My fiance, Lindsay, is nearly eight months pregnant at the moment. And I feel like I've had a crash course in the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman.
Don't Underestimate The First Trimester
I naively thought pregnancy only became a big deal when pregnant women looked uncomfortable. Like six months in. How wrong I was.
Lindsay had all-day sickness from about day five. Until at least 15 weeks in. The first trimester was brutal for her. Her body must have been refusing to accept my beyond-pale Irish/Scottish genes. She couldn't keep anything down except comforting carbs. Margherita pizzas went from a monthly treat to a daily meal. Not exactly dense in folate, a baby's favourite B vitamin.
On top of Lindsay's compromised diet we also had our initial obstetrician say that prenatal vitamins are pointless after the first 10 weeks.
"You only need those before and just after conception, to help form the baby. They won't do any good now."
Hmmm. Only now, after Lindsay's journey, am I calling that garbage. Our obstetrician looked like Michael Moore so I should have known better than to take his nutritional advice.
Listen To The Body
Thankfully, Lindsay's cravings evolved in the second trimester. She started smashing fruit. Strawberries, papaya and grapefruits. Her vegetable consumption sky rocketed too. However, she was completely turned off by animal protein. No interest in red meat. And wild caught salmon, which I grill to absolute perfection, wasn't appealing either.
It was at this time that our haematologist, who we were referred to, was alarmed by Lindsay's iron and platelet count. Iron, as you might know, is tremendously important in pregnancy. It creates healthy blood, which is essential for a growing fetus as well as during childbirth.
At this point we probably realised that not taking the prenatal vitamins was catching up to us. And her diet wasn't as balanced as usual. Lindsay's blood results suggested she would need iron infusions. And the opportunity to have a natural birth was diminishing each test. A caesarian, which it turns out is a monster surgery, looked inevitable.
At this point, half way through the second trimester, Lindsay took it upon herself to improve her blood results. Hopefully I was some help. She started eating iron rich beef once or twice a week. And salmon. Which made me happy as the omega-3 content in fatty fish basically guarantees you're kid will be a genius (potential exaggeration).
More importantly, she committed to an iron tablet and a prenatal vitamin. I'm normally sceptical of supplements but these things are dense. There's no way you can meet the nutritionally recommended needs of a pregnant woman through diet alone. They need three times as much iron as me, which is 27 milligrams per day! That's the equivalent of three big steaks. In one day. And that's only one of the many nutrients they need.
Don't Live To Work
Another cause of stress was Lindsay's workload. Her employer, knowing that she was going on maternity leave, needed 12 months of work out of her in two. While she was juggling pregnancy appointments and growing an infant!
As a result, she got sick. I'd never seen someone take two courses of antibiotics (baby safe) and not recover. And whilst battling the flu she had a tooth infection flare up. Which results in 3am hospital pain killers and a 10am Sunday tooth extraction. Picture getting a tooth ripped out of your mouth while pregnant, sick and unable to feel the local pain killer (infections prevent local anaesthetic working as well). So she was on a roll.
The solution? Early maternity leave. No more work, a better diet and supplements.
The Results Are In
Her 32 week blood results couldn't have been better. She was scheduled for iron infusions the day the results came out but didn't need them. Not even our exceptional haematologist (Briony Cutts) thought Lindsay could improve that much. Lindsay's platelet count jumped up as well. As did her happiness.
Moral Of The Story
- Your diet is unmistakably correlated to your health, particularly in pregnancy
- Don't underestimate the impact of stress
- Listen to your body (Lindsay's fruit cravings led to better iron absorption)
- Investigate pregnancy supplements
Whilst Lindsay's pregnancy will still need monitoring and complications can return, we couldn't be happier. I believe it's more evidence in the power of diet. And stress reduction.