Dealing with health issues in pregnancy…and life after birth

by Michelle Edwards, Healthy Life Naturopath & Nutritionist

Pregnancy should be a time of wonder and joy, but for many women it is over shadowed by a myriad of associated health complaints.

Pregnancy places additional nutrient demands on the body.  However, rather than following the old adage ‘eating for two’, eating nutrient dense, whole foods is sufficient for the pregnancy, with additional calories needed only in the second and third trimesters – and only an extra 300-400 calories per day. A good quality pre-conception and pregnancy multi is a ‘must have’ to cover any potential nutrient oversights.

Morning sickness

This is a common disorder experienced by up to 90% of pregnant women. While usually mild, it can be more severe and require hospitalisation. 

For many women, drinking ginger tea, sucking on crystalised ginger or taking ginger tablets can be beneficial, as can a vitamin B6 supplement. Ginger syrup with honey and apple cider vinegar is also beneficial for heartburn or indigestion associated with nausea.

A low GI diet prior to conception may help prevent morning sickness altogether. Many women have also reported that regular protein snacks can help reduce the symptom’s severity.

Constipation & haemorrhoids

With pregnancy, constipation, haemorrhoids and varicose veins are common complaints, particularly for women with desk jobs, are sedentary or stand for long periods.

Drinking enough WATER each day can help prevent these problems. If you are drinking enough water, EXERCISING (walking) for 30 minutes per day and eating enough fibre rich foods can help, along with probiotics and slippery elm powder (a teaspoon of each in water twice daily).

Stretch marks

Around 75% of pregnant women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. A diet rich in protein, vitamin C and zinc may help prevent stretch mark formation.

Topically applying rosehip, vitamin E and jojoba oils may also keep skin supple and reduce the appearance and severity of stretch marks.

Preventing eczema, allergies and colic Research indicates that maternal health during pregnancy may reduce or prevent eczema and allergy disorders.

Essential fatty acids such as fish oil may help reduce allergies, while specific strains of probiotics (LGG – Lactobacillus rhamnosus) can be beneficial in reducing eczema if taken during pregnancy.

A caesarean section (C-section) prevents the baby from getting a healthy start with the good bugs from mum’s vaginal flora during birth, resulting in a higher incidence of colic and reflux.

Suitable probiotics are available for babies from birth onwards.

Facilitating labour

Raspberry leaf tea has been used by Native American Indian women for centuries to assist with the menstrual cycle and facilitate childbirth.

Traditionally taken as a tea from the start of the third trimester, it is believed to prevent miscarriage, make contractions more efficient and reduce labour pain.

Studies have also found that raspberry leaf significantly reduces the length of second stage (pushing) labour. Other benefits include a reduction in birth interventions such as membrane rupturing, forceps or vacuum delivery and C-section delivery.

Life after birth…

Low milk supply

Poor water intake is one of many reasons for poor breast milk supply, so ensure you drink eight glasses per day and an extra glass for each feed. Herbs such as blessed thistle, fenugreek and fennel may be beneficial in improving milk quantity. Lactation cookies may also improve milk production.

Mastitis

This is a condition typically caused by a milk duct blockage in the breast, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Apply a heat pack to the affected area and drain the breast of milk frequently, either through increased feeding or expressing.

Recent research has shown that specific probiotic supplements during pregnancy and after delivery can significantly reduce the risk of mastitis.

Animal studies (goat/sheep/cow) have found echinacea and golden seal to be effective in treating mastitis, though no human clinical trials have been undertaken to support this. If symptoms persist, seek medical advice.