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Nutrition Tips for Pregnancy Related Problems

Many women find being pregnant a thoroughly enjoyable experience and suffer very few unpleasant symptoms, but there are those who discover that being pregnant can lead to some uncomfortable effects. Very few of these incidental discomforts threaten either the fetus or the expectant mother, but the more enjoyable a pregnancy, the better for both mother and child.

Pregnancy lasts for approximately forty weeks. This time is commonly divided into three periods, or trimesters: from the first day of the last menstrual period to week 12; from week 12 to week 28; from week 28 until delivery.

Most of the discomforts that occur during pregnancy are the result of hormonal changes within the body, nutritional deficiencies, and profound anatomical changes. I will address some of the most common pregnancy related problems and offer natural remedies as well as helpful hints and suggestions for maintaining maximum health during pregnancy. For a healthy pregnancy and birth, it is necessary to consult and wok with a qualified health care professional, be it a physician, nurse practitioner, or midwife. It is also wise to work with your health care practitioner on a birth plan. This allows you to decide in advance what you want and what you could choose from among your options before, during, and after labor.

ANEMIA
During pregnancy, blood volume (the amount of blood) increases. The increase in volume is largely due to an increase in plasma (the liquid part of blood) rather than in red (or white) blood cells. Plasma volume, then, is increasing faster than red blood cell volume. The protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the body’s cell, inhabits red blood cells. Because there is a decreased proportion of hemoglobin, the result can be anemia.

Anemia is most likely to develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. It can cause fatigue, a rapid heartbeat, and paleness of the skin, gums, and around the inside of the eye. There may also be cravings to eat substances other than food, such as coal, dirt, ice, starch, or hair. This is called pica and is normally the sign of a nutritional deficiency.

Recommendations
Make sure you have enough folic acid, vitamin B12 , and the other  B-complex vitamins in your diet. Eat foods rich in iron, such as green leafy vegetables, prunes, raisins, organically raised red meat and liver, and bread and pastas made from whole grain flour.

If your health care provider prescribes iron supplements, take them with vitamin C to help the absorption of the mineral. Iron supplements can also cause constipation, so eat plenty of high-fiber foods and increase your fluid intake.

DEPRESSION

Depression is fairly common during pregnancy. It can come and go, but because of shifting hormone levels, it is not uncommon to experience at least one bout of depression at some point during the forty weeks of pregnancy.Mood swings are common, too. It is not unusual to find that you are more volatile during pregnancy. It helps if people around you are sympathetic to this and know what to expect.

Recommendations

Do not continue to feel depressed without seeking help. Having someone to talk to and knowing that you are not alone in experiencing these feelings can help you to cope during times of depression. Acupuncture has been used successfully for hundreds of years to treat depression. Exercise can help to lessen depression.

Be open about your fears and concerns relating to having a child. Pregnancy and childbirth are profound experiences, and many women experience feelings of anxiety about the responsibilities attached to this event.  Pregnancy is a complicated and emotional experience, and you should be aware that it is normal to not be happy all the time.

If you become pregnant while taking antidepressants, consult your physician about the possible effect on the development of the fetus.

MORNING SICKNESS
Approximately 50 percent of all pregnant women experience some degree of nausea and vomiting between the sixth and twelfth weeks of pregnancy. This is normal. Although it is commonly called morning sickness, it can occur at any time of day.

Abnormal vomiting-severe, continual nausea and vomiting after the twelfth week occurs in approximately 1 in 300 pregnancies. This is called hyperemesis gravidarum, and it can result in dehydration, acidosis, malnutrition, and substantial weight loss. If the condition persists, it can endanger the fetus. The reason for abnormally severe nausea is not clear, but an association has been made between it and very high levels of the hormone estrogen.

Recommendations
Ginger, taken to capsule or tea form, is helpful for relieving nausea. Other beneficial herbs include catnip, dandelion, peppermint, and raspberry leaf. Keep crackers or whole wheat toast near your bed and eat some before arising.

Eat small, frequent meals and snack on whole-grain crackers with nut butters (but not peanut butter) or cheese. It helps to keep some food in the stomach at all times.

GAS (FLATULENCE)
Gas, like other digestive upsets, is a common complaint during pregnancy. Even foods that cause no difficulties at other times may begin to cause trouble.

Recommendations

Keep a food diary to help you determine which foods, or combination of foods seem to be causing the gas. Avoid any suspect foods. You may have to adapt your usual diet during pregnancy. Many foods you liked before may suddenly seem unappealing.

Eat four to five small meals a day, instead of three big meals. Chew your food slowly and well. Do not overtax your digestive system. Eat four or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Get adequate exercise. Walking is an excellent way to alleviate gas.

GESTATIONAL DIABETES
This is a form of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. It affects 3 to 5 percent of women. It occurs because insulin, which regulates blood sugar, does not work as efficiently during pregnancy due to hormones secreted by the placenta. Blood sugar can become high, and although this condition rarely causes harm to the mother, the baby’s birth weight often increases, and the baby may be born with a low blood sugar level.

Women are normally tested for blood sugar levels around the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy. Symptoms of gestational diabetes may include frequent urination, excessive thirst and increased fatigue, but it is also likely that there will be no symptoms at all.

Recommendations
Eat little and often. Do not miss meals, even if you are experiencing nausea. Discuss your dietary intake with your health care provider. Avoid foods rich in sugar, and remember that some carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels more than sugar.

Article by: Noni Robinson

Photo Credit: Ryan Franco


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