As someone who has been passionate about Paleo nutrition and the wonder and simplicity of real food and its healthy effects on the body, it was a natural progression for me to continue this way of life into pregnancy. It was a no brainer for me to keep on its principles during these important months – after all, ladies who are a part of indigenous tribes both today and in the past, don’t suddenly start eating shed loads of refined carbohydrates because they are pregnant and they suddenly “need” them!
One study has emphasised the importance of exercise during pregnancy citing a decreased risk of developing hypertension, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia… a pregnant woman should be aiming for 30 minutes exercise most days…
People often act surprised that I am “still” following a Paleo framework during this time of my life; a life event often viewed as a time we generally don’t need to worry about our weight and where a little overindulgence is viewed as almost as a given rather than an exception to the rule. For me, following a wholesome and nutritious diet with a focus on nutrient density and on providing the perfect ratio of baby building nutrients possible for my baby makes sense! For me, it isn’t about the amount of weight I gain during pregnancy. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and feel good in your own skin, health for me should always take priority, and at no other point is this as important as when you are pregnant. Studies show that micronutrient deficiencies in certain nutrients such as Vitamin A, iron, and calcium can cause poor maternal health outcomes and pregnancy outcomes which put the mother’s long term health at risk as well as that of the child.1
There is sometimes a tendency to overlook the importance of a good diet in pregnancy. Supplement companies do a great job convincing women that a pregnancy supplement is a must. However, while supplements do have a place in some cases diet is where I would always recommend someone start to ensure optimal intake of important nutrients, not a supplement, many of which are full of synthetic fillers and additives.
For me, I have been ensuring I take on the following nutrition and lifestyle guidelines to promote both my health and that of my growing baby.
Eggs are a Paleo diet staple and a fantastic food to consume while trying to conceive but particularly during pregnancy. Egg yolks are packed full of choline which is so important for the development of the baby’s brain – it has an important role to play in the development of neurons in the nervous system. Eggs are also a fantastic source of Vitamin A, D, E, and K, as well as the minerals biotin, iron, and zinc.
An important source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, grassfed butter is a staple I am happy to have on my table! It is also a source of selenium, copper, and zinc. So add that butter to your veggies! Remember good fats are important!
Bone broths are one of life’s overlooked superfoods. Lost to the fast food era, this delicious nectar has made a resurgence in recent years as a well-deserved health food which packs far above its weight! This gelatine rich food is something I encourage all my clients to consume regularly, however it is particularly nourishing during pregnancy as it is both gut healing and also rich in collagen and minerals which are all critical for bone health, immunity, and the development of autoimmune conditions. It is also rich in glycine which is important for the development of the placenta, foetal growth, and removal of toxins.
Fermented foods provide a rich source of beneficial bacteria which help to aid digestive health (did anyone say pregnancy constipation!?) improve nutrient absorption and most importantly, development of optimum gut flora in both the mother and her unborn child. Ample beneficial bacteria in the gut of the mother helps to replenish the bacteria of her birth canal and even her breast ducts, meaning ample bacteria is passed on to the baby. Having the correct balance of bacteria is especially important for the long-term health of the baby, the prevention of autoimmunity in the future, and prevention of childhood ailments such as asthma and eczema.2 If failing to consume these probiotic rich foods I would recommend a good probiotic supplement – one of the few supplements I would be keen to promote.
In an age where fat phobia is at an all time high, many women have been guilty of taking out fat altogether from the diet for many years prior to conception – leading to lower levels of these important fats in the diet. Healthy fats are extremely important in fertility but also in the brain development of the foetus. Focus on eating good sources of healthy fats such as avocado, wild salmon, nuts, and seeds to help boost your baby’s development and perhaps even their IQ!
Pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster not to mention exhausting at times! Growing a little person is hard work and it is important that we practice self-awareness and realise when we need to take a break. However, these crucial 10 months should not be a time to sit on your bum and do absolutely no movement (providing of course your GP has not ruled it out for some reason). Women in primal times would not have sat down for 10 months taking it easy – even our Grandmother’s generation would have worked hard up until the day they gave birth – something which I often think had to have contributed to easier birth and less complications.
The Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy
For me, nutrition and exercise are something I have been keen to keep going throughout pregnancy. One study has emphasised the importance of exercise during pregnancy citing a decreased risk of developing hypertension, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia.3 The same research recommended that the pregnant woman should be aiming for 30 minutes exercise most days, similar to the recommendations for non-pregnant individuals. So pregnancy is definitely not a time to be idle!
What kinds of exercise is good during pregnancy? It really depends on your activity levels prior to pregnancy. Competitive athletes for example, or individuals who work in the fitness industry, are usually fine to keep on their current level of exercise, making well advised adaptations to training based on their current place in pregnancy. Your GP should always be consulted first of course. Those of us who may not be as active as we can be or who are starting from a lower base of fitness, exercises such as walking, swimming, and yoga are most widely recommended. These are low impact but are still beneficial to us when taken on consistently.
As we can see, nutrition and lifestyle are an important part of the healthy pregnancy regime and certainly not something which should be overlooked as soon as we find those 2 little blue lines on a pregnancy test! If you are already embracing the Paleo principles or are keen to get back to primal bases, taking your pregnancy as modern Paleo woman is a must! I think it is time for us to view pregnancy less as an ailment but more as an opportunity to produce the best offspring we can by providing it with the nutritional tools needed and keeping our bodies fit and healthy in preparation for birth and recovery. After all, women have been having babies for a long time!
- Black, R.E., et al. (2013). Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. In Lancet Vol. 382, No. 9890, pp 427–451. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23746772
- Rautava, R., Kalliomäki, M., Isolauri, E. (2002). Probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant. In Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Impact Factor: 11.25). Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Samuli_Rautava/publication/11560309_Probiotics_during_pregnancy_and_breast-feeding_might_confer_immunomodulatory_protection_against_atopic_disease_in_the_infant/links/53fef1e90cf283c3583c09cb.pdf
- Melzer, K., Schutz, Y., Boulvain, M., Kayser, B. (2010). Physical Activity and Pregnancy Cardiovascular Adaptations, Recommendations and Pregnancy Outcomes. In Sports Medicine (Impact Factor: 5.32). Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Katarina_Melzer/publication/44650699_Physical_activity_and_pregnancy_cardiovascular_adaptations_recommendations_and_pregnancy_outcomes/links/02e7e52259512029fd000000.pdf