The Undeniable Importance of Prenatal Nutrition
I regularly hear of doctors telling pregnant women the full extent of their knowledge about prenatal nutrition, and it pretty much amounts to this: “All you need to do is take your prenatal vitamin every day and that should give you everything you need for your pregnancy.”
Come, now. Think about that. A pregnant woman is making a human. Day by day, the baby’s cells are dividing, he is growing, and he needs a lot of complex nutrition in the process. The pregnant woman’s physiology quite literally changes to produce a placenta, create more blood flow, feed and grow a baby and continue to nourish itself in the process.
Does it even make sense to think that you can get everything you need to accomplish and support all of those complicated systems... in just one pill a day? Of course not!
The leading authority on pregnancy nutrition is a man named Dr Brewer and he is an OB. The diet he formulated and recommends for pregnancy is aptly named “The Brewer Diet” and many holistic pregnancy care providers recommend it. He designed the diet after spending countless hours researching pregnancy nutrition data that dated all the way back to the 1920’s. His success is unmatched. He has successfully used nutrition to treat and prevent a number of conditions in pregnancy, many known to be quite dangerous. He has treated high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), just to name a few.
To sum it up, the Brewer diet largely revolves around consuming large amounts of protein (120 gram a day). It advises unrestricted weight gain, unrestricted salt intake, and plenty of calories.
It makes sense that pregnancy requires a lot of protein. Protein contains what is essentially the building blocks of life. Human organs require protein and amino acids for optimal function. Eggs are a favorite on the Brewer diet because women can get both protein and albumin out of one meal. Albumin is essential for liver support and kidney function in pregnancy, and it is found in egg whites.
To fully understand the important role that salt takes in pregnancy, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the physiological changes that take place. It all comes down to supporting the increasing blood volume. It’s complicated, but follow me.
First, the kidneys work to increase the blood volume (by about 40%-50%). They do this by reabsorbing both water and salt. The kidneys then return the reabsorbed fluid and salt to the circulation. The kidneys can only perform this function if they have adequate salt, albumin, and water. The combination of water, salt, and albumin helps facilitate the healthy blood volume increase that is needed to support the pregnancy and prepare the body for birth. So if you’re craving salt, it’s likely that your body really needs it. Brewer recommends women salt their food to taste, and says pregnant women cannot get too much salt.
In addition, more and more research is surfacing all the time about the role that various vitamins and minerals play in pregnancy. For instance, Vitamin C has been found to strengthen the integrity of the amniotic sac. Vitamin D has been found to support many various systems during pregnancy. It can also prevent premature birth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Omega-3 fats are important for the baby’s brain development, as well as the B vitamins.
I’m not telling you not to take a prenatal vitamin - please don’t misunderstand me. There will certainly be some benefit to your taking it. You cannot, however, expect to sustain a healthy pregnancy on just one pill a day - or two or three for that matter! A pregnant woman’s body needs plenty of vitamins and minerals, quality protein, whole foods (preferably organic when possible), and healthy fats.
Be intentional about what you’re feeding your body. Because the health of two lives depends on it.