I am cautious to write this as one of my passions is to help those struggling with fertility issues conceiving. But it is my goal to inspire hope and exemplify how important and effective proper nutrition and other lifestyle habits have on fertility, conception and pregnancy. I will post more about my journey to my first pregnancy and how my efforts and diligence did serve me. I am not saying that anyone struggling is not trying hard enough, but there is plenty that can be tweaked, fine tuned and assessed with each individual in terms of diet, supplements, herbs and lifestyle. There a large number of factors that can affect your fertility and ability to conceive (and that includes your partner as well, it's not all just you). Anyway, before I get lost down that rabbit hole, I wanted to go over my pregnancy from a nutritionists view since I am halfway through and before I know it the fun part will be here.
Just to clarify, my philosophy is not one of restrictions. I am not one of those nutritionists promoting salads,juices, elimination diets, superfoods, or heavily plant based. The foundation of my practice and my own nutrition is on traditional foods, enjoyment, simplifying and listening to our greatest teachers, our ancestors. Since beginning my journey in nutrition I have been passionate about real whole foods without deprivation and traditional foods like our ancestors, which are not only extremely satisfying, they constrain the perfect amount and assortment of nutrients that are vital to fertility, conception, pregnancy, lactation and the growing infant and child. I know many nutritionists, dietitians, food bloggers, talk about what they ate and did throughout their pregnancy, there is plenty of that out there for you to read. I want to share mine because I think many of those are a bit unattainable. They seem too clean, too rigid and structured. Pregnancy is a time of great unknowns. From day to day you do not know how you will feel, let alone from morning until afternoon, especially with a toddler. I want to share with you the uncensored version and what i am relaxed about and what things I am very adamant about.
I started eating more traditional foods and really upping my fat intake about a year before my first pregnancy. Therefore, I know 100 percent the importance of these foods, their amazing benefits and how natural it feels to be eating this way. I already knew how to make quality bone broth, the importance of egg yolk, the need for unrefined celtic sea salt, to begin every meal with a large chunk of butter in the pan, how to render my own lard and tallow and to fully enjoy the crispy skin of the chicken. If you are vegetarian or vegan reading this, sorry if that is too much info but I will do another post on how to alter and add to your way of eating that incorporates all the important nutrients for fertility, pregnancy and conception.
Traditional cultures and many nutritionists today talk about the importance of preparing your body for conception. All successful cultures ate plenty of sacred foods that were abundant in vitamins a, d, e, k, folate and choline prior to conceiving. they were required to follow this for at least 6 months and included things such as cod liver oil, organ meats, fish eggs, egg yolks, and fatty fish. I really wish I was better and consumed more organ meats and fish eggs prior to conception but I was diligent about taking cod liver oil (green pastures high vitamin cod liver oil) as well as plenty of egg yolks, fats and whole dairy products (depending on my digestion). Eating plenty of these foods prior to conception ensures you have an abundant supply for the growing fetus and is a kind of safety net for that first trimester when you cannot eat much at all but maybe white bread and chips. No matter what, the first trimester is just about surviving and getting through. It is not a time to stress about nutrition or exercise. Do what You need to do to feel as good as you can and ease whatever nausea or headaches you may have. There is so much information, theories and advice on morning sickness and why there are varying degrees throughout the first trimester. No matter what, your body is going through a period of rapid transformation and your hormones are increasing at a strong and steady rate so you will feel different levels of bad. Just do what you need to get through and remember that you will eventually feel better and more like yourself.
Preparing for pregnancy with a diet high in vitamins a, d, e, k, folate and choline with plenty of quality animal products, fats and sacred foods just allows your body to draw from the best possible source of nutrients in your body that it can. I had not really strayed too far from following a form of what the Weston A Price Foundation calls a diet for pregnant and nursing mothers, since I had been breastfeeding. I did take some time to increase these foods and ensure I added more cod liver oil daily (my star supplement) as well as beginning juice plus supplements (there is plenty of research on the benefits of this antioxidant nutrient rich whole foods supplement in pregnancy). I admit I did not take a prenatal prior to conceiving as I was waiting for my favorite Genestra one to get to me from Canada and did not want to take a poor quality one (more on supplements here). I did take a high quality probiotic as well for the extreme importance of our microbiome and proving baby with the best inoculation they can have.
So pretty much as soon as I knew I was pregnant, I felt terrible. Extremely tired, nauseous and hot only food I could handle was pure crap. I could eat breakfast ok some days but I was always hungry at lunch so I are as much as I could then. For the majority of the first trimester I just wanted sandwiches for lunch. And unfortunately not a good homemade sandwich with leftover meat and avocado on sourdough bread. No, I wanted subway or those pre-made sandwiches and wraps from the store. Yes, I am sure I would have eaten a lovely homemade sandwich with quality ingredients, but I couldn't make it. I did not have the energy or the stomach to do that. My poor husband and toddler lived on crap food. I didn't make a meal for quite a while, could not handle the smell of my husband cooking and would rather just eat out all the time (so not me!)" But I did not stress, I did not let it bother me. I knew it would pass and I knew that the health and resilience of our bodies from the way we eat and the supplements a few months of mostly crap would not cause major damage. So I did what I needed to to get through.
