What DOES eating for two really look like? When a woman becomes pregnant, often times her relationship to food suddenly changes. Some things she LOVED are so unimaginably nasty, maybe due to smell, preparation, or it simply doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Other times the foods that have always been disliked are the new favorites! Then there is the weird cravings… “Really honey, you want pickles on your peanut butter sandwich?” And of course, the dreaded…”We recommend you only gain 25-35lbs.”
Eating for two means choosing wisely. It does not mean eating double portions or succumbing to every craving. If a woman knows how to interpret her cravings and address them accordingly, then there should be less risk for preventable problems such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. . If a woman is eating a clean diet filled with fresh vegetables and a variety of protein, then the amount of weight she gains should not be an issue, and the occasional indulgence won’t become problematic. Thinking about what different foods represent allows a person to understand these sudden desires.
Our bodies need protein to build our babies and iron to build our blood. Red meat contains both! A person with a diet that is not getting enough balanced proteins and iron sources, often crave meat. This is especially true for women who are vegetarian with an O or B blood type. It is a good idea to get a wide variety of proteins and sources of iron into our daily diet. I will talk a little more about iron in a bit, but sticking with the protein track…
Lack of protein also creates a desire for sugar! When our blood sugar drops it wants it fast and it wants it NOW! The fastest way for our bodies to get that is through sweets! It breaks down quickly and transfers to our bloodstream with ease. The trouble with simple sugars (fruit juice and simple starches such as white flours and white rice included) is that it breaks down so quickly, that whatever isn’t used gets stored as fat. Eating protein instead of sugar helps maintain a longer lasting, more stable blood sugar because it takes longer to break down. This means that the sugars from the protein is more likely to get used up by the body, rather than stored away. Excess sugar can also lead to yeast problems. A pregnant woman is much “sweeter” (warm, damp, etc) and it is quite common that a sugary diet can lead to itchy, potently scented discharge, and a burning, red vagina (Ouch!!!). If baby is born vaginally while a mother has a yeast infection, they are more likely to contract thrush, which often disrupts the nursing process due to pain in the mother’s breast and discomfort for the baby’s GI tract.
So, if a body craves sugars its usually a protein thing, but sometimes it’s sweetness in LIFE! Snuggling, cuddling, feeling loved. So if eating an omelette still leaves you wanting Ben & Jerry’s, then try a little tenderness. This doesn’t have to be sexual love, but it does have to be genuine love and/or touch. Massage, hand holding, and spooning, these are great options for adding a little sweetness to life.
Now back to that iron bit… A pregnant woman who is feeling tired, lethargic even, is probably borderline or fully anemic, meaning she needs iron! A pregnant body increases blood volume by about 50%. Sometimes adding more dark leafy greens, cooking in a cast iron skillet, or choosing lean, red meat can help increase your blood building abilities. Adding apple cider vinegar or fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C will make that iron more easily absorbable. It is important not to mix too many calcium rich foods such as cheese or tahini with your iron foods, as these foods make the iron less absorbable.
Calcium is very important for a baby’s bone growth. If a mother is not eating enough calcium then she is more prone to have problems later in life such as weak teeth or osteoporosis. It’s important to remember that a growing baby will take what it needs to be healthy and strong. If a mother doesn’t pay close attention to her diet, then she will pay the price either during her pregnancy or in the weeks, months, and years to follow. Getting calf cramps while sleeping is a sign of a calcium deficiency. Taking a Calcium/Magnesium supplement before bed can often alleviate this unreal sensation that wakes mothers to be in the middle of the night.
Salt cravings can be linked to how a body absorbs water. If a body needs electrolytes to help absorb all the water women are encouraged to drink while pregnant, then the body might crave salt. Table salt can raise your blood pressure, though, so choose to flavor your food with sea salt and do so sparingly. Try to avoid canned or lots of pickled foods because they contain large amounts of table salt. Possible choices to increase a body’s electrolyte absorption are good electrolyte drinks such as Recharge or coconut water.
I hear time and time again about doctors telling women that their babies are TOO BIG! The medical term for a baby that is too big is macrosomia. People may also use the term CPD or cephalopelvic disproportion meaning that the baby’s head is to big to fit through the pelvis. True CPD is rare in modern society unless the mother has had some form of pelvic fracture in the past or there is a genetic abnormality. However, either way you look at it, the baby is considered too large to come through vaginally. The way a mother chooses to eat during her pregnancy will largely coincide on how big her baby will grow. A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates will produce a bigger baby. A diet with a large variety of vegetables and protein will produce a baby who is more healthy and vigorous and will fare better during labor, delivery, and post partum.
Diet also plays an important role in preventing many of the “common” ailments of pregnancy such as high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and gestational diabetes. These are all serious issues and quickly can move a low risk mother into the high risk category where other interventions may be introduced, such as insulin, early inductions, and cesarean section. After the birth, baby may have to spend more time away from the mother due to monitoring baby’s blood sugars, bilirubin numbers, or just a general “watch”. In my years, I have seen the hardest thing for a new mother is not the unplanned induction or even cesarean section, it is being away from her newborn that she has been dreaming about for 9 months for an unknown amount of time.
This whole eating for two thing does carry some weight (no pun intended). Just by making conscience food choices a woman can drastically reduce the chances of a “high risk” pregnancy, keeping her body and her baby strong and healthy. Food is Medicine!