Research shows that the prenatal environment may impact your baby’s wellness well beyond his earliest years. Here, experts explain how to have a healthy pregnancy, before and after birth.
Kasia Hopewell, ND, Hopewell Naturopathic Family Medicine, Belmont, California
- Up folic acid. Folic acid fosters normal brain development by encouraging proper neural tube growth and closure. Start taking a daily prenatal supplement containing at least 1,000 mcg folic acid one month before you plan to conceive.
- Include DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in fish oil that’s essential for your baby’s brain development and normal brain functioning in adulthood. DHA deficiencies are associated with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression later in life. Take 1 gram fish oil per day with food.
- Pick probiotics. These “good” bacteria improve digestion, optimize nutrient absorption, and boost immunity; plus they can stem skin conditions such as eczema in both moms-to-be and babies. Look for a probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium; take 10 billion CFU twice per day with food.
Christa Orecchio, CN, founder, thewholejourney.com, Encinitas, California
- Strengthen baby’s bones. While pregnant, supplementing with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 fortifies your baby’s bones and teeth. Magnesium stimulates the calcium-absorbing hormone calcitonin, allowing vitamin D3 to transport it into the bones. If a mom-to-be doesn’t boost her calcium intake, the growing fetus may pull nutrients from her, making her calcium deficient. Take 1,500 mg calcium, 800 mg magnesium, and 800–1,000 IU vitamin D3 per day.
- Stave off anemia. Anemia (iron deficiency) is common in pregnant women. Spinach, legumes, and peas are good sources of the mineral, but it may be difficult to get enough from those foods alone. Vitamin C aids iron absorption—eat foods like citrus fruits, red peppers, and strawberries. Also consider taking about 45 mg iron picolinate daily; it enhances iron absorption without GI side effects like constipation, which plague many pregnant women.
- Drink coconut water. Because the amniotic fluid surrounding your unborn baby is composed of electrolyte-rich water, it’s a good idea to increase liquids. Along with plain water, drink coconut water—which has the same electrolyte profile of human blood plasma, resulting in improved hydration. Aim for 250 ml of coconut water per day.
Angela Yvonne, LAc, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, Mission Valley, California
- Nourish with smart foods. After childbirth, focus on replenishing your body. Keep it simple by eating clean, unprocessed foods. Seek high-quality proteins such as fish and organic chicken and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.
- Consider acupuncture. Acupuncture can speed the healing process after birth, when your hormone levels are fluctuating (and when you may be sleep deprived from taking care of a newborn baby). This results in low energy and, in severe cases, postpartum depression. Acupuncture may assuage these symptoms by realigning energy pathways. Seek a licensed acupuncturist specializing in postnatal treatments.
- Rely on nutrients. If you plan to breastfeed, it’s important to replace the nutrients your body lost while giving birth. Continue taking prenatal vitamins until you finish breastfeeding; make sure to follow the bottle’s suggested dose.