During pregnancy, food is a very common topic among pregnant women; either they can’t keep it down, or they can’t get enough! But do you know exactly how important the foods you eat during pregnancy really are?
This is a guest post from my dear friend Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up, where she dishes out on foods for fertility all the time.
We’re constantly faced with the realization that on average our children’s health is failing, and problems during pregnancy are all too common. It is my personal belief that some of this may be due to the fact that we’ve veered so far away from the food that God has intended for us to eat. We are to be stewards of our bodies and I can’t think of a time when this would be more important!
In my book Naturally Knocked Up (light-hearted name, serious subject) I describe natural fertility as this:
It’s an active approach to fertility that does not involve medical intervention, but instead takes a different course of action through a commitment to dietary and lifestyle changes.
It’s about leaving the control of our fertility in the Lord’s hands yet doing all we can within our own power to create an environment within our bodies that is hospitable to new life.
I often think of a farmer preparing his soil for the summer’s crop. They must tend to it, nurture it, and give it the nutrients it needs in order for the seeds to grow. They also have to actively take care of invasive weeds, make sure there are not a lot of rocks and large stones, and plow the fields before planting. Yet, the farmer can not himself make the seeds grow. So, like the farmer, we too should be preparing our bodies and building up nutrient stores, for when it is time for life to be created within us.
I am a big believer that the foods God created can nourish and heal our bodies. I’ve seen it in my own life, and I’ve seen it in many others as well. I once struggled with polycystic ovary syndrome, or anovulation, making it difficult to conceive. I would go six to eight months without ovulating, yet I ate what was considered a “healthy” American diet; lots of low-fat foods and high in whole grains. I even worked out at least 4 days a week.
Yes, I was thin, but my body wasn’t working. Over the course of eight months, I began to change my diet to include only whole foods, no refined sugar, and plenty of good healthy fats. (butter, coconut oil, evoo, lard) My body changed right along with my diet and I began ovulating regularly for the first time. Eating the food the He created for us was healing my reproductive system!
And of course, that’s not to say that there haven’t been bumps in the road since then. In 2011, we lost our third baby due to miscarriage and the stress and upheaval on my system seems to have caused my thyroid to slow down a bit. But I can also say that less than two months after my diagnosis, using certain foods again is causing my body to change for the better.
I often get frustrated at the conventional medical model of disease prevention, for they base their ideas and theories off of science and studies. I prefer to trust in the One who made me and created the food that I eat, for no matter how advanced science is, there are always things we don’t understand or have full knowledge of.
Eating and living well is important for everyone of course, and we know that the rise in childhood disorders, as well as pregnancy complications, can be traced back to nutrient deficiencies of the parents. So whether or not a couple is having a difficult time in conceiving, I think it’s pivotal that we take care of our bodies the best that we can, doing all that is within our control to make sure that when a life is created, our bodies will meet the needs of that little one.
Foods for Fertility and Conception
How long did it take you to plan your wedding day? Did you spend hours on the phone talking with florists, caterers, and reception halls? Did you try on dress after dress looking for just the right one at the right price? Where you one of those girls that dreamed about your wedding day from the time you were a little girl?
A wedding day is fleeting, lasting but a moment in our marriages.
How much more important is it then to focus, plan, and prepare your body for nourishing a new little life?
Eating for pregnancy also needs to start in the months before conception to prepare a solid nutritional foundation from which your baby will grow. Both the sperm and the egg have a lifespan of over 3 months, meaning that the genetic material contained within these two pieces of flesh, that God weaves together to create life, need nurturing long before they are joined together.
Eating nutritious foods before conception is not only important for boosting your fertility, but also for the health of your baby and your own health during pregnancy. But, the majority of foods that now stock our supermarket shelves, while they may feed our bodies, do little to actually nourish it.
So what do we eat before conception?
In the most basic and simple terms, we need to eat whole foods.
- Unadulterated and unprocessed
- Free from preservatives, flavor enhancers, and artificial coloring
- Grown without the use of chemicals
- From animals that are humanely treated, fed only what their bodies need, and are not injected with hormones or antibiotics
- Foods prepared in a such a way that we absorb the most nutrients possible
It’s important that we take steps to seek out clean and safe foods, foods that will build nutrient stores for proper fetal development so that when we see those two little pink lines, we know we’ve done everything that is within our own power to give baby the best start possible.
I’m a big fan of going back to the basics, and eating in a way that our great, great grandparents probably did. It’s not a popular thought, for sure, as most modern advice is based around the standard American diet; one that is full of processed foods and “enriched” foods that we’ve been duped into thinking are healthy. But there are some key elements to a diet that many of us are sorely missing.
Nutrients for Preconception
Dairy and seafoods seemed to be prominent fertility foods just a century ago, yet today we eat them very differently. Unfortunately, most of us eating a modern American diet are severely lacking in the following essential nutrients due to the common thought that many of the foods that contain large amounts of them should be avoided.
Vitamin A: fat soluble vitamin that promotes better cervical fluid and helps make sure follicles develop correctly
Vitamin D: fat soluble vitamin that supports the production of estrogen in both men and women¹ , is needed for insulin production, and is key in regulating cell growth and deciding how those cells grow.
Vitamin E: plays an important role in sperm production, may help normalize hormone production, and is needed for proper absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
Vitamin K2: (referred to as activator X by Weston Price) is important in helping the body utilize proteins by working in combination with Vitamins A&D.
Iodine: a mineral needed for thyroid function and the production of sex hormones² and the utilization of iodine requires vitamin A.
Omega-3 fats: helps regulate hormones, increases cervical fluid, promotes ovulation, and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs.³
All of these nutrients can be readily found in eggs, whole milk and other whole dairy products, butter, organ meats, and seafood. And along with these foods, of course, are the multitude of water-soluble vitamins and minerals (the above mentioned are fat-soluble) from a variety of fresh produce and properly prepared grains and legumes.
Just as important as getting good foods into our bodies is avoiding foods that essentially rob our body of nutrients, as seen in the fertility diet foods to avoid. Sugar and refined flours as well as soy, caffeine, alcohol, and the many preservatives found in common foods cause our bodies to use its vitamin reserves to digest and eliminate them from the body.
Now, what if you’re already pregnant and haven’t eaten a diet full of whole foods?
Is the health of your baby been tossed out with the bath water?
Next we cover the basics of how a woman should eat during pregnancy and what she can do to nourish her baby no matter her diet when life was formed within her, but I also want to end with one last thought. Eating well before conception is important, but we must not make an idol of it.
“Show me a transcript of the words you’ve spoken, typed, or texted (or thought) in the course of a day, an account of your doings, and a record of your transactions, and I’ll show you your religion.” David Dark
My strongest belief is that God, the one true Author of Life, has a hand in the health of our babies. Before, during, and after pregnancy. Sometimes, even when we feel we’ve done everything right, things don’t go as we planned. Maybe a health issue comes up for mom or baby, maybe the pregnancy isn’t carried to term.
God’s will trumps all and we must not forget to focus on Him first and nutrition for our little ones will fall into place.