By Betty Murray
You’ve decided to take the plunge into parenthood but you are unsure of what measures you can take with your nutrition and lifestyle to make sure your baby is healthy. Often would be parent’s are not given clear directions on proper nutrition before and during conception because, even today, nutrition is often an elective in medical school so your doctor may not be well versed in nutrition. Here are 10 things you can do to ensure you give your baby the best chance to be healthy?
Find a doctor or midwife who understands your values and desires. Your relationship with your OB/Gynecologist is probably the most intimate doctor – patient relationship you will ever have. Make sure that you and your doctor are in a collaborative relationship rather than just finding one that works with your insurance.
Get your hormones tested – especially all of the thyroid hormones. According to the Journal of Neurological Sciences, thyroid deficiency in in mother’s during pregnancy, specifically changes in intrauterine levels of thyroid hormones may result in permanent changes of the brain indicative of those seen in brains of those with autism. This could result from dietary and/or environmental exposure to antithyroid agents including mercury, fluoride, coal derivatives and PCB’s.1
Pay attention to the amount fish you eat. Coldwater wild caught fish such as salmon is is a good source of omega 3 fat, which is vital for your baby’s brain and nervous system development. But, fish also contain high levels of toxins like mercury and PCBs. Keep your intake of fish to 2 servings or 12 ounces weekly and avoid canned tuna. Better yet, take a high quality fish oil that contains 2000mg of EPA and DHA.
Get checked for allergies and sensitivities including foods. Allergies are immune reactions to substances that can be eaten, touched or inhaled. Studies show that a child can inherit a predisposition for allergy from the parent. If the parents have allergies or sensitivities, the child will have a 75 to 100 percent chance of having the same allergy. If neither parent has allergies the chance drops to 10 percent.2
Clean up your diet. Your diet should be made up of organic vegetables, fruits, free range and grass-fed meat, healthy fats and be free of chemicals and preservatives. If you have food allergies, remove those foods from your diet as well. What toxins we eat have a straight shot to our unborn child.
Make sure dad cleans up his diet too. Attention has always been on the mother’s diet during pregnancy; however, recent studies show that healthy fetal development is strongly tied to the nutritional status of the father as well even before conception. Dad’s intake of folate and other nutrients are passed on to the embryo during development just like mom’s. Rat studies show an almost 30% increase in birth defects the litters whose father’s had folate insufficiency.3
Get your B Vitamin status checked before becoming pregnant. Some gene mutations in how your body utilizes B9 (folate), B12, and vitamin D have an impact on how much of these nutrients are available to your baby during development. Deficiencies in folate, B12, B6 and vitamin D have been tied to obesity risk, neural tube defects and Spina Bifida. Have your doctor test these gene mutations: MTHFR C677T and 1298C as they affect your ability to use folate. In addition, have your doctor check serum B12, B9, B6, vitamin D levels, formiminoglutamic acid and methylmelonic acid for both parents. Formiminoglutamic acid and methylmelonic acid determine if you can metabolize folate and B12 properly.
Check your supplements and diet for intake of too much Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential in fetal development; however, intake should be limited to in between 8,000IU to 10,000IU daily from all of your food and supplement sources. Too much vitamin A increases the risk of birth defects to the brain, heart and other organs.
Review the herbal supplements you might be taking – some may be unsafe during pregnancy. Most herbs and supplements have not had safety testing in pregnant women and are therefore considered unsafe. And some herbs such as licorice, black cohosh, Aloe, Senna, and St. John’s Wort have been found to cause stimulation of the uterus and cause contractions, which may result in miscarriage or pre-term labor.
Remove chemical toxins from your house and environment such as cleaning supplies, pesticides, herbicides and solvents. A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found an average of 232 chemicals in the cord blood of 10 children born in 2010. This study and others find an association with chemical exposure and fetal development.4 Replace these items with natural alternatives including non-toxic bedding, cleansers, soaps, aluminum free deodorants; and replace plastic water bottles with reusable stainless or glass bottles.
Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP, CHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine, Founder of the Dallas-based functional medicine clinic Living Well Dallas and Executive Director of the the Functional Medicine Association of North Texas. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutrition for autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders and weight loss. Connect with Betty on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Click here to get your free Guide to Going Gluten Free – everything you ever needed to know to Go Gluten Free!
Resources1. Roman, G. (2007). Autism: Transient in utero hypothyroxinemia related to maternal flavonoid ingestion during pregnancy and to other environmental antithyroid agents . Journal of Neurological Sciences, 262(1-2), 60-70. 2. Shinohara Makiguchi H, Saito H, Matsumoto K. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis in women during early pregnancy are associated with higher prevalence of allergic rhinitis in their offspring. Allergol Int 2007;56:411-417 3. R. Lambrot, C. Xu, S. Saint-Phar, G. Chountalos, T. Cohen, M. Paquet, M. Suderman, M. Hallett, S. Kimmins. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3889 4. http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns