Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Must-Read Guide for Women Thinking of Starting a Family in the Future...

Back in 2007, I decided to take my healthy lifestyle up a notch to prep my body for baby. At that point, I didn't know exactly when we were going to start a family, but I thought it would be best to take advantage of the time to get my body in shape to grow a healthy human. By the time you're in your 30's so many of your friends have had babies or in the process of it so you hear all the things they're going through when they're pregnant with nutrition, exercise, and the cycles a woman's body goes through to make room for the growing baby. I know a body takes time to adapt and optimize so I thought why not start now. I was already committed to a healthy lifestyle of nutrition and exercise, but I decided to improve further.

I'm 27 weeks pregnant now and enjoying a very smooth and healthy pregnancy. Health professionals say that pregnant women have higher blood pressure/cholesterol/or blood glucose and swelling. I haven't had any of these conditions. I truly believe that my preparations made all the difference. The recommendations that physicians make to pregnant woman are not too far from a non-pregnant woman, except for the part about alcohol. I really do miss wine right now!

There are 4 physical phases for a woman to consider as you plan to bring a child into this world that effect your body. If your body is strong and healthy, you can help ensure a healthier experience for you and baby!
  • Fertility & Conception - lifestyle planning can help set the stage for pregnancy achievement for you and your partner. I tracked my fertility signs for over a year before pregnancy, which was empowering to know MY body.
  • Pregnancy - 40 weeks to grow a healthy human and your body goes through massive changes over this period to adapt for life's miracle.
  • Labor & Delivery - The more medical interventions (induction, c-section, etc), the harder the labor and longer time for recovery. Physical fitness conditioning preps you for the labor and delivery.
  • Lactation - your baby's most perfect and nutritionally balanced food is produced by you! And the health benefits are massive for you and baby.
So here are the health overhauls and steps that I took to plan for baby years before my pregnancy.
  • Read your labels: eliminate dangerous fake sweeteners like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Aspartame, and Sucralose from your diet. This is really important and harder to do! Everything from salad dressings, condiments (ketchup), cereal, yogurt, bread, are loaded with fake sweeteners. HFCS is particularly dangerous to your metabolism because it encourages over-eating because your body doesn't feel satiated and over time your body becomes less efficient at processing sugar, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. After this process my husband is now on-board, too! Perfect timing because I definitely don't want our baby to be exposed to fake food either! I buy organic versions of yogurt, ketchup, cereal and bread to avoid these dangerous sweetners. Instead, I use all natural sweetners that your body can process like pure Stevia Extract (not Truvia), honey, and sugar in moderation. It turns out my nurse told me in the first visit "no pink, yellow, or blue packets, just sugar is ok." I told her no problem, DONE! Remember, your baby is growing in your body and getting all the nutritients that you are good/bad. Do you want your baby to develop his/her own metabolism with food we are not meant to process naturally?
  • Balanced nutrition and smaller meals. I've learned to eat more fresh produce over the years and spreading my meals in smaller portions throughout the day. Your metabolism needs a variety of high-quality foods found in nature (whole foods and complex grains) to maintain a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Physicians recommend that pregnant women eat smaller meals to avoid nausea and indigestion. To be fair, I have had indigestion, but not nausea. I truly believe this is due to my already healthy nutrition habits.
  • Fitness foundation - aerobic endurance and strength training. Labor and birth are one of the most challenging physical experiences a woman can go through in her life. A strong body going into pregnancy helps immensly because physicians do not advise you to START a NEW fitness program during pregnancy. When I met with my OB/GYN for the first time, she asked me what my fitness routine was and I told her about my heart monitor, spin classes, and strength training workouts. This foundation gave her the comfort to allow me to target a 160 bpm heart rate maximum goal rather than the 140 bpm that many women get. This helps tremendously since pregnant women's hearts are taxed more so your heart rate is much higher than pre-pregnancy. This gave me a better buffer for my prenatal fitness routine. Having strong and balanced muscles from strength training help me carry the extra baby weight without worrying about losing my balance or swelling up. Having a fitness routine helps pregnant women maintain a slow and steady weight gain.
  • Vitamins & Fish Oil: Many pregnant women complain that the prenatal vitamins make them sick. I switched to prenatal vitamins from my pre-pregnancy variety (whole foods multi-vitamin from Dr. Mercola), but continued to take my fish oil. Pregnant and lactating women should take 300 mg of DHA found in fish oil capsules for omega-3 fatty acids. It's recommended for the baby's body and brain development and for the woman's general heart health.
  • Final Step: Pre-pregnancy physical and check-up. Back in April, I went to the doctor for an annual physical exam and blood work. They told me that I'm completely healthy and better than optimal in many cases! I had another physical for work a couple months ago and I know that I have an optimal blood glucose, which means I'm not at risk for gestational diabetes. In 2 weeks I'll go for my routine 3rd trimester blood work to screen for gestational diabetes, but I'm confident there won't be any issues due to my previous scores and healthy lifestyle!
  • Finally all this prep work is great, but listening to your body is key to staying healthy in the moment! I haven't gotten extensively sick during my pregnancy. I may feel run down and the start of a cold coming on, but I take the time to rest and sleep, which helps me bounce back faster! I blogged before about not taking the flu shots during my pregnancy. I haven't worried too much about getting seriously sick because I'm proactively listening to my body's signs of exhaustion to ensure a higher immunity.
I'm sure you can tell from reading this that I have thought endlessly about becoming a mother physically and spiritually (that's a whole other topic)! That's why becoming a mother at 33 feels fantastic! I hope you can join me in the smooth journey!


  1. I use SweetLeaf Sweetener stevia! I ue both their powder and liquids, but I like experimenting with their flavored liquids. To my knowledge, it is the most pure stevia product on the market.

    By the way, "sucrose" is sugar, "sucralose" is splenda.

  2. Thanks, Erin. You're right, I did mean sucralose. I think that was a spell check error! I do like SweetLeaf and I do like the vanilla flavor liquid from Whole Foods 365 brand. It's very good.

  3. Amanda, just found your blog-- these recipes look amazing-- but wanted to leave a comment here to say wow(!) congrats for being such a prepared mama-to-be. I have three sweet babes, and I can tell you there is nothing that transforms a woman more than the power of birth! It's a great thing to get ready physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the process of labor and delivery, and also, having your eating habits so tuned in now will be so helpful when it comes to the challenges of time/energy when the baby arrives, and also, as he/she grows, the transition to healthy family eating (I highly, highly recommend the book Feeding the Whole Family-- an incredible resource from breastfeeding days on up...and also, Mothering Magazine-- a great all around resource as you welcome your little one into this world). And I'll be back for all this good foodie stuff;)
    warmly, kate