning sickness of the mother is a thirst signal of both the fetus and the mother (from Dr F Batmanghelidj MD). 

Pregnancy is not a time to start a vigorous, new exercise program, but you can usually continue any program you are used to, for most of your pregnancy. If you haven't exercised before becoming pregnant and now wish to enjoy its benefits, walking and swimming are wonderful. There are lots of books written on exercise, many of them talk about exercise during pregnancy. Gentle Yoga exercises may be of benefit to many people - there are specific postures said to help with pregnancy and delivery, however, there are also specific postures that must be avoided in pregnancy.

Natural Remedies
Morningmed relief has been formulated to help assist with morning sickness. Other recommendations for morning sickness are: eat small frequent meals; eat very slowly and only small bites; sip fluids rather than gulping. Try having ginger root, sliced and made into a tea, by adding boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and sip - may settle the stomach. Peppermint tea may also be helpful. Morning sickness from nervous conditions will probably respond to additional intake of the B vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Recommendations for Vitamin B6 are 25 milligrams with each meal for nausea, and 250 milligrams or more daily for vomiting. Juices including pineapple juice, chamomile and/or peppermint tea, small frequent meals, soup, and small amounts of protein including nuts to maintain blood sugar levels.

The B Vitamin complex and enzyme supplements (papaya) may relieve heartburn and digestion upsets. One cup of a herbal infusion, including the herbs chamomile, peppermint, and fennel, after meals may help. Chamomile and Fennel can be found in this Nursing Support Tea. Eating carbohydrates and protein together may cause indigestion. Try carbohydrates and vegetables or vegetable proteins instead. Fruit is less irritating when taken in the morning. Digest Pregnancy is a unique combination of vegetarian enzymes and organic ginger root that may help to lessen digestive discomfort, whilst also promoting nutrient absorption and a reduction in nausea.

Miscarriage can result from infections, malnutrition, nutrient deficiency, foetal abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, structural problems in the uterus, weak cervical muscles, a fall, and hazardous chemicals in the environment. Symptoms are lower abdominal cramps and bleeding or spotting. Studies have shown that women susceptible to miscarriage may be able to carry a foetus to full term if a sufficient amount of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids is taken (500 milligrams to 4 grams, increasing to as much as 10 to 15 grams at the end of pregnancy. Haemorrhaging, which is due to capillary fragility, can also be caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C and the Bioflavonoids. Vitamin E (up to 200 IU with each meal) and Folic acid have been shown to be helpful in preventing miscarriages. Oral antibiotics can destroy the B vitamins and Vitamin K. Lack of Vitamin K can cause haemorrhaging in the placenta.

A certain amount of oedema or eclampsia (puffiness in the feet, ankles, fingers, and face) in well-nourished, non-toxaemic pregnant women is normal in pregnancy particularly towards the end of term. If it becomes problematic, the nutrients Vitamin C and E are known to have diuretic actions. Potassium-rich foods like meats, potatoes, avocados, orange juice, and apricots are good. Dandelion leaf tea will help swelling. Baking soda and some antacids contain sodium and may cause fluid retention if used excessively.

Toxemia, characterised by sudden weight gain, headache and high blood pressure, occurs in the late months of pregnancy and can result in the death of the newborn baby. The illness may be attributed to the overuse of diuretics or poor nutrition. Laboratory animals developed a condition similar to toxemia when fed diets deficient in Magnesium, B6, Choline, and Protein. Vitamin E may prevent toxemia. Vitamin B6, has been found to be effective in regulating fluid retention associated with the development of toxemia.

Birth defects can be a disease of heredity, but they are just as likely to result from drugs, environmental pollutants, viral or bacterial infections, parasites, or inadequate nutrition. Poor diets lacking any vitamin, mineral or enzyme for the mother, deprives the foetus of necessary building materials. A shortage of any nutrient may result in a stillbirth, a premature infant of low birth weight, a baby with brain damage (including impaired intelligence and psychological disturbances), or a baby with weak immunity to infection.

A deficiency of Folic acid in the mother, now fortified in some foods like cereal and bread, has caused such birth defects as spina bifida and anencephaly, which may leave an infant with brain damage and paralysis. Only 0.4 milligrams of folic acid a day is needed to dramatically reduce the chance of abnormalities, and several servings of cereals, orange juice, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, and dried beans should help. Cereals, breads, and pasta may soon be fortified with Folic acid. Excess of preformed Vitamin A has been linked to birth defects in animals (Beta-carotene should be used instead). Some Vitamin A derivatives that are used for skin problems should not be taken. Pregnant women should not take any vitamin, mineral, or dug without consulting a knowledgeable physician.

Ingestion by the mother of nicotine, alcohol, chemical food additives, and drugs can interfere with the foetal enzyme system and growth factors. Any interference with these processes may result in deformities or abnormalities. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy may cause mental retardation.