Luckily, about week 13 or 14 things started to turn around. I had more energy, started to see glimpses of feeling like myself, wanted more good food (maybe even a salad) and crappy food actually started to gross me out. I cooked a few meals and got back into my normal foods and eating habits. Luckily at 16 weeks my son and I flew home to Canada where we are able to enjoy the cooking of my family. Yes, I may be biased but my family are the best cooks. Good wholesome foods, not afraid of fat, plenty of farm fresh eggs, grass fed beef and pastured chickens and a hearty dose of Ukranian and Polish cooking which is always heavy on the cream, butter, lard and those fatty cuts of meat. I am now 21 weeks and will be heading back to the UK in a week where I will have to remember how to cook again! I want to emphasize that my diet is not clean, I do not restrict, I follow my hunger cues and cravings (within reason, noting that cravings for chocolate and sugar is a call for another important nutrient). But I am adamant about eating enough fats and protein throughout the day from egg yolks, whole fat dairy, butter, lard, fatty cuts of meat, and cream. Yes, I eat sugar, yes I eat carbs, yes I need to include more fatty fish and organ meats (this is still a major goal for myself and my family in the future) but I know I am healthy, I feel good, I am providing my baby with plenty of vitamins A, D, K, choline, folate and nutrients needed for optimal fetal development.
The other thing I want to discuss is the importance of You doing You. Everyone's fertility, conception and pregnancy journey is different. We feel different, our body may need different things, cravings and aversions are different, we gain different amounts of weight and our baby bumps look different, grow and pop out at different rates. DO NOT compare yourself to others and do not even compare yourself to your previous pregnancies. The most important thing is to do your best to consume healthy, baby building foods, feel good, get some exercise, take your cod liver oil, rest, enjoy the process, be happy and do what you need to do. Do not do what you think you should do based on other pregnant ladies flaunting their bump only pregnancies or being able to maintain their whole fitness routine throughout the 9 months. Because I could talk about pregnancy forever I am going to summarize my overall important points and things I follow throughout pregnancy in the first and second trimesters:
-Do not worry, do what you need to do to get through
-eat what you can handle, worry about nutrition later
-ensure you are drinking enough water
-things that helped relieve my nausea and upset stomachs: eat real food when your hungry, do not be concerned with the time, if that is 10am, try to eat your best meal then, whatever that it, mints, ginger and ginger ale
-eating before getting out of bed in the morning or in the middle of the night did not help me but it may help you
-sipping bone broth or raw milk can help relieve morning sickness, but often is hard to even think about having
-dairy and carbs were the best for me and what I hear a lot of women saying
-smells may be a big trigger so do what you need there and opt for smells like peppermint or lemon (a sniff of essential oil works wonders as well)
-try your best to get outside, go for a walk, sit or do whatever you feel like. the fresh air was always a saving grace for me
-don't worry about exercise if you can't, some people feel better with exercise, I didn't so I rarely did anything but a short walk but I wasn't worried
-keep up with the supplements and prenatals
-You will most likely be starting to feel more normal and like you can handle more foods so take this opportunity to focus on nutrient dense foods such as eggs, whole fat dairy, good quality fatty cuts of meat, nourishing stews, soups, sauces with bone broth, fish. If your appetite is still low or off, focus on getting these foods in before worrying about fruits and vegetables (another wonder of taking juice plus throughout pregnancy)
-eat a good breakfast, ideally eggs of some form cooked in plenty of fat with bacon or some veggies or soaked oatmeal or baked oatmeal will set you up for a good day and not let you get hungry without realizing it and then feeling awful
-;listen to your body with regards to food still, hunger cues, eat when you are hungry adnan stop when you are satisfied, it is as simple as that
-Work with a nutritionist if you are having major cravings, especially for sweets or junk food as this is a sign of eome missing nutrients that you should be receiving from better sources
-get moving; i know i feel much better when I get out and exercise (wa;ling or easy running). Physiologically i do not know why but am sure there is a good reason. But as long as I get a good walk ib or easy run walk most days I feel so much better, less pregnant, and barely any nausea; just make sure you are smart in terms of effort levels, hydration and weather
-rest when you need to, not always possible but do your best. that may be as simple as slowing down your daily chores and tasks or finding some calm in your day with meditation, less social media, screen time or whatever that may be for you
I hope you all can find some insight or feel more at ease if you are in the depths of morning sickness that it will get better and try not to worry so much. If you are still in your fertility journey or struggling to conceive, do not give up hope, there is plenty more help for you and I would love to discuss with you how I may be able to help you, even if you feel like you have tried everything. It is often better to work with a number of different practitioners as they may be able to spot something another has missed or already exhausted.