Toward Safe & Healthy Pregnancy

The more pregnancies you have, the more your body needs you to eat well. Becoming a new mother can be an overwhelming experience. There is so much to learn and so many new and “interesting” sensations and feelings.

Giving birth to a second, third, and fourth child also come with challenges. One of these challenges is nourishing ourselves when we have more than just a pregnancy to nurture.

Moms rarely have time to attend to themselves, giving the lion’s share of the food to their children. Moms often eat pear cores and apple peels. I see this all the time in my practice. Yet, the more pregnancies you have, the more your body needs you to eat well. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

I had four pregnancies in five-and-a-half years and lost more teeth than I care to admit, so I understand. My biggest obstacle to eating well to nourish myself and my whole family was that I had no idea what “eating well” means.

You hear people, doctors, and healthcare professionals throwing that term around all the time, but no one ever defines what that is or what that looks like in reality.

I also wasn’t aware of the complications of not eating a proper diet when pregnant and nursing. During my years of pregnancy, I wished I met a wise woman who knew what herbs to give me and could make me the food I needed. I found no such woman, so I decided to become her myself.

The following is a compilation of what a healthy diet looks like and how you can accomplish this on a daily basis for new or veteran mothers.

Time of Upheaval

Toward Safe & Healthy Pregnancy - About Islam

Digital pregnancy test

Pregnancy is a time of upheaval and change in a woman’s body. Your body diverts most of the nutrients you take in to your growing baby.

Having an insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis isn’t a good combination.

Taking calcium as an example, if you don’t supply your body with enough of it (as well as the cofactors like Vitamin D) through diet, the body will end up releasing calcium from your bones and teeth to supply it to your baby.

After multiple pregnancies, this adds up. Even one pregnancy can be a burden to the body.

Zinc, another vital mineral at the time of pregnancy, is important for the rapid growth of the fetus. Omega-3 Oil, found in fish, is critical to brain development and behavior and becomes critical during the last trimester. The Folic acid is a key function in preventing spinal tube defects. And this lends much scientific credibility to the vital role of nutrition during pregnancy.

Ensuring your child’s mental, physical, and spiritual well being, inshallah (God willing), begins before conception and carries through to pregnancy and childhood.

Will the child have a propensity for obesity and possibly diabetes because of inadequate nutrient intake and over intake of sugars and unhealthy fats by the mother during pregnancy?

Will the child develop learning or behavioral problems because of an improper intake of Omega-3 Oil while in the womb? Some may think that this sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t. Fortunately, there is so much you can do.

Healthy Diet for Healthy Baby

Toward Safe & Healthy Pregnancy - About IslamMany times a pregnancy is not planned and one may not know they are pregnant until 10-12 weeks into the pregnancy.

The first month after conception is critical in the development of the fetus, but in many cases the mother doesn’t know she is pregnant.

Throughout pregnancy, different nutrients are crucial in larger amounts to correlate with what system is developing at that time.

The first 12 weeks is the most critical and it’s at this time that vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and carbohydrates are important in higher amounts.

The last trimester has the further development of the brain and the skeletal systems. If the mother was eating a poor diet of fast foods, sugary baked goods, devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, she may already be depleted of the “stuff” that makes healthy babies.

It is also a generational thing. If the mother’s mother ate poorly, the deficiency is compounded. Yes, it’s true we have set genes that determine our genotype, but our genes act as signals or on/off switches.

Some of them are turned on and some are turned off, and the foods we eat and the environment we are exposed to determines how our genes are turned on or off (phenotype).

Just because we have a cancer gene doesn’t mean that that gene will be working. Foods eaten during pregnancy play a major role in setting your child’s phenotype. The better nourished people are, the healthier they will be.

One of the first implementations of Islam is when a date goes into a newborn’s mouth. Food holds an important and sacred role in the development of a human. It is a role that begins before conception and carries over for generations.

Natural is Always Better

Toward Safe & Healthy Pregnancy - About IslamRemember that pills aren’t food. They are supplements to your diet.

Many times those vitamins, even the best ones, may not be assimilated by the body.

This is why it is important to consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you chose to take a supplement.

They have access to much better supplements, and they will be able to match you with the most appropriate one. In the end, paying the consultation fee will save you money because you will not need to find your supplement by trial-and-error.

With that said, your best choice is food first. Select local, preferably unsprayed, organic produce, meats, eggs, and dairy products when possible. Local food is a good source of vital nutrients because it has not traveled far and is not old. Ask if the food is sprayed.

You really want to limit your intake of pesticides. They affect the fetus, and some chemical and heavy metals (like mercury) are actually amplified by the placenta. Organic farmers maintain nutrient rich soil, but when it is shipped from far away, local food will still beat it.

A simple guideline for eating is to remember a triangle when you eat. The sides of the triangle represent carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), fats (olive oil, butter, coconut oil, omega 3) and protein (milk, beans, fish, poultry, and beef).

When planning a meal or snack, make sure to include all three sides. Snacks can serve as nutrient-dense mini meals. Ground flax, bee pollen, or green powders can be added to fruit or yogurt.

Sea vegetables and sea salt “naturally fortify” your foods and are easily assimilated into your body. Herbal teas like oatstraw, nettles, and red raspberry leaf tea are all safe during pregnancy and can act like herbal multi-vitamins.

One woman I worked with was able to overcome her nutrient deficiencies by drinking a nourishing tea I prepared. My favorite fast meal is a smoothie. They are fast, easy, versatile, and tasty.

Remember not to stress yourself about meeting the numbers everyday. The important thing is to include whole grains, raw and cooked vegetables, fruit, fat, and protein at every meal. Drink adequate amounts of water, and chew your food up to 20 times each.

You want to avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. These white foods pull minerals and vitamins from your body. A serving of meat is the size of your palm, and a serving of fat is 1-2 tablespoons. A medium-sized apple is about two servings of fruit.

If you feel tired after a meal, it probably was not a good combination for you. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. A brownie sundae once in a blue moon won’t kill you!

This article is from Science’s archive and we’ve originally published it on an earlier date.

About Anisa Abeytia
Anisa Abeytia, B.A. USC , M.A., Stanford is an integrative health specialist currently pursuing a M.S. in Holistic Nutrition. Over the past ten years Anisa has pursued various fields of holistic and traditional medicine. She has studied at the oldest herbal school in the United States and pursued a two year certificate program in Islamic Healing. She writes regularly on the topics of health and nutrition. She maintains the website Women's Healing Circle, a site dedicated to the natural health of women and their families.