Red raspberry leaf tea, one cup per day during trimester three can improve the tone of the uterus and help it contract more effectively in preparation for delivery.

There are nutrients for the delivery process that may be helpful. In late pregnancy and post-delivery, thiamine (B1) requirements are greatly increased. The Vitamin B complex is found in wheat germ and brewer's yeast. Since Calcium, with Vitamin D to ensure proper absorption, is known to decrease sensitivity to pain, the mineral may ease the pain of labour. Taking 2000 milligrams between the beginning of labour and the time of arrival at the hospital has resulted in easier deliveries for many women. Vitamin E also has desensitising properties and increase the elasticity and expendability of the vaginal tissues, making the delivery easier and shorter. Zinc may help ease the difficulties of birth and keep the muscles strong along with sufficient Protein, Magnesium, Potassium, and Essential fatty acids. 5W is a herbal product that is designed to assist labour and recovery, and is to be taken from 5 weeks out from your due date, up until birth. Pre-birth is a homoeopathic preparation with similar properties and is taken during the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy until labour starts. Birth-aid is another homoeopathic product to be used during delivery once regular contractions have been established, and may continue to be used for the 3 days after you have given birth to speed recovery.

Herbs to avoid during all stages of pregnancy include: A. Bitters - Southernwood, Wormwood, Mugwort, Barberry, Greater Celandine, Golden Seal, Rue, Feverfew, and Tansy; B. Alkaloid-containing plants - Barberry, Autumn Crocus, Golden Seal, Mandrake, Blood root, Broom; C. Oil-containing plants - Juniper, Pennyroyal, Nutmeg (in large amounts), Thuja; D. Anthraquinone- containing laxatives - Senna, Purging Buckthorn, Alder Buckthorn, Cascara; E. Others - Peruvian Bark, Male Fern, Cotton-Root, Mistletoe. For further information consult your qualified Medical Herbalist. For specific treatment during pregnancy, for any ailment, it is essential you consult a qualified Medical Herbalist or Naturopath for safe, effective treatment.

After Pregnancy...

Good quality nutrition is as vital during lactation as it is while pregnant. Continuing your multivitamin will supply the extra nutrients to meet an increased demand. A nursing mother needs to take 24,000 IU of Vitamin A (as Beta carotene), and at least 300 mg of Vitamin C. Sufficient Vitamin E and Iron are needed, and protein needs are greatly increased. Calcium requirements are higher during lactation than at any other time, and Magnesium and Vitamin D ensure the proper absorption of Calcium. Most breast milk contains insufficient amounts of B vitamins, so particular attention should be made to include them.

Pelvic floor exercises are great to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles after birth. This can assist with problems such as involuntary urination and organ prolapsus. If you are not familiar with your pelvic floor muscles already, begin, when urinating, by stopping and starting your urine flow. This will enable you to feel your pelvic floor muscles at work. Once you are familiar with the contraction and relaxation of these muscles you can begin to do this exercise of contraction and relaxation while watching TV or driving. Ideally you would want to do 10 repetitions, holding the contraction for up to 10 seconds, 2-3 times a day. Seek advice from your healthcare professional as to when it would be safe for you to begin them, particularly if you have had a C-section. Organ prolapse also responds well to slant board exercises. A qualified natural health practitioner can advise you further.

Natural Remedies
Sitz baths provide relief for those who have required stitches. You may have one several times a day by filling a bowl with fresh warm water and adding Hypercal lotion and/or Lavender essential oil. Sitting in the liquid for 5 minutes will speed healing, prevent infection and provide temporary pain relief. Raspberry leaf tea continues to be useful to strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles along with pelvic floor exercises. Nipplemed cream is great for cracked nipples and may be used for a few weeks leading up to birth to strengthen skin. Milk-flow and Blessed thistle are to products to help increase milk production and Parsley, Sage, or Milk-stop are remedies to dry up milk.

Nutritional and Herbal support during Pregnancy includes...

Prenatal Nutrients - specialised supplement for the nutritional support of women during pregnancy and lactation. Contains a non-constipating form of Iron with Folic acid.

Efanatal - Contains Primrose Oil, Fish Oil and Vitamin E - providing a mixture of the essential fatty acids needed for foetal development, especially the brain and glands.

5W - contains 5 herbs designed to ease labour and recommended by some midwives. This product is to be taken during the last 5 weeks of pregnancy.

Some important points on wellness during Pregnancy...

Eat fish, poultry, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, fruit and legumes with an adequate supply of protein, around 25% of calories.

Reduce refined sugar, white flour, salt, fat, red meat and an abundance of dairy products.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and recreational drugs, including caffeine, during pregnancy and preferably eliminate them well before conception.

There are many natural remedies for use before, during, and after pregnancy that may make the experience even more enjoyable. For your safety and comfort we would always suggest that you consult a qualified Naturopath for safe guidance.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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