Next month, I'll be running BLOOM HATCH & THRIVE - a series of pre and post-natal classes with midwife Sofie Jacobs from Urban Hatch aimed at helping pregnant women and new mothers build health & resilience. Why? Because there is a lack of meaningful education on the importance of diet, exercise & the mind-body connection during pregnancy.
We all KNOW that new moms are meant to eat well, not smoke or drink. But do we know what eating well actually entails? Does it mean replacing your bacon & eggs with oatmeal? Or maybe it means replacing coffee with tea? Perhaps it means having a bit more avocado and salmon once a week?
WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU AND YOUR BABY NEED TO THRIVE IN A MEANINGFUL & SUSTAINABLE WAY?
This is exactly the question that Sofie & I are going to answer during our series of pre and post natal classes next month.
Sofie is a midwife with over 20 years of experience under her belt and a qualified pilates instructor. She will be taking women through each trimester, explaining the changes to both her & baby and what exercises are best to keep the mind-body connection strong. Having that strong connection is incredibly important not only at the moment of labour, but also during and after pregnancy when exhaustion take over and women begin to feel disconnected from their post-natal body. Sofie will also be teaching moms exercises to combat back pain & support core strength to close the gap after delivery. Her empathetic approach & guidance on pregnancy, birth and beyond is already reason enough to come to our classes.
But I would like to elaborate on the nutrition component of the classes and explain why they are relevant to all pregnant mothers - as well as mothers who have recently given birth.
WOMEN WHOSE DIET REGULATES BLOOD SUGAR DURING AND AFTER PREGNANCY ARE AT LOWER RISK OF GESTATIONAL DIABETES, PRECLAMPSIA, HAVE HEALTHIER BABIES AND HAVE AN EASIER TIME ACHIEVING WEIGHT LOSS GOALS AFTER BIRTH
If your blood glucose levels are high at the time of conceiving your baby, and during the early weeks of pregnancy, your baby is at greater risk of developing abnormalities. Women with diabetes (or gestational diabetes) have a higher chance of needing a caesarean section than women without diabetes.
Eating in a way that promotes blood sugar regulation also helps a pregnant mother combat nausea & exhaustion. It helps them have a healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy, which in turn means they have less to lose after pregnancy. It decreases inflammation in the body because the liver and kidneys don't need to work as hard to detoxify excess sugar from the body. Metabolizing sugar requires the body to guzzle through magnesium reserves, increased the likelihood of pregnant mothers suffering with leg cramps, constipation and an inability to sleep soundly.
Moreover, after we give birth - eating in a way that promotes blood sugar regulation together with the yin type exercises Sofie will be teaching - sets moms up to lose the baby weight in a safe, sustainable way.
THE MOTHER'S GUT MICROBIOME AFFECTS HER BABY'S IMMUNITY AT BIRTH
That is to say, there is a growing amount of research that basically confirms that the baby's microbiome is largely determined by the maternal-baby exchanges of microbiota. That may sound logical to you but up to very recently, we thought that a baby was essentially created in a bacteria-free environment. But now, we're discovering that actually our amniotic fluid has some bacteria in it; and that our baby inherits our gut flora as it passes through the vaginal cavity at birth.
So it makes perfect sense to get your gut health in prime condition before the birth via proper nutrition and probiotic supplementation. The research on our body's microbiome and the impact on our baby's health is just in its early days. But whatever we can do during pregnancy to potentially support our baby's immunity and decrease the incidence of thrush, eczema and other autoimmune conditions which are already linked to gut imbalances makes perfect sense to me.
DEFICIENCIES IN OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS, ZINC AND SELENIUM HAVE ALL BEEN TIED TO POST-NATAL DEPRESSION
All women are at risk for baby blues because of the massive progesterone dump our body endures after we give birth to our baby and the placenta. Omega-3 fatty acids are key to help your body re-balance its hormones. Of course, there is a major difference between baby blues and post-natal depression. But there is a growing body of evidence that links low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids & key micronutrients to women with post-natal depression.
And guess what? Women who lack social support are also at risk, putting expat women, whose families and best friends are often far away, at an even greater social risk of experiencing isolation and depression.
POST-NATAL DEPLETION REALLY HAPPENS & IS TOTALLY PREVENTABLE
If you're on your second or third pregnancy - you're going to most benefit from these classes because you're going to come having a full understanding of the toll pregnancy takes on your body, mind, sleep, immunity, libido, productivity and ability to cope with stress.
No one tells you about this toll while you're pregnant with your first baby because doctors and caregivers have traditionally been focused on delivery and making sure you & baby pass with flying colours.
But the reality is that labour occurs within an extremely safe & supported environment. The post-natal experience does not.
Our own mother and family are far away. Our husbands are not prepared. And the helpers and caregivers we employ - as wonderful as they are - are only as good as the information and tools we give them and allow them to share with us.
What we eat during pregnancy and during the post-natal period has a major impact on our ability to:
- breastfeed for the period we choose
- recover and return to work within the ambitious 3-month maternity leave feeling physically (if not emotionally) ready
- enter into deep and regenerative sleep
- decrease our risk of experiencing anxiety & depression
- manage our risk of adrenal fatigue & cope with stress
- boost our immunity so that we don't fall sick whilst trying to care for a new baby
- conceive again and carry a healthy baby to term
Post-natal nutrition is in fact pre-natal nutrition because most women try to have more than one child. And we want to make sure that the second (or third/fourth) time round, our body is fully replenished and ready to make a new, healthy baby from scratch.
And if you're not planning on having any more babies - post-natal nutrition is still important. Post-natal depletion doesn't exist as a diagnosis (but please read this Goop article entiled "Post-natal Depletion: Even 10 years later") . By the time mothers go to the doctor looking for answers, the diagnosis comes in the form of:
- adrenal fatigue
- depression and/or anxiety
- inflammation (i.e. frequent headaches, migraines, painful, heavy periods)
- eczema that has become worse since childbirth
- compromised immunity (i.e. frequent colds, infections, cold sores
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
It's pretty obvious I feel strongly about the research and knowledge we will be sharing with mothers - new and seasoned - during these classes. But it's because for years after having my girls, I saw my health decline, my happiness compromised, my relationship with my husband lose its closeness and my confidence plummet. And I know I'm not the only one.
I would go to the doctors and ask why I couldn't breastfeed? Why we were sick all the time? Why I was so tired? What I was doing wrong? And not once did anyone ask me what I was eating.
As soon as I addressed that issue and made targeted changes to my diet - everything changed. I started sleeping better. My allergies went away. The weight came off. My children stopped coming down with every virus going around. My marriage strengthened. And a whole new and better life opened up to me.
Healthy moms make resilient babies and are the key to strong families.
So join Sofie and I in supercharging the narrative on women's health as it relates to pre and post natal health. It's time to go beyond the labour and approach prenatal health as a cycle that begins well before conception and essentially continuous well after the birth in that beautiful story we call motherhood.
If you're a mom who feels like a shadow of her former self, please get in touch. You are not alone and don't have to feel this way.
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